Friday, May 26, 2017

901 Story - Cookie Shaped Boots




Thanks to technical difficulties in the showing of a classic film starring Marlon Brando, I instead learned about the role Memphis played (and still plays) in the film industry. After the engaging lecture, I felt the need to enjoy a cookie, and so drove to the coffeehouse that stays open late and houses a drink called Funky Monkey. When I reached the place, the nice barista sold me a freshly baked cookie the size of a saucer, and so I found a place to sit and enjoy the warm goodness. Something caught my eye and as I looked up, I noticed a man tuning his guitar. He wore a wide brim hat and looked like a rough hipster version of Harry Connick Jr.. I was immediately interested as he introduced himself as Frankie Boots. Born in California, now living in New Orleans was his line. He sang of being an only child, living in California, being in love and being hurt with a voice that seemed older than his supposed years. At one point, he dedicated a song to me about a bar stool far away and I wanted to look away, yet found myself staring at him even more so. After an hour of solid playing, he took a break and sold his music to anyone who wanted to take him everywhere. He asked for my name and I felt a connection, one that creatives get when they are able to find each other amid the sea of white noise and "fitting in". When I finally left, glowing on the inside and out, I waved goodbye to him as he sat rolling his cigarettes outside of the coffee shop. Maybe our paths will cross again - I wanted to take a photo of his guitar and the soul that possessed it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mind Over Murder . . .





When I first met author Steve Bradshaw, I knew he either was a cop or used to be a cop. People in law enforcement have that LOOK, the one that easily tells you that they are not to be trifled with. Although he does have that look, he is also quite a nice man and apparently one hell of an author. I tore through Evil Like Me: A Forensic/Paranormal Thriller, as published through Griffyn Ink, and I was sorry to leave that version of Memphis. It was, in short, a ride through the mind that I'll never forget.

The story, based on actual events, is thus: the United States Government began a program that utilized the talents of psychics as weapons. Years later, the program is stopped to a grinding halt and all future research has been cancelled . . . or so everyone thinks. Speed up to current time in Memphis, Tennessee, where Homicide Detective Tony Wilcox is looking for a man who may or may not be responsible for four deaths. However, as he soon teams up with Medical Examiner Dr. Victoria Petty, the two slowly realize that there's more to the deaths than they think. Everything that they consider to be of logic and reason is thrown out the window as they must handle matters of the mind . . . . literally.

This book read like a really really good episode of Law and Order, except that rather than watching the show from the comfort of your home, you are right there with Wilcox and Petty, stumbling through the dark in an attempt to understand just why a man named Hunter Keller is so important to the United States Government. Every bullet shot out and received in a bloody fashion, every chase that leads to more bodies and more questions, and every moment of suspended disbelief will have you turning the pages. You don't get bogged down with forensic details, nor is the book one giant car chase through Memphis - Bradshaw paces out the story just enough so that you get to take a breath and maybe get some water. His writing style reminds me of author Harlan Coben (I LOVE his work!) in that you are thrown into it all right from the beginning but it's so good that you don't care.

I do know that Bradshaw will be at the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention this year - if you get a chance to attend, do yourself a favour and attend his panels. Having the pleasure of being on a panel with him, I have to admit that he's a delight to talk with and the dude knows his stuff. If, however, you can't wait to purchase copies of his books, you can either order them through Amazon, or purchase them at South Main Book Juggler in the South Main District of Memphis.

EX LIBRIS!

Friday, May 19, 2017

901 Story - Cold Tea




The hip coffee shop was half full when I walked in. Due to my latest round of frustrations with my job, I figured that a cup of Darjeeling tea and a muffin would set me right. After receiving my super sized tea and muffin warmed just right, I found a table and soon started jotting down thoughts before I forgot them. As I wrote, I overheard several of the baristas talk about a young man who recently died due to a caffeine overdose. I had heard of the story and remembered shaking my head in sadness over it. Just then, one of the baristas said that when he used to work in a corporate office, he would drink cup after cup of coffee not for the caffeine but for the warmth. Soon, another barista who sat behind me agreed that that particular place had been too cold for words. I turned to face her and offered my story - that my corporate job space was cold every day and how one could almost see their breath while working. We shared a nice laugh and I returned to my tea as the stress of corporate left me. Even though I had to return soon, I knew that the tea and muffin were enough good juju to finish the day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

901 Story - The Old Men and the Vinyl



(sample of my vinyl collection)



While searching for book titles in the library bookstore in an attempt to kill some time, I overheard two older men talk about the good ol' days via vinyl. They reviewed each album that was on sale, each asking the other if they owned a copy of it, all the while talking about their obviously massive vinyl collections. As much as I wanted to go through the vinyl to possibly add to my nice sized collection, I continued searching for books and let the men have their fun. They spoke of how they locate their vinyl at estate sales with such pride as though they were talking about their children and grandchildren, complete with photos in their wallet. Did they, I wondered, enjoy their vinyl with friends and flowing cocktails? Showing off their latest find to those who were of the Vinyl Faith? Perhaps they saved that experience for themselves, considering it to be too sacred for the masses. Vinyl spoke through the ages and those two men continued to answer the call. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

901 Story - Pie of the Bibliophiles






We met at our usual spot, ready to play catch up and enjoy good cups of tea. Every time we get together, I'm always reminded that we met through a love of art. While eating my warmed up slice of vegan blackberry pie, she spoke of books that influenced her writing and that she adored children's books. Bibliophiles have that uncanny ability to find each other - perhaps we give off a scent that smells of used bookstores. We shared laughter and even moments of pain to show that our sums were stronger than the parts. I looked around at the other patrons in the coffee shop and realized that this was a perfect moment. Even the blackberry seeds caught between my teeth felt natural and not an annoyance. As the sun began to set, we went our separate ways as strings of words we hadn't written yet trailed behind us.

