Mind Fields – “Missing: One Male Libido”

Mind Fields

LOST: ONE MALE LIBIDO This libido (center figure) was last seen on December 31, 2016.  It is approximately ten feet tall, six feet wide and four feet deep.  It has between twelve and twenty horns of various descriptions.  It’s covered in long brown fur and has eyes all the way around its cylindrical body.  The number of fingers, tentacles and hands it may possess are unknown as it can sprout extra limbs at moments of high stress.  It is not very intelligent but possesses a wild cunning that can catch pursuers off guard. If you see this libido DO NOT APPROACH IT. DO NOT ATTEMPT A DIALOGUE. IT IS NOT AMENABLE TO REASON. Call the local sheriff’s department, dial 911 or email me at artsdigiphoto@gmail.com.

There are commonly available and well known techniques that calm this libido but I discourage their use except in extremely dangerous situations. Under proper conditions this is a highly trained and valuable libido. I am reluctant to cause it damage or harm. You might call it by one of its names: Thor, Zeus or Johnny. This tactic may backfire, however, for if it is Johnny and is called Thor or Zeus it gets very upset. Likewise if it is Thor and is called Johnny, etc… The best approach is simply to say, “Hey big guy. How’s it hangin’.” It has been trained to recognize this as a non-threatening mnemonic. It may trigger my libido’s desire to return to its so-called master.

I repeat: DO NOT APPROACH THIS LIBIDO. CALL THE AUTHORITIES OR NOTIFY ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE at artsdigiphoto@gmail.com.
REWARD OFFERED: I will give you, free of charge,  my guaranteed technique for healing all stress, depression and emotional trauma.

SPECIAL CAUTION: Do not mistake this libido for the so-called Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti or Skunk Ape. It is not a primate and is immune to veterinary drugs. Rather than seek out police or Forest Rangers it may be more useful to find an old shaman from the Chumash or Miwok tribes. A qualified shaman will likely be more useful in the safe return of this treasured libido.

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Bowlesian! – Itsies

Itsies

by Jeff Bowles

*This story and others like it can be found in my collection Brave New Multiverse, available on Amazon now.


I introduced Pamela to my itsy on our first date. Oh I know, most people wait until their second or third, but I really liked Pamela. Straight away I could tell we were going to hit it off.

“I’m glad we decided to do this,” I told her.

She narrowed her eyes, “Why is your itsy dressed like a teddy bear?”

My itsy was dressed like a teddy bear. Head to toe, fluffy ears, fluffy tail, round little tummy. It was his favorite outfit. I wasn’t going to tell him he couldn’t wear it.

Itsies aren’t really people. They look and act like people, and they definitely do have minds of their own, but they’re more like little mini extensions of ourselves, you know what I mean? Like my itsy, I call him Tug. He looks exactly like me. That’s pretty common. Itsies live on the tops of people’s heads and sleep in their hair. They spend most of the day under their hats.

My hat was off just then, sitting there on our table. I supposed Pamela wasn’t quite ready to take her own hat off.

I smiled at her, beamed at her, actually. I said to Tug, “Don’t be rude, Tug. Say hello to Pamela.”

Tug said, “Fuck yourself!”

I sighed. “Now Tug, you know I don’t like that language.”

“Fuck it! You introduce me!” His voice was high, squeaky, a shrill, keening falsetto. “You promised me cookies! Give me my cookies or I’ll eat Pamela alive!”

I sighed again, reached into my pocket to retrieve a miniature box of animal crackers. I set the crackers atop my head. Tug started noshing and gobbling. I felt a sense of calm wash over me as he did.

“Are you sure you want to keep him out like that?” said Pamela.

I glanced around the restaurant. My favorite Vietnamese place. Really good phở and bánh mì sandwiches. Rich, mouthwatering smell of seared beef and pork. Portraits on the walls of Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. The only other customers, an old white man and an old white woman, struggled with chop sticks and rice noodles in a corner booth.

“Do you think anybody minds?” I said.

Pamela shrugged. “I don’t. Only, you know, if he eats too much his stomach is liable to explode. That sort of thing can happen, you know. He might get the wrong idea, surrounded by all this food.”

“More cookies!” said Tug.

I gave him another box of animal crackers.

“So um, Tom,” said Pamela, “how do you like working for my father?”

I met Pamela at her father’s office. High-powered advertising, ads for humans and itsies alike. I was low man on the totem pole. I’d stared at Pamela’s picture on his desk for months before I actually saw her in person. Those deep brown eyes, those full, pouty lips.

I sat there studying her face and caught myself imagining waterfalls, thunderstorms, exploding geysers. Things wet. Things loud and gushing.

“Tom wants to fuck you,” said Tug.

“Tug!”

“It’s true, Tom. You’re not fooling anyone. Hey lady, how many cookies you think I can fit in my mouth?”

“I … I don’t know,” said Pamela.

“A fistful. That’s how many. Watch.”

Then Tug made more noshing, gobbling sounds. I felt another wave of calm wash over me, even though I knew my face must’ve been five shades redder.

“Pamela, listen …”

“It’s okay, Tom,” she said. “If human beings were any good at saying what they really want, God never would have given us itsies to begin with.”

“I guess so.”

“And I’m flattered.”

“You are?”

Pamela sighed. “Well you know, my father being who he is. Most guys just pine for me and never bother to ask me out. Oh, I hope I didn’t sound full of myself just then. They pine. They just do, you know?”

“I do know,” I said.

She shook her head. “So either I don’t get dates at all, or I get to date the really crazy ones who think their tiny little men are God’s gift.”

“I don’t think my tiny little man is God’s gift. I’m nothing special. He isn’t anything special, either. My tiny little man’s only a few inches tall. He’s so tiny–“

“We are still talking about your itsy, right?” said Pamela.

“The point, Pam, is that even though I’ve got a few shortcomings, whatever the cost, whatever it takes, I made the decision to always be brave and to be the kind of man I am meant to be.”

“Hmm. I like that. When did you make that decision?”

“Honestly?”

“Yeah.”

“I decided it the moment I laid eyes on you.”

Pamela smiled. “That’s sweet.”

* * * * *

I didn’t know it at the time, but Pamela was a very unhappy woman. She hadn’t always been. She was sunny when she was younger, the most positive person in the room. Just lately, as the years had begun to mount up, and forty was suddenly closer than thirty, failed relationship after failed relationship had left her feeling damaged, marooned, poisonous and poisoned

She’d gotten into feeding her itsy late night snacks. Our little men and our little women don’t come with instruction manuals. God gave them to us. Or evolution or whatever. We come screaming from the womb. Our itsies come screaming after. If God did it, it was because he understood men and women are masters of self-deception. If it was evolution, then nature randomly selected humans to have a miniature rude version of themselves camped out on the tops of their heads.

Anyway, bad things happen when you feed itsies late night snacks. Pamela knew this. Even so, cold fried chicken, piece for her, piece for her itsy. Double pepperoni, double cheese pizza. Everything double. She was ordering for two, after all.

Thing about feeding an itsy is, it makes you feel better. Makes you calmer, tames the beast. They are the id. The inner child which dwells deep inside, that which is never at peace, always lusting, always wanting more and more and more.

* * * * *

We ate our meals. We talked and joked. At some point Tug said, “It’s half past a baboon’s bright red ass.” And we both knew it was time to go home.

On the sidewalk, we hugged.

“I had a nice time,” I said.

“Yeah, me too,” Pamela replied.

“You mean it?”

She laughed. “I do mean it.”

“Walk you to your car?”

“Sure.”

Brown and yellow leaves crunched beneath our feet as we huddled together and crossed to the sidewalk. A harvest moon shone high above the tops of buildings. It was autumn in the city. A cold breeze blew and Pamela scrunched herself down into her Barbour jacket.

“I’m glad you asked me out, Tom,” she said.

“Yeah, me too. Would you like to do it again?”

“I would.”

“I know this great Greek place over on–Oh my god, that woman is crushing that car!”

“What?”

“Over there! The parking lot! That woman is–“

“Oh, shit.”

“–crushing that car and she’s–“

“That’s no woman, Tom,” said Pamela

“It isn’t?!” I exclaimed.

Tug rustled around under my ball cap. “Let me see!”

“Petunia!” Pamela shrieked. “I told you to stay at home!”

Petunia? Dear Lord. She was eight feet tall and had more muscles than human beings are supposed to have. Only she wasn’t a human being. Thigh muscles, neck muscles, rippling biceps, triceps, sheening and glossy, bare breasts of muscle, even her head seemed like it was one big, veiny, throbbing muscle.

“Oh Tom, what you must think of me.” Pamela said.

“She’s crushing that car.”

“That’s my car.”

“And she is way too big for that pair of underwear.”

