All Hail the Queen

This morning brought the news that Anne Rice, the great dame of American Horror Writing, past away. Her son broke the news. Her first book and most famous book “Interview with a Vampire” in 1976 when she was 35.

I am ten years older than she was when she published her first book. A book that shaped so many people’s imaginations. A book that went on to become a series and sparked even more imaginations. Something that I aspire to do as well.

The first book I ever had an author sign was by Anne Rice. It was 1995, I was working as an intern at the law firm where my older sister worked. It was the summer that Granny would die. We had already rushed from Alexandria, Virginia, to Salisbury, Maryland to see her. I remember walking into her hospital room and her yelling at me. She was mad that we had dropped everything. Or that is what memory tells me. The signing with Anne Rice happened a week later, Tish took me to I believe Springfield Mall, and we waited for hours to see her.

I remember the book store was underground and everyone came down a set of escalators. Anne descended the escalator in wedding dress so huge it seemed to swallow her. It took us another hour to make our way to her. I was too nervous to have her address any of the inscriptions to me personally, so she simply signed her name. I cherished those books. A week later, Granny was in intensive care and a decision was made.

We buried her two rows over from a boy named Justin. A boy who made us all smile. I remember because the proximity of his grave was pointed out. I was happy that she was so close to someone that she knew.

Anne Rice will be laid to rest in a private service in New Orleans near those she loved in life. Sometime next year a celebration will take place for all of us to take part in according to her son. Her readers brought her so much joy. Let us celebrate her life so she will life on like her characters will live on beyond our own life spans.

10 years of Writing

A week or so ago, this blog celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.

Unfiltered Me Ten Years Past

I didn’t know anything about blogging when I started. I know slightly more about blogging now.

And the question on my mind is what to do with this blog. Do I continue writing this blog or do I stop and try something new?

Ten years ago, the blog was called Rosereads because I had intended it to be a place where I review books and eventually introduce my own writing. Papi gave me the idea. My book reviews never really did take off and I never did get tons of free books or advertising. Still, I continued writing.

And writing.

The fact that I have been actively working on writing for ten years is a success. That success has been bolstered by guest editors help me along the way and to each of them I am so grateful for that assistance.

If you are new here, I’ve dysgraphia which is an odd thing for a writer to have, but here I am. It makes writing a struggle. I have difficulty getting my thoughts out without making spelling errors, omitting words or using the wrong word completely.

I never thought growing up I would be a writer, let alone have a blog (those weren’t a thing when I was a kid) and two published works. My English teachers used so much red ink on papers they looked like victims of a massacre instead of term paper drafts. Friends and family ridiculed things I wrote. Poor grammar and spelling is mistakenly seen as lack of effort or intelligence.

Blood Child
My 1st Publication
My 2nd Publication

I’m still pretty shy about putting myself out there. Writing anything takes me a while because of the fear and anxiety of rejection and ridicule.

And yet, I am still writing.

This blog is going to stick around. It is an important part of my journey. It is something that Papi inspired me to do and even though he wasn’t happy with everything I wrote; it was his push that got things started. This blog will be everything that it should of been from the beginning, a record of my journey as a writer.

New blogs and adventures are beginning after all, what is the fun in making the rational decision and not continuing to do something that isn’t seen as a success. But, the writing while not award winning, it has reached people. It has touched them in heart and that to me is a success. Poe didn’t reach greatness until he had experienced long periods of horrible sanity.

Thank you, dear reader for all of your support.

Prompt Post: Gluten Free? Yes, I am….

Prompt: Gluten Free the early days…

To be honest, I don’t remember much from those days. I remember being in my first solo apartment, one that I was responsible for all by myself. It was my third or fourth year of teaching. Money was tight as it has been my entire life but Friday’s were my days to treat myself. I made it through the work week and still had my dream job. So Dominos and a six back of cider from the grocery store were treat.

My nephew had been diagnosed with gluten issues a few years before. So when I ended up getting sick every Saturday, something began to click. Every Friday, I had a whole small pizza and every Saturday and sometimes Sundays, I was sick.

The thought that gluten might to be to blame for the tummy troubles.

And it was.

It was also responsible for other health issues I was having at the time. I began to feel better the more I avoided gluten.

