the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Friday, February 23, 2007

My Theory in an Unusual Blog Contest

Be a Good Dad, who also writes Kalbzayn's World, is having an interesting little contest here. I have a theory, which I'm pretty confident of, since I was once a letterpress printer, and had to estimate copy fairly closely by eye.

The Valentine's Date recently won the February Creative Carnival contest over at Write Stuff. The winning entry, which is a very funny story with a very unexpected ending, and truly deserved to win, appears to be just about 200 words long, or perhaps a little over.

For that reason, I'm going to guess that 205 is Be A Good Dad's new favourite number because that's the word count in a story of his that just won a contest. Of course, I'd have to know the exact word counting method he uses, or probably the software, to have any way to be absolutely sure. Still, that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.

Actually, when I read the contest rules, I remembered the story, and I was pretty sure then that it had been about 200 words. I went over there to look, and I'm very sure it falls somewhere between 175-225, and my bet is just slightly over 200. I'll soon know if I'm right...

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Words Scrawled On A Cell Wall

Patrick got a lapful of engine on a fall night like this. No one asked the obvious questions. I didn't believe the stories. Too much didn't add up.

Nobody wanted to listen, so I decided to make them. Me and a can of Blaze Orange.

I sprayed "They killed Pat Byrne!" on the station wall, but a cop leaving spotted me. They left me my belt. I don't want to do it, but they'll do worse when they come back.

I wrote this the other day, for a flash fiction contest over at Fictional Musings. I learned of the contest just over two hours before the deadline, and this was the best I could come up with. I'm not entirely happy with it, but it is a story, packed into 80 words, and I kind of like the ambiguous ending. In case you didn't catch the ambiguity, did they leave his belt by mistake, or were they sending him a message? I'll keep my own thoughts to myself...

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Heart of Wildcat Hollow

The following story was written for the Write Stuff February Creative Carnival.

Caleb heard Ellie Crawford's laugh, bubbling even over the water rippling across stones in the creek. Looking ahead, he saw her chestnut curls bounce against her back as she walked the rutted track beside Will Murray. She'd tossed Caleb a bright smile as they passed, but kept right on talking to Will. Beside Caleb, his friend Seth hopped perilously close to the bank. He was too pleased to be free of school for the day to notice Caleb's sudden gloom.

"Got me paper, so's I kin make Sairey Ann a nice bit o' paper lace come Valentine's Day."

Caleb kicked the ground savagely.

"What's eatin' you, Caleb? Ain't it a fine afternoon?"

"It's less'n three weeks, and I got no idea what ter give Ellie."

"Caleb, you got ter git that girl outta your mind. You sure she ain't witched you?"

"She ain't witched me none, Seth! Cain't you see she's special?"

"Sure is what she wants folks ter think, ain't it? Callin' Wildcat Holler nothin' but a trap, an' mockin' our ways."

"She reads a lot, Seth. She thinks on things most folk don't bother with."

"What you talkin' 'bout?" Seth scowled.

"I been thinkin' 'bout this. Look at my Paw. He's got him that field, up on the slope above the holler. What use is it?"

"Not much, I reckon. So what?"

"Every few years, he starts him a crop, but it never amounts ter much."

"That red clay's not much good for anythin', anyhow."

"That's right. We ain't got good soil, and most folk never do manage ter get out of the holler. The old folks talk 'bout a time when there wasn't as many people, and things wasn't so hard."

"'Course they wasn't. Fewer mouths to feed then."

"That's all Ellie's sayin'. Other places git too crowded, folks move on. Here, we ain't got the means ter. We're trapped here."

"You're really set on her, ain't you?"

"Will, he'll git her a fancy card someplace. What kin I do?"

"You could be handy ter folks, pick up a few cents."

"Say I do, Seth, where'm I gonna git a fancy card?"

"Nowheres I know." Seth paused by the path leading to his cabin. "Caleb, I still say you got ter git that girl outta your mind. Ever'body thinks your folks're shiftless. You got no chance."

