The solstice has now passed and the days are getting longer, but the thermometer is dropping, as the New Year quickly approaches.
What better time to walk around in the freezing cold and photograph some of the seasonal creations that are on display in this northern city, where hours of actual daylight dips below ten hours.
Perhaps this explains why some of the older cultures resorted to building large bonfires to light up the winter night sky.
Nowadays, in the modern era we have the electricity to do the chore for us.
Here in Portland the popular thing to do is to decorate the tress or buildings with balls of lights. It really does look quite splendid in the long winter sky, but I have noticed that the lighting displays have become increasing thinner as the nation struggles throught he darkness of lean economic times.
Here is another picture taken from the city park with a hint of afterglow in the night sky. This concept of hanging lights on trees is quite unique to my eyes and quite wonderful as well.
And finally one more picture of some lights on a tree along with the moon in the night sky which is close to full.
Such is the wonder of the new digital technology, which allows me to go out and take the night picture with a hand held Kodak digital camera, come home and slide the SD card into the slot on my computer and post this picture just hours after it was taken. Best wishes and a Happy New Year, Everett Autumn
Today is Christmas Eve and the Christmas season is almost upon us, for tomorrow begins the twelve days of Christmas. Here in the west we celebrate the holiday on day one (or sometimes Christmas Eve), but go to Eastern Europe and Russia and you will find that Christmas comes at the end of the first week of January, which would right around the twelfth day of Christmas. The more than merrier.
Well anyone, our town, Portland Maine likes to put lights everywhere. Here are some that are descending from the top of the sixth story of the Maine College of Art. They are strung from long lines the traverse the distance.
Speaking of unusual ways of celebrating Christmas, this is the year that I discovered heavy metal Christmas albums. By chance I was in the record store the other day, making my selection, when the clerk drew my attention to the Judas Priest album that was playing. Actually, it was a series of Christmas and seasonal songs recorded by Robert Halford, called “Winter Songs”. The album sounded nice on the store sound system, but I went ahead and purchased Bob Dylan’s Christmas effort anyway.
Since that day I have done a little researching and come across some surprising results; and that my friends, is there are all sorts of folks from Alice Cooper to Twisted Sister have put out at least a few X-mas songs and some have actually completed and released a whole album. Check out Twisted Christmas by Twisted Sister. For those of you who might be interested here is a link to the Houston Press and their choice for five best Heavy Metal Christmas Songs.
And on a final note for those of you who just received a box of candies in the mail from Aunt Ida and Uncle Rico, who you haven’t seen or talked to in ten years, here’s a quick and easy way to respond. Just send them a Jib Jab Christmas card by e-mail.
Today I managed to find a little time to continue working on a novel-length piece of fiction, even though the deadline that I set for myself during November, when NaNoWriMo (that stands for National Novel Writing Month) was going strong has long since past.
To qualify for Na NoWri Mo certification, one needs to complete 50,000 (hopefully coherent) words within the 30 day period, we call November. I barely managed 10,000 during last month, but it looks like I might reach 25,000 by the first of the year. Not the fastest pace in the world, but I do kind of like the way the story is developing.
This is my second attempt with this organization. Last year I sat down and cranked out 40.000 words for a manuscript that still sits in a drawer, half finished. However early last year, I did manage to forge a large group of related short stories into a workable novel, which I thoroughly shopped around this past summer to no avail. Maybe this year’s effort will go better. I hope so, for I would like to think that experience amounts to something.
For those of you, who like myself are struggling through the never-never land of novel writing, you are in luck. “TheWriter” magazine has just published a list of its most favorite literary websites and there are several that may be of help to aspiring writers, like myself. Most obvious is a site called How To Write A Novel (you have to give them credit for honesty in advertising). There first suggestion is to write one word at a time; can’t go wrong there!
Another intriguing site is Advanced Fiction Writing, which features the snowflake method. Seeing that today is the first day of winter that might be a good idea also.
Also of importance is a place called the Fiction Factor. This is an informative site that has articles in the form of an online magazine, as well as a listing of markets and contests. Looks like another good choice!
And then last but not least is a place on the internet called “Chapter One“. This website is put up by the Washington Post and it is place where you can go to read (for free) the first chapter of recently published books that have been reviewed by the Post newspaper. Be aware that there is a lot to choose from, as the Washington Post book reviewers are a busy lot.
So there you go. No need to procrastinate, the time to write is now.
Have a happy solstice, and enjoy the fact that the days will start getting longer from now on.
Have you wondered what kind of weirdo would go out and actually pay good money for Christmas music by over the hill “Rock and Roll Stars”. I never have, for all I had to do, was look in the mirror to get the answer to such a ridiculous question like that.
