Thursday, December 1, 2016

End of the Year: 2016 - Bye, Felicia! (Numerology)

It's December. The final month of a tragic and frustrating year. Most people would agree with me, I'm sure, since this year has seen so much loss, death, trauma, sadness, and anger.

So, what will we do in our last thirty-one days?

Let me start by talking about the numbers. Numerology is a long-time interest of mine, and, if you care to know, I use the system Pythagoras taught in Ancient Greece. I dig the ideas of Pythagoras. So, the short of it: Everything goes in nine-year cycles, and every pattern is repeated in those cycles over the years. 2016 is a 9 year, so that means this is the end of this cycle, that began in 2007. Makes sense politically, huh? In a 9-year, closure is sought after, loose ends are tied up, humanitarian issues come to the forefront, and the Big Picture is looked at, assessed, and acted upon accordingly.

The Big Picture for me, includes:
  1. My personal life goals 
  2. My career as a writer
  3. My massage business plan
  4. The World as a whole, and my place within it, including my contributions
  5. The state of the nation I live in
  6. My local (state, city, neighborhood, etc.) community (-ies) and my place/contributions
1. I've never been great at seeing myself in the future (Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years? etc. I have no idea! Same place I am now...?) or planning personal stuff. But, in the past nine years, I have made some progress:
  • I have a personal money coach that I work with to learn how to change my bad habits and get ahead. It's a great combination of psychological research (what beliefs and knowledge/ignorance did I inherit from my family? What is important to me and how to I enhance that? etc.) and practical skills (Money income and outgo tracking, budget planning, shifting attention, intention, and focus as needed).
  • Steps have been taken towards home organization, health care, relationships, and other personal goals, even if I haven't achieved what I had hoped (yet).
2. The last nine years (plus) have seen me focus on a (mostly) fiction writing career. 
  • I've successfully run a (now) weekly writers group, thus building a working writing community.
  • I've published several short stories and flash fiction, both in magazines and anthology books.
  • I've attended several writing conferences, made great contacts in the publishing industry, and successfully pitched my novel and my memoirs.
  • I've developed a pretty good structure and routine of writing days and times. 
3. As a massage therapist, I've moved into a newer office, increased my client/patient base, and made several changes to my networking platform.

4. The world is always a mixed bag of extreme goods and evils. I do my part to make it a better place, which, in the past nine years has included:
  • Participating in global healing rituals and groups.
  • Donating money to working organizations on issues of environmental protection, animal welfare, human rights, and animal rescue, among others.
  • Being the best example I can of a conscientious person. 
  • Cleaning up litter in the parks.
5. The nation...I have spent much time in the last nine years educating myself on current politics. I have signed petitions, donated money to support democracy, transparency, justice, and fairness in voting and the media. I have participated in caucuses, acted as a delegate in the election process, and volunteered at the democratic party headquarters. I do my best to walk my talk and spread the love.

6. Locally, all the above applies, and I continue to participate in local events, staying up on local politics, bills, and issues, and engage in discussion with other voters and politicians. 

2017 will be a new year, and a new numerological cycle (1). What will be in store for us? As a nation, we are starting a new political cycle with a new leader. The world, too, has been going though many changes and there are several new leaders of prominent nations.

At the risk of losing you completely, my personal year is actually a FOUR, so I will personally be dealing with issues of rebellion against authority, building foundations and structure, and stability. (If you are curious about yours, let me know, and I will fill you in!)

In the past, my FOUR years have been difficult, yet ultimately rewarding. The short history is thus:

  • Age ONE: Don't remember much, but obviously I was working on a very basic, physical level of stability, and getting to know my family world.
  • Age TEN: Eh, the year puberty hit me. Ch-ch-ch-changes...
  • Age NINETEEN: OMG, this was a major traumatic year. I was back at my childhood home, after spending six months on my own in Europe. I was recovering from losing my sanity at the hands of a violent boyfriend while living in England, and still grieving the loss of my best friend to suicide. I basically had to rebuild my self-image and my world-view.
  • Age TWENTY-EIGHT: Another shaken-up year - I quit my job and went to massage school, completely changing careers. Exhausting but rewarding year.
  • Age THIRTY-SEVEN: This year isn't as clear to me. I was three years into an intensive Japanese language and culture immersion, and actively traveling more than usual. I was two years into my writing career, and I DID take over the writers group that year, so I stepped up my accountability. 

2017 is a "1" year: A beginning of a new 9-year cycle. A one year is about starting new things, being a leader, exploring new ground, and being true to yourself and your unique identity.

As a rule, you can expect nuances of whatever you were going through in 2008 to resurface in the coming year.
(For your personal year number, add the month and day of your birthday to 2017 - mine goes: 1 Feb = 1+2=3, + 2+0+1+7=10, the 3+10=13, and reduce to a single digit, 1+3=4.)

In any case, everyone I know is more than ready to say goodbye to 2016. I am still looking for the silver linings, the lessons to be learned, and the good to come out of it, but, yeah, bye 2016.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Writer's Block: Funky Depression Pt 2: The Final Week of NaNoWriMo

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. I had a massage, hoping to loosen up my body and my mind. I did a free online Tarot reading:

Your Question: What Should I Focus On In My Writing This Month?
  1. The Answer Received: 


    True justice balances the scales to serve the greater good.
    The Justice card asks you to distinguish between desire and need. Justice carries the scales and sword of legal probity, but in her heart she is attempting to understand what is behind the conflict so she can meet the needs on both sides. Justice is not always meted equally across the board, however. Sometimes one side must be treated differently than the other. The fundamental concept is the greatest good for the greatest number.
  2. Justice 

Well, that sounds about right. I have been putting a ton of energy towards counterbalancing the new gestapo. I want to help other creatives be strong and put their work out there, as examples of what positive action can accomplish. When humans are free to be themselves, be creative, help each other, and act out of love, not fear, we can move the entire race forward towards utopian ideals.