Trudging home, head bent to hide his tears, something in a book borrowed from the schoolmistress came to Caleb. He raced back, arriving, breathless, just as she was about to leave. At his plea, she found the book and let him take it again. He thanked her, as politely as he could through rising excitement, and hiked off to a quiet clearing, where he began flipping through it.

After a couple of hours poring over pages full of tiny letters, he finally found it. There was even a drawing. He smiled, shut the book, and thought about what he wanted to do, until he had it straight in his head. Then, he pondered how to do it all without anyone noticing.

As he planned, he began cutting short, stout twigs, then snatched a ball of twine from the shed behind his family's cabin without being seen. He hid everything under a bush, then lay awake that night until everyone else slept. He stole out of the cabin, grabbing the big skinning knife from the wall, gathered up his supplies, and flitted through the trees to the upper field.

It lay spread out in the moonlight, and he worked as quickly as he dared, pounding pegs into the earth then stringing twine between them once they were in place. All too soon the moon set, forcing him to creep home as dew settled chill on the ground. He dozed whenever he could that day, then returned the next night. It took more than a week just to lay out the twine. The moon was waning, and he feared he would not finish in time.

After that, he continued working by feel after the moon set, hands guided by the rough twine, and spent even more time on the mountainside. He was so tired the schoolmistress and his Maw both asked if he was sick. On the final night, slipping away with an old wheelbarrow, he was nearly caught. The wheel squealed and woke the hounds, who bayed in reply. Caleb froze, but Paw just shouted and tossed a boot to quiet them down.

He had most of the edges cut, but hadn't been able to do anything that might show yet. He worked harder than he'd thought possible, and finished just as the eastern sky paled enough to reveal fog choking the holler where the creek ran. He groaned, sure all his efforts were wasted, but there was nothing he could do. He rushed home, washed off under the pump, and pretended he'd woken early.

He ate a plate of his Maw's biscuits slathered in hot bacon grease, then set off towards the schoolhouse, feet dragging. The fog was thinning, but not quickly enough. He tried to avoid everyone, but Ellie came up beside him.

He looked down, and she giggled. "Hello, Caleb. Happy Valentine's Day."

Caleb felt his face burn. "Happy Valentine's Day, Ellie." He hesitated, then felt the morning breeze pick up. He glanced up, involuntarily, and saw the fog scattering. Ellie followed his gaze. There, on the mountainside, he'd cleared a broad strip of turf in the outline of a heart. The red clay stood out against the grass. Inside the heart, letters spelled out, 'Ellie, my heart's yourn'.

She stared, then turned to him. "Caleb! How did you manage that? How did you ever think of it?"

Caleb shuffled his feet. "I read about this horse, in England, up on a hill. That give me the idea, and I planned out how ter do it."

She slipped her arm in his, gently tugging him beside her. When they walked past Will, she didn't even glance his way.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tagged! Six Weird Things About the Wandering Author

Thursday, Kathi, over at Mail Call! Supporting the Troops, tagged me. The rules are as follows: blog about six weird things or habits of your own, then tag six friends and make sure you inform them they've been tagged.

Whew! Only six? That shouldn't be too tough...

1: Things that put most people to sleep wake me up. I was once prescribed a painkiller (hydrocodone) and warned it would put me to sleep almost at once. Instead, I ended up with a buzz like I'd just sat on a million volt power supply, and I couldn't get to sleep or stop talking for thirty-six hours!

2: I have weirdly sensitive taste buds. I can actually taste the difference between brands of butter, even when it's just one pat on a whole plate of pasta...

3: I can't remember a time when I couldn't read. By the time I went into first grade, I was reading Reader's Digest, and went utterly out of my mind when we had to read those "See Dick run. See Jane run." books. I've lost the knack, but I used to be able to walk along reading a book, on journeys of a mile or more, without ever glancing up from the page. I did it on routes where I need to cross multiple busy streets, and also walking along in the woods without tripping over roots and rocks. I also used to sit in the back of my parents' car at night, with a book open, waiting. When another car came up behind us, I'd pop up, hold the book in the headlight beam, and read. When it turned off, I'd sit back and wait for the next car...