(for my friend Jenny)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Love Story Set to Music





An Unfinished Score, written by my aether friend Elise Blackwell, is a love letter written to music. This book was an absolute delight to read and I'm just sorry that I didn't read it sooner. The story is thus: Suzanne Sullivan, a viola player in a quartet, learns that famous conductor Alex Elling has died in a horrible plane crash. She's distraught, not only for the sake that the world lost quite a talent, but that she was his lover for several years. As the book progresses, we experience Suzanne's day to day life, now that the man she truly loved is dead. Her husband, Ben (cellist and composer), and best friend Petra (violinist) with her deaf daughter Adele, all live in the same house yet Suzanne feels only grief and loss. However, as she begins to receive strange phone calls from Chicago, Suzanne will soon learn that not everything she knows is the truth and that lies are more comforting to the heart.

I will admit that I really didn't like Suzanne, yet I still wanted to know what would come of her once she learned of her lover's death. Her husband seemed to love her but in a different way, while Alex, as excellently portrayed in past memories by Blackwell, ignited her passions and dared her to feel the music rather than just play it. Although I found Suzanne to be a weak character in emotions at the beginning, she carried the story to the very end and became stronger and better. Out of all of the characters, I truly enjoyed reading about Alex the most. Although he came off as such a pompous ass while alive, his death showed us that he had a human side, one that he showed to Suzanne frequently. The scene in which he and Suzanne make love as a violinist plays in their hotel room while blindfolded was one such example. Although Alex was married, the love he had for Suzanne was genuine and raw. True, he did have other lovers before her, but it felt as though he showed his true nature to Suzanne. I actually felt sorry for his wife, Olivia.

Thank you as always, Elise, for your beautiful words. I look forward to reading whatever else you write.

EX LIBRIS!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SYR - Celtic Folk Rock At Its Best




I love it when people in my life introduce me to different music groups. For example, I have "Viking" to thank for my now fangirl status in liking Great Big Sea (I HIGHLY recommend checking them out - they've broken up but their music is still amazing!), Alan DoyleTuatha Dea, and now SYR. After receiving a lovely care package with several CDs inside not too long ago, I decided to pop in SYR and see what would unfold.

Wow. That's all I can say. Just wow.

I've loved Celtic music for a long time - call it my Irish roots (I did the research and yes, I do have Irish blood), my love of Celtic history, or how some "Raven Headed Being Who Represents War and Death" has infiltrated my life. Regardless, I love how goosebumps appear on my skin whenever I hear that kind of music. The music of SYR does that to me and I'm gad for it. Their first self titled CD is a solid CD - there are no bad or weak tracks at all. From the first blood pumping song "Mo Gradh" to the last, and quite funny, song of "I Drove My Father To Drink", this CD will appeal to those who can appreciate good music with well thought out lyrics. Although I love all of the songs, my all time favourite is "Who Are You" - great message and beautiful accompanying music!

I look forward to many more CDs from this band - if any of the band members happen to read this post: PLEASE COME TO MEMPHIS!

SKAL!


Monday, May 1, 2017

A FIRE That Will Never Die





Last week, I attended an interview of underground comic artist Peter Bagge at the Brooks Museum of Art and it was quite educational. Although I'd never read his comics, I was familiar with HATE and his style of drawing. However, what really pricked my interest was when he discussed two of his works involving women who made a difference in America. One was Margaret Sanger and the other was Zora Neale Hurston. She is one of my inspirations on many levels, so it was quite pleasing to hear how much he enjoyed not only researching her life but also completing the graphic novel FIRE: The Zora Neale Hurston Story.

I will freely admit that I've read this book at least three times since purchasing it and I found something different with every read. Although it's not the complete story of her life, the book gives you enough that you can't help but want to read all of her works. Hurston was an adventure seeker, a woman who refused to allow anyone to dictate her life to her, and someone who was a force to be reckoned with. Whites and blacks admired her and if they didn't, she couldn't have cared less. She had a voice and she refused to be silent. Bagge, in his art and conception, gives her more than proper credit and respect. Even if you know nothing about Hurston and her works, this book provides just enough to educate and enlighten you on such a fascinating woman.


EX LIBRIS!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Theatre of the Mind





Memory Theater is a slim look into the philosophy of the memory. Written as fiction by renowned philosopher Simon Critchley, the story unfolds as he discovers several boxes, each assigned an astrological sign, from a friend of his. This friend was a great French philosopher who, although lived a fine life, succumbed to madness in the end during a terrible summer heat wave. As a result, the boxes appear in the narrator's office, and so he goes through them to discover that his friend was involved with more than he had initially thought. He discovers the Memory Theater, a tool used to remember one's memories as well as store them for later use. The narrator also discovers documents and other things with regards to conversations held, meetings planned, and the like. Finally, in the last box marked Pisces, the narrator discovers several charts of different lives as mapped out by his deceased friend, including one for the narrator. Each chart lists the accomplishments of that person and even the death (with date, time, and cause), sending the narrator into a sort of calm panic. As the narrator begins to prepare for his death, he undergoes psychosomatic episodes of pain in his body, hallucinations, and voices that only he can hear, all wrapped within a calm readiness to end his life. As the narrator sits in a chair on the date of his death, only to continue living well beyond the time allegedly planned, he realizes that he must live again. The death of one way of thinking to make room for the "next life". And so, he does.

I know I have told the entire plot of this book, yet I highly encourage everyone to read it. It's a slim read (will take up an afternoon unless if you take tea breaks) yet it is brain food. What is memory? Why are some better at keeping it than others? When we die, where do the memories go, if anywhere? Are we the total sum of our memories? And if so, can we therefore change our lives by changing those memories? Every now and then, I love reading philosophy. I love to "wake up" my brain with questions that may or may not have answers. This book did that for me in a simplistic way with much depth. Critchley is quite talented in both the fiction and philosophy realms. Even the black humour sprinkled through the book gave me quite a chuckle as I imagined hearing him speak the words with a British accent.