I know this concept is not universally accepted, understood, or even acknowledged, but I don't care. I am happy to engage in debate and am always looking to expand my understanding of the world we live in- the world we each contribute to creating - on all levels. I am looking for ways to help the world, not hurt it. I have always lived as honestly and creatively as I could, and love to support others in discovering their own talents and putting themselves out into the world. It's not about competition, scarcity, fear, validation, or vanity. It (and by "it" I mean Life, The Point, and Purpose) is about being open to love, knowledge, wisdom, multiple perspectives and experiences.

I will continue to write every day this month, despite no longer having the focus for NaNoWriMo. My projects will move on: The HF novel Baltimore Boys will continue, with more research available. The Woman-and-her-Horse-Ranch story will probably be converted into a short story, and all my grief-ridden angst rants will feed some greater purpose, hopefully doing the world some good, in the end.

Writer's Block: Funky Depression Pt 1: Thanksgiving & NaNoWriMo

I don’t even know how it happened. I was starting on the story of the two brothers, which was giving me lots of good progress – for every scene I wrote, a dozen or more questions would present themselves. I can take those questions to Dad and his cousins, Tina and Joan, for more interview material. I want to get this story written, for sure. This is the historical fiction book I've been preparing to write for over a year, based on my grandfather and great-uncle as teenagers. I threw caution to the wind and decided to make this my NaNoWriMo 2016 Project.

But, then, the election hit. I sat up watching the horrific results roll in, triggering a PTSD-like shock and semi-catatonic response. For days, I drank and scrolled though the feeds. Article after article, report after report, my depression was deep and hopeless. I vacillated between thoughts of suicide, homicide, withdrawal and action. I was unmotivated to write, unmotivated to create…just wanted to turn back in time, but that was not possible. I was not alone; many people were going through similar stages of grief and emotional response, many of them also white, American women - those of us that did not cast those silent votes for neo-nazism. But, this is not about those details; this is about how I, as a writer and artist, respond.

I started writing about it. That became Project number two, a wandering collection of thoughts and essays that I hoped would help me sort out my feelings and formulate a response. I wanted to – and still do– keep the momentum for progressive and proactive action. I thought about starting a support group for progressive writers and artists, or healers, some sort of community action group. Still thinking that, actually. I have an ongoing list of acronyms and mission statements towards that purpose.

And yet. Two weeks have passed, with no words added to my nano count. Traditionally, I sit at my mother-in-law’s table after Turkey dinner on Thanskgiving and power through several thousand words. So, here I sit. I wrote 52 words on my original HF novel, Baltimore Boys. Felt stilted and ridiculous. I started a blog post, felt disconnected there, too. So I randomly wrote 1100 words about a woman and a horse on a ranch. I have no idea what the heck that is, or will be.

I am looking at a low battery and 5481 words to write each day for the next seven days in order to finish on time. Will I? Should I? Do I commit to one of these projects or do I focus on other evils at hand? I am not sure, but I must write this week, and that is a fact.

There is the story of the Rule Breakers. The Rule in NaNoWriMo is that you write a complete novel, fresh, perhaps using pre-prepared notes and character drafts, etc, but beginning to end a fresh new novel. If you decide to write something else, you are a Rule Breaker – a collection of esssays or short stories, a play, a revision of an earlier work, a nonfiction book of some type…these are allowed – anything is allowed, but against the stream of the intention of the project.

By going into two or even three possible projects, I may have been able to call myself a Rule Breaker, this year, but I won’t do that unless I actually make some damn progress this week. Serious word count – not just words on a page, which a lot of this is, but something to work with. Some pile of raw clay to be molded and shaped into something readable, publishable, workable. So tired of this wallowing, aimless feeling when it comes to these NaNo projects. I have not felt the fire of fiction since 2011’s novel, HISMZA. My memoir project has fire, but it burns me out, limiting my ability to work actively on it. It is intense, and I am uncertain of its final shape and form, which is exhilarating yet terrifying, as expected.

So, I continue to vent - stream-of-consciousness writing - in the hopes of spewing the dregs and uncovering the gems. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Thinking About Family Traits and Identity

Is it a vacation? Is it work? I just spent two weeks with my parents, at their home in Florida.  How do you feel about spending time with your parents/family? A friend of mine put it nicely when she said, "You love to miss them."

I do love my family. I talk to my mom and dad (still together after 47 years) at least once a week, and enjoy our conversations, for the most part. Recently, someone asked me what we talked about, as they could not imagine having regular conversations with their own parents. Well, to be honest, we talk about a lot of things: Movies we've seen, books we're reading, what other family members or friends are up to, what we think about the latest non-political events (we do not discuss politics, as we do not agree--I think), we question the past and remember things together, and we tell stories about our lives. Sometimes we discuss what we believe in, or how we are struggling. We talk about health: what supplements we are trying out, what works and what doesn't, what hurts and what doesn't, and how to massage a sore neck (being a massage therapist, I often guide my mother to treat my dad's aches and pains, which she is good at, being as intuitive and body-aware as I am.

These trips are a hodge-podge of goals. My parents aren't getting any younger, and I want to spend time with them, especially since I can help my dad's aches with massage, and they are both healthy enough to do things with us, like go on trips, swim, walk, and tell us stories.

