22  Bingley on the La-Z-Boy

A couple months ago my wife got me a new lounge chair.

It may be the best gift ever, better than Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB Gun (I never wanted a bb gun). Whenever I fall into that chair, I sigh, and if I sit there for very long, I fall into a gentle, pleasant nap.

Bingley likes it, too.

Not long ago we stretched out napping in the chair. When I woke, Bingley had his eyes open, and he was looking right at me.

“I’m more than just a cuddle lion,” he said.

Still a little fuzzy-headed from sleeping, I thought about that for just a moment and said, “I know.”

He nodded agreement. “I just wanted to make sure.”

I didn’t say anything right away, so he went on. “I’m a house lion.”

“Yes, I understand. You’ve corrected me on that point.”

“I do all sorts of important jobs. Every morning, when we take our tour, I make sure you stop at every important spot. When you’re gone, I patrol the house. I check every window and I listen at every door to make sure no one’s out there causing trouble. At night, when you’re sleeping, I’ll stand at my window and keep watch.”

“Thank you,” I said. “You’re the best house lion ever.”

He closed his eyes and nodded contentedly.

Bingley continued. “I also make sure you get some play time every day. Not just workout time: play time, so that you relax and we run around the house together. I clean my dish at mealtimes, I drink from my water bowls, and I keep clean: you know, the litter box and all that.”

“I know you do. You practice exemplary cleanliness.”

Again he closed his eyes and nodded.

“Sometimes when you spill crumbs on the floor, I do my best to help you clean them up. But you don’t let me.”

“They’re usually not good for you, so I don’t want you to eat them, but I appreciate your effort nonetheless.”

One more nod, but that time he didn’t close his eyes: he stared at me intently.

“You’d like a treat, wouldn’t you?” I asked.

“Treat!” he said, and he leaped off my lap and trundled off to the pantry, looking back only once to make sure I was following.

A craftsman definitely deserves a reward for good work.

20  Something Monstrous This Way Comes

I hope some of you who read these posts have had a chance to look at the books pictured on the home page. If you have, thank you, and I hope they’ve rewarded your time!

I’m happy to announce a novel coming out in 2018. The title is Wiskalo Chookalo; it’s a ghost story I’ve set in early 1930s Wisconsin. TCK Publishing is bringing it out maybe in early summer in paperback and e-book. I’ll post again when it becomes available.

Yes, I know the title sounds strange. No, I’m not going to tell what it means. The title holds a couple secrets to the story, and its meaning unfolds as the story does–I don’t want to spoil either.

The story has a peculiar genesis. A couple of years ago on a frosty Wisconsin fall night with just a hint of snow in the air, I was looking out the back window into the yard, and the ghost dropped over the fence, sending the proverbial chill up my spine. Fortunately for me, it disappeared, but it left its story clear and complete in my mind. I needed only a little concentrated free time to tell it.

At Christmastime my father-in-law passed away. He wasn’t a literary man, but he always complimented me on my work and encouraged it, and shortly after he passed, I felt a special urgency to write that ghost story, as if her were saying, “Time for that work, son.”

The first draft, title and all, finished itself in twenty-two days.

I took some time to refine it and spent the next year and a half looking for a place for it. Those of you who have experienced a similar passion for a project will know how great it felt to find that place.

Perhaps I’ve mentioned before that while people in our time say “I thought that,” the ancients said “the thought came to me that”: this story came to me. I hope it proves as enjoyable in the reading as it did cathartic and fulfilling in the writing.

I wish you similar inspiration, and may you find a place and readers at least for your favorite stories if not for all of them.

 

21  Writing what you want?

Have you ever felt that you wanted to write one thing, but your imagination kept pushing you in a different direction?

Lately I’ve been wanting to work on novels: for someone like me, that’s about the only sort of writing for which one can actually get paid (and even that’s a maybe).

But I’ve gone on a short-story binge instead.

If you haven’t seen it yet, please look up kristydeetz.com and scroll down to “The Adventures of Rabbit and Kitty Boy.” The paintings are the best part, of course, but beneath each painting you’ll find a quirky little story where two characters respond to the paintings and discuss their own adventures–light reading if you don’t mind finding a little art criticism sprinkled in. You’ll find twenty paintings with accompanying prose bits.

In addition to the adventures, I finished two ghost stories for a collaborative project with my sister and four new pieces to complete a collection of eleven Harmon Falls stories to accompany the little book of poems you’ll find on the main page of this website. Yes, I know story collections are hard to place–that’s why I’ve been trying to write novels instead.

When students ask me about how to shape a new piece of writing, I always reply, “Let it become what it wants to be.” I’ve been finding myself taking my own advice: I’ve let the stories come along as they wish and take the shape and content they seem to me to be aiming for.

A short story always brings its own challenges, because the writer has only a small space to accomplish not only situation, complication, and epiphany, but also a little character development and at least a movement towards some sort of theme or purpose.

Most of us, when we started writing, probably began with short poems and short stories: we could conceive them and finish them. But as I get older, I need more words and more pages to say what I want to say, to tell stories that I want to tell.

But as long as the ideas are taking shape as short stories, I’ll let myself be glad with that: a certain charge always comes with finishing something, with having made it into a complete and self-actualized whole. Good short stories are hard to write, but when we think we have one, the sense of satisfaction appears even as it does with long works–we just don’t take quite as long to get there.

As always, happy writing!

23  Bingley Talks about Rabbit and Kitty Boy

I told Bingley about “The Adventures of Rabbit and Kitty Boy” on kristydeetz.com. He asked me if “Kitty Boy” refers to him.

“Not exactly, thought the character in the paintings sometimes looks a little like you.”

“Did I inspire him, then?” he asked.

“Oh yes, absolutely.”

“Thank you,” he said, pleased. “I’m glad I helped.”

“You’re welcome. I couldn’t have done the stories without you.”

“Do I get paid?”

He’s been asking me questions like that ever since I mentioned making a living.

“How much would you like?” I asked.

“More than usual.”

I told him you can’t make “more” money when you don’t already make money.

He said, “Not money! More mmmao.”

“You always get plenty! You haven’t missed a meal since you’ve been with us except when you were sick. I doubt you could eat much more than we give already.”

“We could try.”

I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere by reasoning, so I just calmly looked him in the eye waiting for him to change the subject, which he doesn’t do very readily.

Finally he said, “Who’s this Rabbit character, anyway?”

I explained as well as I could.

So he’s not real, just imaginary. Am I real?”

“As real as anyone or anything can be.”

“But not Kitty Boy: he’s not real.”

“He’s just a fictional version of you, a character for stories.”

“Maybe I need to have more adventures so you can tell real stories about me.”

“Maybe. What adventures would you like to have?”

“Flying!”

“Flying? On a plane? Believe me, you wouldn’t like it.”

“No, not on a plane: that sounds terrible. Just flying, like the birds!”

So Bingley jumped into my lap and told me about how he wants to fly. Sometime I’ll tell you that story, too.