This year I have made two yuletide purchases of seasonal music and I thought I would share my results with you. The recording artists involved might surprise you, for they are our own homegrown, Bob Dylan, who hails from that marvelous winter wonderland Mecca, called Minnesota; and on the other hand is a man, who calls himself, Sting and is originally from Newcastle, an English city located just south of the Scottish Borderlands and the English-Scottish border. The two recordings are called, “Christmas from the Heart” (by Dylan) and “If On a Winter’s Night” (by Sting).
First, a few words about Mr. Dylan and his first Christmas offering, “Christmas from the Heart”, which can be purchased in two versions. One is the straight CD, and the second version includes four Christmas Cards, for which you have to pay an extra ten dollars. Here is the album cover for “from the Heart”, which kind of looks like an old Christmas card.
My guess is that if you purchase the CD that includes the X-mas cards, this is the image that you will receive. Enough for the visuals, but what about the music. When asked by Bill Flanagan of the Street News Service, why he recorded an album of traditional Christmas songs in such a straightforward manner, Bob replied, “There wasn’t any other way to play it. These songs are part of my life, just like folk songs. You have to play them straight, too.” And perhaps that is the best intro one can give for the somber collection of Christmas tunes that includes such classics as “Little Drummer Boy”, “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. For a surprisingly, honest rendition of some seasonal classic give this album a try. You’ll like it.
And now on to Sting, who has released his own eclectic recording of music that is more closely tied to theme of winter than that of Christmas. Still many of his songs embrace the Christian theme, as well as the seasonal handle. My favorite song of the album is titled, “Cherry Tree Carol”, a charming medieval tale of how Joseph is requested by the Virgin Mary to gather cherries for the oncoming winter.
Overall Stings musical effort warms your heart, as easily as a mid-January fire burning in a brick-hearth fireplace. Sting, who describes winter as his favorite of the four seasons, says this about the winter season. “Winter is the season of ghosts and ghosts, if they can be said to reside anywhere, reside here in the season of frosts and in these long hours of darkness.”
So, hopefully your bills are all paid, your woodshed is full of firewood, so you can light up a flame in the fireplace and enjoy the warmth of crackling timbers during the cold of a winter’s night. That’s the atmosphere you will find, when you play this music.
Last week I had the privilege of attending a Mediabistro function in downtown Boston. The get-together was held at a popular watering hole. right in the center of Boston’s financial district. It was the first time I’ve ever attended such an event, but I have taken several classes through the organization, and so for a good hour or so, I got to hob nob with some of the professional writers, who make their living around the great city of Boston. No great superstars here, just some entertaining and hardworking people , who seemed to know what they were doing and were fun to talk to.
Now Mediabistro is a national organization, for they are also active in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a handful of other major American cities. In fact, other places around the country had a seasonal party that occurred about the same time that the Boston party happened. Their website is fun and informative, especially their award winning blog called GalleyCat. Also check out their other blog, eBook Newser, which is entirely devoted to the up and coming e-book.
And just this week in New York, Mediabistro sponsored an e-book summit, an event which drew speakers and participants from all over the country and beyond. Anybody who wants to know how the conference went can find a very nice twitter transcript here, but this is really not necessary because the subject of e-books is all over the internet, especially if you follow the blogs of some of the more popular literary agents.
For example, Nathan Bransford recently undertook a survey among his readers to see how the e-book was faring. And guess what! The new format is gaining popularity. You can see the poll results for the last three years here . Also from Nathan is this post on November 23 of this year entitled, “The Top Ten Myths About E-books”.
Here’s another agent blogger, Agent Sydney, discussing e-book deals on the very informative agent blog, “Call My Agent”. Basically, this agent is saying that if you have already published an e-book, it might be more difficult to find a literary agent, because you have taken away the possibility of allowing the agency to handle e-book rights. And finally here is some advice from Jessica Faust at Bookends on the subject of something called e-publishing.
But the question of the day remains; is the e-book going anywhere with its limited commercial success and increased popularity? I am of the opinion that it is not, but I will be the first to admit that this assumption is anywhere from an educated hunch to a wild guess. Best of luck and good searching.
The House of Seven Gables in Salem, Mass is a genuine 17th century sea captain’s mansion and by some streak of good fortune cannot considered to be one of the many Mardi Gras-Halloween tourist traps that have come to dominate this once-notorious American city. Every October this seaside Boston suburb goes all out to celebrate All Hallows Eve. In fact, a sure sign that Halloween season is quickly approaching are the numerous brightly-colored outhouses plastic outhouses that line the street to accommodate the large street crowds that find Salen a nice place to spend the last day of October.
Meanwhile over on the north shoreline quietly stands the House of Seven Gables with an intriguing silhouette that mildly suggests some of the mysteries that Nathanial Hawthorne penned to the building. This famous house has been a non-profit venture, since 1910 when Caroline Emmerton took over the place and started the House of Seven Gables Settlement Association, which has restored the unusual house to somewhat resemble its original condition with a few amusing exceptions that were put in place to match the storyline of Hawthorne’s popular novel.
