Confetti and a compliment, and changes

Sometimes the light is dulled, and the clouds lead you to the water, fluid, but reflective …

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 Just when I was ready to really slow down on the short stories and up the time on the plays, I read this great review, and run into a woman in town that I know who says she loved every story in my collection … on the same day! Hmm … a universal message? Well, a welcomed compliment, for sure.

Confetti: A Collection of Cozy Crimes By Patricia L. Morin

IN THE May 23 ISSUE

FROM THE 2015 Articles,
andCynthia Chow,
andMysteryrat’s Maze SECTIONS

by Cynthia Chow

Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of this book, along with a link to purchase it where a portion goes to help support KRL and indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy.

Summer is the time for travel, but sadly not everyone has the privilege of whisking off across the country and escaping everyday life. That’s why we’re grateful for this anthology of nine short stories that take readers to Oahu, Venice Beach, and—well, New Jersey. Murder is, of course, involved, but it’s a footnote in these highly entertaining and often very funny short tales.

Morin makes crime a family affair in her first two delightful tales. Absolutely charming is “Bark Mitzvah Murder in Mizpah,” in which an incredibly diverse group of New Jersey partygoers celebrate the Jewish rite of passage for a poodle. Too bad it ends with a poisoning, but that’s just as much fun as the first story in this anthology, “Pizza Man Murder.”book

The author twists it up with “Psychic Spies,” which follows a 1979 program training agents to use unconventional methods. Humor is back in “Harry and Penny,” as two senior sibling private investigators wield their unique form of communication to foil a scheme that could have forced an early retirement.

My two favorite stories are “A Hui Hou Kakou” and “Love Shack,” which take place on the island of Oahu and feature two very different interpretations of love. The first is a haunting narration by a nearly drowned young woman who struggles to repair her memory, while the latter is a far lighter tale of a relationship gone awry.

The light-hearted tone of these stories definitely lives up to its cozy title, but the final entry also displays a deeper sentiment that shows off the author’s deft hand with character development. “The Ferry” is nearly a novella of a woman following her sister’s final wish and learning far more than she ever expected.

Confetti is a tightly written anthology, and its length is a sign of exemplary editing ensuring that each entry is more than strong enough to stand on its own.

decision, decisions

 

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offer itself to your imagination,

 

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calls to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting-

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.” Mary Oliver

I’ve been wondering about my creative life lately.

I feel that my imagination is still very rich with inventive ideas. But I am no longer certain how to express those images, schemes, and blips of stories that fill my often crowded memory. I believe in a universal energy that sometimes guides you in a certain direction, and reunites you with earlier events and memories. Maybe it’s just a facet of my unconscious’ accumulation of life’s experiences that is touched by an event, and brought to the forefront of my mind through my imagination.

I wrote a short story about golfing, “In the Rough,” years ago for a Deadly Ink contest. Whipped it off and sent it in, with only one weak edit added. I said to my dad (probably starting his next life as a golfer), “This is for you.”

The story won an award.FullSizeRender. DE award

Years later, I converted a novella, “Who Killed Horatio T. Adams,” to a play. It was read in Chicago. The next play, “The Gate Keeper,” The gatekeeperI offered to my mom. She dragged my father and I to every New York play, at least once a month. I still have the playbills! The play won critic and audience awards. It turns out I had a knack for playwriting, and loved it. So I wrote more plays, read more books about plays, and even attended workshops to enhance my skills. Recently, I just completed a commissioned work, “Who is Humpty?It’s a children’s play to be produced this year, according to the producer. Working with a collaborator is an interesting experience, and a lesson in understanding the differences in perception.

 

Then I wrote a novel, a psychological thriller. It feels right. I’m combining my knowledge of psychology with my love of writing, and involving myself for a long period of time with several characters that I truly like, even the devil—or the psychic sociopath that thinks he’s the reincarnation of the devil. The working title is “Moloch and the Angel.”falling_angels_detail

I have a few agents interested, and am on my second overhaul. However, I started writing novels so that I could get my short stories published. But now, well, I just don’t know.

There are not enough hours in a day, or a week to put my time and energy into all three. Yet, I still can’t let go of any one of them. It’s like, in some inconceivable way, I’ve been guided to all three forms, and now feel the anguish of making a choice. I am inevitably alone in this decision, geese screaming in my ear, yet lost as to what place in the family I belong.