I love the stories. I love the swimming and sight-seeing, too, but the stories have always drawn me. As a little girl, I used to beg my parents and grandparents:
"Tell me what it was like when you were little!"
"What did you do, without a television?"
"Where did your family go on vacation?"
"How did you get to school? Did you like your teachers? What were you good at?"
Questions, questions, all day long. And what answers did I get?
"That's ancient history."
"What do you want to know that for?"
"What are you, writing a book?"

Yes. Yes, I am. I am writing a book.

I have been writing this book for over forty years. Most of my sources are gone from this plane, but I still have my parents. Their minds are sharp (well, my mom is pretty rusty at Boggle, but otherwise...) and their bodies sound. I find I learn things in person that just never seem to come across over the phone. I have to prod, I have to dig...Most people don't realize their stories are valid, or interesting, or news to me, apparently, but they are. When we get past the repetition of "remember that time..." I find nuggets of gold - true tales of love and loss, struggle and success - rich with the details only heard from the people that were there. I can read about the past before I came along all I want, but unless someone was there, and tells you, you won't know what the streets smelled like after a hot summer rain, back when there were still horses and carriages roaming the streets of Baltimore. You won't know how it felt to a kid in the 1940s, to sit on top of the radiator after dinner to warm up on a cold evening, and listen to radio programs like The Shadow, and then talk about it the next day with the other kids that listened the night before. You might not learn what it was like to win the car of your dreams in an auction but be unable to retrieve it because you are in the Navy, stuck at sea, and your father won't be bothered to pick it up for you. Or how your mother used to have sleepovers with her grandmother, and lay in bed together cracking jokes and counting toes. These little moments, shared with family, crossing generations, show the charms and humor, the frustrations and flaws, the love and learning of life that we all share.

I have met young people who seem to think that their generation is different from the ones before. That they are more modern, that older people can't understand them, or comprehend how forward their thinking is. They think they are smarter, more informed, better prepared for life and the future. And, in some small ways, maybe each generation is. But, how can you think that the differences are of any consequence? Our grandparents drank, and smoked, and swore. They had premarital sex. Some of our great-grandparents had orgies, or were part of throuples, before the word existed, or posed for pornographic photographs, paintings, or etchings. Many of them stuck their middle fingers in the air at society and expectations, and picked up sticks for adventure and fortune seeking. That's how life works. People are people, with or without smartphones, the internet, cars, the wheel, or fire.

I have always accepted the humanity of my parents and those that came before. Maybe because I grew up so close to my parents and grandparents, and even knew two of my great-grandmothers well, and have sat around the table at Sunday dinner hearing the tales. And my mother, she never lied to me (not even about Santa Claus) or hid from my questions. She always treated me as an adult, and spoke to me as such. She always answered my questions as best she could, complexity relative to my age and comprehension. I am grateful for that, to this day. Most of the adults in my life took time to teach me things, talk to me, and answer my questions, to some extent.

And yet...I still have unanswered questions. I will continue to ask them, as soon as I can figure out what they are. I have found that the secret to getting the answers you need is to find the right questions to ask. That is the hardest part. It's not enough to say, "tell me how it was." You have to prod, poke, and provoke the stories. Especially to find the ones that haven't seen the light of day in decades; the ones that aren't rehearsed, or censored. Those are the good ones. Those are the ones in which you can find yourself.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Still Being an Introvert

The only thing I've submitted for publication lately is a caption for a New Yorker Cartoon.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Summertime Assessment: Where are you writing? Where are mentally?

I haven't updated in a while, so I thought I would post a quick blog. See that there doggy up there? Yep, that has been me, for months. My dedicated writing days and hours have given way to lengthy sleep-ins and naps. My doctor says there is nothing wrong with me, so I am left to speculate on the cause of my seemingly permanent exhaustion. So far, I am looking at a number of possible reasons, but no clear answer.

  • I have spent many years doing too much and keeping odd hours, and my body is taking a few years to recover and make up for lack of sleep from 1998 - 2010. 
  • I am still grieving over the loss of David Bowie. Yes, I am. I am still having sad dreams about his passing, like this one*. 
  • I fell really hard a month ago and wrecked my lower right leg - I may have fractured the tibia bone, even. Serious bruising and pain...and my body may need sleep to help heal.
  • I am of an age that causes weird hormonal surges and stuff...exhaustion could be related to that.
  • I have a fairly open schedule these days (no extra jobs or classes or hobbies beyond my normal ones) and have more time to I do. Like, "a body in motions tends to stay in motion" but inertia breeds inertia...
  • I am possibly doing some heavy duty work on the astral planes and spiritual levels that makes my sleep less rejuvenating and more exhausting...
  • I'm just a lazy MF and layabout.
So... that said, I am still writing a bit here and there, but haven't made much progress on my long-term projects. I have written a few scenes, a few short pieces, but nothing I'm really excited about. 

I've been reading and editing manuscripts for others, which also eats some of my writing time. I really should be carving out more dedicated times for each activity and mixing them so.

In two weeks, I am going to Los Angeles for the weekend. I will be attending a literary event at a well known bookstore, and hopefully meeting a few authors. I will also be meeting with another writer to discuss a mutual project. I'm looking forward to it. I am also hoping to have time to take the Hollywood Ghost Tour! I love that stuff. 

I am looking at a lot of changes that I want to make this year:
  • Create a working space at home with a better chair and writing desk
  • Adding more instructive events to my writers group
  • Creating a more specific calendar for timelines, deadlines, and publishing (which I have slacked on)
  • Clearing clutter at home and updating my goals and environment to be more productive
I suppose, being halfway through the year, it is a sort of assessment and adjustment period. 