As they say in the movie Yellow Submarine (one of my favourite movies) - It's All in the Mind.


EX LIBRIS!

Friday, April 28, 2017

The World of Jonah Mason - New Tea Blend!



Why do bad things happen to good people?

Simple.

In the ancient war between the Angels of Light and Darkness, the Dark won. Now it is the job of an undercover force simply known as the Army to rectify that . . . .

And thus begins Angelkiller, the first in the Angelkiller triad by author H. David Blalock, as published through Seventh Star Press.

Sounds like a HELL of a book . . . and TEA!

May I present you the newest blend from Viridian Tea Company - Angelkiller Tea Blend!



This blend of assam tea, dried orange peel, cloves, and vanilla will have you flying to the heavens!

The tea will be for sale on the Viridian Tea Company Etsy store, as well as the VTC booth at the Cooper Young Farmers Market in Memphis, and other places coming soon.

And while you're at it, order a copy of the book today! Blalock is an amazingly talented author, not to mention a dear friend.

May your Cup never dry!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

~ coffee stains ~




Listening to a folk singer
sing about coffee stains
and love lost and gained.
Forgive me, but I feel more solid
because I refused to break.
Again.
Last time was my fault - 
he gave me the hammer when he pushed
me away.
Amid my dreams of tea leaves,
I have a desire to eat pancakes in bed
with a man who has eyes 
blessed by Odin.
One who likes my unhealed cracks.
The coffee stains have dried,
finally,
and I can breathe better now.
The breaking is broken.






Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Love Letter to Pawpaws





PAWPAWS!

Now that I have your attention . . . .  How many of you know what a pawpaw is?

For the longest time, I had heard of this thing called a pawpaw yet never knew exactly what it was, let alone even tasted one. Thanks to the brilliant writing of Andrew Moore, the mystery is over. Pawpaw, a fruit native to this country, was a staple in the diets of several Native American tribes as well as the settlers who came to this land. Throughout the years, pawpaws enjoyed a nice and well deserved recognition among people who lived in the Middle and Eastern part of the country. With a creamy custard/banana/mango/caramel flavour, pawpaws were THE fruit for a very long time. And then, it almost slid into oblivion.

Andrew Moore has carefully crafted a love letter to pawpaws and I'll be honest - I'm quite smitten with the fruit myself and I have yet to taste one. In his book Pawpaw: In Search of America's Forgotten Fruit, as published by Chelsea Green Publishing, he takes you by the hand and leads you through America's history by way of the pawpaw. He gives a detailed and interesting journey of the fruit that will leave you drooling and more than ready to eat your first pawpaw. He then continues to share the "love" by meeting up with pawpaw farmers and distributors, attending the Ohio Pawpaw Festival (I'm hoping to attend this year - woot!), and even going "hunting" with legendary people who fell in love with the fruit and never looked back. There is also a serious side to the pawpaw - not only is it nutritious, but it is also a major fighter in the war against cancer. Just let that sink in. A fruit, native to this country, has the possibility to ERADICATE cancer.

(photo from www.eattheweeds.com)

However, it's not just Americans who grow and love the fruit - according to Moore, other countries have taken up the rallying call of the pawpaw to grow it as well. More restaurants, farmers markets, and other establishments are looking into the pawpaw and liking what they see. However, as Moore points out (and this is in my OWN words), pawpaws seem to be the Diva of the fruit world - their skin bruises easily, you can't pick them before they are ripe or else they will go bad, you can't pick them well into their ripeness, and they have a very short shelf life. Is it really worth all the trouble, then? Why yes. Yes it is.

I had the pleasure of meeting Moore at a book signing at South Main Book Juggler and I have to say that it was truly a delight meeting him. Here was a man who could easily be called an authority of pawpaws; after reading the book, I know it for sure.

Pawpaws To The People!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Samurai and the Teashop Owner - Three


Consider this to be the "prequel" of the Samurai and Teashop Owner poetry I've been posting lately. This is a snippet that will continue on as the characters speak to me.

Arigato.


(Taken at Memphis Botanical Gardens)


One upon a time, or so the mystics claim, the rain fell in a steady pattern when he arrived at the teashop. She drank from her small cup as she watched him slowly walk down the path that led to her place of business. When he reached the lower step, he carefully raised his head and looked at her directly in the eyes as she leaned against the entry way. She raised her cup to him and he nodded. I am in need of a place to stay for the night, he said in a quiet tone, as if he thought of every word before saying it. So I see, she replied with a trace of honour. Please, she said as she stood aside, come inside and get dry. The samurai nodded as he walked up the stairs. She moved to one of the walls as he walked by her. The teashop owner smiled as a faint yet detectable scent of cherry blossoms wafted from his soaked clothing. She noticed that his clothing looked to be quite worn and that his hair was messy, yet she placed her cup on the table and said, Give me a moment to prepare a room. Sit here and I shall bring you food and tea. The samurai nodded again as she left him then sat down at one of the tables and placed his katana on the floor next to him. He stared out of the windows for a while, watching the rain continue to fall, then looked down at his weapon. How many times have I brought down an enemy against my Lord?, he thought. How many times have I taken the head of this one or that, to claim the right and power of him? He sighed then closed his eyes. He could still hear their screams, feel the splash of warm blood against his face. He fought them by his Code, the one that all samurai must learn and follow to the death. And yet . . . He opened his eyes and looked down at his weapon once more. I . . . am tired, he thought.

