Reading and Writing. We’ll Skip the Arithmetic

This Wednesday evening I’ll be part of a group reading at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts. I’m rather fond of readings in general. Back when I was attending a lot more conventions, I generally preferred the author readings to panel discussions, even when I was on the panel and someone else was doing the reading. Maybe especially then.

There’s nothing quite like hearing the author read their own work, especially if it’s a story you’ve already read yourself. Now you can hear where the stresses go, and what the author chooses to emphasize or minimize. Literally hearing the work in the author’s own voice, aside from their narrative voice, which can be quite different.

I think I was completely turned on to readings at my very first World Fantasy Convention. I had the pleasure of hearing Parke (Pete) Godwin read then, and it was an eye-opener. I know I’ve mentioned Pete several times before, but something I wanted to point out here is that he was an actor for many years before he became a writer, and it showed in his performance. And I do mean performance. As an actor he knew how to work the lines and hold the audience’s attention. I realized then and there that the act of doing an author reading was or at least should be, at least in part, a performance, not just the person who wrote something reading it aloud. If you’ve ever attended a convention or library reading with an author who doesn’t know how to read (in the performance sense), you know what I mean. You miss out on most of the value of the work.

Now, I’m not an actor. Never was, never will be, and I don’t have nearly the chops that Pete did. But I always  take his example to heart when I do a reading, and I try to bring at least a little of that performance art to it. I do my best. I don’t always hit the target, but at least I know where the target is.

That’s half the battle.

Yep, It’s Still Winter

Snow is falling, the winds are howling. When they’re not moaning. Never content, that wind. We’ve got thirty mph winds with gusts well past fifty. The snow, by comparison, isn’t so much of a problem. I need to make a run for stove pellets but no one’s on the road who doesn’t have to be. Still deciding if I’m brave or stupid enough to try it.

Thursday night there the local group did a reading at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts. Someone took a decent picture, and when or if I get permission to show it, I’ll put it up here. In the meantime, here’s the piece of flash fiction I read.  The trigger word was “Testament,” which always sounds like a heavy, ponderous word to me. So naturally I decided to have some fun with it:

 

The Testament of the Goat Troll

 

That’s what they call me, anyway. The goat troll. Try to eat one goat and you’re typed for life. But it was my bridge. You think I built it as a public service? I’m not one of those rich trolls who can afford to build a bridge and let any Tom, Dick, or Baby Gruff who comes along use it for nothing. You think I have that kind of cash? Building materials are expensive.

Well, sure, most of the wood was free from a nearby forest. But I did all the work myself, felled the trees, sawed the planks. Beams and posts are easy, but did you ever try making planks with just an axe and a hand saw? Try it sometime. First class job it was, and a testament to my craftsmanship. I used pegs for the joinery, and whittling pegs with an axe? That takes time. I earned that bridge.

You’ve all heard the story by now. I know it sounds harsh, but a troll’s got to eat and my bridge, my rules. Here came that first little billy goat. Time to pay the toll.

“I’m just skin and bones, Mr. Troll,” said he. “Wait for my brother. He’s much fatter than I am.”

Puh-lease. I know how the story goes too, but you really think I fell for that? No. It was simple logic. I saw the other goats coming and knew if I ate that first shrimp there’s no way the other two would have tried to cross. Take an appetizer and miss the main course? Not likely. I let him go on as the second goat was approaching.

“I’m just skin and bones, Mr. Troll,” said he. “Wait for my brother. He’s much fatter than I am.”

Now things get complicated. Sure, he was bigger than the first goat, but still a little scrawny. I suppose that’s why they wanted to cross the stream for the grass on the other side. I let him pass, figuring the third goat would be scrawny as well, but at least there would be more of him.

Well, that’s probably where I messed up, in retrospect. Yes, he was bigger. I have to say I was rather pleased with myself, at first. I was just debating whether to bother cooking him or go right to the gobbling part, when he spoke.

“I’m just skin and bones, Mr. Troll,” said he, but I didn’t let him finish.

“Yes, I know, but there’s no one else coming, so—“ This time he didn’t let me finish.

“So I’m hungry. Get out of my way.”