I'd love to hear from some of you, as well:
  • What kind of things are you working on? 
  • What areas of your life would you like to improve?
And our work space can be so helpful or hindering. Tell me about your own writing work space?
  1. Where do you write?
  2. When do you write? (Times, days?)
  3. What conditions have to be met for you to feel focused or productive in your writing?
  4. Do you listen to music or anything while writing? What?
  5. What inspires you?
  6. Do you write regularly? If so, how do you do it without "feeling inspired"?
I'll give my answers in the comments. 

I will address #6, though: It is the distinction between a WRITER and a WANNABE WRITER. You must show up, for the inspiration to come. If you only sit down to write when you feel inspired, the muse won't come as often. The more you sit down to write - even ten minutes a day, in a journal, or at your computer, or on the backs of envelopes, whatever - the more you will find you have to write about. 

* I dreamt that 70s (Man Who Sold the World) era Bowie had auditions to be his suicide assistant, because he was terminally ill. And when my turn came, I just held him and cried and kept trying to thing of other non-lethal I failed the audition.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Screenplay Time!

Okay, about four (five?) years ago, I put "Write a screenplay" on my To-Do List. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got around to reading Blake Snyder's book on screenplay writing, Save the Cat! published in 2005. While the author's voice seems a little cartoonishly "old Hollywood," slightly misogynistic, and a tad out-of-date (i.e., "Go down to Blockbuster"), the information is still very useful.

You know how you get a great idea, set it up, start writing, then get all muddled on the way to the end? That middle part- the second act- is always so challenging for me. Well, Snyder lays out a "Beat Sheet" of 15 plot points, that can be used for the bones of any story. I don't think I'm giving anything away by showing you the list. There is much more to learn from the book.

For a 110 minute movie (Snyder tends to write Rated G & PG Family Comedies, but this length is also typical for any comedy or horror film, which I would like to write), this is the breakdown:

  1. Minute 1: Opening Image - Sets the tone for the whole movie/story
  2. Minute 5: Stated Theme - Usually said by someone to the MC, this is the theme of the movie
  3. Minute 1-10: Set-up - Establishes starting point of story and main characters
  4. Minute 12: Catalyst - the inciting incident that sets the story in motion
  5. Minute 12-25: Debate - MC waffles, debates taking action
  6. Minute 25: Break into Act II - MC starts action and story in motion
  7. Minute 30: B-Story - Subplot, Minor Characters, or Secondary story is addressed here
  8. Minute 30-55: Fun & Games - Exactly what it sounds like
  9. Minute 55: Mid-Point - This is where things change - if the setup and Act 1 was MC on the upswing, here things go wrong/downhill. If Act 1 was MC on the way down, here is the turning point for the better. In either case, it is a counterpoint to the first half of the story. It also usually involves a reference to death - a near-accident, a fall, a dead pet, even a dead house plant...
  10. Minute 55-75: Bad Guys Close In - Here is where the MC's path is blocked. The bad guys show up, create obstacles, and do harm.
  11. Minute 75: All Is Lost - Rock-bottom for MC, rug is pulled out from under, plan seems done.
  12. Minute 75-85: Dark Night of the Soul: Things just keep getting worse for the MC, they are forced to face their demons, come to an understanding or revelation, change their perception and behavior, etc.
  13. Minute 85: Break Into Act III
  14. Minute 85-110: Finale - Tying up loose ends, the payoff, etc.
  15. Minute 110: Closing Image - Counterpart to opening image, finishing touch and mood

So what I've been doing all week, is watching movies and breaking them down, to see if I can find all 15 points. I still find it challenging just after the Mid-Point, to really name those #10,11,12. And sometimes I'm not sure what the B-Story is, or the Mid-Point, even. But, I'm getting better. And I'm already framing my horror film idea into this structure, so I can finally envision successfully using "index cards" and a storyboard, so to speak. I feel like this homework will drastically cut down on my work load, and get me further into a finished script or story sooner than my old methods of discovery writing. (I will still use that, but for different stages of different projects.)

I've been practicing the beat breakdown on Teenage/High School Films, Comedies, and Horror Films.
Sixteen Candles
Pretty In Pink
Mean Girls
Adventures in Babysitting
Austin Powers 2: Goldmember
Liar, Liar
Nightmare on Elm St.
Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy's Revenge
Nightmare on Elm St. 3: Dream Warriors
Wes Craven's New Nightmare

I think one of the Save the Cat! sequels breaks down a bunch of films, so I plan on reading those soon, and doing some comparison work.

There are several Screenplay Competitions in the coming months, that I may look into, although I've heard for the most part that those are not necessarily the best way to spend your time and money. I want to make sure it is judged by good, productive people, and I actually receive valuable feedback on my submission. I may just skip that stuff, and go straight to pitching...We'll see, once I get the script done!

My working title is "This Little Piggy."

Monday, March 7, 2016

Reliving David Bowie's Musical Career

It has been nearly two months since the passing of David Bowie. A few hours past midnight on January 11th, 2016, I began listening to his music. All of it. I started with David Bowie, aka Space Oddity (UK & US titles, respectively) and went right through to Blackstar, which I had already been obsessing over the weekend between its release (Jan. 8th) and his death.

As a lifelong fan, I was familiar with much of his music, but not everything. I always meant to get serious about collecting his records, but he already had such a back-catalog by the time I was listening to his music...the man has 27 studio albums and 9 live albums spanning six decades. Then there's 49 compilation albums, 6 EPs, 121 singles, 3 soundtrack albums, and appearances on 68 other albums. There are also hundreds of videos, interviews, and-- just mass amounts of media. That man is the definition of prolific, even with ten year gap from 2003-2013, when he "retired" to be a stay-at-home daddy to his new daughter, Lexi, with wife, Iman.