Some time later, the teashop owner returned to the main room with tea and steamed buns on a tray, along with grilled mackerel that smelled quite delightful. The samurai felt his stomach growl as she placed the items before him with a quiet grace then sat down next to him. Itadakimasu, he said as he nodded at her then picked up his chopsticks and began to eat. The teashop owner poured his tea then reached for her cup and sipped from it. You have come from a long way, she said in a form of conversation. I can smell the cherry blossoms on you. The samurai stopped eating then nodded. We haven't seen the cherry blossoms in quite some time here, she continued. Tell me, mighty samurai, why do you feel of defeat? The samurai stared at his food, his appetite somewhat diminished. I prefer not to answer such a question, he said as he took his cup in his hand, until I learn your name. My name?, she asked with a soft smile. Why must you know that? Because I need to give prayer to the spirits in thanks to you for this, he replied. She lowered her eyes then looked at him. My name is Murasaki, she replied as she sipped from her cup. And you? I am Fumio, he replied. Murasaki finished her cup then got up and left the room, while Fumio continued to eat by the rhythm of the falling rain.

To Be Continued . . .


Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Colourless Man





Haruki Murakami is one of those authors in which everything they write feels like a dream. Or nightmare, depending on how you look at things in the world. In Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, a young man discovers just how much his life affected others even when he thought he was"colourless" to do anything.

Meet Tsukuru Tazaki, a young Japanese man who thinks of Death. He lives a very normal and ordinary life with no passion because he feels he should die. In fact, the desire came from when, after moving to Tokyo from his hometown of Nagoya, his four friends from school cut him off for good. His friends were all named after colours except for him, and he felt as though they all lead colourful lives. He was simply, as he thought, the bland one. However, once he is cut from his friends, Tazaki undergoes a kind of Death and then Rebirth, changing him for the better. And it is during this transformation that, thanks to a woman he's seeing, he decides to go on a pilgrimage to learn the truth behind his exile. Murakami also weaves in stories within the main story - the one regarding a man named Midorikawa (green river) who stays in a hot springs resort was beautiful to read.

This entire book read like a dream, one that I hated to leave. Tazaki felt as though he was a soul aimlessly wandering around Japan (and Finland), yet that was far from the truth. As he learns during his pilgrimage, he was the one who was the most solid of the group. He was the one that everyone relied upon, even when they cast him away from the group. Due to a horrible accusation, the four knew that he would make it because he was just that strong - that colourful. And in learning that truth, Tazaki realizes that he can finally live and love in a world filled with colour, just for him.

Arigato gozaimasu!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Vive le Bohemian France!





Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) by Francoise Sagan  is ultimately France from a Bohemian point of view. Sagan wrote the book when she was only 18 years old, yet the story has a feeling of worldliness, experience, and adulthood. The story is thus: Cecile, a 17 year old girl, is our narrator as she and her father live their lives to the fullest in all aspects. Her father is "involved" with a younger woman named Elsa, cementing the trio as solid . . . but only for so long. During one summer, as Cecile and her father are on summer vacation, they receive a visitor - Anne, a friend of Cecile's deceased mother. Distinguished and graceful, she enters their lives once more with much poise and grace, thereby ensnaring Cecile's father and kicking Elsa to the curb. Thus begins Cecile's plan to get things back to the way they were, although consequences will be seriously paid.

I read this book in three sittings and enjoyed every minute of it. Sagan's descriptions enhanced the overall reading pleasure and made it more than just a book written by an 18 year old French girl. Love, despair, jealousy, sex, and even regrets play rather well with each other in this book. Seeing as how I'm a Francophile anyway, Bonjour Tristesse was like eating a delicious croissant with a hint of almond in it (yes, I love almond croissants and would actually pursue a degree in how to search for the perfect one, but I digress . . . actually, that might be a really cool blog post . . . )

Anyway.

EX LIBRIS!

VIVE LE FRANCE!





Sunday, April 16, 2017

Child of God, Son of the Devil





First, let me wish each and every one of you a Happy Easter!

Now, on to the book review!

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy left me shivering and not because I was cold. This gritty Southern Gothic novel is slim yet will stay with you for a very long time. In the backwoods of Tennessee lives Ballard, a young man who has been falsely accused of rape. When he is released, Ballard then turns his poisoned mind towards his fellow man and shows them just "what fer". Setting fire to a house means nothing to him, nor does killing people with a blast from his shotgun. He does not live, only merely exists beyond the grace of God yet with the full blessing of the Devil himself. Some of Ballard's actions were evil, while others left me realizing that there was truly something wrong with him mentally. His "end" was suitable for such a life lived.

I got hooked on McCarthy's sparse style of writing while reading No Country for Old Men - the lack of punctuation, the raw feeling exhibited by his characters, the backgrounds that are harsh and unforgiving. After that, I knew I had to read more of his work. Child of God threw me right back into McCarthy's "world" and I loved every minute of it. You are locked into his writing from the first page. Actually, you are strapped into your chair, given no water, and made to look at each scene unfold into its gory beauty. Reading No Country for Old Men was such an experience out West (the film was the same!) and Child of God was the repeat performance in Tennessee.

EX LIBRIS!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Mysterious Continent





I turn around one last time to view my home for the past several weeks. Cold. Way below freezing. Death. And yet, I'm sad to leave, because as I stated before, it was my home for several weeks. Sighing, I turn towards the ship and board. As someone hands me a cup of hot tea, I sit by a window and watch the ship bid farewell to Antarctica, the Mysterious Continent. After having a dream that I visited the ice continent and took in the wonders there, I decided to learn more about this place. All I knew of Antarctica was that it was the only continent not inhabited by humans, with ice and snow and temperatures I've never experienced before.

I was dead, dead wrong.

Thanks to the fabulous Gabrielle Walker, Antarctica comes alive through her words in the book Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent. She speaks Science in such a way that everyone can understand and learn from with ease. From the first page of her Introduction to the last page inciting hope to save the continent from global warming, you'll feel as through you're right there with her, braving every moment of sheer frozen terror and wonderful discoveries. As much as I enjoyed the book, I didn't want it to end. Walker's writing is just that good. Plus, the people she met were colourful and eccentric  - you had to be in order to be there.