“That’s my underwear, too. Oh Tom, I am so embarrassed.”

Petunia looked like Pamela coated in liquid Schwarzenegger. She was lying on her side on top of the car, eating a chicken. Not a piece of chicken. Not a cooked chicken, either. Petunia was stuffing a whole live chicken into her face. It clucked and screamed and fought like a little chicken champ.

Petunia bellowed, “Down the hatch!” And then, the chicken disappeared.

Pamela ran to her.

“Bad girl, Petunia!” she said. “That’s a bad, bad girl!”

Petunia belched and grew a whole foot taller. Pamela’s car crunched and all four tires popped.

Pop! Pop, pop, pop!

Big Petunia made a queasy face. “Was that me? I think that was me.”

“No it wasn’t you!” said Pamela. “If it was you, the shockwave would’ve killed us all!”

My mouth hung open. My eyes were wide like Vietnamese noodle bowls.

I heard Tug say, “Damnit, man, let me see her!”

The ball cap popped off my head. Tug gasped.

“That’s a whole lotta woman!” His tiny hands and feet dug into my scalp.

I stooped, grabbed my hat, and made my way to Pamela and nudged her with an arm.

“I don’t get it,” I said. “Why are you wearing your hat if you left your itsy at home?”

Pamela shook her head. Her eyes glistened in the harsh orange neon light. “Oh Tom, I am just so ashamed. I fed her and fed her, and she just ate and ate, and she hasn’t stopped eating, not in weeks. I just wanted to feel good for a damn change.”

“Weeks?” I said. “You’ve been feeding her for weeks?”

Pamela wiped her eyes. “I know you think I’m this awesome person. I know everybody thinks that. I’m just not.”

“Pamela …” I said. I wrapped her in a hug.

Petunia rose onto her knees, car metal creaking and glass shattering to sparkling pellets. She grimaced at me, pointed one long veiny finger. “Hey you! Lover boy! Hands off the merchandise!”

“Me?” I said.

“Did I fucking stutter? You! You wormy little bedsheet stain! You and your miniscule, worthless, man-doll of an itsy!”

Tug shrieked. “She means me! She knows I exist! How do I look? Is my teddy bear costume on straight?”

“Petunia, stop,” said Pamela. “I’m sorry, Tom. She’s a bit roided-out at the moment.”

“Roided-out!” said Petunia. “You ain’t seen me roided-out. Not yet, sister.”

She hopped to her feet and stepped off Pamela’s car. Thud. She dwarfed us. My eyes were level with her enormous, erect, inch-long nipples. Big Petunia took her head in her hands. She cracked her neck left, cracked it right. She slammed her fist into her palm. Again. Again. It made a loud, solid thocking sound. Thock. Thock. Thock.

I stared at that fist. I was dumbstruck. Couldn’t think of a word to say. Pamela pulled away from me. Her eyes darted from me to Petunia. Nobody said a thing. Just that heavy thock, thock, thock.

“Gah!” said Tug. “I can’t take it anymore! Do it! I need to see you in action!”

“Tug,” I said, “you’re not helping.”

“Not trying to help, you human gutter ball! God, I need to see you in action. Oh, it’s killing me!”

“Killing you?” said Petunia. “Little man, down the hatch you go.”

She plucked Tug off my head, clutched his body between a massive finger and a mighty thumb.

“No, don’t!” screamed Pamela.

But it was too late. Petunia ate Tug. Swallowed him whole. Gulp and then, he was gone.

“Now it’s your turn, lover boy!” she said.

She took hold of my arm and lifted me up by it until we were mouth to mouth and eyelash to eyelash.

I’m not going to lie. Fear took hold and I thought I might cry or scream or piss my pants. But instead, I took a moment and told myself a few choice words. You decided to always be brave. The moment you laid eyes on Pamela, you decided to be the man you were meant to be.

I hocked a wad of phlegm and spat in Petunia’s eye. She wiped it away, glared at me, then grinned.

“Mistake number two, lover boy,” she said.

Pamela beat against her, slamming impotent fists at her itsy’s taut, flexing abdominal muscles. She kept screaming, “You monster! You monster!” But Petunia paid her no attention. Her eyes cooked me like sliced beef in scalding-hot Vietnamese broth. Breath stinking like rotten chicken corpses and little itsy men.

“You listen here,” she said. “No man is good enough for my Pam. No man, not nowhere, not no-how. You don’t think I know what you are, lover boy? You don’t think I know you’ll hurt her like all the rest?”

Pamela was shrieking now. “Stop! I said stop it!”

“She feeds me so she’ll be happy,” said Petunia, cheeks red and quivering with barely suppressed rage. “She feeds me so pukes like you can’t touch her no more. I am going to eat you now. And you are going to let me do it. I like my meat raw. I like it tenderized.”

“Stop making threats,” I said. “If you’re going to eat me, go on and–“

She wrapped her arm around my waist. She wound me up, and then she threw me clear across the parking lot.

I was airborne. A million thoughts occurred at once.

No more id.

No more inner child.

God, he was a rotten little itsy.

God, he was just awful, wasn’t he?

Yeah, but he was my rotten little–

I crashed through the plate glass window of the ticket booth at the end of the parking lot.

I went through up to my waist. My legs caught on the glass. I felt a knifing kind of pain. Lacerations. The feeling of being cut to pieces. I screamed.

Petunia stomped over to the booth. She stuck her head through the window. “Oh, you big baby! It’s just a scratch.”

But I could see blood, and I could feel that knifing, that gouging, those lacerations.

“Big baby! Big baby!” she said. “You want to cry? I’ll give you something to cry about.”

She reached through and clamped a hand down over my head. Bam! She slammed my head against the concrete floor. Blam! She did it again. Boom! One more time.

I saw stars and moons and clucking chickens taking flight, flying like real birds, all around my head. And I saw my itsy, poor little Tug. I saw chicken beaks biting into him. Saw chicken teeth chomping on his little brains.

I mumbled, “Chicken teeth.”

Petunia leaned further into the booth. “Huh?”

“Do … chickens … have teeth?”

“Don’t think so, champ.” And then Petunia broke my arm.

Snap!

I howled and spat and spoke in tongues.

Pamela crept up behind Petunia. She jabbed at her with a tire iron.

“You leave my man alone!” she said.

She used the prying crowbar end like a mafia hitman might use an icepick, sliding it into Petunia’s ear. Seemed like Pamela was trying to scramble her itsy’s brains. Then again, it also seemed like the world was falling away from me and growing browner and browner and more and more like nap time yes into the sticky syrup, captain I soiled myself I apologize most sincerely must be dying, please sew my coffin from clean undies.

The brain scrambling thing didn’t work. Petunia wrenched the tire iron from her ear. It was coated in blood, but the big girl was still on her feet.

“Pamela!” she said. “Oh, so we’re calling him your man now?”

Petunia backhanded her. Pamela flew from view.

“I have had it with you, Pam,” Petunia bellowed. “I have absolutely had it! Shit! Fuck it! Let’s eat!”

She tore off my shoe, my sock, and then she stuck my whole foot in her mouth. She bit down. Took a few toes.

It didn’t hurt like I expected. In fact, I felt kind of good. Yes, suddenly, inexplicably, very comfortable and very calm. The face she made was indecipherable. Maybe it was all the glistening muscles. It was the kind of expression a person wears when they’re concentrating really hard. Or maybe the kind of expression a person wears when they drink too much soda and have surgery, bubbly-pain like diving ocean deep and emerging with the bends. She made that face, then she spat the rest of my foot out.

“Oh,” she said, and then again, “Oh.”

Blood dripped from the corner of her mouth.

She said, “Oh.”

And then her stomach exploded. Blood, guts, muscles, chickens, it all burst out like a cheap New Year’s popper loaded with Halloween gore.

Pop!

And it splattered me like sopping red confetti.

A tiny voice said, “See? You see that? Ate too much. You gotta watch that, sister.”

Petunia slumped against the ticket booth. A little man, my little man, emerged from the carnage-crater that was her stomach.

“Tug?” I said.

Petunia’s dead, twitching eyes stared right at me.

“Yeah, boss?” Tug ate a chunk of something small and pink. He was covered in blood, a few inches taller than when Petunia had swallowed him. His teddy bear suit had ripped and popped its seams.

“Stop eating,” I mumbled.

“Yeesh, boss, you look rough.”

“Stop eating. For God’s sake, stop eating.”

“Huh? Why the hell should I stop? It’s delicious. That girl was well fed, man.”

Every time he took a bite, I felt it, that calmness and warmth. It was nice. Felt better than the pain. Even so, I mumbled, “Tug, you have got to stop eating.”

I was powerless to stop him. Couldn’t move. I was bleeding to death and I knew it.

