Sunday, January 21, 2007

in its own right

"For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life - the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value."

Claude Monet

If you're ever in doubt, ask your friends.

I have read much information about writing: the process, techniques, advice, opinions, marketing, publishing ... so much that it tends to blur in my brain. Sometimes, though, something I read stands out.

The other day I read a writer's blog that discussed certain niches that each fellow blogger used to pull in readers, consciously or not. It picked up a thread of something else I read earlier of the opinion that writers should pick one niche and stay with that. I wasn't so sure. I think it depends on the writer. There are those who can 'float' into different territories and those who are best staying with familiar territory, or possibly, they stay with familiar territory by choice only.

It made me wonder, though, if my blogs had a certain hook that pulls readers. My blog is the one full of daily rambles and is markedly eclectic. I pondered for two or three days about what my hook was and if I had one. I decided I wasn't sure. So ... I asked ... in my blog. I simply wanted to know what my hook was or if anyone else could find what I couldn't.

I haven't begun to reply to the responses because I was rather overwhelmed.

Doubt is a constant companion to writers, and artists in general. I found a definite cure for it Friday by asking friends/readers directly what they thought. I won't embarass myself by repeating answers but apparently, I do have a hook, or maybe two or three.

This is something not only artist-types should keep in mind as we trudge through the world sometimes wondering why we are, but that all of us should. We can feel we don't make a difference, that we're boring or ineffective or unimportant in the grand scheme of things. However, we are quite wrong. There is not one of us that doesn't have an affect on those around us. There are people who care even when we don't realize.

As January rolls through and winter (in this part of the world, anyway) takes a firmer grip with fewer hours of sunlight and longer cold spells, it is easy for us to see the blah of things. If you need an uplift, ask your friends. Ask them directly, either in person or in a blog or an email or however you prefer to communicate. If you are lacking in companionship, join a group and get involved. Most people want to help others. Most are kind souls. It's not really so hard to figure that out when we throw ourselves into the midst of things.

We have snow today; our first snowfall of the season. While I look out the window at the gray, I focus on the gentle gracefulness of water frozen into beautiful white crystals floating down to coat the still-green grass (and my already growing daffodils). It marks the upcoming new beginning when nature will come out of its slumber and revive us with a vigor we only feel in early spring and with rainbows of flowers and shrubs and blooming trees. Now that winter has truly begun, I can see its end and its end results.

Nature's hook is its being; its overwhelming ability to affect all of us without trying by simply doing what it does. We are all part of that.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Rehearsal Sampler

This is only a sample of my work ... the beginning of Rehearsal: A Different Drummer.

To find a larger sample, see my website.

(Can you tell I have nothing on my mind worth blogging about?)

artwork: Duncan by LK Hunsaker (all rights reserved)

Spring, 1972

“Hey sweetie, wanna dance?”

Duncan raised his arm to wipe sweat rolling under his chin onto his sleeve and threw her a glance, not bothering to turn the bar stool in her direction. Shagged brown hair topped her average-height frame, not much shorter than he was, he supposed. Modern, including her willingness to approach him in such a direct manner. “Thank you, bu’ I am workin’.” He looked back to check on his ordered beer, smoke choking his mouth and throat.

She moved closer. “Not at the moment, you’re not.”

Returning his eyes, he noted a tenacity in her expression and body language. A quality he liked, to a certain extent. “Well, y’ are right. At the moment, I am tryin’ t’ cool off a bit. Then I am goin’ back t’ work.” A trickle of sweat began rolling down the side of his face from underneath the damp hair falling over his forehead, and Duncan leaned his head forward to pull the bottom of his T-shirt up, rubbing it across his face and letting it fall again. Then he shoved the hair out of his way, irritated at himself about forgetting to bring an elastic to pull the back of it off his neck. It was sticking against the wet skin.

Accepting the mug that finally came across the bar, he took a large swallow, enjoying the coolness of the glass against his hand and the stream of liquid pouring through his body.
The girl cuddled into his shoulder, a musky scent accenting her warmth. “Are you ever here when you’re not working?” Fingers with painted nails touched the bare skin of his arm.