The explorers Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton braved the continent with hardly the equipment used today. They dared to do what others could not and would not do. And, because of them and many others, Antarctica is a little more understandable and still just as mysterious. From those who dig deep into the ice for core samples that date several thousands, if not millions, of years old, to those who survey the landscape and feel as though they are on the planet Mars, Walker shows us that Antarctica is not for the faint of heart. It is for the different heart. Eccentric seal and penguin watchers, children being born there so they can claim that they are Antarticans, even a gift shop that provides coffee mugs and souvenirs.  There's even a sickness known as going "toast" when you lose all sense of self and just . . . exist. Actually, not even that.

Many people know that I am an Adventure Seeker and will try (mostly) anything once. Yes, I found myself looking up ways to visit Antarctica on several occasions, all the while wondering how I would pay for such a trip. To explore a place where your neighbours are seals, penguins, whales, strange creatures of the deep, not to mention that your life hangs by a fragile icy thread every time you stepped outside of the camp. . . . yep, I was actually talking myself into it.

To visit Antarctica, as many researchers and scientists informed Walker, is to understand surrender. If you visit with an ego the size of New Jersey, be prepared for it to be coldly crushed. In Antarctica, no one is better or worse than others. Everyone who is stationed there is equal, although that wasn't the case not too long ago between men and women. However, everyone plays a part to assist in keeping everyone safe, alive, and healthy there. One screw up could cost some one's life.

This book was a phenomenal read - I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone.

So, with a final wave, I say goodbye to Antarctica, a la Midnight Oil.


EX LIBRIS!



Sunday, April 9, 2017

The UNOFFICIAL Order of the Black Silk Playlist





Whenever I'm working on a new manuscript, I create a playlist that evokes the mood of the book. My newest book, Order of the Black Silk, published through ProSe Publications, is no exception. Since the book is now available, I figured I would share several songs from my writing playlist with you. Order a copy of the book, then listen to the playlist while reading it. I hope you enjoy it!

Also, I hope that you'll check out these musicians and their work - truly incredible stuff.



Corvus Corax - Venus Vina Musica



Lacuna Coil - To Myself I Turned



Blue Stahli - ULTRAnumb (Exterminated Remix)



Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Pearls For Swine 




Le Poeme Harmonique - Quand Je Menais Les Chevaux Boire)




Beats Antique - Battle 




Emel Mathlouthi - Stranger 

Friday, April 7, 2017

~ growth in cracks ~





As we walked on the sidewalk, she pointed at the sky and informed me that the clouds were dancing. I looked up as well and noticed that the clouds barely moved in the sky. Justine continued that the clouds know secrets we wouldn't be able to understand. I nodded, not really knowing what else to say. She then said that grass that grows through cracks in concrete is proof that we must all push forward, since the grass has been around long before and quite after us. It is the grass and clouds, I said, that give poets the colour to do what they love. We continued our walk under the blue sky, while my mind drifted to Langston Hughes. He and I shared a birthday as well as love for the written word. Did the grass speak to him as it does to my friend? I glanced at Justine, my imaginary real friend, saw how her multicoloured eyes looked at everything as if it were the first time she'd ever seen it. True, I had created her from my mind, yet she took her breath on her own. Those who refuse to die could see her. Those who smell books could feel her fingers on their skin. She looks at you and you can't help but smile. She told me of her home in the Otherworld and how she walks around barefoot. I looked at the cracks on the sidewalk, making sure not to step on the grass that dared to live.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

You Know You Want Her . . . .





Okay, so let me just say that this review is over two years overdue - sorry, Sean Taylor!

Dominique is a woman who lives alone, has few friends, and seems to not have a life . . . except that of a professional dominatrix! She gives pain to those who want it, for a fee of course. When night falls, Dominique dons the leather and thigh high boots with whip in hand, ready to give her clients what they beg and plead for. However, when one of her clients slips up and mentions confidential information to her, Dominique's world is suddenly turned upside down, complete with world domination, bloodthirsty mercenaries, pills that make ordinary people become destructive machines, and a grey clad female assassin named Jacqueline who's completely insane, not to mention a bit talkative. In the span of one night, Dominique transforms from a dominatrix to an almost indestructible superhero!

Welcome to the world of Dominatrix!

Based on an idea by THE Gene Simmons and written by Sean Taylor, this graphic novel will satisfy those who are looking for something different, complete with a well written and engaging story and killer illustrations. Although I first read this graphic novel back in 2014, reading it a second time last night increased my appreciation of the overall story. In fact, I remember how much I used to bug Sean in writing more in this world. Sadly, there won't be any other stories but at least this graphic novel exists. Pick up a copy of Dominatrix TODAY - you won't regret it.

Now, how about some KISS to end this review:




Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Samurai and the Teashop Owner - Two



The Samurai has left the teahouse due to an order given to him by his Lord. She does not feel sorrow in his absence, for she knows he will return. She makes her tea, serves her guests, and watches the winds blow through the cherry blossoms. He will return.



One drop of blood
falls from my face.
I see my enemy before me, a
strange smile on his face.
His sword, dull, hangs limply
next to him.
I stand, ready, never lowering
the calm within me.
My enemy has not moved
and it is then that I realize
that he is merely a shell.
The red gash now grows across 
his belly.
The body, no longer the enemy,
falls.
I take a slow breath.
I turn and walk away.
My Lord will be pleased.





Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Samurai and The Teashop Owner - One



A while ago, I began writing out poetry as conversation during the meeting of a samurai and a teashop owner. I had no idea that one poem would turn into several with stories and other ideas to sprout from it. In any case, here is the "first" of their conversations. The back story, however, will be added to the second Tea Traveler book, as well as the poems once I've completed writing them.

I hope you enjoy.


SAMURAI:

Upon the fallen cherry blossoms
I sit, head uncovered.
I can still smell the blood,
fresh from the last man who 
kissed my katana.
I rest now, watching the clouds
float over me - the battle
was in honour of my Lord.
My heart never stopped
the slow beating - my eyes never faltered.
The tea in my hands, given by her,
refreshes my soul.
I embrace the blossoms for now
until someone wishes to kiss my katana again.
Eyes now closed yet senses wide open.