Those early days were filled with attempts to find a gluten free replacement for all of my normal meals. Pasta was probably the hardest. (try pasta made from more than one ingredient like corn and rice or make it yourself) Pizza, I’ve found good versions of and oh my god what were you thinking serving this to human beings versions. I still find gluten free food that tastes like card board and people who make it who aren’t gluten free that are way to proud of their nasty creations. They think that gluten free foods are a trend that will bring them business and don’t care what it tastes like.

The biggest thing that I learned was to go without replacements and find new ways of eating. More whole foods and less processed food, even gluten free ones makes me feel better. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat replacements but not as often. I love making gluten free treats for people: especially, my non-gluten free friends. The reason I do this is because too many times over the last decade I have been quietly eating my lunch and had friends comment on my food. How it is bland and tastes worse than cardboard, please note that I never let them taste my lunches. And I always loathed these encounters where people felt that it was necessary to have made fun of the food that I am eating while I am eating it.

It still happens.

My allergy is one of the reasons, I love to cook for people. First, I don’t get sick when I cook for myself. I control the ingredients and the cooking environment. Second, the people that I cook for gain an understanding of what is possible in gluten-free cooking and they learn that the food I fuel my body and soul with is good and nourishing. It also helps when they ask for seconds.

Food is a huge part of culture. When your culture is focused on eating food in mass quantities and scoffs at those who can not or choose to consume in a different way, you learn to adapt.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned to do.

  • Eat before potlucks of dinner parties. They may not have food you can eat.
  • Offer to bring something to dinner parties. I’ve learned to make some pretty yummy desserts.
  • Pack emergency food for road trips and aforementioned dinner parties.
  • Always identify that you have a gluten allergy to your server.
  • Beware of buffets. Ingredients aren’t generally listed
  • If you don’t feel like a restaurant is safe for you to eat in, don’t be pressured.
  • Don’t let well meaning people convince you that a little won’t hurt you, it will.
  • You get to decide your risk not other people.

Big thanks to my friend, Lori, for suggesting this prompt. If you would like to suggest a prompt, feel free to leave on in the comments below and it may very well end up as the topic of an upcoming blog.

State of Things August: Amended

The month of August has run off with my mind. If seen please return as soon as possible as I will be running through the fields until it returns.

August is the month, I return to my day job. It is the month that I should resign to take off this blog and other creative pursues as the chaos of the well planned plotted year unfolds. If you have a teacher friend or relative, ask them how the first month of school goes. If they say fine, then read them my description of the first month of school. They will then agree. Teachers tend to be humble folks that don’t want to make a fuss so they will douse negativity in a ton of sugar if need be.

I’m hanging in there. There is only one more day in the month as I begin writing this so I am pretty confident that I will be able to hold on.

Writing and editing are moving at a snail’s pace. The movement is a source of victory. Amid the chaos, work is still happening. The path may not be clear but there are times in life where we must push forward and forge our own path. Days like these it is important to remember that our memories are imperfect. The month of August began with the return to work, but there was also a campout and adventure with friends.

For the last twenty years, a group of my friends had been camping in the same spot. The only disruptions were the year the fields were closed and the pandemic. In both cases, we found ways to gather. The first time we found another location. During the pandemic, we held a virtual campout. It wasn’t the same but it kept the tradition alive.

This year we gather in the fields again surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Jefferson National forest. It was small gathering, the smallest since I started attending in 2015. Still, it was good. It felt right to gather and just exist in nature with friends that have become family.

Not having a tent of my own any more, I stayed in M’s tent. I was able to set-up a kitchen under her canopy as well. Although, I had brought food another friend furnished the sacred elixir of life every morning along for breakfast for me. The food was better than in most restaurants. I didn’t come back into town once. The closest I came was when a dog named George was spotted on the road. He was standing in the road looking for his friend. We were able to get George back to his people by driving down the road until we got signal and texting them.

Beyond that mini adventure; the field and the forest were the entire world for that weekend. It was the peace that I need before the start of the school year began properly.

Be well and take care.

Going Back In Time

Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

Florida was my home for 18 years. In a way, it will always be my home. So much of who I am today was formed in the Sunshine State, albeit from the shadows as I am not really found of heat or sun. Yes, I did willingly move to Florida but until you live here you don’t understand how oppressive the sun is. It never really stops trying to scorch the invaders so it can go back to being a happy mosquito infested swamp. We all have our glory days, and Florida misses when its very nature repelled development.