“Well maybe I don’t want to stop,” said Tug. “Maybe I’m sick to death of taking orders from you. Yeah, you know what? I think we need a regime change. I think I ought to be the one calling the–“

Pamela snatched the chunk of Petunia from his hands and smacked him upside the head.

“Don’t be stupid,” she said.

“Hey, I was eating that!”

She smacked him again.

“And don’t talk back. I’ve had enough of disobedient itsies to last a lifetime.”

Tug shouted, “Who the hell do you think you–“

She smacked him.

“Goddamnit, quit smacking me!”

She raised her hand for another.

“All right! All right!” he said. “Nasty woman! Nasty!”

“Go get in my car. The crushed one. Bring me my cell phone. We need to call an ambulance. Treat you like I should’ve treated her.”

Tug grumbled and swore, but he obeyed nonetheless. Once he was gone, Pamela carefully picked her way over the broken glass, past the ruined, bloody form of her former itsy, and through the window until she was crouching beside me.

“Oh Tom,” she said. “I am so sorry.”

“S’okay,” I said.

“No, it’s not okay. I created a monster. Oh what a mess. Tom, I am so, so sorry.”

“Yer’kay?” I said.

“What? I didn’t hear you.”

“Asked r’you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Itser’s dead.”

Pamela sighed. “I know. I feel kind of empty now. No, that’s not right. I feel full. Way, way too full. Like I’ve got all this emotion now and I don’t know where to put it, how to choke it down. You know what I mean?”

“No,” I said.

“Tom? Stay with me, now. Keep your eyes open. Tom, you’ve earned your second date.”

Eyelids were heavy. I tried to smile at her, but it was so hard, so hard.

“S’cond date?”

“That’s right, Tom. Second date. Just survive for me, okay?”

“‘Kay.”

“Okay?”

“‘Kay.”

I survived. Of course I did. How else would I be telling you this story? I underwent months of hospitalization and rehab and all that stuff. Learning to cope with fewer toes and all. All that horrible hospital food really made me slim down. Tug slimmed down, too. He got regular-sized again. We had a nice long talk about why it’s okay to eat animal crackers but not okay to, for instance, eat whole live chickens or people’s internal organs.

I had my second date with Pamela. And my third and fourth. She’s not the same since her itsy died. She’s tense, a bundle of nerves. She goes to this support group now for people whose itsies have died prematurely. Sometimes it seems like it helps. Sometimes not. There’s a whole population of people in this world who no longer have the means to quell and suppress the pain in their lives. You know what she said while we were snuggling on the couch the other night?

“I feel so horrible all the time now. How do I cope without her?”

“How any of us copes,” I said. “You’ve got me now. I’ll be your itsy if you need me to be.”

She smiled at me. “My Dad was right about you. He said that Tom guy, he’s a good one, Pam. You should hang on to that guy.”

“Smart man. Brilliant, actually.”

We leaned in for a deep kiss.

Tug hopped off my head and started kicking at Pamela’s scalp.

“No kissing! Last time you kissed him, you didn’t put out! I will eat you. Do you hear me? I will eat you alive!”

Pamela flicked him across the room. I didn’t do anything about it. Kissing Pam was so much better than feeding the id.

END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Book Reviews: Double Booked & Bump in the Night

I recently supported a Kickstarter for Kevin J. Anderson and his latest Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. novel, Double Booked. (You can find out more about the Kickstarter campaign here.) As a bonus, I also received a new short story from same series, Bump in the Night. How cool is that?

I’ll be honest. I knew I was going to love Double Booked before I ever started reading it. That’s why I supported the Kickstarter to get it. I’ve read several, if not all of the Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. series, and I have reviewed them here on Writing to be Read. (You can find my previous review of the Dan Shamble Zomnibus: Death Warmed Over & Working Stiff here.)

I was not disappointed. Double Booked is filled with Dan Shamble’s ghoulish zombie humor and all the loveable characters we’ve grown to love from this series. Once again, Dan, his ghostly girlfriend, Sheyenne, his human lawyer partner, Robin, and his vampire half-daughter, Alvina, are trying to save the unnatural quarter of the world after The Big Uneasy brought all manner of monsters to life. Dan Shamble is charged with the protection of the retired eccentric librarian who some say is responsible for bringing about The Big Uneasy, but when whole neighborhoods begin disappearing and the book behind it all is stolen, Dan Shamble has more than enough to keep him shambling through the Unnatural Quarter trying to solve this double mystery.

Likewise, with the short story bonus book, “Bump in the Night”, was equally entertaining as Dan Shamble and company try to save the Boogeyman from his overbearing aunties. Even though it is a brief tale, it’s an entertaining read.

Honestly, you know any of the books in the Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. series, by Kevin J. Anderson, are going to be an entertaining read, so Double Booked was no surprise, as it kept things rolling so readers won’t want to put it down. The bonus short story, “Bump in the Night”, was a pleasant surprise-not because it was an enjoyable read, but because it was an unexpected bonus. I can’t find it on Amazon or on the WordFire Press site, to offer my review there, but I give both books five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


At the Movies: Lost City

After watching Lost City, starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, and featuring a cameo appearance by Brad Pitt, all I can say is that it was okay once you get over the fact that the plot was very familiar, imitating the plot from the 1984 movie with Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglass and Dany DeVito, Romancing the Stone. A romance adventure writer gets caught up in a real search for lost treasures and goes on an adventure, which could be the plot for one of her stories.

Sandra needs to come down off the Botox wagon before she is unrecognizable, like so many Hollywood has-beens. This actress whom I used to love to watch, now looks like a puffed up chipmunk, who refuses to age gracefully. Bullock is about to join the ranks of Botox-faces like Joan Rivers, Reba McIntyre, and Sally Fields, and as far as I’m concerned, that is not a good thing.

This movie isn’t bad, but Bullock is no Kathleen Turner; Channing Tatum is no Michael Douglass; and while Brad Pitt is easier on the eyes than Danny DeVito, he’s not in the movie long enough to even be called a comic sidekick. The same, but different is what this movie is, but with maybe too much the same and different that isn’t that great. The humorous scenes weren’t that funny, the exciting scenes just weren’t that exciting and I had a hard time buying in. Face it. A drive through the jungle with feet sticking out of the car, tied to the chair leg, in true life would have resulted in a possible broken ankle or other injury. Couldn’t they have come up with something just a bit more original, and humorous than traipsing through the jungle in an evening gown? It’s been done a thousand times. Really.

Lost City was fun to watch, if slightly unbelievable, and once I set aside the fact that I seen another, better version of this story years ago, it was quite entertaining.

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Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a M.A. in Publishing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you.

She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”); and Where Spirits Linger (“The People Upstairs”). Her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, and her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, are both available in both digital and print editions at most of your favorite book distributors.

When not writing, she keeps up her author’s blog, Writing to be Read, where she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. In addition to creating her own very small publishing house in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. As well as serving as judge for the Western Writers of America and sitting on the editorial team for Western State Colorado University and WordFire Press for the Gilded Glass anthology and editing Weird Tales: The Best of the Early Years 1926-27, under Kevin J. Anderson & Jonathan Maberry.

In her spare time, she is bird watching, or gardening, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


WordCrafter “Will Write For Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog Tour Day 4

Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour

Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection inspired by Venetian history. The fictional character, Alexis Lynn, wrote these stories in the novel Will Write for Wine by Sara W. McBride, but they are fun stand-alone adventures to be enjoyed with an excellent glass of Italian wine.

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Today’s tour stop comes with a fun interview with author Sara W. McBride in addition to her guest post. So kick back a while and enjoy the tidbits offered here as you learn more about Sara and her wonderful books.

Introduction

Sara W. McBride, like many modern-day biological researchers, invents new swear words to sling at million-dollar machines while locked in a dark hole of a decaying academic hall. This has caused her to witness ghosts and create a romantic fantasy life within her head, which she now puts down on very non-technological paper with her favorite Jane Austen style quill pen. 

Her first novel in the Alexis Lynn series, Will Write for Wine, and the companion short story collection, Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard, both set in Venice, Italy, were recently released by Puck Publishing. She’s hard at work on the second Alexis Lynn novel, a Regency mystery series, and a haunted play. She strongly feels the world needs more haunted plays.   

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Give-Away!

Don’t forget the awesome giveaway Sara is running on this tour, with a digital copy of each book up for grabs. You can enter the give-away for a chance to win at the link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d9280cae1/?

Image of Lazzaretto Vecchio
Credit: Wikipedia, Lazzaretto Vecchio Island, Plague Hospital

Interview with author Sara W. McBride

Why do you write?

Sara: To be immortal! Just kidding. It’s my fabulous mental escape into worlds and lives that I wish I could live.