TEASHOP OWNER:

Each Leaf, placed by my hands,
is sacred.
Each Leaf, grown by me,
breathes new life.
For in this moment, the Code 
speaks to all.
Respect of the moment.
Do not deny that which is in front of you.
The first taste - savour slowly.
Release what holds you back.
Strike forward and drink from your cup.
He comes to me, worn and tired,
yet the steel is ever sharp.
Of my Code, there is that strength
that comes from a breath, pure from the Leaf.
The warrior speaks nothing
yet I can hear his thoughts, of Bushido defined.
My place is of Chado and I welcome him.








Tuesday, March 21, 2017

~ if only ~




If only.

There are times when
the lines are blurred
between here and never.
It's hard to forget
why we are here - 
if only at all - 
yet we press on because
this day shall not stop.
When did it, you, we, us
get louder?
When did we cover our eyes
and ears
and wandered off, seeking
no longer greener pastures?
Who told us that lie?
What soothed our nightmares away
with empty promises
and thoughts of a better tomorrow
that never came?
When did we fall so hard?
And now,
fellow masses of the individual,
what do we do now?
Do we finally remove
the hands?
Can we say finally say that
"I am here?"

If only.



(photo taken at Elmwood Cemetery - 2017)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Island of Lepers Welcomes You






Aloha!

When I was younger, the only thing I knew about leprosy was what I learned from the Catholic Church. Even then, it still didn't resonate with me about the seriousness of it. In reading Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, I found myself in the middle of a society in which leprosy ruled with a diseased heart.

We are invited to Hawai'i by invitation of a seven year old girl named Rachel Kalama. She and her family live in Honolulu during the late 1800s under the rule of King Kalakaua. There, Rachel experiences the bliss of being a child in a world of paradise, until a rose coloured mark appears on her skin. After several tests, she is deemed to have leprosy and is sent to Kalaupapa, the settlement for lepers on the island of Moloka'i. And it is there that Rachel's life truly begins.

This book had me hooked from page one - you are immediately transported to Hawai'i with no intention of leaving until the final page. Brennert's writing gives the reader an up close view of the history of Hawai'i, filled with its many legends and myths, the fall of monarchs and the rise of becoming part of the United States, and even detailed information regarding leprosy. Moloka'i comes alive as the settlement slowly turns from a horrible place of pus and Death to one filled with music, laughter, and a desire to live no matter how long that may be. Love in all forms is among the damned and from that comes hope. Even when her family disappears from her life throughout the years, Rachel is grateful to have a second family made up people who love no less than those who are healthy. She loves and is loved in turn, of which not even leprosy can take away.

An excellent read and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Brennert's work.


Mahalo!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

901 Story - The Women of India





They were older women, yet their voices were filled with joy and delight at seeing each other. They spoke of the right brain/left brain phenomenon and of being creative and not being psychotic. Their friendship seemed to have lasted for years through many fights, misunderstandings, and loves lost and gained. The one who did the most talking seemed to have seen more of the world than her friend. She came across as a bohemian who still kept to the Ways yet her talk reeked of order and discipline in being a teacher. Against the backdrop of a local Indian restaurant known for their delicious lunch buffet, the two women caught up with other's lives as the two strands of Life now came together once more. As I listened to them switch over to Roy Orbison and Leonard Cohen, I realized that they, I, everyone in that restaurant made Memphis what it was and what it is now. Over a million voices, loud and soft, poured into this city and claimed it for its own. A second plate of food called to me and so I stopped listening.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Meanwhile, Back in London . . .





I can't stop talking and thinking about this film.

Before I begin, let me just state for the record that I'm a big fan of Eva Green. I love her look, her style, and the fact that she would probably be a fan of my books and teas. After first seeing her in Penny Dreadful, I wanted to see her other works. So far, I haven't been disappointed.

Franklyn is a movie of despair. Doesn't really sound enticing, yet when you begin watching it, you'll be hooked. Meet Jonathan Preest, a masked vigilante who lives in the otherworldy place of Meanwhile City. He deals out justice to those who deserve it. In Meanwhile City, religion is key - they have a deity for EVERYTHING - yet Preest is the only atheist and he likes it that way. He's on the hunt for a being known as the Individual, a being so horrific that it's up to Preest to take it down.

Scroll over to modern day London and meet Milo, a young man who was jilted at the altar; Emilia, an artist who films her suicide attempts as "projects"; and Peter, a man who is searching for his lost son. In handling their despair, Emilia attempts suicide repeatedly with a flair of Gothic, Milo relies on his childhood friend, Sally, and Peter turns to God. These three beings will however come together under the most heinous of situations, all thanks to Preest from Meanwhile City.

I have a bad habit of picking apart a film's story (it's a probably a writer thing) and seeing if I can "solve" it before it ends. Two thirds into the film and I was truly stumped. I love films that make me think and also make me say, "What the $*#&," several times. Franklyn did just that. The concept of the film was quite original, yet at times it seemed to go a bit off track. Yet, the ending wraps everything up quite nicely that left me wanting to tell the world about what I had just watched. Which I did on Facebook. The music by Joby Talbot assisted greatly to the overall Gothic/exotic feel of the film. Meanwhile City was quite a delight to see, yet I wish that more scenes were set there. I loved the costumes of the "citizens" as well as the buildings - it felt like a Gothic dream come true.

If you are looking for something different to watch, I highly recommend Franklyn.



Here's the trailer!



The Beret has Spoken!