Ignoring a snigger from the bartender, a new employee Duncan didn’t like much, he again raised the mug to his lips, allowing time to consider an answer, to let the weak American beer quench the dryness of his throat. “Now and then.” The chill of the glass distracted him from the girl’s flesh pushing against his.

She broke through, sliding both hands around his fingers and the heavy mug, pulling it from him. “So maybe you’ll dance with me another night?”

Looking up to question her, he watched as she sipped his beer, keeping her eyes on his. Narrow eyes. Lashes painted longer than natural matching thick black lines extending from the corners; the brushed-on green of her lids attempting to extend the brownish-green of her pupils. It didn’t work well.

She rubbed a finger around the edge of the mug. Offering.

Duncan studied her. She wasn’t bad-looking. Fake, but not snobbish. And who was he to be too particular? “Maybe.”

She grinned, pushing the drink back toward him.

“Keep it.”

He watched her move away, flaunting the beer to her table of friends, repeating the conversation, he figured, making it more than it was. Duncan never understood the infatuation girls had with guys in local bands. Hell, this wasn’t even a good local band. His mates were okay guys, as far as it went, but barely third-rate musicians. It didn’t seem to matter. They were just background noise for the pick-up lines and the attempts at relaxation by intoxication in the dark out-of-the-way bar.

And dark was helpful. It disguised the niched plank floor and scratches in the old wood tables with only patches of varnish left as pointless protection. Duncan could imagine his mother cringing about him playing at the little dive, though it was better than many he’d played. For the most part, it was kept clean, though likely not clean enough for her. He was just as glad she didn’t know how he was living – day to day, city to city, jumping from one third-rate band to another while doing whatever other cash jobs he could find.

Ordering another beer, he watched the small crowd, studying the ones he recognized as regulars and the few he didn’t. Mostly, he played to the same group every weekend. It was only a paycheck. There wasn’t one, he imagined, who would even know if he played a wrong chord now and then. They weren’t listening, not more than enough to go through the motions of dancing, or swaying somewhat to the beat. Their drummer was at least decent. They kept a good beat going.

A movement from the table of Thiel College students caught his attention; they were always easy to spot, dressed too well for the bar full of locals and holding their chins higher than necessary. One of them actually rose to retrieve his drink from the bar instead of barking an order at the girls serving. Duncan watched him: the only male at the table without a cigarette hanging from his mouth or fingers. Worst part of playing in bars; the damn cloud of nicotine.
The guy was heading in his direction. Duncan turned back, waiting to catch the bartender. “Is tha’ beer comin’ tonight?”

“Make that two. And a wine spritzer. After his, of course.” The guy stood beside him.

Wine spritzer. For the girl at the table sitting sideways in the chair with her legs crossed and her shoulders straight, Duncan guessed.

“How long have you been playing?”

Glancing up to make sure the college guy was talking to him, he answered … barely. “A while.” He looked away again.

“Obviously. I meant, how many years?”

“Why?” Duncan raised his hands in a questioning gesture at the new bartender. He would have to go back and play before he ever got it, at this pace.

The intruder took advantage of the stool next to him being vacated, and planted himself as if he actually belonged in the bar, raising his voice to talk over the recorded music played between sets. “You’re wasting your talent here. You’re a hell of a guitarist.”

Duncan looked over, unable to completely dismiss the compliment, since it wasn’t from a girl this time. He sincerely doubted this guy was hitting on him. “You play?”

“Not much since I started school, but when I can.”

He nodded slightly and turned away again. Another beginner looking for pointers. Well, he had better things to do than to waste time on a college student who wanted to learn just enough to pick up girls.

“So, why are you here?”

Duncan’s back straightened. What made this guy think it was any of his business? Holding his thoughts, he stood. He would rather hang with the band, though he didn’t care much for their company, than to be harrassed by some stranger.

The college student stood up beside him and Duncan swung around. “Man, wha’ do you want?”
(Literary romance for ages 16 and up.)