 

Loneliness and the Writer-Part III

iStock_000047109864Small_610_300_s_c1_center_centerLoneliness and creativity.

DR. Nancy Andreasen,  Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist, as well as a Ph.D in Literature, stated (The Atlantic Magazine , August 2014, “The Secrets of the Creative Brain”). “Creative people are the resources that permit civilizations to advance.” In her research, she hypothesizes that mood disorders are a great part of the psychological make up of the creative brain, and began her research with the renowned Iowa Writer’s Workshop and Kurt Vonnegut. (Although she has completed extensive longitudinal research on her subjects, her methodology and findings have been questioned.)

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of Creativity, there are three types of creativity: 1) “Person who express unusual thought, who are interesting and stimulating; 2) people who experience the world in a novel and original way … perceptions are fresh, judgements are insightful, making important discoveries that only they know about (until they write about it and people read their writings); 3) individuals who have changed our culture (adding to our culture) in some important respect.”

What happens when the creativity stops, the “flow” dwindles, and solitude turns into isolation, and goals lay by the wayside? Do writers feel an intolerable sense of emptiness while being alone? Some yes, some no, some in-between … depending on the individual’s interactions, routines, personalities, what’s happening in their life at present, and goal expectations (not to mention childhood experiences and family interactions).200px-Jean_Jacques_Henner_-_SolitudeCreativity really has nothing, more or less, to do with loneliness. It’s the extent of solitude and how we handle that solitude that matters. Many creative people are wrapped in solitude. As Csikzentmihalyi states in his book, Flow, : “The ultimate test for the ability to control the quality of experience is what a person does in solitude, with no external demands to give structure to attention.” Do we work on distractions of the mind? Do we invite characters into our thoughts and let them stay? For how long? Then what? What happens when nothing is coming or going out? Do feelings of anxiety seep in the empty spaces? Do you feel empty?  Csikzentmihalyi  adds, “One can survive solitude,  but only if one finds ways of ordering attention that will prevent entropy (blockage of creative flow) from destructing the mind.”  Do we fill those spaces with computer games … Spider Solitaire … Angry Birds? That’s a positive alternative; you have turned your mind into concentrating on a specific task. The unconscious mind is still working while the conscious mind relaxes (and has some fun).

Structuring your time will control your mental focus. It’s when solitude is seen as an enemy … “A good enough writer must face eternity, or the lack of, each day,” as Hemingway believed, that depression and loneliness will be close at hand.

Loneliness and the Writer–Part II

Depression-Loneliness-and-the-Writer’s-Life-650x447“If you are finding yourself struggling with loneliness, you’re not alone. And yet you are alone. So very alone.” Anonymous

Many writers choose social isolation, a precursor to the feeling of loneliness, to fuel creative endeavors– toimages (5) enhance their creative expression. Although this self-imposed social isolation, often termed solitude, is simply a lack of contact with people. It’s ironic when I hear the word solitude and think of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, a self imposed exile from man, but a place that would have portals to other experience to enhance Superman’s knowledge of … well … life, the universe, and everything.

We, as writers, maintain a fortress for our writing, our minds flying through different portals of experiences with our characters, research, and plot lines. So, when do we step over the threshold from solitude to loneliness?

When we feel loneliness.

Loneliness can occur for so many reasons, socially, physically, and emotionally: separation of friends and loved ones, temporarily or permanently; being asked to leave a social circle or group; being physically handicapped and not feeling accepted; going through postpartum depression, and especially after surviving a divorce. When a person is so filled with rage or resentment or any feeling to the extreme, isolation can be the outcome.

The existentialist, especially Sartre, believe that loneliness is part of the human condition. After all, we are born alone, walk through life (or stumble) alone, and die alone. Our desires to have meaning in life conflict with the “nothingness” we believe is out there.

Untitled1Sylvia Plath, a famous Poet who committed suicide in 1963, wrote about her loneliness: “God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of “parties” with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter – they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship – but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.”

When we reach the depths of loneliness, soul depth, where what is real or what is imagined no longer matters, where darkness pervades every pour of our bodies, and loneliness eats away our resolve and resistance. There is no longer meaning in life and our creative juices evaporate. Then loneliness has become deadly.