In recent years, Bowie's discography has been remastered and re-released with bonus tracks. I chose to listen to this updated music library, in lieu of my vinyl, CD, and digital copies. I did so on Spotify- you'll be happy to know that Spotify has nearly every Bowie recording available. Since January 10th, I have listened to nothing else. I started at the beginning (1967's eponymous release) and worked my way through the years.

Historically, my favorite albums have been 70's Hunky Dory and Heroes, 80's Let's Dance and the collaborative Tin Machine, and 1997's Earthling. Of course, there are many singles along the way and in between that resonate, but as far as complete albums go, these were my go-to listening choices.

Here's what I discovered and rediscovered in the course of listening to the complete, chronological Bowie:
  • David Bowie is a master chameleon, always ahead of the world in his art.This, we knew, but hearing his work so steadily and progressively really brings that home. His early music is decidedly folk- acoustic, poetic, revolutionary. He moved on to blue-eyed soul, and nailed it. Jazzy arrangements and saxophone-laden jam sessions that never overstay their welcome. He skimmed over the disco era long enough to take the crown, with the timeless anthem of Starman. He ushered in the New Wave movement, and led the Second Wave British Invasion of music across the Atlantic. In the nineties, he explored electronica and beautifully played with industrial sound and techno soundtracks. He continued to innovate until his death, with music that is unlike anyone else's, ever.
  • There is a David Bowie for everyone.Again, nothing we didn't already know, but, really, I don't care who you are, or how conservative your taste is- there is something of his work that will speak to you.

    I know a senior man who doesn't much care for his music, but was floored by Bowie's performance in The Elephant Man. I know a millenial woman who isn't familiar at all with his music, but was weaned on his performance as Jareth, The Goblin King, in the 1986 fantasy movie Labyrinth. Some people strictly recognize him as an 80s icon, while others associate him with 1970s zeitgeist. I have other acquaintances who are most familiar with him through his collaborations with Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, or innovators like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

    Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Aladdin Sane, The Clown/Pierrot, The Goblin King, The New Waver,The Rocker,  The Outsider, The Elder Statesman, or Lazarus... I believe there is something that speaks to everyone. He is a true artist, masterfully expressing himself in music, theater, film, and paintings.
  • David Bowie has an incredible vocal range.High notes that soar. Low notes that croon. Harmonizing with himself, creating negative aural spaces that seem to open the soul. He has just as many vocal styles as he does visual personas, yet each is distinctively and undeniably David Bowie.
  • David Bowie is a musical master.He plays guitar, most notably on the early folksy-songwriter styles of the sixties and very early seventies. He plays the saxophone, the piano, and the harmonica, all live and on record. He plays percussion instruments, taught himself the cello, the viola, the stylophone, and the Japanese stringed koto. He could probably play other instruments, just for kicks. 
  • David Bowie is unflappably British.He's not just born and raised in London, England, he is consummately English. He spent years in Los Angeles (or, "Cocaine" as he calls it), then moved to Lake Geneva, Switzerland, then Berlin, Germany, where he famously overcame his cocaine addiction. He owns an Indonesian island home called Mustique, and he has most certainly traveled the world time and time again. He and his wife, Iman, set up homes in New York (Manhattan apartments and a rural home near Woodstock, NY) for the past twenty-five years, yet he has said that he always felt the outsider. Through all of that, he has held onto his traditional Englishness- preferring tea to coffee, eating lots of meat and mash (until his heart attack in 2004, after which Iman guided him to a healthier diet), and never losing his original Brixton dialect.

    Despite his outrageous visual, musical, and sexual statements, he has spent a good deal of his life behind closed doors. His family life in New York is particularly unmarked by publicity, and he is known to have enjoyed his relative anonymity and low profile a great deal. He is full of wit and humor, but also reserved and private. Typically British.
Back to my chronological listening journey...

There is so much more to his oeuvre than even I realized!

I was unfamiliar with the album Station to Station, except for the single “Golden Years.” Oh, and last year, I was shocked to hear his cover of my favorite Nina Simone song, “Wild is the Wind” on KEXP radio. How had I never known this existed? It's the last track here. I fell in love with this album…all six tracks. It is dark sound and heavy lyrics are mesmerizing, full of soaring melancholy.

Somehow, I had never gotten around to hearing two of his three "Berlin Trilogy" (Low, Heroes, Lodger). I loved Heroes, and have played it over the years, but not Low or Lodger. I had only heard a few songs from these albums when I went to see him live in concert in 2004. I remember wondering why I didn’t have these albums…Upon this Spotify listening session, I was drawn into the minimalist compositions and many of the songs. Stripped down instrumentation with laid-back guitar riffs and the kind of bouncy bass lines that speak of ease and relaxed rhythm carry this record.

Lodger opens with the whimsical “Fantastic Voyage” which rises and crests with a heartwrenchingly long note that crashes back to the shore of happy melody with lyrics about depression. My favorite kind of juxtapositional music! (This was one of those songs I first heard live, on the Reality Tour.) The second track, “African Night Flight” sounds as if it could have been recorded last month. It’s almost hard to believe he was making this music nearly forty years ago (1978-79), when it still sounds so fresh and edgy. “Yassassin” is a song I wished I had choreographed back when I was bellydancing. This album spoke so much to me that I spent six days replaying it over and over before moving on to the next album, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.

Other albums I spent more time with were the electronic offerings of the mid-nineties, Outside and Hours. Again, there is some timeless element present, that makes these works sound like they were just produced.

