On Fire and On the Move

Our air quality seems somewhat better today. Earlier in the week smoke from northern forest fires lay like a fog on the fields. Today there’s a faint gray haze and the sky’s a solid pale blue, but the sun’s colour is normal. I noticed only a whiff of smoke in the air when I was out earlier.

We’d have had a lot hotter temps this month if it hadn’t been for the smoke screen we’ve been living under, so I guess there’s one small blessing. Yet when I think of vast tracts of forest burning…

I wonder if the birds suffer in smoky air? The hummingbirds are still zipping around, busy at the feeder, especially in the early morning. Since it’s the end of the season I was able to buy a second feeder on sale and they seem happy to slurp from it, too. In just over a week they’ll be gone, so I’m enjoying them while I can.

I was out for a walk a few minutes ago and ONE grasshopper took flight beside the driveway. Can this be Saskatchewan! As soon as it landed I stomped on it — I don’t at all mind some species becoming extinct. Birds can’t eat them anyway, so…

Actually that’s not quite true! One fall morning about six years ago we saw a juvenile great-horned owl, still with his white baby feathers, sitting beside our garage. Mostly silent and observant, he opened his beak now and then to let out a shrill peep. Later we watched him run up and down the driveway devouring grasshoppers. You haven’t lived — or seen “funny” — until you’ve see an owl run. They’re so awkward, hopping as much side-to-side as forward!

poplar shoots
spring up in my driveway
bent on take-over
Birnham Wood creeping
to Dunsinane*

At different times this summer, walking along our driveway, I’ve thought of that phrase from MacBeth. The original owners planted a row of poplar trees on the west side of the property. Theses have grown tall in the last ten years and are no longer content to stay in one neat row. Shoot by shoot they are creeping toward our castle. Bob has been keeping them at bay with the lawn mower, but they aren’t giving up.

Which inspired me with a tanka on the subject. A tanka is a five line poem which, in old Japan, went in a syllable sequence of 5-7-5-7-5. Here’s what haiku master Alan Summers writes about it.

If you are interested in learning more about haiku, senryu, tanka, and other forms of Japanese poetry, courses are being offered this fall. For details, check out Call of the Page.

*The woods near Birnam in Perthshire, Scotland. In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, Macbeth is told that he will only be defeated when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Later, his enemy’s army comes through Birnam Wood and each soldier cuts a large branch to hide himself, so that when the army moves on it looks as if the wood is moving.
https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/birnam-wood

Mashed Up Musings

Rambling Thoughts on Genre Mashups

Puzzling.jpgYesterday over at The Write Practice, the subject was genre mashups, something I’d never hear of before — at least not by that name. The concept of taking a story and retelling it in another genre is familiar. For example, telling the story of Cinderella as a news report.

In this Write Practice post “The Magic Violinist” is suggesting mixing genres like fairy tale + sci-fi, romance + thriller, classic + contemporary. Oliver Twist meets his Mafia Godfather. That type of thing.

I read a book recently where one of the main characters is an author and in her novel Jane Austen is captured by space aliens. The title of the book will give a clue as to how successful she was at getting it launched. The Rejected Writers Book Club (Southlea Bay) by Suzanne Kelman is a funny, though none-too-believable, tale with a mixture of zany and normal characters. I found it delightful.

Mixing genres is an intriguing thought. Even in straight fiction, there are some tales I think would benefit from a dash of something else thrown in. For example, Wuthering Heights — one book I disliked extremely. I read the thing all the way through, hoping poor Heathcliff would get a grip, but there was just no improvement.

It’s billed as a romance — but I saw no actual love anywhere in its pages. Jealousy, greed, snobbery, obsession, fury, cruelty, revenge, yes. Love, no. I think Healthcliff might have benefited immensely by a visit from those three Spirits of Christmas who brought Ebenezer Scrooge to his senses in A Christmas Carol.

I think a lot of mashups of the old classics have already been done a zillion times. There are many contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, and western versions of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Pride + Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet floating around.

Just for the fun of it, here are a few mashups I came up with:

Lord Peter Wimsey is sent to investigate the assassination of the King of Scotland and the murder of Banquo. He deduces from various clues that MacBeth is the guilty party…
or
Miss Marple, a good friend of Banquo’s widow, does some snooping and uncovers Lady Macbeth’s duplicity in the assassination of the king.

The Three Musketeers could be three university roommates who join together to prove their favorite professor, accused of being a spy, is innocent.