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Path of Tea - Liu An Black Tea





Global Tea Hut's March blend is "Golden Thread" -  Liu An Black Tea from Qimen County, Anhui Province in China. The entire processing time for the tea is more than half a year then stored for at least three years before it can be sold to people. As I stated in the previous tea post, most people mistake what is known to be red tea as "black tea". True black tea is artificially fermented post-production, while red tea (black tea) is oxidized through a long period of withering and rolling during production. According to Global Tea Hut, not too many people in the West have tried Liu An Black Tea, so drinking it is quite the experience. Since this evening proved to be a cold and now rainy one, I figured that it was a perfect time to fire up the kettle.


Once the leaves came into contact with the water, scents of smoky and fresh came into full force. I let the leaves steep a little longer than I should have yet it's all part of the learning process.



I will freely admit that I sniffed the leaves after dumping them out of my infuser. They smell divine! Hints of earthy, smoky, "green" all combined in the leaves.



The tea tasted delicate and not overpowering, with the "smoky" part hitting my taste buds right at the end. I tried a little honey and found that, just like last month's red tea, the honey enhanced the flavour rather than just make it sweet. This tea is good any time of day or night. If you are interested in purchasing this tea, just do an Internet search and several tea companies that offer Liu An will pop up, or you can subscribe to Global Tea Hut now and hopefully get this blend this month before the next one is delivered.




May Your Cup Never Dry!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Uncle Julien's SPECIAL Blend - NEW TEA BLEND



Writing the book Open A was both fun and a bit disturbing, yet I'm glad that it's finally out of my head and into the hands of readers. I've had several people tell me that they enjoyed reading it and one friend even told me that she never knew I could write so . . . kinky. 

However, something was missing from the world of the Fayettes. They, or rather one of them, needed a tea blend. Out of all of the characters, I truly enjoyed writing Uncle Julien the most. In case if anyone was wondering, I received inspiration from Edward Gorey illustrations and my own dark sense of humour. 

Julien Fayette is a man (we think) of many tastes and desires. He loves the finer things in life and looks down upon those who think so little of their lives. However, Julien has a deep and very dark secret. Actually, I take that back: Julien has SEVERAL deep and dark secrets. Women will do anything for him. Anything.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the NEW blend of VTC: Julien's Secret Tea!



This blend of assam tea, jasmine, rose hips, and lemongrass will satisfy your inner Decadent. In fact, I made this blend several months ago and when I opened the lid of the container tonight . . . wow.

This blend will be premiered at Coast Con THIS WEEKEND, provided I receive my order of plastic bags in time! Yikes! After the con, it will then be added to the Etsy store, as well as The Broom Closet, and the South Main Book Juggler - both located in the South Main Arts District in Memphis. I will also have the blend at my booth at the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market!

And while you're at it, why not order a copy of Open A through Dark Oak Press, or purchase a copy from me at CoastCon THIS WEEKEND!

You know . . . when I took a deep sniff of my creation tonight, I could have sworn I heard a deep chuckle behind me. Maybe it's the wind.

Maybe . . .



Sunday, February 26, 2017

Essay - The All American Vietnamese Restaurant





There is something to be said about a Vietnamese restaurant. Not only is it a haven of tasty food, but it is also a microcosm of the world. My Sometimes Friday Lunch Place is no exception. The food, hot and fresh, greets me in open buffet style as I locate a place to sit. Once I get my first plate, I return to my table, pull out a book, and quickly delve into my lunch. Although I'm completely focused on eating and my book du jour, my ears take in the surroundings. People from all walks of life frequent this place - they come for the food and possible conversation, of which both are in ready supply. Several medical students. A single woman. A hipster family and their literal 1.5 children. College students who use chopsticks the right way. An older woman who reeks of being bohemian as she piles her plate with sauteed tofu and green beans.  A corporate group taking in a "power lunch". Artists wearing paint splattered clothes and grins from ear to ear. Homeless people who know that they'll get a good meal for little money. At times, tables are shared by complete strangers who are brought together by more than the tasty spring rolls. Sometimes, there are conversations and sometimes, the smartphone is their silent and convenient friend. No one is excluded here; no one is refused service, unless if you're rude to the staff or to the other patrons. To date, I have yet to see someone be escorted from the restaurant. From time to time, I'll stop reading to watch the staff bring fresh food to the buffet area; as soon as they walk away, people rush with new plates and wide eyes to load up on hot chicken wings and tofu with bean sprouts. It's gotten to be a game of sorts and it brings a smile to my face as I join in for my second round of food. After I finish off my second plate and read to a good stopping point in my book, I pack up my belongings to return to corporate, yet I am confident that my remaining hours at work will pass by rather quickly - curry chicken with pineapple tends to have that effect.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Path of Tea - Dian Hong Red Tea





After looking at Global Tea Hut's website several times, I finally decided to take the plunge and become a subscriber. For $20 a month, you receive a free tin of their tea of the month, plus their magazine (see above) that talks about Taoism and tea as a way of life, plus other little goodies. After having a not so great day, I reached my apartment, only to find a package from Taiwan waiting at my door!


After taking part in a really cool book signing, thanks to the folks at South Main Book Juggler  I returned home to make my first cup of 2016 Dian Hong Red Tea while reading my magazine. So far, I have learned MANY things that contradict what is being said about tea in the West - that's going to be another blog post! So, on to the TEA!


The tea smelled divine when I opened the container. I knew that I was in for a treat. Rather than make a full pot of the tea, I decided to just make one cup. So glad I did - this means my tea will last longer!


After letting the tea leaves sit in the cup for a while, I let the tea cool down for a bit before trying it. The first sip was lightly fragrant and smooth - not harsh or bitter at all. In fact, I didn't need sweetener.  Since giving up coffee and going full tea last year, I have slowly weaned myself off adding sugar to my tea. I will add honey every so often, yet I prefer my tea to be unsweetened most of the time.. After taking several unsweetened sips of my tea, I did add a bit of honey to the cup. The tea did not turn sweet at all but rather the flavour was enhanced, making it a damn near perfect cup of tea. For the record (and this I just learned from reading my magazine) - black tea is actually called red tea. That's one of those things about tea that got mixed up in the West. In any case, this red tea can be consumed at all hours of the day. It's a great way to begin or end your day, or even a nice mid day moment.