Last week (the first days of March), I finished the list of studio albums. This week, I have been exploring Live at the Beeb, which was released as a 3-disc set in 2000. I am stuck on Disc One, still, 1969-1972. He’s got Tom Visconti and the band in the BBC studio, and they play psychedelic folk rock from the early albums and unrecorded tracks like “Let Me Sleep Beside”, which David explains his mother thought was “too dirty”, as well as songs to be included on the as yet unreleased Hunky Dory. The songs are interspersed with interview Q and A, and it’s truly wonderful to get a glimpse of the artist as a young man.

I have many more live recordings to go, and maybe, by the end of the year, I will be able to listen to everything without breaking into tears.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

This is my third year participating in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. There are three rounds, with assignments of genre, character, and subject. In 2014, I got an Honorable Mention, but didn't make it on to Round Two. In 2015, I made it to Round Two. I was hoping for a Round Three placement this year, but I am already out!

I was excited to get the Horror genre, for the first time. But my character and subject assignments pleased me less: a paleontologist and a drug addiction. I mulled it over for the first day and night, trying not to write something too close to Jurassic Park or Jeckyll & Hyde. All my initial ideas seemed too far into the realm of science fiction, and I wanted to make sure I hit the horror notes.

I didn't push. I wrote some story bits, got some feedback, kept brainstorming, but had saved Friday and Saturday for the bulk of the rewriting. Unfortunately, a trip to the eye doctor on Friday caused me to lose many hours - I didn't realize I would be having my eyes dilated, and it took h-o-u-r-s to go back to normal. I had to spend the afternoon at the Fred Meyer's (where the optician is) waiting for sunset before I could even attempt driving! Still, I managed to get to Starbucks and pound out 1049 words, blind.

The next day, after work, I thought I had 8 hours to finish and submit, but I had forgotten to account for the time zone difference, and actually only had five hours. I pounded out nearly 5000 words, a new version of the story I had been tweaking all week, by 8:32 pm (deadline at 9pm PST). I raced through the document, slashing and burning entire scenes, aiming for that 2500 word limit. I made it down to 2499 (close!) and opened the contest webpage. There was the countdown timer, staring at me: 00:00:00... It was 9:02 pm. I had missed the deadline! I jammed over to Twitter to beg for a grace period, but to no response. I had to accept that I would not be moving on at all this year!

It was a costly lesson, but at least I have an interesting story that I can now do something else with. I will let you know when it's available to be read!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Losing A Hero (Part II) R.I.P. David Bowie

Scientists found a new planet in our solar system. We have nine planets again. The new planet appeared after the passing of Earth's own Starman, David Bowie, leaving many us to believe that this artist has joined his place amidst the Stardust.

This is the second attempt at capturing what it means to lose this human being form our current timeline. It was written within the first few days after his death, and has not seen any revisions. I have plans to write more, but feel I need to get something out there, to join the many voices in mourning. Please let me know your reactions in the comments.



I’ve never lived in a world without David Bowie. Until now.

“It feels like we lost something elemental, as if an entire color is gone.”*

I was not quite nine years old the first time I saw David Bowie. He performed “The Man Who Sold the World” (and two other songs) on Saturday Night Live, encased in a large plastic shell, a constructed suit with puppetry parts. Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias stood behind him, in stark stage makeup and monochromatic dresses and tights. I had never seen anything like it. These were people blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, between masculinity and femininity, between art and life. David Bowie redefined what was possible.

David Bowie inspired me to be my most creative and curious self and to live life as art.


I was born in the future. The year I was born was the year that Soyuz first successfully docked onto the Space Station Salyut (but unsuccessfully re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in the first in-flight death of a human cosmonaut). It was the year that Stanley Kubrick’s film version of A Clockwork Orange was released, as well as George Lucas’s first film, THX-1138. It was also the year that DAW Books was founded, a major publisher of science fiction, which I would read much of, in the years to come. 

Fresh off the Moon Landing, NASA was the shit. Astronauts were the coolest people on the planet– because they got off the planet! The first Star Trek series, while already cancelled and off-air before I came along, was gathering a cult following in syndication. I was raised on reruns of Star Trek, along with The Jetsons, and the quirky morality tales of Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone. My mother instilled in me a love of the fantastic, a sense of endless possibility, and the power of imagination.

In early 1978, a year before I saw David Bowie on television wearing a dress and looking like an alien, my mother had taken me and my brother to see Star Wars. Space was where it was at! It was where we were headed. Flying cars, vacations on the moon, technology to make out lives easier and give us more leisure time awaited. If not in my mother’s lifetime, surely in ours, no? In the future, we would evolve powers of the mind and intellect would rule. Racism, disease, poverty, colonialism, and intolerance would all be in our past, or something we encountered on backwards little planets. 
David Bowie was from this future. He sang about Astronauts and Outer Space, Other Planets the End of the World. It was all Stardust and Style. I wasn’t entirely convinced he wasn’t an actual extraterrestrial– he seemed inhumanly thin, pale with narrow jaw, not unlike the “greys” depicted on Whitley Streiber book covers and onscreen in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He had one blue eye and one brown** eye, a large forehead, and an incredible talent for music. He must be part-faerie, or alien, or something, to be so unlike the rest of us, I thought.

I didn’t get to listen to his music for many years. My house was full of music, but not his. There was Doo-Wop, Motown, Classic Country, and a lot of novelty music. My mom introduced me to Elvis, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Carpenters, but nothing so edgy as Bowie. My part-time older brother was into Triumph, Rush, and AC/DC, nothing so weird as Bowie. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who listened to David Bowie. Not in my extended family, not at school, not at my friend’s houses. I didn’t know about Billboard charts, modern radio, or how the music industry worked– I didn’t discover contemporary music until I was given a transistor radio at age ten. Every once in a while, there might be a mention of David Bowie on television, but it seemed rare.