I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, and the synopsis doesn’t at all inspire me to start. However, one of the three male characters could meet up with the three spirits of Christmas and come to see the error of his ways, improving the sad outcome of that story.

On the humorous side, Bertie Wooster could meet up with Ebenezer Scrooge’s three Christmas ghosts and resolve to atone for his former self-indulgent lifestyle. He tries in his inept way to donate time + talent to some worthy cause, but Jeeves has to sort things out when they go awry.

Notes:

Cinderella, an old fairy tale, was recorded by French writer Charles Perrault
Oliver Twist is a classic novel by Charles Dickens
The Little Mermaid was a Hans Christian Anderson tale
Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel
Ebeneezer Scrooge is Charles Dicken’s notorious curmudgeon and tightwad
Pride & Prejudice was penned by Jane Austen
Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet and MacBeth were written by William Shakespeare
Lord Peter Wimsey was Dorothy Sayers’ famous detective
Miss Marple was Agatha Christie’s very successful sleuth
The Three Musketeers was written by Alexandre Dumas
The Great Gatsby was an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel
Bertie Wooster + his valet, Jeeves, were created by P. G. Wodehouse

The Journey of a Blog

From 0 to 2000 Followers

I’ve had one eye on my stats lately, watching the number of Followers slowly creeping up to 2000. I wanted to mark the occasion but while I was busy with other things this week, my newest followers vaulted over the magic number. Still, here’s my planned celebration and a few historical notes.

Fireworks.pink cropped

2000+ Party

I’m Too Tech-Dense to Blog!

Back in January of 2012 a friend and fellow writer was talking about her blog, and the usefulness of blogs in general as a platform for one’s writing. I already had a website, set up by someone who knew what they were doing, and was enjoying posting on it. But I told my friend, “I could never BLOG. Not me! I could never figure out all that tech stuff.”

She said, “Blogging isn’t hard at all.”

And I said, “Well… Okay. Tell me how and I’ll try setting one up. If I can manage it with my limited technical smarts, anyone can.”

So she rattled off instructions, I wrote them down, I came home and started my blog. And it actually WASN’T hard. And now, 6 ½ years later, over 2000 readers have clicked my Follow button. Who’d’a thunk it!

I’m thankful for all those votes of confidence, and I really appreciate those of you who have stayed, liked my posts, left comments, and helped me to become a more dedicated writer. To those of you who make up my readership today, thanks so much and bless your dear hearts. 🙂

Faces.jpg

Through the years I’ve learned a lot about blogging. Here are some things I wished I’d known when I started out:

#1. For my first blog address I picked christineevelynvance, which made a too-long web address. It’s getting tough to find short-and-simple names; the easy ones were taken by bloggers years ago. And so many wannabes only posted once or twice, then quit. But newcomers who choose themotherofjosephsabrinaandcrystal or theavidreaderofhistoricalromances as their web address aren’t doing themselves any favours. Fine for a blog title, but for a web address, stay as simple as possible. Be creative if necessary. I called my last blog “Waverations.” Simple; easy to remember.

My second blog, set up to divide my longer prose from short anecdotes and poetry, was “Swallow in the Wind.” In time I merged it with my first. My third blog was “Tree Top Haiku”, which is still going — when I get over there. After trying to keep up with three blogs for awhile, I saw the error of my ways.

#2. You don’t need a separate blog for every genre. Keeping up several blogs can be mega-stress. (Plus I got leukemia, so was dealing with that for several years.) My first blog fell by the wayside and I started “Christine’s Reflections”, with my domain name as the address. Two years ago I renamed my first blog “Friday Tales” and posted flash fiction when I was doing the Friday Fictioneers challenges.

Waverations I set up as a private site to try out new themes without messing up the look of my active blogs. It has morphed into this one. I applied my domain name to this and had the folks at WordPress beam the Friday Tales and Christine’s Reflections subscribers this way.

#3. Use proper categories and tags from day one. A subject all its own — I’ve written about it HERE — and the reason why I felt the need to start over from scratch. Now I’m in the slow process of reblogging all those past posts into this blog. Tree Top Haiku will stay as is.

Over the years I’ve tried to “share the love” by letting my readers know about other great blogs and posts. I could — and plan to — do more of this. Which is why I got enthused about the new “From the Heart” blogging award. You can tell your readers about other interesting sites without putting any obligations on those bloggers. (In fact, my brain is concocting another idea along these lines as I’m writing this. 😉 )

Since I started out, my husband has also gotten enthused and now has his own blogs, one in English and one in French.