The journey here was longer than expected. We left my beloved mountains and solid ground around 7am thinking that with stops we would be in Orlando around 7-8 o’clock. Alas, we made it in shortly after 1am. While we were finishing lunch and getting gas, there was a multi-vehicle car crash 25 miles from the Georgia-Florida line.

We were rerouted by GPS so many times that at one point after a much needed stop we had to head North on 95 to be able to navigate around it. With all the detours, there wasn’t much time to think or reflect on my first trip back home in two years.

Reflection came after I relinquished the wheel and saw the Orlando area for the first time. Places that I had known flying by in the shadows and then the lights growing of downtown Orlando. This is not the land of the mouse. It is hard to define what it is the land of because Orlando and Florida in general is more than a vacation designation. It is home and not home.

Home is the solid footing of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but home is also where the heart is and pieces of my heart will always be in Florida with my family (both biological and chosen). There were so many people and places that I wanted to see. I managed more than my last trip in 2019. Time, however, was not on my side.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I remembered Papi, first. I remembered the place where we first kissed and so many other bittersweet memories in between. We passed where my friend, Shannon, lived in the last days of her life. We drove pass what had been the home of my friends, Wolfie and Awen. Awen passed away in the home and Wolfie moved out more than a decade ago.

We briefly stopped at Lake Eola before discovering that our bladders wanted us elsewhere. I thought about the walks around the lake. One sticks out, we were walking around before Papa passed, my brother E was with us and we were all sad, but happy to be together in the sun and fresh air.

My companions and I walked through Disney Springs and all the happy memories of my best friend and I hanging out. Memories of family birthday gatherings at the Rainforest Cafe and the day I walked into the Chapel Hats and asked them to find me a hat to match my outfit.

There was a drive through my old neighborhood and so many memoires. My companions got to see the porch where the novella “Blood Child” was conceived. And the places where I used to walk with Luke

We wandered through the Greenwood Cemetery where I poured out every bit of knowledge I have concerning it. I couldn’t bare to take them to the Pulse Memorial but I could point out the section of Greenwood that were some of the 49 Angels have been buried. The City of Orlando donated the plots for them. I pointed out the trees and other features that mark it as unique.

My companions traveled with me back in time. They were most amused after dinner with Zee and the Professor where I had indulged into far too much wine. During the journey back home, I gave them Lucinda’s drunken tour of Orlando. Apparently, I had a lot to say about every building I could identify and quite a few that had been built in my absent.

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

The present and the potential future blinked in and out of my days home.

The past is not a place you can stay. You can only really glimpse it. The emotions push through the veil separating past, present, and future. You are there for a moment, feeling all of the emotions, drowning in them. Then you are in the now, and nothing is right.

Nothing is the same.

Everything changes regardless of your desires. Your favorite nacho places closes after twenty years. Friends move out of your old neighborhood. And sadly, there are people you never get to say goodbye to again, even when you are going back in time.

State of Things July

Wow, what a month!! It is hard to believe that in five days it will be over. And then it will be back to my day job and the stresses and pressures of being an American educator.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This summer, I have taken more steps to eventually leaving teaching to write and create full time. It is a slow process but I am working on it. Even if I never make a complete transition, I am happier when I am creating.

Most of my writing this month focused on editing, journaling and blogging. The outlines for my non-fiction projects haven’t really gotten off the ground. (Meaning, I’ve thought about them but not put time into the research.) I was hoping to squeeze in another trip to Richmond to write and research but alas I need to attend to more mundane things.

I did get to spend a wonderful day at the lake yesterday celebrating a good friends birthday and making some new acquaintances. It was the day of rest and relaxation that I didn’t know that I needed. Thank you to S for not only being my friend, but making me feel like family.

Family is important to me. In recent years, I’ve spent more time with my chosen family than my biological family. It hasn’t been something that I’ve done consciously. I tend to get lost in the day and when my spoons are gone, I am done. I am horrible at communicating with people I don’t come in regular contact with due in part to my anxiety. I want to, but… well anxiety is not a nice person, to say the least.

Momma and Me Many Years Ago.

This month, I got to see Momma and my sister and her wonderful kids in Florida. I won’t lie and say the visit was great. We all have issues that we need to work on as well as how we communicate with each other. Sissy, if you are reading this, I do love you.