1-6Jo_fYzhiaHeD0qDqxodZQVirgina Woolf’s phrase “The loneliness, which was for both of them, the truth about things,” (from To the Lighthouse) can be an example of this. One of its meanings could be that loneliness can be lessened through some form of company (that they are not providing for each other), or that (deeply prevalent in Woolf’s psychological constitution) the “I” (alone and lonely) and that “life of mine” (untouched) prevails whether the world exists or not, unchanging. (from the writing of Frank Cioffi by Thomas Basboll)

Loneliness can be transient or chronic, and our reactions to it just as varied. It’s good to stop and check with ourselves every once in a while, to insure that under that self-imposed solitude is not a slow-growing loneliness.

Loneliness and the Writer–Part III, next month.

 

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Loneliness and the Writer– Part 1

In his 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, ErnestHemingwayErnest Hemingway wrote: Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

In Nathan Crawford’s article for The Guardian, August 2014, he discusses Kay Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, reports that writers are ten to twenty times more likely to suffer from depression than other people. Yet, as Crawford retorts, referencing a scientific study is not necessary to confirm tired speculations that depression occupies that dominancy of thought for those consumed by the written word. All one need to do is look at the history of literature to see that writing and depression is a bitter-sweet relationship as Bailey’s Irish cream is to coffee. David Foster Wallace world copyright Giovanni Giovannetti/effigie                                               David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace, arguably the greatest wordsmith of the last century, committed suicide well before the dusk of his life; whereas Ernest Hemingway, whose father, sister and brother all took their own lives, was practically destined for suicide. In short: High-minded writers seem to occupy the depths of human despair, but why? Writers tend to be an awkward bunch, he adds. I disagree, in part, because many of my writing friends are far from awkward. However, he does continue to state: The process of writing, editing, and revision requires being obsessed with self-criticism—the leading quality for any depressed patient.

Nathan Bransford, author and retired literary agent says: I don’t find the act of writing to be a lonely one. There’s something about the concentration, the empathy required to imagine what characters think and do, and being immersed in another place that never makes you feel you’re actually by yourself. It’s comforting to have the control over an imagined world that we can never have in the real one.

But the act of writing is a solitary one, and the writing life forces you to shut off the outside world for long stretches of time. To complete a huge task like a novel you have to say no to outings with friends and time spent in the sunshine, and choose instead to chain yourself to your computer or notepad and stare at it for hours on end. And because you have to spend so much time writing, you might not leave enough time for friendships and fun.

Writing might not inspire loneliness, but the writing lifestyle definitely can.

The lack of social contact with friends, family, and running partners because  you are near your book’s due date, and the book is not completed; needing one more rewrite so you can “work’ that weak area in chapter seventeen; concentrating on the consistency of the “voice” all impede time necessary to get out of the chair and communicate with others. Loneliness is a feeling that seeps into your soul slowly, so that soon you might not even want, or think you need to be with others.
10614259_10152686201461823_7648764409462098800_nTo be continued …

Fun “Time-Out”

With finishing my noir thriller, Moloch and the Angel (my readers having lots of helpful tips and comments), and also finishing my commissioned NY play, HD  (Humpty Dumpty), (being read in two weeks at Marymount College, NYC–more pictures and info to come), finishing the music lyrics and score for the HD play (joined ASCAP– learning more and more about the music industry), I decided to take yesterday off—feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Like, really?

I bought a book titled, Anguished English-An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon the English Language by Richard Lederer. I started flipping through the pages and laughed, sometimes out loud. I yelled to my husband, Larry, working in the next room, “Lar, you gotta hear this one!”

Anguished English

Ready? I thought I would share a few of the funnies with you so your day or evening could be lightened with humor.

Notes written by parents to school personnel: “Please excuse Tom for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea and his boots leak.”

“My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She was with the marines.”

Addled Adds: “For sale: antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.”

“Dog for sale. Eats anything and is fond of children.”

“Our bikinis are exciting. They are simply the tops.”

“Illiterate? Write today for free help.”

My favorite: Signs of the times: In window of Oregon general store : “Why go elsewhere to be cheated, when you can come here?”

Ohio road sign: “Drive Slower When Wet.”

Kentucky appliance store: “Don’t kill your wife. Let our washing machines do the dirty work.”

On a display of “I love you only” Valentine cards: “Now available in multi-packs.”

Clothing store: “Wonderful bargains for men with 16 and 17 necks.”