For all you architectural purists, a one-cent shop was added on the first floor, as was a secret staircase. Visitors today can climb the secret staircase (it is quite believable, but alas not part of the original design) from its hidden entrance in the wood closet in the living room and arrive in the second floor hallway of the very interesting colonial domicile. In fact the entire house is an architecture treasure and worth viewing for that reason alone.
Nearby at the harbor, is the Friendship, a realistic replica of the actual ship that plied the four seas until it was seized during the war of 1812. Today it spends much of its time in the Salem port, but in the golden years of sail, these watercraft ventured around the world, trading as they went. These ships made small fortunes for sea captains like John Turner, who built the house in 1668 (OK, that’s a little bit early for such a big ship, but you get the idea).
Nathanial Hawthorne was born just around the corner from the House of Seven gables in 1804. His father was a sea captain, who died at sea when Nathaniel was 4 years old, and his grandfather was Judge Hathorne (Nathanial changed the family name slightly supposedly to avoid direct association with the infamous ancestor)who presided at the Salem Witch Trials and reportedly was one of the few involved who never regretted his participation or showed any remorse. So you it is easy to see that when Nathanial graduated from Bowdoin college in Maine and returned to his native Salem as a young man aged in his early twenties, he most likely had a lot on his mind.
The House of Seven Gables was Hawthorne’s second popular novel, following close on the heels of The Scarlet Letter, a literary effort that is probably more popular today. The Seven Gables is a story about family shame and redemption, a topic that Nathanial understood very well because of his grandfather the judge. Readers should realize that the story that Hawthorne placed on the seven-gabled house does not parallel the real-life events that its actual residents experienced. Instead it is a colorful look at the inner world of Nathaniel Hawthorne in the early 19th century.
In snowed yesterday here in northern New England, then turned to a heavy rain and left a real big mess. One big slush pile is what I would call the deposit that Mother Nature made on our fair city. Further inland, the ski resorts and mountain residents received a good hefty amount of snow, while further to the south, our good New England neighbors got nothing but rain. However, this pile of slush that we received yesterday is now frozen solid, but at least the rain followed in ample amounts to wash the streets and side walks clean.
Strange that this real-life, slush dumping would arrive almost exactly at the same time that I had finished my six month contribution to another proverbial slush pile. That is the one accumulated by editors and especially literary agents, as they wade through the weighty stacks of paper and endless lists of e-mail submissions that eager and ambitious novelists and writers, like myself, have so graciously sent their way in hopeful anticipation of that ever-so-elusive intangible object, known as the book contract.
Fortunately, by time this latest snow event had come our way, I had called it quits on my contribution to the literary slush pile. Nearly 100 queries and only two real requests for written material have left me in the same boat as sports fans everywhere, who can be heard around the country uttering the famous words, “Wait until next year!”.
I think I have given my fair share to the ideas of literary quest during this year, but have I learned anything from my unsuccessful endeavors. The answer to that timely question is a definite yes. And here’s what I have gathered in from events.
Some writers do succeed in becoming authors via sending large numbers queries to one of the many literary agents, located around the country, but they are few and far between. I think it is fair to say that submitting unsolicited queries is a long shot, but there might be better ways to achieve the impossible. Here are a few of my suggestions.
1 – Getting to know agents at conferences and other similar gatherings will greatly improve your chance of finding an agent.
2 – Finding a referral from an established writer or other important literary person will also open doors for you.
3 – Getting an MFA in Creative Writing will not get you a book contract, but it may get you a teaching job or some other kind of similar employment.
4 – Bitching to an agent about a rejection slip is a complete waste of time and energy.
5 – Publishing short stories in well read and admired literary journals can be of great benefit.
And for those of you who are so inclined to undertake such an endeavor, here are two links that list literary agents and provide some basic info about each one. You can find Query tracker at this address and there is also Agent Query, which can be located here. They both are very good and inclusive, and also free, but I have a slight preference for Query Tracker. This is partly due to their blog and partly due to the way they organize their site.
And finally for those of you who like to keep tabs on what literary agents are up to and how they operate, here is a partial and incomplete list of some of the more popular blogs put out by agents. Probably the post popular blog is that published by Nathan Bransford, who is an agent for Curtis and Brown in San Francisco. You can check out the blog here and find out why for yourself why he is so popular. Another interesting blog is Call My Agent, which is put out by an Australian literary agent, who goes by the name of Agent Sydney. I have also mentioned the blog put out by Query Tracker. This daily (weekdays only) posting actually involves four bloggers, who post on a rotating basis. And then there is Guide To Literary Agents put out by Chuck Sambuchino, which is always a good read. And of course, last but not least is the fabulous rant once published by a fictitious Miss Snark. She hasn’t posted since May 2007, but her fabulous and humorous comments are still worth the time and effort. Be sure to check them out as the whole blog can still be read online.
Good day and I hope you find this post helpful, Everett Autumn