The visit has prompted me to return to therapy sooner rather than later. I have a list of things that I want to work on so I can improve my communication skills, establish better boundaries and be a better me. Therapy has been helpful to me in the past, however, I never actively worked on communication skills. My doctor wants to see how I am feeling after a couple of therapy sessions how I am dealing with things on a mental health front. Did I mention that I love my doctor? Cause I love my doctor.

She did ask if the summer had been restful and I hesitated. It has been good to work on other things without the stresses of work. I’ve gotten to travel, hugged my Mom and good friends, saw new things and breathe the fresh air and sunshine into my soul. I’m lucky to have this time. Time to recoup.

The time is never enough. My gratitude for things I have is not comparable to the things I have lost, the things that have hurt me and the things I still need to heal from. The things I love lots, the things that have hurt me, and the things I need to heal from don’t compare to the things I am grateful for. I could rest for a thousand days and still not be ready to return to my work as an educator. I will, however, return, because I both love my job and need that sweet sweet health insurance.

Let’s Stop…

Let’s stop saying those who cry are weak or babies

Babies cry to communicate to express what words cannot

Tears do not stop their duty when maturity takes hold

When other suppress what they should express

Some are cursed and blessed with tears

That do not obey.

Let us stop equating colors with genders

that we limit to two

Let us stop living our lives through memes

and share

But begin with hugs and touches.

Let us remember that our finite days

are filled with infinite possibilites

Let us acknowledge the privielege we have

and share with others so they may know the blessing

we take for granted.

Let us stop doing what hurts to others because we were hurt.

Remembering Papi

Yesterday, I kneel and reached into the back of the closet for a bag. One that I placed there when I first moved in. It contains items that I kept from my time with Papi. I found the business card that he gave me at our first lunch date. I didn’t know it was a date at the beginning but at the end, I was already falling in love with him.

The bag also holds the books he signed for me and three frame photos. Papi took the photos one summers day in my living room as I laid on the sofa before him. They are intimate pictures where my body was cast into a shadowy light by the blinds. Sometime later I framed them and put them in my bedroom. They have been in the closet since my move to Virginia three years ago.

Today, I took placed them on a table where I will be able to see them. It feels good to see them and remember how he saw me.

To remember that he loved me and I loved him.

I will remember Papi everyday that I am alive. I will never stop missing him or loving him.

I will remember Papi as a great man, but not a perfect man.

I will remember that we loved each other more than the other knew.

I will remember him every time a play or movie takes me on a journey.

I will remember him walking around Lake Eola with him.

I will remember seeing him smile the full intensity of his gaze melting me.

I will remember how he hated writing but was phenomenal at it.

I will remember how he took care of his partner and loved her like no other.

I will remember him whenever I think of New York or walk its streets.

I will remember him when the pain of his loss weighs on me until tears release it again.

I will remember him…as I loved him with each and every breath of my being.

Prompt Post: Twisting the Traditional

Prompt: How to put a fresh twist into a topic that has been super-saturated with books and films?

This prompt was given to me by my friend, Peg.  Thank you, Peg for saving this week’s blog. 

The first thing that comes to mind is zombies.  American fiction and cinema is obsessed with them.  The idea that human beings become their own worst enemy and threaten everything that we as a species know to be normal. The thing that takes us down is our reliance on technology or an unknown disease. When you really think about it. Most tales are told from the perspective of the human’s overwhelmed by creatures overwhelmed by desire for flesh.  If you change human flesh to blood, you have vampires.  But, let’s stick with zombies for now. 

A fresh twist could be as simple as writing the tale from the zombie’s perspective or from the scientist who created the zombies.  Was it a mistake or did he do it on purpose? Similar to the twisted logic of Thanos, pure and unemotional.  The solution to the problems of the humanity/universe are simple if you have the fortitude for it.  

Twisting a common topic isn’t as hard as one might think as long as you are willing to question and can change perspectives. You can change the perspective of the villain or a minor character. 

Imagine if the tale of Beauty and the Beast was told from the perspective of Gaston or Lefou, his sidekick.  How would they see it? Lefou depending on when you begin telling the tale and how you see him could become a villain or a hero. 

The key is changing perspective.  Imagine if you were to tell the tale of Beauty and the Beast as a horror story, where the Beauty is the villain kept captive by the sleeping spell.  How would things change? Would the prince be a savior or an accomplice?  Is he trying to save his love or revive his master? 

These twists seem hard but they can be accomplished by the wandering mind and a willingness  to change the accepted norms. 

