Every silver lining’s got a touch of gray

As I rounded the corner on a farm-to-market road earlier today, the van’s wipers scraping across the windshield regularly because it was drizzling heavily, the CD player clicked on to the Grateful Dead CD “American Beauty” and the cut “Touch of Grey.” I wished for a camcorder, because the scene through the windshield would have been a PERFECT movie opener (rolling credits above the wipers), complete with soundtrack.

Then I got home with the groceries to find the family watching an episode of “Unexplained Mysteries” on the National Geographic channel–not the one with the guy who talked about people disappearing and such, but one that’s about natural mysteries. As I walked in, the guy was talking about ley lines, the lines of natural energy/force that circle the globe. I used this idea in “Dulcinea,” where my “magic” was actually a drawing on Earth’s power via the manipulation of these ley lines of force through specially trained people with the proper talent. Hey, that’s how we play the piano or the flute–we have a certain talent (don’t tell me people with no sense of rhythm, slappity slap, or a tin ear can play well, because they simply cannot–they can’t keep a flute in the proper intonation, for example, and a string instrument can go slightly sour when the A/C comes on) and we are specially trained. It made sense. Yet I still had the objections from family, friends, and the peanut gallery that my book “was witchcraft from the Devil!” I specifically did not portray it as such, as a religion at all but as a specialized natural philosophy (early science was called natural philosophy) usable by trained adepts, but they still leaped on this and insisted that was the ONLY definition of magic. Hmph.

But the NEXT segment was more interesting. They spotlighted [wordplay alert] the MARFA LIGHTS! There were several lifelong residents of Marfa who had seen them several times, and there was footage of the lights and photographs of various sightings. The lights were first documented by a rancher in the 1800s (pre-Civil War), so they cannot be “headlights from hwy 67,” though I *have* seen headlights–they look completely different. The Cherokee legend about the “ghost lights” is that these are braves sent out on a mission who were killed by warring tribes and cannot find their way back to the village . . . the tribes have moved on, but the ghost light still searches forever. Scientists in Japan said it was a particular kind of earth phenomenon that happens in various places–but they couldn’t get the lights to perform for them until the day they were set to depart, so they didn’t get the data they wanted. Anyhow, the segment covered it completely without the usual curled-lip sneer stuff, and without a whole lot of woo-woo. They went on to discuss sprites and other atmospheric phenomena observed by astronauts in orbit. It was neat.

What I wished was that Toni Plummer, the editor who has my Marfa novel on her desk (supposedly, according to my contest judge), had seen this segment . . . maybe she’d be more interested then. She could see that I have several marketing hooks: Marfa lights fans, fans of all such phenomena, fans of woo-woo stuff in general, people who like mysteries, SMU graduates, and so forth. I mean . . . I gotta platform here! Also, there’s “Richardson Reads One Book,” a program they hold here for the entire TOWN to read one novel. They picked someone’s book this year just ’cause he lives in the area. Well, I have lived here longer than that library has even been standing!! I have one of the original cardboard library cards! (In my scrapbook now–they only take the electronic ones now.) There’s no reason I could not get my friends at the library to pimp any book I publish to become that book, and it would mean LOTS OF SALES. But I cannot get anything at all into print, so sigh.

I did get a mention on the NETWO conference contest “winners” page, though. I’m listed under my mundane name, Denise G. Weeks. When you Google that name now, you get mostly hits for my famous rap/soul recordings that are now charting . . . o’course that is not me, but now I have a fun double-take joke I can pull on people. There’s also a Denise Weeks who is head of the legislature in North Carolina or someplace (I haven’t looked for a while, and that’s what I recall.) Aren’t we famous? Look, another selling hook I can talk about if I ever go on a book tour.

Here’s the NETWO site. (NorthEast Texas Writers’ Organization.) I’m listed as winning first place and two honorable mentions. Cool. But, of course, it is merely a little egoboo. That doesn’t mean a thing to editors and agents and The Anointed of Real Publishing. My mother was finally impressed, which mystifies me, but that’s about all you get out of THAT. Unless you’re at the conference and get to talk to people of like minds, which was what I had in mind. *sigh*

I do wish I could have been there to actually thank the judges. But I did send the judges some e-mail thanking them for their insightful judging sheets. Mostly they said things that made me see that they really GOT IT. They understood that these were literary stories with literary allusions and SYMBOLISM and so forth. They didn’t say, “Huh?” or “What does this word mean? Why would you name a character ‘Jeep’?” or even “I think you should write about your uncle Zeke who had the first dairy farm in Delta County and all his kids” the way my family always does. They compared my fairytale retelling to something that Anne Sexton did! They compared my literary allusions to those of established members of the Western canon of literature! They actually got it!

That was a birthday gift from the Universe, I suppose. Now I need the matching book contract. When’s the next gift-giving holiday?

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Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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