“Now see here—“

He just lowered his head and charged. I think I was too astonished to dodge. It was a long fall to the stream and the current was stronger than I remembered. I was halfway to the ocean before I managed to crawl out again.

So, no more bridges. Next time, it’s a toll road. See if they can butt their way through that.

-The End-

 

©2019 by Richard Parks. All Rights reserved.

 

 

FlashCast, Episode 9 Part 3 “Spring”

The new FlashCast is online, available for free from iTunes here, and on Spreaker.com. The theme word was “spring.” If you want to hear my dulcet tones reading one of my own stories, FlashCast is the only place that’s happening, aside from mike night at Canal Place here in town, where a bunch from the local writer’s group will be doing group readings now and then. We did our first one last Thursday and it went rather well. For FlashCast it’s:

“Predator’s Fortune,” by Richard Parks

“Give Me a Break,” by Peggy Scarano,

“All the Lonely People,” by Sally Madison.

Spring seems a bit far away right now. It’s -8F as I write this with about two feet of snow surrounding and on top of the car. I’ve dug a path to it and with luck will get enough snow cleared to get it free by tomorrow, as I have appointments to keep. Technically it only snowed about a foot, but we’ve had high winds during and after the snowfall, so the drifts are the real problem. Next year I think I may have to “spring” for a real snowblower. Sciatica and shoveling snow don’t mix very well.

I’ve finally gotten a little traction on the new project, though I’m still uncertain as to whether it’s going to be a novel or novella. That’s one problem with being a pantser instead of a plotter—you’re never completely (or even slightly) in control. When it works, and it usually does, it’s the best. When it crashes and burns, it tends to do so spectacularly.

An Accident, I Swear

I have managed to break my glasses, a feat I had not attained since childhood. Dropped? Of course. Scratched? Absolutely. Had a screw loose? In glasses and in life, both. But broken? Nope.

It was way too easy when I was a kid, and it was probably only the support of our extended family that kept my mother from going bankrupt keeping me in eyeware. I think my most notable achievement was breaking a new pair of glasses the same bloody day I got them. All by accident, of course. Get hit in the head with a basketball, shoot out a lens with a BB gun (you’ll shoot your eye out! Nope. Just the lens), face plant in a game of touch football. As I said, easy.

Not so much when you’re an alleged adult. Now it takes more effort. Last Tuesday I had returned from physical therapy, which is another whole story. Sciatica. I has it. Didn’t even know what sciatica was, other than a reference in Harlan Ellison’s classic, “Working With the Little People.” Hoo, boy. Now I know why Charlie the Gremlin was so damn grumpy, but I digress. Hobbled up the steps toward the back patio, tripped and did a faceplant into the concrete. As to the damage to my face, let’s just say it left a mark. Or three. More importantly, I did a number on my glasses.

So now I’m typing this supported only by the vision my genetics and a bad case of measles left me. My new glasses are on order. Maybe when they get here I’ll be able to see clearly again. Which would be nice, since I don’t think I’ve ever seen all that clearly before now.

Hey, a guy can dream.

I Need a Schedule

Closeup

Or at least that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn. When I was working a regular 8-5, things were simpler. I’d get up around 7AM, get dressed, take out the trash, go to work. When I got home, I’d eat dinner (and usually cook it, too), spend a bit of quality time with First Reader, then disappear into the library and try to get some writing work done. It wasn’t a perfect system by any means, but overall it served.

Now that’s all gone. In theory, I have lots of time. In practice, almost none. There’s always something else wanting my attention. This summer I spent most days working on the room over the garage because we’re turning it into a studio. I estimate it’ll take half of next summer to get everything finished. Regardless, I make time. Plus house maintenance and yard maintenance, which I also must make time for. When’s my writing work time now? Snatches here and there. I always feels like I”m stealing it because, for the most part, it ain’t on the agenda.

This isn’t working.

I’m going to try blocking out the time after dinner. I have to be flexible on this, with an understanding that a disruption of the schedule is just that–a disruption. It has to be clear to me and to my loved ones that this is my time, and if I’m doing anything else, I’m not doing what I need to be doing.

Seems simple enough, of the face of it. We’ll see how it goes.