“Twisted Fairy Tale” is a favorite genre of mine.  Let’s start with Alethea Kontis’s Woodcutter series that artfully weaves what we think we know about classic fairy tales with realism and an intellectual sensible that makes the character’s even more endearing.  It is a must read for those in love with fairy tales, fantasy and fiction. 

Next, let’s move on to one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.  I have fallen in love with his storytelling over the last couple of years studying writing.  He routinely takes things and turns them asking the what if questions and engaging readers with his answers. One of my favorites is his take on Sleeping Beauty (Snow, Glass and Apples)  where the tale is told from the Evil Queen’ perspective and the sweet princess is a villain preying on her father and her beloved prince.  It does not have a happy ending.  Yet, the tale’s twist satisfies the reader and makes them yearn for more. 

Another example is “Into the Woods” by playwright James Lapine and music by none other by Steven Sondiem.  This production asks the simple question of what happens after the happy ending. When I first saw it twenty years ago as a student production at Virginia Tech, I was mesmerized.  After all what happens after the happy ending, do they live in that happiness or does reality set in? 

The stories that follow the question “what if” are unique and follow similar lines to the original tale or, in the case of Into the Woods, take up the question of what happens after the story.  It is also how a lot of storytelling is created.  What if alien’s landed on earth? How would humanity react ? (World of the Wars, Close Encounters and so many more?) What if the first manned mission to Mars goes wrong? (The Martian) Each of these are twists on one tale of another.  

Consider the Martian and Castaway twists on Daniel Defos’ Robinson Crusoe which is believed to be based on the true story of Alexander Selkirk who was stranded on an island in the South Pacific for four years before his rescue. So many stories were based on Defos’ work that they became their own genre, Robinsade.

Twisting a traditional or popular topic begins with asking the question “what if?” and going with answers until a new tale is told.

Character Motivation

What makes you do the things that you do? What makes you reach for that cookie when you are on a diet? Or play that game when you should be sleeping? What really motivates us to act?

What motivates someone to murder?

Recently, I finished watching the Netflix docuseries “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez” which doesn’t come to a definite conclusion as to the motivation for committing the crimes of which Hernandez is accused or as to the reason behind his suicide. It begs the question of what does motivate someone to commit the heinous act of murder.

FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 10: Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots smiles from the sidelines in the fourth quarter during a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Acts of passion are some how understandable if murder can ever understood. The idea of loosing control and taking a life has been used a character’s motivation over and over again. A typically upright and thereby good being is over taken by passion or it’s darker sister rage. When they come back to their senses with blood on their hands, what do they do? If we are dealing with fiction, the story doesn’t go forward unless they try and hide their crime. In real life, do they call the police or hide the crime? All of which circles back to fictional scenario?

Revenge is another popular motive. Along with greed. These are text book motivations. Understandable to the point that the reader doesn’t give them a second thought.

In watching the docuseries about Aaron Hernández, we see the life of an American athlete on the cusp of greatness fall apart. First with his arrest for the murder of a friend and then more cracks in the foundation of this perfect life appeared. It turned out that there more cracks than anything else in the life of Aaron Hernandez.

He was a young man with a good heart and a bad brain. After his death in 2017, he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopath, which may have effected his behavior in life. If you haven’t hear of the condition commonly referred to as CTE, it is sometimes called fistfighter’s dementia. A number of former football players have been diagnosed with it following their early deaths.

Watching the life of Aaron Hernandez unfold in three episodes. I see how the series unfolds his character artfully, sympathetically. You feel him and yet you never forget what he is accused of doing. You see how in attempting to avoid the consequence of one crime, he provide the police with all the evidence they would need to convict him of the another crime. It is somewhat like what happens in mythology when the hero tries to avoid his fate and only ends up running directly towards it.

Real life is often stranger than fiction. It is always more complex. When authors water down motivation they water down their plots. I think about this as I write. Am I dumbing down my own plots by not considering the bad guy’s motivation? My current bad guy or gal has killed at least two people and as I work on rewriting the current draft, I wonder about their motivation.

I wonder about the complexities of my villain’s life. What has led them to this point where the death of another is the preferred option? Maybe it is just the easier option?

Death as the easier option is somehow more unsettling? Yet if we look around us there are tons of examples of people choosing that option.

These are the thoughts rattling round my brain.

What’s bouncing round your head?