Howard

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Mermaids and Camelot

Each evening, from December to December . . .

This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to watch the film Jackie starring Natalie Portman[1]. The story deals with Jackie Kennedy’s struggle through grief and trauma following the assassination of her husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 36th President of the United States. His time in office is often referred to as “the Camelot years”. The Lerner and Lowe musical, Camelot opened on Broadway on December 3rd, 1960 and closed on January 5th, 1963. JFK would be assassinated ten and one-half months later.

The Music

The original cast album was part of the first family’s regular evening listening at the White House and JFK’s favourite lines were found in the closing scene of the play. It is pre-dawn and the final battle between the two warring factions of King Arthur’s round table will soon begin. A young lad of fourteen years has stowed away in the van and seeks to become a knight. Arthur is touched by the boy’s idealism but the battlefield is no place for a boy. Instead, Arthur knights him as Sir Tom of Warwick with the charge to return home and keep the memory of Camelot alive.

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot

Natalie Portman’s character speaks of the play and its music, focusing on the third line, “For one brief shining moment”. The remainder of this essay deals with those five words.

It All Started in High School

Early in my high school career[2], the Drama Club at Hopewell High School staged the musical Camelot and by all accounts, it was to be a magical and grand event[3]. In one way or another, a significant portion of the student body were involved with the production. This was my first exposure to the play and I was hooked. My parents gave me a copy of the original cast album the following Christmas. This was so much better than the bog standard underwear and socks. I think I played that LP to death.

A couple of years later, the theme for the Miss Hopewell High pageant was One Brief Shining Moment. I found that to be rather appropriate. After all, it embodied the transience of such glory. This year’s beauty queen is next year’s “once upon a time.”

Time Marches On

I held on to the phrase over the years. I would occasionally hear or read it, though that quickly diminished as the decades passed. The phrase was my treasure although I never got to use it in any way.

All that changed when I wrote Urban Mermaid. There, in Chapter 9, in the 5th paragraph on page 192, the character, Peter MacPherson, mentions “the one brief shining moment of being a bride . . .” and vows that his fiancée, Penelope Tench, will have what every mermaid on Colony Island longs for; a wedding.

And now you know the rest of the story[4].


[1] The ‘extremely talented Natalie Portman’ is a more apt description.

[2] The Autumn of 1965.

[3] It was so grand that someone made copies of the tickets and sold them to unsuspecting attendees. Of course, the inevitable happened and there were more theatre-goers than seats at the performances. To my knowledge, the culprits were never discovered.

[4] There is also a line from National Lampoon’s Animal House in Urban Mermaid. All I will tell you is the line appears in the last chapter of the book and the last big scene in the movie.

A Town of Secrets

A Town of Secrets

Town of Secrets

Colony Island is a town of secrets. Of course, the biggest secret of all is that the place is populated by merfolk. That Island residents are pretty much like the rest of us probably qualifies as another secret. There are even more secrets to be discovered. These are the secrets of the individuals who live there.

Individual’s Secrets

One of the characters who populate this – allegedly – fictional town is Carl Fisher. Around town, he is better known as ‘Carl, the Pizza Guy’. For those of you who have yet to read Urban Mermaid, Carl manages the two pizza joints in town. In addition to cranking out some pretty decent pie, he is considered to be the ‘unofficial mayor’ of the town. In the course of making deliveries, he visits most of the homes on the island and usually knows who is doing okay and who is not. He is everyone’s friend which means he is no one’s friend in particular.

Carl is also lonely. Very lonely. He’s had an on-and-off relationship with a feral mermaid which is destined to go nowhere. Those of you who both know and love Carl, may rest assured he will finally find love and happiness in Book # 3.

Carl’s secret is that he copes with his loneliness by playing bass guitar. It’s something he picked up along the way to fill the empty spaces in his life. Bass players are often considered to be the least sexy of all band members but Carl never took up the instrument to be popular.

Syrena

Syrena, Book # 2 in the Colony Island series, is about music, among other things. In the story, Carl is recruited to fill an unexpected vacancy in a backing band. The three bridesmaids, from Penelope’s wedding, are being pestered to death. Everyone wants to hear them sing just one more time but ‘one more time’ is never enough. The idea is to put together a small band, put on two or three concerts, and everyone will leave the girls alone. That’s the plan, anyway.