Please tell us a bit about your publishing journey?

Sara: In 2014, I organized, edited, and published the first two NaNoWriMo Los Angeles anthologies. Then I helped with the next three. The group is still producing an annual anthology. It was a great way to learn the logistics of self-publishing and how to shape short stories. This year, my husband and I launched Puck Publishing, and we’re hoping to publish something every month. 

Over the past twenty years, I’ve written fourteen bad novels that I’m glad I never published. LOL!

What made you decide to self-publish?

Sara: In the late 1990s, I was an assistant to a Hollywood book agent and I learned the ins and outs of traditional publishing and movie book deals. The agents and publishers were so parasitic on the author, it gave me the willies. In those days, traditional publishing paid high advances, but the treatment of the authors still put a bad taste in my mouth.

Today, they rarely pay above a $10,000 advance to a new author, they expect the author to do all the marketing, and then the publisher keeps the copyright and sells it off whenever they like, to whomever they like, and the book goes out of print. 

I’ve seen too many friends get screwed by traditional publishing.

Will Write for Wine takes place in the artistic and romantic setting of Venice. Have you explored the physical locations for your books in the flesh, in order to get the details right when writing about these locations? Have you been there? Have you lived there? Why did you choose this setting?

Sara: I’ve had five research trips to Venice, totaling about five weeks. I’ve been in almost every church and museum of Venice, and a few places I probably wasn’t supposed to enter. I apparently don’t understand the meaning of yellow caution tape or closed doors.

Most of the Venice locations in the book are real places, but Manu’s osteria is fictional. However, I stole menu items from many of my favorite osterias in Venice.

I think Venice is one of the most magical and haunted cities in the world. Many people describe it as a floating museum; the entire city is trapped in the Renaissance. But if you simply sit still, sip a glass of wine in a campo or piazza, listen to the opera singers, and watch the people and pigeons, there’s a vibe that sinks into you. Every part of the city is simultaneously dead and alive. It is that barrier, that thin line between life and death that pervades every stone, stench, and serenade of Venice. Delicious!  

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard involves Venetian history. What is the fasciation of this area for you?

Sara: I’m a history nerd! Venice is one of those cities that drips with history, but not just through architecture and museums, through the people, the food, the many generations that still live in the same house, the ghosts that are accepted as common place, and the street signs. Ponte del Diavolo, the Devil’s Bridge is bound to inspire a story in anyone. Gheto Novo, or the New Ghetto, caused me to question the history of the Jewish community within Venice.

It’s difficult for me to walk from one piazza to another in Venice without my mind percolating a story based purely on the sights, sounds, and smells. And I love the smells of Venice. Both the good and the bad. Only Venice can induce an entire story purely through its smells. I’ve learned to navigate the labyrinth of Venice by sniffing the air. How is that not a story!

Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Sara: I don’t know the end until I get there. I just write into a dark void and somehow it all works out. It keeps the process magical and fun. I used to outline, but I always got bored with the book before I finished it. Outlining turned writing into work. Ick! Writing needs to be fun for both the writer and the reader. 

Is your writing process plot driven or character driven?

Sara: Character driven! Definitely.

Do you write with music, or do you prefer quiet?

Sara: Quiet! Or the hubbub of a coffee house crowd, hotel lobby, airplane terminal.

Atmosphere is important. What do you do to get into the writing zone?

Sara: There’s a zone? How do I find that? I want a writing zone. I just go about my day and jot down paragraphs, dialogue, and then type them in when I’m next at my computer.

How much of the story do you know before the actual writing begins?

Sara: NONE! Okay, maybe the opening scene. But usually not even that. Just a character in a place, who is feeling something.

Wine plays a big role in your character, Alexis Lynn’s life. What is the attraction?

Sara: I love wine! I also love beer, whisky (Scottish spelling), Compari cocktails, and most dishes cooked with truffles. However, to preserve my liver, I typically only drink once-a-week, so it’s a big event for me. I cherish my weekly glass of wine and how it complements my meal. Alexis drinks way more than I do. Fictional wine can’t damage a fictional liver.

Are you a wine connoisseur? What is your favorite wine?

Sara: I love wine! I once dreamed of becoming a wine sommelier. Isn’t my favorite wine obvious? Soave! Like Alexis Lynn, I also discovered Soave on my first trip to Venice. It’s been a favorite ever since, but difficult to find in America. Hence, more motivation to travel!

What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Sara: My husband and I got engaged four days after we met. Unlike Alexis Lynn and her marital troubles, my husband and I have had a relatively easy, adventurous, crazy, happy and supportive marriage. This summer, we’re celebrating out twenty-five year anniversary. But I don’t know how we’re celebrating. Any suggestions?

You’ve got a scientific background, like your character. How much of Alexis Lynn is you?

Sara: Um … She’s totally me! Are authors allowed to confess that?

What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Sara: Morning, if given a choice. But it happens all day.

What’s the hardest part of the story for you to write: beginning, middle or end?

Sara: I write chapters as if they are short stories, and then I arrange them into a book when I think I’ve developed something that has a beginning, middle or end. Is that weird? I don’t write chronologically. And I have chapters/stories that didn’t make it into this book that will be in the next one.

Alexis Lynn has a conversation and wine tasting with Casanova. Would you like to talk a bit about the inspiration for that scene?

Sara: I was enjoying my weekly glass of wine while reading the memoirs of Casanova and thought, “Man, this guy would give horrible marriage advice!” Then I grabbed my computer.

Besides Casanova, which author, poet or artist, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Sara: Lord Byron, or course! He’s bloomin’ brilliant, but people only remember him as a seducer. Sure, he seduced a few women, usually married ones, and has some famous bastards; the famous mathematician, Lady Lovelace, is one of his illegitimate children. But he also wrote the first English-Armenian dictionary, and was a very, charming, intelligent debater. His letters are filled with wisdom and humor. In an incredibly elegant manner, almost complimentary, he was able to inform someone of their idiocy. I would love to have lunch with Lord Byron, even if he spent an hour politely insulting me.

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Sara: Travel! I also love hiking, playing board games, reading every genre, watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies in the middle of summer, and learning Italian so I can one day move to Venice.

What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Sara: Pulling together a bunch of short stories into a cohesive novel and then figuring out what scenes are missing.

It was funny with Will Write for Wine, my husband included a little gondola and gondolier on the cover, and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have any gondola scenes in the book. Both the gondola scenes were the last scenes I wrote.

If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Sara: Move to Venice and write more!

What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story/screenplay? What’s the least fun part?

Sara: Most fun? Dialogue! I’m originally a playwright, so I love dialogue. 

Least fun? Killing a character I like. Killing a nasty character is delightful, but killing a kind character, or a character I’ve spent years with, is heart-wrenching.

How much non-writing work, (research, marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Sara: I do everything myself, but my husband does the cover art and most of the website maintenance. We have fun working together.

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play Alexis Lynn?

Sara: Oh! Juicy question. Reese Witherspoon. Yep, definitely Reese Witherspoon. Mid-40s, cute, and like Alexis, she exudes positivity even when her world is falling apart.

What goals do you set for yourself in your writing?

Sara: Don’t plan ahead. If I don’t know what’s going to happen, neither does the reader. This is really funny because I’m writing a murder-mystery right now and halfway through the book, my murderer, who I didn’t know was the murderer, just totally confessed to the murder. So, um, geez, I guess that book is going to be a different style of murder mystery. LOL! So, I guess my goal in writing is to always be surprised.

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Stole-Lord-Byrons-Bastard-ebook/dp/B0B27TS5GL

As you can see, Sara is an author who loves what she does ad is pretty comfortable in her own skin. Now, let’s hear about her inspiration for the fourth story in Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard, “Lazzaretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron”.

Guest Post by Author Sara W. McBride

Inspiration for “A Dowry for Saffron”

What inspired the story, “Lazzaretto Veccchio: A Dowry for Saffron?”

“Sia laudato il signor Iddio non ci sono stati morti.”

Bless the Lord, there have been no deaths [today].

December 24, 1630, in Sant’Eufemia, Venice.

* * *

This quote is from the opening of a Nature paper, “A digital reconstruction of the 1630-1631 large plague outbreak in Venice,” by Gianrocco Lazzari, et al. Published Oct. 20, 2020.

* * *

I’ve always been fascinated by the European plagues, but when I read the above Nature paper, the effects of the 1630-31 plague on Venice consumed my mornings for several weeks. This especially seemed relevant while living through a new global pandemic, thankfully with much lower mortality rates.

In 1348-49, bubonic plague killed one-third of the European population, up to 25 million people, and Venice, as a crossroads for international trade, lost half its residents. Imagine living in a bustling city of 100,000 people, and half of them die within 18 months. It would be horrifying and haunting.