Gallery ops: “The citizens of Santa Barbara County are faced with a tax rise. Most of the money raised would be used for five foot policemen.”

“The bride was wearing an old lace gown that fell to the floor as she came down the aisle.”

Even as I typed this, I laughed.  As Dr. Seuss says: “From here to there, and there to here, humor is everywhere.”

Have a good week!

Banned Book Week–September 24-October 1st

ab-Toni-MorrisonReading the Ladykiller’s Blog coincided this week with my entering the 365 Day Playwright endeavor where 365 playwrights, all women, have picked famous women through history to write a play about–comedy, drama, musical, monologues accepted. When skimming the African American list, I noticed that Toni Morrison, first African American woman to be honored with a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 was not on the list. I wrote the list, picked her as my special lady, and my play will be out as part of this group next year.

Her first novel, “The Bluest Eye”, 1970 is still a target for censorship. It ranked number 2 on the banned book list according to the American Library Association for Intellectual Freedom. The novel comes in behind the graphic novel, according to the Internet, “Captain Underpants”! Domestic abuse and negative self-image is to blame for “The Bluest Eyes”–go figure.

Morrison spoke out about censorship in October 2009 after one of her books was banned at a Michigan high school. She served as editor for Burn This Book, a collection of essays on censorship and the power of the written word. She told a crowd gathered for the launch of the Free Speech Leadership Council about the importance of fighting censorship. “The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists’ questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, canceled films—that thought is a nightmare. As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink.”

I believe that Mysti Berry of the Lady Killer’s group, spoken from her heart, says it all:

mysti_newI love every banned book, from Charlotte’s Web to Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Why? Because every time a group of frightened people gets together and decides to control how someone else thinks, they are admitting that ideas are where the real power is. It’s the most democratic truth I know, and I cherish it.

Yes, even if there are breasts or drugs or violence (and by the way, how did breasts get on the list of things-that-are-bad-for-children?), every book challenge or ban is an acknowledgement that ideas can change the world. Ideas wake us up to the way the world should be, or the consequences of not changing. They keep us from careening off the edge of fascism. They give a little girl the vision and strength to brave a bullet in the head for her right to learn.

When people get together to ban books, it’s like they’re painting their own hands in fluorescence, so we can see them coming, and hopefully do something about it before it’s too late.

So thank you, school district that misspelled the title of one of the books you were trying to ban. Thank you, large online merchant for trying to make romance books unavailable because you can’t tell a harmless cover shot of a man’s torso from child pornography. Thank you, Kansas, for trying to ban my very favorite children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, because talking animals are heresy (except, I’m guessing, that book where the snake tells the lady to eat an apple.)

Charlotte’s Web was such a revelation to me in fifth grade that I dragged my mom’s old manual typewriter into the closet and plunked away for a whole summer, Trying To Become A Writer. I’m still trying to perfect my craft, these many decades later, and I’ll never stop trying, especially when those who really should know better try to stifle the free exchange of ideas. No sir, I’ll never stop trying.

I believe that Mysti’s words are an inspiration for every man and woman to continue to write despite what others will think or believe, and that includes all creators of comic characters!

 

 

Five-Star Review for “Confetti” from the San Francisco Book Review

 

get-attachment (2)I couldn’t believe, after one four star rating (Mystery Montage,) and another four star rating (Crime Montage), I finally accomplished the best rating for my short story collection Confetti, a collection of Cozy Crimes! I don’t think as authors we realize what book, what story, what sentence, what word, will grab a reader, reviewer, friend, or neighbor. All our stories are in some way leaps of faith that our hearts and minds and imagination will be presented so someone out there will smile and say, “Hey, this was a great read.”

get-attachment (3)5 StarsThe Review:

“Oh, just delightful! This book, generally, does not take itself too seriously. It is a collection of short stories, all tied together by the commission, contemplation, connivance or conundrum of murder. The problem of such a collection is to make the characters different from one story to the next. Patricia L. Morin speaks with different voices as her characters, mostly in the first person, involve themselves or are involved in homicide.

“When an intellectual college student has oxygen starvation amnesia, she talks in short clipped sentences, giving the impression that longer thoughts are just too much for her to manage. When a stoner has a run-in with a Good Samaritan, he is under the influence and his lack of coherent thought prevents him from recognizing the truth of his predicament. An elderly man contemplates his life and marriage, striving to find a reason to continue one or the other. A successful stock trader is forced by the murder of her sister to examine her own motivations and desires.