I look forward to next month's installment - thank you, Global Tea Hut!



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

~ footprint ~


NOTE: this poem will be submitted for the Long Exposure Magazine 2017 Nature Writing Anthology:






One footprint.
Nestled among the clover, 
Growing too soon yet still there.
My steps, carrying along
the thoughts of solitude
along the forest trail.
A prayer, one word spoken
with every touch and contact made
with leaves that linger on either side.
Heady, musk surrounds my
senses, leaving me stronger and with confidence.
I move forward, each step
softened under the green
that causes whispers from my shoes.
I am a nomad in modern time - 
reflective of what one, what I,
can do, feel, think, understand.
The sun, filtered through branches, provides a sense to
"go on, dear one."
I refuse to be still.
Dancing along mushrooms are
the children of the trees.
Silent, I am watchful and 
careful. One step. Another. Another.
I am no longer a stranger.
One footprint. Here upon the green 
that settles to create a welcoming path.
One footprint.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Japanese Rock in the 901





When I learned that Japanese rock band Kazha was now living in Memphis, I was overjoyed! I immediately looked them up and started listening to their music. I saw them perform at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention last year and realized that they have quite a following. I'm more than proud to say that I'm one of them. While on my way back from a lovely vacation with Viking in Chattanooga this past weekend, I popped in the CD Evolution - WOW! If you are looking for killer hard rock music mixed with poetic lyrics, you NEED to listen to Kazha. Their music is perfect for those who enjoy hard rock, Gothic rock, or just damn great music.

From the first track Wake Up II - Wake Me Up to the final track of Blend and Fly, Evolution is a solid listen that will make you put the CD on repeat. The songs range from hard hitting to soft and tender, with lyrics that talk of love and loss. Kazuha Oda, the lovely siren and bass player of the band, sings these songs as though she is showing you her soul. The lyrics are personal and emotional, yet you'll soon be singing along with her. None of the songs are "weak links" - the entire CD is excellent in every way. Several of the songs that really stood out for me were Breathe Again, Face Your Fears, and Break Into Pieces. These songs felt as though she actually performed in my car as I drove home. When she sings, you know it's real.

After giving the first concert of the weekend at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention, I ran into Kazuha in the bathroom. I greeted her in Japanese, to which she smiled and said that I spoke Japanese really well.

Best. Compliment. Ever!



Arigato!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lacey Yeager's World of Art




Imagine, if you will, that you've been invited to a party at a friend's house. When you arrive, you see old and new faces and you smile, just as the host walks up to you and tells you that his friend Steve is running late. When you ask who Steve is, your host just smiles and walks off. A while later, everyone rushes towards the front door as "Steve" makes his arrival. You, however, gasp - it's Steve Martin! THE Steve Martin! After he says his hellos and gives many a handshake, you are then introduced to him by your host. He smiles, shakes your hand and says that its nice to meet you. You, on the other hand, smile nervously and try not to look foolish. He then grins and tells the party that he's got quite a story to tell. He makes his way towards the couch and sits down, just as everyone else gathers around him with their drinks and food. You sit down as well with baited breath. Someone hands him a glass of seltzer water; Steve Martin takes it, sips on it, then clears his throat and begins his story. Soon, you find yourself forgetting that you have a drink in your hand, and the others forget that their food is going cold. It's Steve Martin and the story he's telling is quite entertaining.

That's what it felt like when I read his book An Object of Beauty.  From the moment I read the first lines, as written by art writer Daniel Franks, I knew I was in for a treat. This book draws you into a world that not many of us know about and if we do, we either glorify it or we try to snub it. Lacey Yaeger is a young woman living in New York in the 90s who views the art world as something to be conquered. She makes friends without a care, seduces men just for the hell of it, and finds art to be more than just paint slapped on a canvas. After her lowly start in the basement of Sotheby's, she climbs her way to the top, all the while purchasing and selling art to those with discerning tastes and money to burn. Her closest friend, Daniel, is the narrator of her life - he knows Lacey and understands her to a point, yet even he gets stumped once in a while by her actions.

Any man who gets close to her is pushed away; she refuses to be tied down to anything. Except art. To her, art is Life, her life and the way she wants to live it. Buying a Warhol for her apartment makes her feel like her clients, giving her even deeper access to the world she occupies. She rises higher and higher on the art ladder, evolving from worker in a gallery to owning one, with no end in sight. However, due to greed, thrill seeking, or the dream to take a risk (or perhaps all of the above), it all comes crashing down on her with a background of 9-11 and the stock market crash. However, Lacey is one tough cookie - if she can handle the art world, then anything else is just a bicycle ride through Central Park.

I have to admit that I actually liked Lacey; granted, I could only hang out with her for short periods of time, yet I truly liked her. She always seemed to have a foot in both worlds - the world of the rich who can afford an original Van Gogh for millions of dollars, and the college student/early adult world of secondhand furniture mingled with thrift store shopping for cocktail party dresses and seeking out the cheap restaurants where the food is too good to be true. Lacey enjoys the thrill of having sex with a patron on a balcony at a hotel, then sealing the deal on artwork once thought to be lost to the Western World. And yet, out of all of her friends, Daniel seems to understand her the best. And the worst.

Steve Martin presents the world of art in a way only he knows - funny, truthful, entertaining, and just Steve Martin. This book had me hooked from page one; I had to know what Lacey was up to every day. She reminded me of a Holly Golightly (and for those of you who don't know who that is, go read Breakfast at Tiffany's - great book and film!)  - woman about town making a name for herself, and giving personal views into her life to very few people. Lacey is not and never will be part of the masses. or rather - the masses would never want her to partake in their world. And that's just fine with her.

If he does happen to read this review - Mr. Martin, PLEASE write more books. You've got a knack for it.

Thank you.

EX LIBRIS!