4: In over ten years, I have only worn a pair of pants / shorts without cargo pockets one day (I was threatened with vile consequences to achieve that). I like the pockets...

5: If I say "I want to mention two things", three will come out of my mouth. At the very moment I say, "I can think of four objections", a fifth pops into my mind! I can count, I really can! But if I say a number in that sort of context, it always turns out one short.

6: I've tried to learn three other languages (Latin, Portuguese, and Welsh) but never managed to get very far with any of them, in spite of my love affair with the English language (or perhaps because of it?).

Before I tag anyone, I want to clear up a few points. Memes can be fun, but the one part that always causes me the most concern is tagging anyone else. Please don't feel you have to do this if you'd rather not.

Thy, over at, well, Thy

Mile High Pixie, over at Why Architects Drink - she's just started blogging, so I hope this will be a fun introduction into the blogosphere for her

RomanceWriter, over at Aspiring Romance Writer

Miss Kitty, over at Educated and Poor, since she's had some trouble thinking up what to post about lately

Kim Stagliano, over at Kim Stagliano, an interesting blog I've recently discovered

Saoirse, over at Hollow Hearts and Hollow Hills

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Writing, the Journey of Life

I just learned of a challenge over on skint writer's blog. It happens to be one that in my present mood I can't resist. Skint's own poem in which he likens his writing to a dragon is a wonderful one, and I enjoyed it very much, but it doesn't reflect my own experience with writing.

Skint speaks of "waking" his dragon, which was reluctant to rouse, and only became demanding after he'd prodded it into action. In my own life, I've never needed to waken the urge to write, in fact I have never known its absence. I cannot remember a time when I was not fascinated with words, with reading, with books. The moment I was old enough to grasp the idea that people wrote these books, I wanted to be one of them.

I had a hard time imagining that everyone else's life didn't also revolve around the desire to write. I couldn't imagine anyone ever wanting to do anything but write when there was such a fantastic, wonderful possibility available. The whole idea caught me up so much I wanted to learn, and be involved in, every aspect of book creation. I learned about publishing, and then I learned about the process of printing itself.

I learned to set type by hand, to make up a press, to ink it and then watch the type imprint letters on fresh paper. Every bit of this seemed pure magic to me. When I was hurt, the greatest balm I could find was the chance to write about the experience, to transform it through the magic of creation. When I was joyful, the words bubbled forth.

Whatever I have ever done in life, writing is a necessary accompaniment for me. It is as basic, as vital, and as unquestioned as my breathing. Just the process of setting words to paper using a pen is pure magic to me. I take joy in holding a pen, and allowing my words to flow through my mind, down my arm, and out onto the paper by this simple but oh so mighty and mysterious instrument.

Every step of my journey has taught me the value of writing. There was a time when, discouraged at the state of the publishing industry, I decided it might be impossible ever to succeed as a writer. I tried setting it aside, and turning to something else. It was something I enjoyed, but still I was not complete, not happy, and no matter how hard I tried to ignore the need inside me, it remained.

When I noticed the new possibilities inherent in the Internet, it was like rain in the desert. Having new opportunities to build a name for myself as a writer is not a guarantee that I will succeed, in any ordinary sense. But that long, barren stretch of my journey during which I believed writing was denied to me has taught me one thing. If I never make another penny by writing, I will still write. If I never receive any reward beyond the satisfaction of creation itself, I will be content.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Letters by Otto Frank to be Released 14 February

Although it is my understanding this will not be formally announced until the 14th of February, an important story has been revealed on several mailing lists. Two years ago, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York was attempting to catalogue unindexed materiel in their possession. One of these files proved to contain roughly 80 letters, many written by Otto Frank himself, and all related to his efforts to secure some safe haven for his family.