“There is more, however, to character development and tone than sentence structure alone and the author successfully creates, in a very short time and with quick strokes, enough of each character to allow the reader to picture and fill in the rest. There is just enough description for a short story, with such phrases as ‘eyes of ice’ or ‘he had a twinkle in the corner of his crinkled eyes.’ These would make good short plays, each about one-quarter to one-half hour long. Most of them have a clever twist or ending, often unexpected, usually foreshadowed for the amateur sleuths among us. The book is not clinically gory so the characterizations are not lost in the awful details. I liked the book: it is easy reading, and I found myself laughing at the twists and admiring the writer’s craft.”

—Ralph Peterson, San Francisco Book Review
Click here to read published book review

New York City, A Walk Around Central Park, And Then Some …

We’ve been settling in on the upper West Side now for over a month. I was commissioned to write a play for a new producer–the contract won’t let me announce it yet. IMG_0455  I am also working on a play reading in SF on August 4th, and perfecting the comedy short play, “Till the End” about Jo’s Survival Instinct who tries to talk him out of committing suicide. If any of you are in SF, come to Tides Theater, Monday at 7. My play, with several others, will be read. That doesn’t mean it will be produced, even though I’ll bring some props. The actors will simply read it, and the audience will share ideas about how and why they liked it, or otherwise. AND … I’m finishing up a Noir mystery novel, Moloch and the Angel, and close to being done. Whew.

But I thought I would share some of the pictures I took of NY. Really, these photos are sooooo NY.IMG_0470  They are mostly snippets of a long two-hour walk through the park. A carnival in the middle of a park seemed odd to me. Tayya, our lab/ getting some educated vibes from Robert Burns.IMG_0466 Then there’s the frustrated Mime.

IMG_0513   men playing chessIMG_0468

IMG_0475Collecting coins, and using the echo of the tunnel to attract customers.

 

IMG_0481The famous Carousel where no two families spoke the same language.IMG_0461So many rides through Central Park, for so many years.

IMG_0492The famous Dakota apartment where John Lennon lived and died. Each apartment very unique in structure and design.IMG_0427 Mommy and baby classes near our apartment.IMG_0496IMG_0511Flowers and birds plant themselves anywhere they can survive. IMG_0520Brooklyn Bridge picture we bought.IMG_0521Famous taxi street, 42nd picture.IMG_0523Near the lake where people row boats. And finally, IMG_0457a bright end to a bright day.

Hope you enjoyed the show, folks.

The old hood of who’s who, and last leg of the trip to NYC

We finally reached New York and our old homestead. Grand View is a village saddled in between Nyack, NY and Piermont, NY. It has 125 homes with some very famous people. Our home, now painted all white, was once lilac (main color), black cherry, burgundy, and white. people stayed inIMG_0418 our cottage forIMG_0417 a respite or IMG_0416to find themselves, a segue way of sorts. LamaTuptin Gyatso, a friend of the Dali Lama, stayed there for several weeks. He didn’t want to leave after coming to the birthday celebration of the Dali Lama July 4th many years ago. Two houses down lives the writer Thomas Burger, famous in the 70’s, and wrote “Little Big Horn,” later staring Al Pachino, “Neighbors” later staring Bill Murray and others (based on his life in Snedens Landing in Piermont where many movie stars lived.IMG_0413Most of the house faces the Hudson River and the other floors are below the street. Then we have, about fifteen houses south, Toni Morrison’s .homeIMG_0409Across the street from us was William Stanley Wyatt, born in Grand View, (died 1962–son lives there)painter and sculpture, who created the bronze statueIMG_0414 outside of St John the Divine church in NYC, atlas obscura.Explanation-of-statue_0275px-Peace_fountain_closeupUp about a mile south from our home was the home of William Hurt, now moved.IMG_0405Down into Nyack, a mile north, we have director Johnathan Demi,IMG_0399 and then there is Helen Hayes old house that was bought by Rosie O’Donold, who found privacy and issue, planting the huge hedges, then moving.IMG_0402  Hope you enjoyed some of the pictures from the old hood. We loved noting all the changes in the area, and reminiscing about the “good old days”.

Then, home to 84th and Amsterdam.

Till next time.