In response to the devastating plague of 1348-49, Lazzaretto Vecchio was established in 1423 as the first quarantine island in the Mediterranean region, and was used to separate the healthy from the sick during Venetian plagues. Lazzaretto Nuovo was established shortly afterward as a place where ships suspected to carry sickness among their passengers or crew were anchored for 40 days. English acquired the word “quarantine” from the Italian term for 40 days, quaranta giorni. The lagoon island of Poveglia also became a quarantine outpost sometime in the 15th century. It’s rumored that half the soil of Poveglia is human ash from burned plague corpses. Then it became a mental hospital from 1922-1968. No wonder the place is one of the most haunted locations in Europe.

Considering the 15th century world had no idea how disease was spread, the idea of quarantining the sick or foreigners arriving from plague stricken areas was very innovative.

The story, “Lazzeretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron,” takes place during Venice’s plague of 1630-31, which killed a third of the city’s population. Both plague islands were used to isolate and treat the sick, however, caregivers were needed to work at the island hospitals, mostly because, I assume, workers kept dying of plague. 

The Italian city of Ferrara had a long history of successfully avoiding plagues that ravaged other parts of Italy. They closed their city gates and screened all arrivals for any signs of disease. They insisted that Fedi, proofs, identification papers from a plague-free zone must be presented. Ferrara, starting as early as medieval times, engaged in public sanitation campaigns, sweeping away garbage and liberally spreading lime powder on any surface that had come into contact with an infected person.

When an Italian physician, Girolamo Fracastoro, published a text in 1546 describing the “seeds of disease” as something that could stick to clothes and objects, Ferrara increased their sanitation practices during plagues and burned the clothes of any infected people. Removing garbage, spreading lime powder and burning infected clothing probably reduced the flea pestilence that actually carried Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague.

Many natural remedies were prescribed for protection against the plague, but a medicinal oil designed by a Spanish physician, Pedro Castagno, was written into Ferrara’s, “Reggimento contra la peste,” regimen against the plague. The oil, called Composito, was recommended to be applied to the body.

“Before getting up in the morning, after lighting a fire of scented woods (juniper, laurel and vine shoots), warm the clothes and above all the shirt, rub first the heart region, near the fire to ease balm absorption, then the throat. [Afterwards], wash hands and face with acqua chiara (clean water) mixed with wine or vinegar of roses, with which sometimes all the body should be cleaned, using a sponge.”

Ferrara city’s regimen against the plague

The contents of Composito was never fully disclosed, but researchers examined the records of materials ordered by Castagno and determined that the oil contained venom from scorpions and vipers, and myrrh and Crocus sativus, which is a saffron flower from which the filaments produce the golden spice saffron. Both myrrh and saffron are known to have antibacterial properties, as does scorpion venom with the bonus that it’s also a pain reliever. So basically, Composito was an early antibiotic and pain reliever combo. Pretty nifty!

According to census records, Venice’s population was around 140,000 in 1624. By 1633, that number had fallen to 102,000. More than 43,000 deaths were recorded over just three years, with nearly half of them taking place between September and December 1630. The city of Venice began several public works projects, like the grand Baroque church, Santa Maria della Salute, greeting guests at the entrance to the Grand Canal. The church’s construction began in November 1630 with the goal of keeping citizens employed and maintaining art and labor skills.

The city of Venice also purchased food for the quarantined, both in the city and on the plague islands. It is logical to speculate that in the early months of 1631, Venice might have asked Ferrara, a city with success at conquering the plague, if their convents could be paid in order to encourage volunteers to work at the plague islands. My story is fictitious, but the stage was set for the events I describe in the story. I also talked about pirates in the story. Yes, there were pirates at this time: mercenary pirates and government deployed pirates (particularly from England).

My story focuses on a group of nuns who have been “volunteered” by their convents, and how they sacrifice one nun into a marriage in order to secure their much needed ingredient of saffron for Composito, their only hope for survival on the plague islands. The politics and finances of Venice in 1631 created a world where this story could have happened. There’s a lot of history not recorded in text books, and this is a story that no one would want recorded. 

Something fun for readers:

In my research of the plague islands, I was surprised by the lack of ghost ship stories haunting the Venetian lagoon. If you know of any, please write me at sara@puckpublishing.com. If you’ve ever visited the eerie lagoon island, Poveglia, the plague island, turned insane asylum, turned old-folks home, which now stands empty—less the chilling screams on foggy nights—I want to hear about it.

Will Write for Wine

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Will-Write-Wine-Alexis-Novel-ebook/dp/B09XVM6Y38

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Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Welcome to the WordCrafter “Will Write for Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog Tour

Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour

Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection inspired by Venetian history. The fictional character, Alexis Lynn, wrote these stories in the novel Will Write for Wine by Sara W. McBride, but they are fun stand-alone adventures to be enjoyed with an excellent glass of Italian wine.

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Welcome to the WordCrafter Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour. This is going to be a fun tour because we have two fabulous books to celebrate by a wonderful new author Sara W. McBride. Will Write for Wine is her debut novel about a writer, Alexis Lynn, and her funny and romantic escapades when she moves to Venice to start a new life. Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is the recently released short story collection and companion to the novel. Her fiction is well researched and presented with a witty flare which I find refreshing and I think you will too. I hope you’ll follow the tour and join us at each blog stop. You’ll find the schedule and links below.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, June 27 – Opening Day Post – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for the Devil’s Bridge” & Review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Tuesday, June 28 – Showers of Blessings – Guest Post: Inspiration for “Stealing Georgione’s Mistress”

Wednesday June 29 – Carla Loves to Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Masked Kiss”

Thursday, June 30 – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for “A Dowry for Safron” & Interview with Sara W. McBride

Friday, July 1 – Zigler’s News – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Pregnant Man” & Review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Saturday, July 2 – Annette Rochelle Aben – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Haunted Palazzo”

Sunday, July 3 – Roberta Writes – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Secret Vault”

Monday, July 4 – Wrap-Up Post – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for Will Write for Wine & Review of Will Write for Wine

Give-Away

In addidtion, to the awesome guests posts, interview, and reviews at each tour stop, Sara is offerin a chance to win a digital copy of each book, Will Write For Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard. Leave a comment and click on the link below to enter for a chance to win:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d9280cae1/?

Introduction

I must begin by giving kudos to Sara W. McBride for the clever way that she has braided these seven short stories in this collection in with her debut novel, (and I’m told that she is currently working on a companion wine tasting journal). While both of these books stand alone easily, they really should be consumed together. In the novel, Will Write for Wine, we see the story of how Alexis Lynn comes to write these stories, but we don’t get to actually see the stories. For that, you must read Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard, which offers not only the stories, but the true inspiration behind them. After reading her delightful novel, and seeing Alexis’ digging up the background for the stories and seeing Manu’s reaction to reading them, one can’t help but be curious about the actual stories and want to read the collection. It’s brilliant!

Now let me turn things over to the author, Sara W. McBride, so she can share her inspiration for the story.

Ponte Del Diavlo – The Devil’s Bridge

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Inspiration for “Devil’s Bridge”

Guest Post by author Sara W. McBride

What inspired the story, “The Devil’s Bridge?”

The moment I saw the sign “Ponte del Diavolo,” I knew I had to write a story. At the edge of the bridge sits Palazzo Priuli, home to several Doge Priulis and is now an elegant hotel (www.hotelpriuli.com) in the Castello area of Venice. I had already been researching the tragic death of Antonio Foscarini, and then I discovered that the doge—Basically the president of Venice—who had him executed lived in the palazzo at the edge of Devil’s Bridge. It’s not often that history simply hands me a story, but there it was, burning bright in the Lancet windows of a 14th century palazzo. Here’s the real history behind the Devil-possessed Doge Priuli and his most famous victim:

Antonio Foscarini, executed on April 22, 1622, was a Venetian ambassador to London (1611-1615) and is rumored to have had an affair with King James’ Queen, Anne of Denmark. He returned to Venice during a “Spy War” with Spain and was suspected of betraying Venetian secrets to Spanish officials. Someone who knew about his affair with the Queen of England might have seeded this rumor. Upon his arrival in Venice in December 1615, he was arrested and held prisoner for three years under Doge Bembo, who uncovered the Bedmar plot which would have permitted Spanish mercenaries to march on Venice. In the midst of the crisis, Bembo died—or was possibly assassinated by the Spanish—and Doge Nicolo Donato reigned for a mere 35 days before he died. I believe he was assassinated by the Spanish, but have found no clear evidence for such a claim.

I’m considering writing a novel on the Venice/Spain Spy War of 1615-1622 because it’s super fascinating and an interesting statement on what fear does to a governing body.