In what is supposed to be the final concert, the girls perform multiple encores but the crowd still wants more. The girls need a break so the guys perform a set of their own.

This morning, I stopped by the Pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions. The sound system was playing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. In my mind, I could hear Carl’s bass guitar and picked out his voice in the chorus.

Sometimes, the characters you create will really get into you.

A Flakey Muse and a Climactic Chapter

The ebb and flow of writing Syrena continues. In other words, I have a flakey muse.

A Climactic Chapter

A flakey muse and a climactic chapterYesterday, I attempted to wrap up the climactic chapter of Syrena by inserting a couple of pages I’d written months ago. Trouble was, the pre-written stuff was anti-climactic. I cut down the material and moved it to an earlier point in the chapter’s timeline. It worked better there, but at the same time, I found myself wondering if all this was really necessary[1].

My answer was ‘NO’ and now, the material will be a sentence or two in the early part of the following chapter. I may be able to reuse the material from the original cut somewhere else in the story. Only time – and the 2nd draft – will tell.

Here’s a quote from the chapter I just completed. Peter is telling his old buddy, Billy King, about the merfolk on Colony Island.

“ . . . they are some of the most ‘normal’ people I’ve ever run across. They have hopes, fears, dreams, aspirations, and worries, just like everyone else. They’re also very capable of love. Do you even understand what love is? I doubt that you really do.

“Love is acceptance of people for who and what they are. Take Penelope’s mother. There is not a bad bone in her body. From the moment I set foot on this island, she has made me feel like one of the family.  The only rough patch is when I discovered clothing really wasn’t an issue for the family” Peter chuckled  “She and her husband did everything they could to include me in family life. When she found out I’d lost my parents, they went out of their way to adopt me. Now, I have parents whom I love and respect as much as my original ones. I have a family again and life is so much better than it was.”

Thought for the Day

A fool and his money are soon elected. – Will Rogers

And . . .  A Mermaid Cartoon

Finally, here’s another mermaid cartoon. This time, it’s from the venerable comic strip, Hagar the Horrible by Chris Browne.

A flakey muse and a climactic chapter

 


 

[1] For those of you itching to jump my case concerning clarity and conciseness, rest assured the first word in “really necessary” is indeed redundant. During World War II, things like tires/tyres and gasoline/petrol were in short supply and therefore, rationed. Back then, civilians lucky enough to own a car would see posters, like the one below, in Post Offices, service stations, vehicles, etc. Having been raised on tales of how it was back then, I still use some of the phrasing from over seventy years ago.

A flakey muse and a climactic chapter

Bizarro Mermaid # 2 – The Art and humour of Don Piraro

Happy Hump Day!

I hadn’t planned on continuing the series on mermaids in art & literature so soon. However, this Bizarro Mermaid from April 4th, 2016  popped up on Facebook.

As I mentioned on Monday, Don Piraro has featured mermaids in a number of his daily one-panel comics. I’ll continue posting other examples in the future. You can learn more about Don’s work at Bizarro.com.

Bizarro Mermaid # 2

Bizarro Mermaid # 2

But wait! There’s more!

If you look closely at the illustration you’ll notice:

  1. The eye-ball at the foot of the stylist’s chair
  2. The little UFO thingy to the left of the stylist’s dialogue balloon
  3. The upside down bird beneath the stylist’s hair dryer

These are three of the secret symbols Don Piaro uses to pepper his panels. You can learn more about these symbols at Bizarro Secret Symbols. Shhhh! Don’t tell anybody.

Why am I doing this?

Well, I’m in the midst or swapping my PC here at The Parsonage™ with the PC in my lonely writer’s garret down in Hopewell, VA. This includes ordering two new monitors and installing a graphics card.

I just haven’t had the time to write in the past week. (I did, however, make a few corrections to earlier chapters and worked on some dialogue a bit.) It’s easier to post a few graphics every couple of days than it is to come up with a blog post.

I’m on my way to Hopewell on Friday. Maybe I’ll have some honest writing progress to report when next Wednesday rolls around.

Bizarro Mermaid – The Art and humour of Don Piraro

Continuing the series on mermaids in art & literature, here is the Bizarro Mermaid from March 8th, 2017. Don Piraro has featured mermaids in a number of his daily one-panel comics. I’ll try to post other examples in the future. You can learn more about Don’s work at Bizarro.com.