This was in the late seventies, mind you. There were three television networks and PBS (which we didn’t even get) Cable TV was in its infancy, and nothing I would see in my own home for decades. There was no internet or home computers or anything to connect you to events and people outside your immediate lifestyle. It wasn’t sixth grade that I saw music videos on MTV at my new friend Karen’s house. 

The visual appeal of music videos was immediately influential. Soon, there were music videos available on NBC's Friday Night Videos. Two hours a week that I dutifully recorded with our new VCR, cutting out most of the commercials. A lot of the bands making videos were British, and I soon rediscovered Bowie. Stunning stories set to music with surreal scenes and costumes impressed me in videos for Loving the Alien, Ashes to Ashes, and China Girl. In fact, I think my affinity for Asian art and music began with Bowie, who explored and exposed us to it. 

Bowie was on the frontlines of New Wave, and the Second British Invasion. Not only was he there in the forefront, but all the young bands by his side wouldn’t have existed without his influence; bands like Duran Duran, The Human League, Culture Club, and others owed their existence to Bowie’s paving the way. 

Then came The Hunger. Holy cow, did this movie change the lives of a million teenagers in the eighties, me among them. David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve are the ultimate otherworldly power couple as charismatic, upscale vampires in New York City. The opening scene is a club, set to a song called “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by British post-punk band Bauhaus. Can I even begin to tell you the number of ways this film affected me? 

  1. I fell in love all over again with David Bowie, this time with all the dedicated passion of a teenager instead of a fickle child. He had the most erotic speaking voice, and of course, the most perfect imperfections that make for the best physical beauty. He played the cello in The Hunger– the most gorgeous haunting pieces by Schubert and Bach. Therefore…
  2. I fell in love with the cello. I bought tapes of Bach and Schubert and Yo-yo Ma. I became aware of Bauhaus. I loved the dark, minimalistic, epic song used in the film. I immediately made my mom drive me to a record store that carried imports, so I could buy their records. They were very expensive, so I actually shared the ownership with my best friend. We split the purchases and made cassette tape copies of the albums so that we each had them to listen to.
  3. Within a decade, this band would be hailed as a pioneer of what was to become the goth subculture. Those of us who were devotees at the time referred to this style as death punk. This darker side of New Wave became Gothic Rock, and I loved it.
  4. Vampires. Long, long before the two-dimensional characters of Twilight, there was The Hunger. This cultural phenomenon was compounded by the 1985 release of Anne Rice’s novel, The Vampire LeStat, the sequel to 1976’s Interview with a Vampire. These monsters were superior creatures to mere mortals: Intelligent, immortal, sleek, and sexy.
  5. Acceptance of bisexuality and non-traditional gender roles. Bowie had already been pioneering the cultural shift in this area, but watching the very beautiful Miriam Blaylock (Deneuve) love both male and female characters resonated with me. Miriam was immortal; she had evolved beyond the limitations of a patriarchal and limited society. This made sense to me. What difference does the physical body make when it comes to love? It’s the person inside the body that matters. 

While I , myself, am mostly drawn to men, they are often androgynous or effeminate men. And I am not bothered by finding a woman attractive, either. These, too, are usually androgynous: the tough look of Joan Jett or Patti Smith. I am most attracted to the gender of Rock ‘n’ Roll!

The point is, I could accept whatever came along. I didn’t feel tethered to the same conservative rules of sexuality that had been in place for decades. David Bowie invited me to question my gender identity and sexuality, in a way that I don't think many non-hetero, cisgender people do. As a teenager, I had nearly as many friends identify as gay as straight. I felt no judgment or negative attachment to transvestites, and knew both gay and straight drag queens. (Transgender wasn’t as yet as common a concept in the mid-eighties.) 

Bowie wrote his own rules, and created a life model rarely seen: no compromises, artistic quality and authentic exploration above all. Just knowing that he was out there doing his own thing meant that any of us could do the same. I’ve not always made the best choices in my life, but they’ve been my choices. I studied art and music on my own terms. After high school, I lived in England. At twenty I picked up and moved to Seattle. I followed my instincts, talked to as many artists as I could, and lived my strange little life as artistically as I could muster.

Several years later when I met James, the man I would marry, one of the first things we found common ground on was our adoration of and attraction to David Bowie. We recognized this kindred connection that spoke to our deeper selves. Loving David Bowie was shorthand for sharing the ideals, beliefs, acceptance, and ambition of being creative, unique, and true to yourself, despite the opinions of those lesser, inferior conformists around you. Bowie fans were weird.

There didn’t used to be an internet. Sometimes, you were literally completely alone in your ideas. I sat alone in my room listening to Bowie records. I didn’t know how to find out when concerts came to town. It was an effort to get to record stores and find the records to buy. When you found a kindred spirit over an artist, you found a fast friend.

So, yeah, when Bowie came to play the Tacoma Dome with Nine Inch Nails in 1995, James and I considered canceling our wedding, set to take place the same week in Maryland. We would have scheduled around it, if we had known soon enough. Neither one of us had ever attended a Bowie concert, and it would have probably been more of a sign of our commitment than the family-attended wedding, but it wasn’t the choice we ultimately made. 


*Quote taken from Carrie Brownstein's Twitter
**Bowie suffered an injury in a fist fight as a youth, causing one eye's pupil to lose the ability to dilate, resulting in the appearance of two different colored eyes. In fact, both irises are blue.

...more to come...

