BLOG: 6's & 7'S
by Kelley Kaye
“Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.”- George Bernard Shaw
My response to this has always been a resounding GRRRRRR! 🐻George Bernard Shaw, you can kiss my butt, because you don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about!
As a high school English teacher for 20 years, as any teacher (or parent) knows (and based on everything I’ve read, GBS was neither), you need to know a subject intimately before you can help another person acquire the same skill. The entire quote is ridiculous and ignorant, whether it comes from a genius playwright or not.
But the whole time I taught school, I felt like I needed to do everything I expected my students to do, every time they did it. Especially when I started teaching Creative Writing--because I'd never been published and I didn't have my Master's in the subject yet, and I felt like I needed the practice. It helped that I had ended my one-minute-long-way-too-young-and-stupid, completely unadvised marriage at this time, because when I got to poetry, I had a glut of emotional material. Maybe not good poetry, but poems from a real place, anyway.
My tears fall
like a broken
string of pearls.
They hit the hard floor
Forever, it seems.
Though I try
frantically, to gather
them back up,
Parts of my pain
and into the corners.
I wash my face
and re-string my
The lost tears
roll our of their hiding place
to slip my feet out from under me
One of my favorite lessons was poetry within a form, haiku, limericks--and since I taught Shakespeare, the sonnet form. Here's one I wrote for my CW class back in 1998--the students were intimidated by the restrictions of the form--so I told them to just give me a subject and I'd write a sonnet. Appropriately for the time of year we're in right now, they gave me the subject of 'Death." I worked it out group-style, with them right then and there.
The Visit--a sonnet
At night I sit with all-foreboding gloom.
My heart has tripped as often as it beats.
My dying face I see in yonder moon,
The flesh decaying in your cold black sheets.
You enter with a quiet stealth of sound,
Your hands caressing all my morbid fears.
The thought of living always in the ground,
Creates a sculpture molded with my tears.
O Death! Can I please send you on your way??
Your visage conjures thoughts of evil lands.
My horror builds each moment of your stay,
With dreams of bodies melting into sand.
I’m well aware my soul cannot remain---
Your bony handclasp seeks to end my pain.
I guess it's appropriate for this post, too, because ironically, now I don't teach anymore, but among other genres, I write about death--murder mysteries. I'm laughing OUT LOUD because the only way I can prove how wrong George Bernard Shaw was--in this case--is to read a boatload of murder mysteries and do a lot of research. I don’t even kill spiders, so this is the way for me to know the subject intimately enough to teach it. Or help others be entertained by it, at least!
For this short story anthology, Tangled Lights and Silent Nights, I was lucky enough to be able to combine a lot of my knowledge as a teacher and now as a writer for my piece 'A Muse-ing Christmas: Ms. Parker Teaches Santa--Shakespeare Style'. Leslie Parker, one of the teachers and crimestoppers in my Chalkboard Outlines Cozy Mystery Series, loves Shakespeare and loves Santa! She decides to help her Creative Writing student, Maisie Duchovny, try and turn her holiday poem into a sonnet about Santa. I haven't written poetry in quite a while, so it was a lot of fun to write fictional student Maisie's Santa poem and then turn it into a Shakespearean form sonnet, with the help of fictional teacher and Shakespeare-obsessed Leslie Parker.
It was a great time, and I consider myself even luckier that the story is amongst this cool collection of stories by award-winning and bestselling authors of all genres, raising funds for the Life After Project—Visions of Hope. Don't miss it!
Visit my website at https://kelleykaybowles.com/ and check out my books, the Amazon cozy mystery bestseller Death by Diploma and Poison by Punctuation from Red Adept Publishing, and the Victor Indie Book of the Year 2017 young adult Down in the Belly of the Whale from Aionios Books..
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Purchase Tangled Lights and Silent Nights!
From Ciara Ballintyne, author of The Seven Circles of Hell
Meet Alloran – the fantasy equivalent of a mad scientist, whose stock in trade is magic, not science.
I conceived of Alloran after reading The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills. The main character in that book has a friend, Monk Markham, who is a brilliant wizard constantly dabbling in things he shouldn’t—and getting away with it.
And I thought--but what if he didn’t? What if his hubris had consequences?
Poor Alloran has been plagued with mishaps, and in The Seven Circles of Hell he stumbles from disaster to disaster, in each book trying to put right what he made wrong in the last. Maybe he should just stop. Maybe it’s time to call it quits.
But he has itchy fingers, and he can’t put a puzzle down once he’s picked it up—and what’s a poor wizard to do when his best friend is on the loose, trying to destroy him, and, incidentally, the world?
Events all started a long time ago in a galaxy… I mean, just a long time ago. Alloran is more than a hundred years old, and when we meet him in Confronting the Demon, he’s abandoned his research and has committed himself to a life of carousing. Because if you don’t behave seriously, people can’t expect you solve serious problems, right?
It seems like a sensible decision—if you are addicted to something bad, the general wisdom is to give it up. But Alloran gets sucked back in when he’s framed for summoning demons, and winds up on the run while someone is murdering his friends.
So that’s how he got back into magic. But why did he quit in the first place?
Alloran was the man who discovered how to open gates into hell—which is why everyone thinks he summoned the one in Confronting the Demon. His research was burned and demon summoning banned, so who else could it be?