And now…here’s my virtual Happy 2000 cake. Cut yourself a piece (it’s zero-calorie, no preservatives 🙂 ) and celebrate with me.

Birthday cake.rainbow.jpg

Impressionism and Haiku

We were together with friends on Monday for dinner. Ruth is a writer and Ray is an artist. Read his bio here. We got to talking about his artwork, and art in general, ending up in a discussion of Impressionist paintings. He was saying that impressionism shows something the viewer can identify, but nothing too detailed. General colour and/or detail indicate the subject, but it’s not meant to be a clear picture. Rather a scene the viewer gets as they view it from a distance.

Before I went to bed last night I spent a good hour reading various haiku at Troutswirl, the blog of The Haiku Foundation. * I had a good long read in the section on A Sense of Place: The Shore, verses all about the sounds of the seashore. Oodles of them! And then read over Haiku Master Alan Summers comments on various verses. I found this altogether so enjoyable and enlightening! (If you’re reading this, Alan, I really appreciated your long commentary.) Check out Alan’s blog here.

I should also mention Cattails, the journal of the United haiku and tanka society. Another of my favourite haiku haunts. 🙂

It dawned on me while we were listening to Ray’s artistic experiences that haiku is much like impressionism. The goal is not to produce a detailed description but rather give a few words to paint concepts and call to the reader’s imagination a scene, a thought, or feeling.

A paragraph in the introduction to the book, Japanese Haiku, © 1955 by Peter Pauper Press, says this:
One final word: the haiku is not expected to be always a complete or even a clear statement. The reader is supposed to add to the words his own associations and imagery, and thus to become a co-creator of his own pleasure in the poem.

For example, Issa’s verse — translated by David G Lanoue:
one man, one fly
one large
sitting room

Just words, until you recall your own experience of what a pest one fly can be. No matter how big the room, especially if you’re sitting quietly waiting that one fly with be a constant annoying buzz and/or it will find you and pester you no end!

Though I’m just a learner myself, I know what I like and what I don’t when it comes to haiku. The verse shouldn’t be so detailed the whole picture is there. I’ve seen some verses called haiku that may have the three-line form but are like one long sentence. Straightforward; no layers of meaning. I’ve written two verses as examples:

red and blue flashers
accident on the highway
traffic rerouted

A reader might make something of the idea that an accident reroutes people’s lives, but it still doesn’t say much beyond the initial words.

the cricket crawls
over the ripe pumpkin
a long journey

My thought is, “Oh, thrills!” However, if this says anything profound to you, please let me know.

Here’s a delightful verse from Chosu, a poet from ancient Japan.* Can’t you just picture this scene?

broken and broken
again on the sea, the moon
so easily mends

*from HAIKU HARVEST,
© 1962 by Peter Pauper Press
Verses translated by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn

Here are two of mine: senryu, actually, dealing with people and their feelings. I hope you can find some layers in them. Critiques welcome.

the war is over
soldiers go home
to strangers

Sometimes I get into quite a dither over one word and how the meaning might change. For example, I could have written the verse’s last lines as:
soldiers go home
as strangers

Would it have made the poem better or worse? I need a second opinion. 😉

escaping
into my tears
memories  of you

Since I doubt any of the “One-word Challenge” prompters will give us the word HAIKU to write on, I’ll post these thoughts and hope some of you will find them interesting. Coaching comments and other good examples welcome. 🙂

From the Heart Award

Blogger Kristian Fogarty bestowed this award on me. apparently there are NO requirements, but I’d like to pass it on, so will take this opportunity to mention some other bloggers I find interesting and you might, too.

WHAT IS IT?

This award goes to bloggers who primarily focus on personal writing. These posts are often from the writer to the world at large, or from the writer to the writer themselves and they just allow us access to their mind.

RULES:

There are no rules, no questions, no participation requirements for this award. It is given from bloggers to other bloggers. It was designed by the Haunted Wordsmith and is given to other bloggers as a gesture of thanks and appreciation for their work.

I won’t do this all in one session — I know quite a few bloggers who write really interesting posts — but will start with a few.

Alistair at dralimanonlife, tells us a bit more about himself every weekend, doing Cee’s Share Your World Writing challenge. He also likes doing Flash Fiction with a neat little twist at the end. Here’s one of his stories.

Keith at keithsramblings.net is another devotee of flash fiction with a bit of humor woven in, like this tale of a poor Cassidy missing his leg.

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields at rochellewisoff.com is the lady who hosts Friday Fictioneers and sends out the photos for writers to concoct stories about. she herself is a history buff. She likes presenting neat biographical background info about well-known people.