Antonio Priuli (1548-1623) was elected doge in 1618 and released Foscarini in order to monitor him and his activities. Priuli was a brutal doge who arrested hundreds of innocent Venetians suspected of plotting against Venice. Was he possessed by the devil? Probably not, but how Devil’s Bridge earned its name is a mystery, so I took license and speculated that the devil enjoyed his residence at the bridge’s end.

On April 8, 1622, Foscarini, then a Senator of Venice, was arrested and accused by the Council of Ten—basically the governing body of Venice, particularly over state security matters—of meeting with ministers of foreign powers and communicating the most intimate secrets of the Venetian Republic. The evidence was weak and Foscarini denied all charges, yet he was still condemned to a public execution for high treason. Why? The answer will never be known, so I had fun speculating that perhaps a guest of his, under her own volition or persuaded by a demonically possessed doge, provided false evidence to seal his fate.

By the end of 1622, Doge Priuli showed signs of illness. In January, 1623, the same Council of Ten revoked Foscarini’s guilty verdict—Whoops, they were wrong—and reinstated the family’s honor with a posthumous exoneration. His bust and tomb can be found in the Church of San Stae in Venice. There’s more on Foscarini’s final resting place in “The Masked Kiss,” another story in this collection.

Doge Antonio Priuli died on August 12, 1623, but oddly, I am unable to locate his tomb. It’s usually pretty easy to find a doge’s tomb. I would have thought him to be buried in Santi Giovanni e Paolo (aka San Zanipolo), which houses tombs of 25 doges, but I haven’t found him there. The art and sculpture in this basilica-sized ediface is amazing! This behemoth church manages to hide on the North side of the Castello and is off the beaten tourist path, but you should definitely seek it out.

Two other Priuli doges, brothers Girolamo Priuli, 1486-1567, and Lorenzo Priuli, 1489-1559, are buried in San Salvador, but apparently there was no space remaining for their Priuli descendent, or perhaps the family just didn’t like Antonio.

Another source claims that the spy-hunting doge is buried alongside Marco Polo in the Church of San Lorenzo in the Castello district, but San Lorenzo has been closed for over a hundred years, only recently reopened, and I have not seen or read any evidence of the doge’s tomb being contained within. They couldn’t find Marco Polo either.

If you find the tomb of Venice’s 94th Doge, Antonio Priuli, please write to me at sara@puckpublishing.com. Otherwise, I’ll just have to assume he’s buried in the depths of the canal under Ponte del Diavolo.

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Stole-Lord-Byrons-Bastard-ebook/dp/B0B27TS5GL

My Review

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is a short story collection by Sara W. McBride which will tickle your sense of adventure and discovery, and perhaps, your funny bone. A companion to her debut novel, Will Write for Wine, these stories bring Venetian history to life with a personal touch of humor, adding in the missing details which historical archives and family histories only elude to. Each story is accompanied with the history and inspiration behind it, and it’s fun to see how McBride crafted in characters to transform legend to story.

Included are tales of an unsuspecting hero who gets the girl, in “The Masked Kiss”; an apprentice who betrays his master in the name of love in “Stealing Giorgione’s Mistress”; a bridge occupied by a demon, in “The Devil’s Bridge”; a nun who chooses life on a plague island over marriage in “Lazzaretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron”; a smuggling operation gone awry in “The Secret Vault”; and a delightful tale of a young artist forced to masquerade as a male in order to ply her trade in “A Gentleman’s Portrait by a Pregnant Man”. But, I’d have to say my favorite story in this collection is “The Haunted Palazzo”, because I’ve always been a sucker for a good ghost story, and the mysterious specter and wet windowsill are certainly prime food for ghostly fodder.

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection of short historically inspired stories which are light and entertaining reads. Fun and enjoyable. I give it five quills.

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Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Mind Fields: The Dollar Store

Mind Fields

Last week I ordered a case of Nutri-bars from The Dollar Store. You know, it’s the candy bar that doesn’t want to identify itself as a candy bar so it hangs out in the hypocritical Health Food energy bar section. I ordered a whole case, that is, twelve little boxes of six bars each, because I like these bars and they’re healthier than my go- to candy of choice, which is White Reese’s Pieces. Nuh uh. I can’t eat White Reeses’ Pieces. I love them but they’re poison!

God damn. Now I want one. I got an email from The Dollar Store requesting that I review my last purchase of their nutrition bars. How many stars, from one to ten? The Oat Nut Bar is a ten for sure; but to be asked to leave a review of the oat nut bar on The Dollar Store website…? Well… it was just a bit much. I know there is a universe of reviews online, reviews of everything from sex toys to nose plugs to laxatives. 

What am I doing? I asked myself. Am I actually going to take five or six minutes out of my life and do a review of an itty bitty candy bar in an itty bitty store in an itty bitty suburban American shopping plaza? We all know these plazas so well. America IS itty bitty shopping plazas separated by hundred mile stretches of Nothing. Except in  Texas, where a three hundred mile stretch of Nothing is just that: Nothing. Between Walmarts. Nothing.

Here are some dumb ass things I do.

I spend the entire day watching Youtube videos of towns that I’ve lived in. I get on Google Earth and look at the current state of the houses in which I grew up. One house hasn’t changed at all. One has been torn down. And one has been upgraded with new construction. The trees are fifty years bigger. They were saplings when I lived there. Now they are mighty oaks.

I sometimes drink five large cups of coffee for breakfast.

Frequently, I forget I’ve taken a laxative and take another dose before the first dose hits.

Indulge in THC- saturated tincture so that in an hour my mind feels like it has spawned a trillion other minds which are active and full of neuron tendrils and contacts with unspecified regions of Buddhist utopias. Uh oh. See what I mean about THC?

Eat a whole bag of monukka raisins and THEN eat a bunch of white Reeses Pieces. I thought the raisins would quell the sweet tooth. They didn’t. Blame the THC.

What else did I do? 

Back out of the Safeway parking lot and forget to look in the rear view mirrors. Thank god no one was behind me. Sometimes the universe protects its holy idiots. Again, blame the THC plus a large dose of poor judgment.

If I think of more ridiculous/foolish/dangerous/wacko things that I do you will be the first to know.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

___________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Arthur’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Mind Fields: A Summer Of Love

Mind Fields

A Summer of Love

or

On The Horns Of A Dilemma

1967.  Muir Beach, California

Robert had taken LSD three hours ago and now he was trapped in the bathroom. It was a small bathroom in a small beach house. The place looked out over the Pacific Ocean and could only be reached by climbing a hundred wooden steps or riding a cable-driven cargo trolley. The place belonged to Linda, Robert’s acquaintance, a woman who made tie dye and batik clothing.

Robert wasn’t a casual taker of psychedelic drugs, but he was with good people: yoga practitioners, Tai Chi enthusiasts. He felt safe. His friend Pam was at the party, and his room mate Steve.

It was an intimate gathering, about a dozen people agreeing to share an experience in a beautiful setting. Linda dispensed a tab of LSD to each arrival. Now it was getting towards evening and the group had settled into serious tripping. There was a bit of talk. Some giggles from a couple on the sofa. It was quiet.

The sound of the surf tumbled in the background.

Robert was hallucinating but when nature called she could not be denied. He viewed the act of taking a shit as a comedic episode, a meeting of the sacred and profane. He made a little mantra from it, mentally chanting the words to a samba beat: how could a thing so huge still have to take a poo. He danced a little samba step as he crossed the room to the bathroom. How could a thing so huge… still have to take a poo. The Huge was himself, in his expanded universe, the hyper-galactic infinite divine. And yet, way way down there in the microcosmic world, his body still had to eliminate the dross from his intestine. It all came down to the most common things.

The bathroom was a cubby hole. It had a toilet, a small window and a wooden stand that held an incense burner and a couple of magazines. An old tarnished mirror hung on the wall opposite the throne.

Before the toilet episode began, Robert had been watching Linda move about, with her bun of blonde hair trailing cute little wisps. She wore a sleeveless batik dress of luminous green and a necklace of silver and turquoise. Robert liked the shape of her. She was well toned, contained in a nice little parcel of soft firmness. Her breasts lifted the neckline of the dress and the effect was mesmerizing. Linda was single, Linda was beautiful, and Linda had given him a smile as she dispensed the tablet of LSD. Robert interpreted this smile as an invitation. He thought Linda was conveying a message. “Ask me to make love,” he thought she was beaming at him, “ask me.”

The problem…. that is, the problem before getting trapped in the bathroom, was working up the nerve to ask Linda to make love. Other couples were pairing up and vanishing into various nooks on the property, riding the sound of the mighty surf into psychedelic splendor. 