Have a great week!

Bizarro Mermaid

R.M. Drake

I found this quote by R.M. Drake out on Facebook and thought I would share it with you. Have a good weekend.

R.M. Drake

Henry Taylor

I found this  quote from Henry Taylor out on Facebook and thought I would share it with you. Have a good day!

Henry Taylor

Grammatical Voice

Note the eyebrows in the illustration below.Grammatical Voice

How Two Characters Hijacked an Author

Hijacked

Hijacked!

If you have not already guessed, the title of today’s post is a play on the name of Luigi Pirandello’s masterful work, Six Characters in Search of an Author. Among other things, Pirandello’s play deals with the relationship between authors and their characters. If you want more information about the play, please see the Wikipaedia article.

Getting on with it . . .

As I recently mentioned, I’m working on the last chapters of Syrena and, like many stories, a lot transpires in these three or four chapters[1]. In one of these final chapters, I wanted to write a minor scene involving Amy, Penelope’s VBFF, and Billy King, Peter’s old college room-mate.

The scene was intended to run about 600 words (+/-). It would simply remind readers that the two characters were still interested in each other. It was at this point the trouble began.

The Plot Thickens

There I was, minding my own business and writing the opening sentences. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the two of them jumped me. Billy threatened me with bodily harm. Amy suggested I would sleep with the fishes if I didn’t do as they said.

Faced with extreme emotional distress, I had no choice but to capitulate. The 600 words turned into 2086 words. I was told to keep writing their thread within the story if I knew what was good for me. I have been doing just that over the past few days. Nonetheless, I have steadfastly refused to cast Billy as the hero who saves the day, revamps the postal system and makes the trains run on time[2].

A Last Request

If I don’t make it and you, dear reader, happen to find this, please tell my wife that I love her.


[1] For those who regularly scan this blog in hopes of finding some juicy insider information, here’s a tip; The final chapter resolves a minor mystery that began in Chapter Twenty-Six of Urban Mermaid. The mystery is so minor that most readers barely noticed it. This mystery will be a minor plot-line in Syrena.

[2] Those of you of a certain age and possessed of a certain sense of humour will recognise this last bit. It was having been shamelessly pilfered from a parody of Tolkien’s masterful epic, Lord of the Rings.

Commentary: The End Is Near

The end is near

It is all very well, when the pen flows, but then there are the dark days when imagination deserts one, and it is an effort to put anything down on paper. – Elizabeth Aston

I had closed out chapter 17 and started work on Chapter 18 when I suddenly realised I had only four chapters to go in the first draft. Actually, it’s five but the chapter which refuses to be written will eventually succumb or the pen, or more precisely, the keyboard. Once that very last chapter is done with, it’s time for me to turn right around and start on the 2nd draft.

Why so slow?

Before returning to Hopewell, VA in order to, supposedly, spend a week writing, my wife and I sat down for breakfast at the local pancake house. Amongst the subjects discussed – actually, Judi just sat there and let me blether on – was why this book has proceeded so slowly compared to the first. There could be several possible excuses reasons for this tardigrade manuscription.

Excuses, excuses

I cannot claim this story is being written from scratch. When I first envisioned the story now known as Urban Mermaid, the subject matter for the second book was simply an extension of the first. I divided the whole story in to two parts because I had to stop somewhere. Otherwise, the printed version would have been hefty enough to serve as a blunt instrument in an altercation. So, in other words, the story behind Syrena  has been out there almost as long as the one behind Urban Mermaid.

Time on my hands

Some of the delay could have something to do with the employment situation . . . or lack thereof. When I seriously began transcribing Urban Mermaid, I was out of a job . . . again. In order to pass the time whilst waiting for someone, anyone, to respond to the scads of job applications I sent out, I took keyboard in hand and really got down to writing.

This time around, I’m retired and should have ample opportunity to get down and dirty with Syrena. The trouble is, I haven’t done so.

To know others is to know thyself

About the only reason that has any possible validity is that I don’t know the characters, Amy and Billy, as well as I knew Penelope and Peter. They also have a role in Syrena and their scenes have been easier to write than those of Amy and Billy. In fact, it’s been a real struggle to keep Penelope and Peter from completely taking over this second book. The inequity is something I’ll have to address in the second draft.

Meanwhile, I have scenes in the remaining four chapters to plot out.

The End

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