By now this post is full of links and my coffee’s getting cold, so I’d better quit. Wishing you all a great weekend.

Best If Cut

Word of the Day prompt for today: SUCCINCT
Merriam-Webster says: marked by compact precise expression without wasted words

Like A Jewel, Best If Cut

Publisher John Murray was known as a man with a sense of humour. He read through a manuscript from an aspiring author one day and wrote this encouraging note of critique: “Sir, I have read your manuscript and it is like a precious jewel. And like a precious jewel, it will sparkle the more if cut.”

Flash Fiction Alters You

Two years ago I joined Friday Fictioneers, a group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The goal is to write a hundred-word story in response to the photo prompt she sends around every Wednesday. One hundred words means barest bones. Every superfluous word goes. Every phrase that can possibly be omitted is deleted.

TMI

This paragraph comes from a cozy mystery I started reading and abandoned. Remember that a mystery, by definition, is built on tension. A writer has to keep the action moving, the readers on edge. All the unnecessary description of the room, the carpet, the furniture, slows this particular scene down to a crawl:

My mind registered a familiar ring tone and I reached for my navy faux-leather handbag, the one I’d bought with the gift certificate Mom gave me for the trendy new fashion store that just opened up three months ago at a nearby mall. I rummaged around, feeling my wallet, a few tissues, and several small spiral notebooks I carried for jotting down bits of poetry before I pulled out my shiny pink cell phone, now steadily tinkling out the tune to “Fleur Elise,” my favorite of all the tone options on this phone, hit the tiny green Talk button and said “Hello.”

Sum total: a female answers her phone.
(Her Mom is calling to ask if she’s seen her sister.)

Succinct version:
I grabbed my ringing phone from my purse. “Hello.”
Mom’s voice sounded worried. “Sue, I can’t reach Patty. Have you seen her lately?”

Word count: 23
I could have to cut out the purse, though the purse tells readers it’s a cell phone and she isn’t at home. This type of editing is terrific practice for “writing tight,” which is the kind of writing that sells these days.

Mark Twain’s succinct writing advice:
“When you see an adjective, kill it.”

Well Written, Intriguing Characters, A Dash of Zany — and FREE

BOOK REVIEW:
CRANBERRY BLUFF,
A Tale of Scones and Scoundrels

© 2014 by Deborah Garner
Cranberry Cove Press

Molly Elliott lived a comfortable life and for three years had a stable career in Tallahassee, FL, until one day someone took advantage of her regular routine. She was making the company deposit at the bank when it was robbed. The female thief was dressed about like Molly, hair styled the same, and standing at the next wicket when she pulled a gun on the teller. This led to some question as to which woman was actually the robber.

The police, after viewing the bank’s video tapes, were satisfied Molly wasn’t involved. Someone else believed she’d somehow been involved and gotten away with the loot. Molly started getting notes like, “We know you have it and we’re going to find it.” The police called the notes “just a prank” but when Molly came home one day and found her house ransacked she knew this was deadly serious. It was impossible to feel safe; she started to fear everyone, every situation.

Then her Aunt in Northern California passed away and left Molly her home, currently operating as Cranberry Cottage, an eight-room Bed & Breakfast. Molly jumped at the chance, left her life in FL behind, and found respite from the constant fear in her new location.

The story opens on a Sept day where Molly, comfortably settled into the role of innkeeper, prepares to welcome the five guests who’ve booked rooms at Cranberry Cottage. A honeymooning couple, a sixty-something woman who loves to shop, a strange little salesman who doesn’t mingle, and a very handsome, sociable fellow who shows up very late that first night. Later identifies himself as a novelist.

Little does Molly know that her guests are not the people they present themselves as — and at least one of them is convinced Molly still has the bank heist stashed away somewhere on the property. This guest wants to search and find that money. As the story unfolds we see the other guests have their own agendas and reasons for being at Cranberry Bluff.

I seldom give a book five stars, but this one I did. The story is well written and believable, the characters well developed, if a tad off-beat. As we get to know them better the tale gets zany, not totally realistic but definitely believable and interesting. The first time I read the book I couldn’t put it down. When I received notice from Book Bub that it’s free right now through both Amazon and Kobo, I decided to do a review and tell you about it. So I read it again yesterday and found it just as entertaining the second time around.

A romance begins in this book, but the two involved like each other and help each other. No violence, no bad language, no screaming matches. Just a nice light read.

Added Bonus:
A number of Cranberry recipes at the back of the book.

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