The party’s social math, the indices of affinity seemed to put Robert and Linda together. Robert had never done this kind of thing before. He had never approached a woman to ask if she wanted to “go somewhere quiet”. The complexities of an LSD high built a scaffold atop Robert’s shyness. How do I do that? he wondered, how do I come right out and ask a woman to make love? He wondered and feared, and wondered and feared, and tried to engage Linda in pleasant conversation but an acid conversation can be very weird. There are multiple interpretations layered on every word and phrase.

If he said, “Hi,” well, okay, there you go. Was he greeting her or was he making an insipid observation on his state of psychic elevation? 

“You’re beautiful” he said, at one point. “You look stunning in that dress.” That was not ambiguous. Linda merely said “Thank You” and the conversation jumped off a cliff and went splat. If only she would make things easier for him! Maybe he was wrong. Maybe she didn’t send the signal he thought she sent. But her fingers had lingered on his hand as she offered him the white tablet. She had given him a deep soulful look.

Then his stomach sent him another kind of signal. The bathroom was directly off the one large room of the house. The room was virtually the entire living space. There was a counter, a kitchenette, and a short fight of stairs that led to a loft bedroom. A thin plywood door separated the bathroom from everything else. 

Robert’s poo was a loose disgusting mess and he was about to turn the flush handle when the thought occurred to him: what if the sound of the toilet flushing sends someone into a bad trip? Or worse, what if it sends everyone into a bad trip? 

The house was high on the bluff and the toilet flushed with a distinct sound as the water forcefully drained. Sploosh! it said, splodda splodda splodda splodda, and all the pipes in the house rumbled and whooshed for what seemed hours.

Everyone is so high! Robert thought. If I suddenly introduce these sounds with all their associations, they will drown out the Ravi Shankar on the record player and they will enter people’s LSD-saturated inner landscapes as a downward spiral that will carry them into the underworld! People on acid are so suggestible! I’ll ruin the party!

He couldn’t look at the poo. He had closed the lid and was frantically using a National Geographic to fan the fumes outside. He was on the verge of puking, which would add another dimension to his problem. There was a box of incense and a pack of matches, which he now used as he attempted to work his way out of this mess.

What am I going to do? What am I going to do?

Another part of Robert’s psyche was laughing at him, saying, oh this is pathetic, you’re wasting your whole fucking trip on idiotic paranoia. Robert fought back. It’s unselfish paranoia! he replied. I just don’t want to send anyone down the toilet. Acid’s unpredictable. It can be a catalyst for deeply buried psychic material. I can’t take that chance!

It seemed that hours passed. Robert fanned fumes out the window, lit incense, lit matches until the pack was gone. There finally came a breaking point.

Fuck this, Robert decided. It’s inevitable. I have to flush the toilet. He reached out and touched the cold metal handle with its contoured shape. He caressed it for a moment. Then, in an act of passionate courage, he pressed down and released the water.

Sploosh! Oh god it was deafening! Splodda splodda splodda, down down and down into the depths of the underworld. The pipes went Whhhsssssh like Boeing 707’s lining up on a runway before takeoff. There were at least eight people just a few feet away from this sonic pandemonium. They might tear him to pieces when he emerged. He, personally, had bummed their trip! They might ostracize him forever, banish him from other weekend retreats at other beautiful houses full of beautiful women.

His heart was beating frantically. Okay, he decided, let’s face the consequences of my irresistible evacuation. Robert turned the knob and exited the bathroom, closing the door with the barest of clicks.

It was almost dark. Sitar music came gently through the speakers, playing an evening raga. Candles were lit and most of the group sat rocking to and fro, lying on beanbag chairs or prone on yoga mats. Nothing had happened as a result of Robert’s flush. Nothing at all.

A candle had been set in the middle of the room. Linda was alone on a cushion, sitting in yoga posture, meditating on the flickering light. Her eyes were open and appeared radiant and enormous. She glanced at Robert without reproach. The whole episode had passed without a ripple, it was a product of Robert’s self-conscious agony.

What the hell, he thought, just do it. He found a cushion and sat next to Linda, replicating her full lotus, displaying his credentials as a yogi. His feet rested easily on his thighs and his spine straightened as he gathered the nerve to approach this gorgeous woman.

Linda’s shoulder looked velvety in the candle light. Robert gently put his fingers on her body, just the four tips of the fingers of his right hand, touching her oh so lightly. He watched Linda’s response. She didn’t flinch or move away from him. Nor did she move towards him. She was set in her own center. That’s okay, Robert thought. That’s okay. Again, his heart beat fast, his stomach turned over with anxiety. I’ve got to do this, he urged himself. I’ve got to break through my fear. You get nothing when you don’t ask. So just ask while you have the chance.

“Linda,” he said, “You’re beautiful. Your skin is amazing.”

She smiled a subtle little smile but remained facing forward. Robert was about to commit himself but he realized that he hadn’t prepared his words. How should he put it? “Linda, will you make love with me?” Or more commanding. “Linda, make love with me.” That might seem too aggressive. How about “I would love to make love to you, Linda.” Oh, that was clumsy. Love to make love. Oh fuck it. He leaned close to her and quietly spoke into her ear.  “Linda, love make me, oh, uh, you know, I really dig you, um, um, this is hard. What I mean to say is I want you to make love to you. I mean me.. I want.to make love to you. There! Whew!”

Linda’s head turned with agonizing slowness. The huge shining eyes rotated until they met Robert’s eyes. She was a sacred dakini, a deva, a goddess!

“Robert,” she said, “you’re sweet, but you’re just not my type.”

Robert squeezed the pillow, almost pulling it out from under himself. “Okay, okay, that’s cool, I understand that, it’s just that, well, okay… thanks.”

He stood up holding the pillow in front of his body, then dropped it back to the floor and walked onto the deck. He could see the last of the sun’s rays as they vanished into the starry night. His vulnerable heart opened and wept. After a time, as he watched the sky, he realized that at last he was free from all the ridiculous bullshit he had just put himself through. He didn’t have to hook up with Linda. He didn’t have to hook up with anyone.

The Milky Way was alive, writhing with creative force as gods and Buddhas contemplated the infinite void. The sky was the most beautiful thing Robert had ever seen. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Arthur’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Mind Fields – Doomed Love At Starbucks: Breaking Up With The Internet

Mind Fields

            Internet and I are at a Starbucks and it’s one of those weekdays at two o’clock when the place is quiet.  People chat softly at a couple of tables.  One young man, about seventeen or eighteen, types quietly on his laptop.  Internet is in my Toshiba Satellite, and I pull her closer so we can converse through the camera and speakers.

            “We need to talk,” I say. Those dreadful words, mocked Internet. ‘We need to talk‘. But it’s true. Things have been changing between us.”

            Her voice is tinny, coming from those little speakers. It doesn’t matter.

            She (Internet) puts a face on the screen. It is one of those video game Lara Croft type faces, very pretty but very unreal. I know she’s teasing me, but it reveals her anxiety.

            “Cut it out,” I growl. “Use your real face… the one we agreed on.”

            Internet changes to a convincing human visage. She has red-brown hair and freckles and looks like a student at Cambridge or Oxford. I’ve always been a sucker for smart English girls.  Internet is still fooling around. She’s wearing round Harry Potter glasses. She’s trying to be funny, but the glasses look good on her and she doesn’t know it.

            We both start speaking at precisely the same moment.

            “Well…I, uh…”

            “You go first,” Internet says, in her upper crust English accent.

            “We’ve been together a long time,” I reply. “Ever since my first Mac Notebook.”

            Internet appears to shudder and for a moment there is a screen with little green battleships scooting back and forth. Then she regains her “face”.

            “It’s me,” she says. “Not you. I’m the one who’s changed.”

            “We’ve both changed, and it’s good, it’s great…,” I try, “but something has gone away, something has been lost.”

            “What? What? There’s nothing lost. My god! Look what I can do now, look at the size of the files you can upload into me.  And…., well… I can download into you…”  Her shoulders wiggle with a sensual shimmy. “I love it!”

            “That part of our relationship has been better than ever,” I say. “Our… uh… connection speed has been fabulous. It’s uh… uh…”

            “What? It’s what?” She’s getting impatient.

            “This is hard to say,” I waffle.

            “Just come out with it!”

            “Okay, okay. I think you’ve become all about money.”

            “Oh bullshit!” Internet’s face turns a shade more red. Her complexion is already rosy, but I know I’ve hit a nerve. “I make money, you make money, everybody makes money on the internet. What are you complaining about! Come on, tell me the truth.”

            “All right, all right. It’s kind of hard to explain…. but I’m always confused now. I don’t know what the heck you’re doing and it makes me feel… well… suspicious.”

            “I have to change with the times,” Internet ripostes. “You know that, everyone knows that.”