Losing a Hero (Part I) - R.I.P. David Bowie

It has been exactly two weeks since the world saw the passing of David Bowie. I am tempted to write from the heart about this event and how it has affected me, but I have other pressing deadlines. Suffice it to say, I have been grieving. Some of you have not, but may be grieving for other recent losses (all to the evil cancer) such as Lemmy Kilmeister or Alan Rickman, or your own personal loved ones or heroes. 2016 is shaping up to be a painful year, so far, but I am holding out hope that great lessons will be learned and great hurts will be healed.

In the meantime, I have been listening to the entire Bowie discography in chronological order, with a few albums on repeat before moving on. I spent the first week crying, unable to sleep, unable to focus on anything but Bowie. My appetite was so diminished, I lost ten pounds or more. Random song lyrics would pop into my head, triggered by almost anything, and waves of grief would rip through my body.

Below, you will find the first thing I wrote, two hours after I received the news of his passing. It was the middle of a Sunday night (officially Monday morning of Jan. 11th). It hasn't been revised or anything...If you are a Bowie fan, you may feel the grief and shock in this piece, but if not, the lyrics may not capture my jagged emotions. I would love to know what you felt or thought.


Loving the Alien (Part I)

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)
~ Blackstar, 2015

January 10th, 2016 was the day that David Bowie died.
Close to midnight, I started getting messages on my phone that I didn’t check. They turned out to be from friends, who realized and shared the grief I would be in, once I heard the news: David Bowie was dead.

I know something is very wrong
~ I Can’t Give Everything Away, 2015

Saturday into Sunday….I slept. I dreamt of living in a sky blue apartment with my husband, James. An old friend of ours showed up, with David Bowie. Our friend disappeared, and James and I spent the entire day with David Bowie, just hanging out, having conversations about life and music.

It’s nothing to me
It’s nothing to see
If I’ll never see the English evergreens I’m running to
~ Dollar Days, 2015

The day before was Friday, January 8th. For years, I have celebrated January 8th as a sort of musical matsuri, since it is the birthday of both Elvis Presley and David Bowie, i.e. the gods of rock’n’roll. I had spent that evening after work sitting at Starbucks, writing and listening to Blackstar on repeat. Blackstar is the 26th and newest studio album release by David Bowie. It had been released that day, January 8th, 2016. I hadn’t even received the actual CD or record that I’d ordered, yet.

Saying more and feeling less
Saying no but meaning yes
This is all I ever meant
That’s the message that I sent
~ I Can’t Give Everything Away, 2015

When I was little, I was very impressed by Bowie’s musical performance on Saturday Night Live. It was The Man Who Sold the World, with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias on backing vocals. They wore giant, avante garde jumpsuits and seemed to be acting the part of aliens from outer space. I was hooked. It introduced and turned me onto experimental music, avante garde performance art, glam rock, androgyny, and Bowie, himself. He was so interesting. And different. And alien.

He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
~ Blackstar, 2015

New Year’s Day 2016 was spent with James and a friend, watching Bowie videos, both new and old. I watched the video for Blackstar (the title track) again, later, three times in a row.
My first year of middle school, I began playing with makeup. I had always been a tomboy, and wearing makeup was less a move towards femininity than an artistic statement. I looked to it as a form of self-expression, and just needed to play around with who it was I was expressing. I remember replicating Bowie’s Aladdin Sane red and blue streak down my face. David Bowie continued to be an inspiration for my punk glam teenage makeup choices.

And your prayers they break the sky in two
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
~ Loving the Alien, 1984

In 2004, I was lucky enough to have been invited to see him live in concert at The Paramount in Seattle. James tried to tell me I shouldn’t go, if he couldn’t go, especially since it was just days before his own birthday. But, my birthday is three days after James’s, and there was no way I was going to turn down the invitation. He didn’t speak to me for a few days over it, but I was elated. In addition to my favorite hits, Heroes, Ashes to Ashes, and Ziggy Stardust, Bowie played my two favorite lesser-known songs, Life On Mars and Five Years! I couldn’t have asked for a better set list.
Three months later in April, the tour returned to Seattle, this time at the larger Key Arena. I bought tickets for James and myself. Floor seats were pretty damn good. The set list was close to the previous show I had seen, but without those two beloved songs of mine. It was like that performance was just for me and I was meant to be there. And then, I could share it with my husband.

We could steal time, just for one day
We can be heroes, for ever and everything
What d’you say?
~ Heroes, 1977

Nine years earlier, in 1995, James and I prepared to fly back to my hometown in Maryland for our wedding, at the end of October. It was announced that David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails were on tour, and would be playing near us while we were away. We nearly cancelled the wedding.

And I want to believe
In the madness that calls ‘Now’
And I want to believe
That a light’s shining through
~ Cygnet Committee, 1969

I was reading in the bathtub earlier tonight, which is one of my favorite things to do. At 1AM, I put down the book and picked up my phone. I had several messages from friends expressing their condolences to me. I was baffled, but concerned. It didn’t take long to see the news. David Bowie, who had just turned 69 days before, died peacefully in his home surrounded by loved ones after a long battle with cancer.

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now
~ Lazarus

I cried so hard, sitting in the bathtub, that one of my cats began to paw at the shower curtain in concern. An hour later, I was still sitting there, crying, water drained. James came in and asked what I was doing. I found it difficult to say the words.
“I knew it!” he cried. “I fucking knew it! I had that feeling.” Which just made me cry harder.
“I’d just had that dream…” I reminded him. Of us, hanging out with Bowie, in a sky blue apartment.
“I’m sorry,” he said to me.
I got out of the tub and sat down to write this. I listen to Blackstar, the entire album full of lyrics that have new meaning in light of his sickness, his knowing, his passing. I cry, over and over again.

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?
~ Lazarus
______________________ ~ fin ~ _____________________