If the reports are correct, the father of Anne Frank wrote letters to friends, family, aid organisations, and US officials. He was desperately trying to find some way to get his wife and daughters passage out of Holland to a place where they would be safe from the Nazi menace that ultimately killed them. Many of them were written in 1941, up until the date when Germany declared war on the US.

The file also includes letters from family members in the US, and from a friend Otto Frank made in his university days, Nathan Straus Jr., son of the founder of Macy's. The file is at least half an inch thick, and include documentation of Otto Frank's efforts to secure his family passage to the United States or Cuba. Since the US had closed their consulate in Holland, some of the letters discuss possibilities such as an escape through Spain, departing for North America by way of Portugal, which was neutral.

This file apparently originally came from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, one of the organisations that sought to help Jews seeking to flee a Europe darkened by the clouds of rising Nazi oppression. Sadly, the letters do not seem to have ever received a reply, probably due to the unforgiving nature of US immigration policy, which condemned many Jews to their deaths who might otherwise have been saved. It is a reminder of our past many of us are ashamed of, yet one we must not forget. We may not be able to alter that past, but we can make sure we don't repeat its mistakes.

The letters have been held at YIVO since at least 1974, when the last of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society's archives was transferred to their care. No one was aware of their presence in these archives, and they were only discovered two years ago. Their existence has remained a secret since YIVO felt it necessary to consider the legal implications of this find. It is appalling such an important find should have to be kept hidden from the world for so long for such a trivial reason, but I can hardly blame YIVO for fearing entanglement with lawyers.

YIVO's plans are to hold a press conference and release the documents on the 14th of February. I hope the press will be well represented, and that they will give this story the importance it deserves. Whether or not it is the lead story on the evening news, I know I will be paying special attention to all news outlets on the 14th. Tears may not seem a good mix with Valentine's Day, but, for me at least, this is too important to put off.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Murphy's Visit - Or - Somebody Get That Guy Murphy!

The lawyer Murphy, famous for his Law, "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong", has decided to visit the Wandering Author. On the 30th, I had a very sore right shoulder, and could barely type. I put Tiger Balm on the shoulder to ease the pain, and discovered the fumes aggravated my sinuses, since I'm still battling a sinus infection.

That night, I found my shoulder would not allow me to lay down. Rather, when I did lay down, it was impossible to find a single position that did not make the shoulder much worse. After trying every possible position, all I accomplished was to hurt my shoulder so badly I could not lift my arm from my side even half an inch.

I tried sleeping in a chair, which allowed me to snatch a tiny bit of fitful rest. Murphy must have been distracted, because although my shoulder was stiff and would not work at all the next morning, gradual attempts to use it loosened it up until I can again use it for some things, with pain only if I lift my hand above my shoulder, hold my arm in certain positions, or put any weight in that hand.

Come nightfall, with a shoulder once more in need of rest, and still incapable of sleeping like a normal human, I settled into my chair. Over time, I became aware tht the furnace which had run that evening was not coming on. It is in the 20s (F) here (well below 0 C) and it really needed to come on. Brief investigations proved it was not working, but no repairmen are available until morning.

So, tired from lack of sleep the night before, with my only heat source my trusty computer, I sit up at the computer, hunched over it, trying to balance my need to rest my shoulder with my need to keep the cold seeping through the walls out of it. So, if any of you see Murphy about, please shoot him, or bludgeon him, or otherwise put an end to his miserable career of making things go wrong.

Just please make sure you have the right Murphy; they are a big family, and most of them are perfectly decent people. Oh, wait, that's another thing Murphy's sure to do. If you try to hunt him down, he'll make sure you get one of his innocent namesakes instead. I'm sure many of my readers will find this post absurd. I agree, it is very much so, but there are times when the only way to stay sane is to poke fun at Murphy and hope that will make him hide for a while.

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