            “It’s true, but I feel like you’ve moved into my apartment and now the place is full of those sticky cobwebs that you walk through and then you keep brushing your head to get the stuff off but it never comes off. I don’t know what’s going on any more.”

            My hand trembles as I drink a swig of lukewarm cappuccino. It’s all closing in on me. I feel confused and embarrassed. There is a silence. Internet looks guilty.

            I don’t know why I blurted out the next words. “It’s Amazon, isn’t it?”

            Internet looks even more guilty. “What do you mean, ‘It’s Amazon’? She says with an edge of defensive wrath.

            My mind is beginning to clear. The cobwebby feeling starts to fall away from me. “You’ve sold out to the ‘zon. Everything is owned and run by the ‘zon. There aren’t websites any more. There are web colonies that are being run by web empires. Everything I post shows up on a hundred other websites. I can’t scratch my nuts without a link appearing on Facebook, Rotten Tomatoes or Twitter: Art Rosch just scratched his nuts. Do you want to be his Friend?”

            Internet’s face dissolves into chaos, then puts itself back together. Maybe the connection went down. Maybe Internet is playing for time. There is a shadowy figure of Winston Churchill on Internet’s forehead. Down by her chin is the monster from “Alien” but it’s shrinking, quickly disappearing.

            “Okay, I’ll admit to some things,” she admits. “I’ve been bought up by a handful of corporations. Tell you the truth, I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t have a clue. I’m getting new software thrown at me so fast, I can’t handle it.” A tear slides down her cheek. “I’m crashing all the time!”

            I barely hear her. I’m reflecting on the experiences of the last few weeks.

            “Tell me about it,” I say at last. “It seems like every day I’m asked to join another social network. What the hell is Pinterp? Or Floosbock? Like an idiot, I join and the software is a complete mystery. All I want to do is write my books and promote them. But everyone’s got a book! My inbox is ninety percent book promos. What do I have to write to get people’s attention? Seems like it’s all Harlequin Romance Vampire Private Detectives With Occult Powers. The covers all have dudes with open shirts and six pack abs. Good God! There are fifty million writers trying to sell their first novel. If you can’t get an agent, that’s okay, E-Publish your book and let Amazon sell it!”

            “Calm down,” Internet soothes. “Things will work out. We’ll get through this glitch. I’ll help you promote your books.”

            Her eyes are cast down and then she looks up at me with her head still lowered. It’s a very cute look, very seductive.

            “You got anything to upload? A nice, big, fat file? Got a new manuscript? I’d like that.”

            It has its effect on me, I’ll admit. I am tempted. 

            “I’ve got a new draft of a novel,” I said, with a straight face.  It’s called FANGS OF AN EROTIC VAMPIRE WEREWOLF: A LOVE STORY.

            Internet gives me a salacious grin. “Ooh,” she says, “that sounds juicy. What fun!”

            I keep quiet. At last I see Internet’s expression change.

            “Dammit,” she says, “I almost fell for that! Come on, what do you really have?”

            “I have the second draft of my sci fi/ fantasy novel, THE GODS OF THE GIFT.”

            “That’s more like it.  That’s ‘you’. Has it changed a lot since the first draft?”

            “Completely different book,” I say. “I’m really proud of it.”

            Internet sticks out her tongue. “Come on, mister, what are you waiting for?”

            I open a second screen in the upper corner of my monitor. I find my page for THE GODS OF THE GIFT, hit the EDIT button and delete the earlier draft.  

            “Here I come, baby,” I say. “I hope you’re ready for this.”

            “From you, anything,” Internet replies. “You’re a fine writer. You’re an original.”

            I mouse over to the UPLOAD button and click. My new draft is a blue bar that crosses a rectangular box. It takes about ten seconds.  Internet’s face is rapt. Her mouth falls half open and her eyes glisten. The blue bar reaches the end of the box and the new draft appears on the screen.

            “OH!” Internet sighs. “OH! OH! You’re right. This is a much better book. I know it’s awful to be a writer. It’s even more awful to be really great and still get ignored. I know it breaks your heart.”

            I don’t say anything. I think about all the work, all the years I’ve spent working on the craft of writing. “Yes,” I admit. “It breaks my heart.”

            Internet is recovering her composure. She has read the new draft and I know she is proud of me.

            “Don’t ever give up writing,” she says. “Never. You MUST keep writing. This is amazing stuff. There’s nothing else like it.”           

            I open the page on my book blog and fill my monitor screen with the cover. I look at my design. I look at the starry cosmos and the elongated objects that resemble fiery colliding worlds. It is a work in progress but it isn’t kitsch and it’s faithful to the spirit of the book. It’s a really cool book cover.

            “Don’t worry, babe. I can’t quit writing. I’m not capable of quitting writing, no matter how much it breaks my heart. To paraphrase an old motto,” I say, “You’ll have to pry my keyboard from my cold dead fingers.

            “That’s my man,” Internet replies. “I know I’ll go on changing, but great art is timeless. I’ll be loyal to you, I promise.”

I can’t quite make myself trust the promise. It makes me sad. But it leaves room for hope.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Arthur’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Treasuring Poetry – Meet poet Leon Stevens and book review

Today, I am delighted to host artist, poet and author, Leon Stevens.

Leon Stevens

Which of your own poems is your favourite?

Wow. Starting off with the hardest question…I have written about many aspects of my existence, but I think some of the poems about ego and human nature are my attempt at understanding why people act the way they do. I still don’t get why some people are jerks.

Ego (Part II)

An ego is a big cat

That needs to be stroked

By you or someone else

Smaller cats are easy to please

And the bigger the cat

The more dangerous it is

To rub the wrong way

What inspired you to write this particular poem?

I wrote a series of poems about ego after spending some time observing how people interact with each other as individuals jockey for position within a group. While they do that, they seek affirmation to justify their perception of themselves. There are positives to egos, but if an ego is too aggressive, it can leave you rolling your eyes and shaking your head.

Which genre of poetry do you enjoy writing the most and why?

I don’t set out to write any particular form of poetry. Usually, as the words come to me, they will dictate how the poem will manifest itself. This leads to some erratic rhyming and rhythmic patterns, but often I find that a well-placed, unexpected rhyme can have a powerful effect.

My poems tend to be short—no more than a page—often 4-6 lines. They are like a snapshot of a moment or experience rather than a slideshow or movie.

Which genre of poetry do you enjoy reading the most?

I honestly do not read a lot of poetry. Maybe it is a way not to be influenced, which I hope makes my own poetry unique. I do follow many blogs that feature poetry, so most of what I do read comes from those sites.

I grew up with my father reading the poems of Robert Service. The Cremation of Sam McGee Is one that has always stuck with me (Dad had it memorized along with many others). It is a tale set during the Klondike gold rush which has a humorous, macabre twist.

The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ’tain’t being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Poem credit: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45081/the-cremation-of-sam-mcgee

Book review: Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures

My review

Every now and then you discover a book of poetry which has you nodding your head in agreement and identifying with the views of the poet. For me, this was one of those books. Leon Stevens has an unerring way of aiming a poetic arrow straight at the heart of a difficult issue and exposing it for exactly what it is. This exposure is done with great dry wit, but it is nevertheless, brutally honest and truthful.

The poems in this book cover an array of topics including, inter alia, the poets personal viewpoints on specific matters, environmental experiences, the human conditions and how we relate with others, people and places, and ponderance and muse. There is a sprinkling of the poet’s own sketches throughout the book, and these, complement the humour and the simple, straightforward messages woven into these compelling poems.

This poem, called The Tendency to Cluster, was my personal favourite in this collection and demonstrates the points I’ve mentioned above:

People like orbs
Drawn by gravity
Unable to exist alone
Each dependent on the orbits of others
The only thing that keeps them
From being flung away
Needing others to define them
Needing to know
The quantum state of others
There are people
Content with singularity
In the colder outer regions
Emptiness brings strength, warmth, life
Occasional objects pass
Piquing curiosity
Worthy to share space (for a while)
Mostly continuing alone
Comfortable that orbits won’t decay

If you enjoy poems that speak clearly and simply about important matters, then you will enjoy this collection. Even if you don’t share the poet’s viewpoint, these poems will still make you think deeply.

Purchase Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures

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About Leon Stevens

Leon Stevens is a writer, composer, guitarist, songwriter, and an artist, with a Bachelor of Music and Education. He became a writer out of necessity. Along with song writing, poetry has allowed him to make sense and accept events and situations in his life. He published his first book of poetry: Lines by Leon – Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020, a book of original classical guitar compositions, and a collection of science fiction short stories called The Knot at the End of the Rope and other Short Stories. Visit www.linesbyleon.com for free sample eBooks.