That first ill-fated foray into the hells, what was to be Alloran’s crowning glory, turned into a disaster that made him the man we meet in Confronting the Demon.
When I was asked to write a Christmas story for Tangled Lights and Silent Nights, my first thought was ‘how do you write a Christmas story in the epic fantasy genre?’ Then when I gave it some more thought, I realised I had a story that needed telling, that some readers had been asking for—the story of that first imp he summoned from hell, that started events in motion.
Another Bloody Festival is that story—how it all went terribly wrong for Alloran—set against the backdrop of the winter solstice—because is there a better time of year for a demon to be loose in the halls?
PURCHASE Tangled Lights and Silent Nights
You know that one toy that every kid just has to have? The one that the sadistic toymakers only produce in limited supply? Yes, that one. Of course, it’s different every year, and when my kids were little, I was just like the rest of the monsters, I mean, mothers, out trying to score that one thing, that one toy that would make them dance around the tree and scream “Thank you, Santa Claus!” Right. The only fat man involved was the one I kidney punched because he tried to grab my Cabbage Patch doll.
It was the year of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and the only thing my sons wanted was a red power ranger action figure. Of course, every child between the ages of four and fifty wanted the same thing and I had exhausted the search in my small town and surrounding areas. Two weeks before Christmas, and I tried to explain to them that I couldn’t find it. I might as well have been talking Furbish. They knew that what Mom couldn’t find, Santa would take care of. Damn the fat man.
I had one more shot. My aunt and I had planned to meet in Manhattan for a weekend of shows and Christmas fun. Of all the toy stores in the world, surely, FAO Schwartz would have the prize, right? Well, kind of. Amidst a mob of mothers I listened while the store manager explained:
“Our last shipment of power ranger figures will arrive in the morning at 5am.” Then he added. “By truck. In the alley.”
I wasn’t opposed to grappling in a dark, New York City alley at 5am for a power ranger, and I was pretty sure I could hold my own. But these other miscreants, I mean, mothers, were pretty excited about it, and that scared me. I shrugged, and thought, oh well, in the spirit of Christmas, I’ll round up some brass knuckles and a cat o nines and take my chances. What the hell.
I got there at 4 a.m., thinking I would be ahead of the crowd. The others were obviously more experienced at alley jacking trucks, and there were easily two hundred women already there. Yes, two hundred Zhu Zhu warriors, ready to crack you over the head with an Easy Bake Oven, if necessary.
Seeing that my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle moves were not intimidating anyone, I knew my chance of actually getting through these angry birds was pretty slim. They would be arm-loading, and if I got to the truck at all, the only thing that would be left would be, heaven forbid, a blue ranger. And from the looks of the crowd, I’d probably have to take a knife just to get that.
I was ready to accept defeat. I wavered between telling the boys that Santa is a jerk or to just blame their father. I started walking away, glancing back to the alley and trying to avoid the Christmas cheer that the twinkling lights and expensive decorations were there to encourage. Then I stopped and looked more closely at the decorations that were strung through the streets. “Well, Tickle Me, Elmo,” I said. I turned around and walked one block, turned and walked one more. Then I waited.
At 4:45, an unmarked 28 foot box truck crept down the street. At 4:46, I walked in front of it and forced it to stop.
“Lady, are you crazy!” Probably not certifiable, but that wasn’t the point.
“You hit me!” I yelled as I limped toward him and climbed on the step side.
“You are crazy. Lady, you need to get off my truck.”
I nodded. “Sure thing. I’ll just call your dispatcher and say you hit me and kept on going. Or, I could call him and tell him how professionally you handled Christmas Hell in that alley ahead. Either one will go in your file, right?”
“How do you know what alley I’m going to?”
I shrugged. “I work for a truck line. Last week one of our drivers took out Santa and all eight reindeer that were hanging too low across the street. Look around, this is the only route there is to that alley, and you have a 5 a.m. appointment.”
He laughed. “I guess you want me to open up my truck and get you one of those damn dolls. That ain’t gonna happen.”
He knew he was packing the goods. But I was smarter than the average beanie baby. “No! Of course not. I’m going to ask you to give me one of the ones you’ve got in the cab of this truck. Twenty bucks for a $7 toy, and a glowing compliment from one of the mothers at FAO Schwartz. Whatdya say?”
He thought for a moment. “What makes you think I have some in the cab?”
I gave him my best smirk and rolled my eyes. I do love truck drivers.
He thought for a moment and then sighed. “You got forty bucks?”
“Forty bucks! Highway robbery!” I said as dug in my pocket and grabbed two twenties. Then I realized, it actually was highway robbery and I was a maskless Zorro. “It has to be red,” I said as he leaned over and reached behind the passenger seat. I heard him mumble, “Well, hell, like I don’t know that.”
He handed me two boxes. I shook my head. “No, I only need one."
“One’s red and the other is green. They just came out with the green ones. You’ll be walkin’ in front of trucks for that one next week. I’m trying to save us both the headache.”
I walked back through the streets of Manhattan with more attitude than Holiday Barbie. I stood across the street from Hell Alley and watched as the biting, fighting, screaming and general chaos began. I couldn’t resist yelling “Merry Christmas, losers!” as I turned to leave. I smiled as I patted my coat, now bulging with two boxes—-a red ranger AND a green ranger. I had scored. And I’d be damned if Santa was going to get the credit for it.
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