The Artistic Temperament

The Artistic Temperament is sometimes called “Soft Bipolar” or “Cyclothymic Personality”. Writers often display the signs and symptoms. We tend to be highly sensitive, prone to extremes, laser-focused or totally spaced out, depending on our mood.

I’m a fully functional human being. I work hard, tend to my grooming, clean my house, take care of my daughter, feed my dog, and clean out the kitty litter every day. I’m also a writer with a case of artistic temperament. Is this a diagnosis or a mere label? You decide.

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF IT:

ENDLESS CLICK-CYCLES, WORN-OUT MICE. Facebook – Twitter – Goodreads – Blogs – Facebook – Twitter – Goodreads – Blogs. Hours pass. Work doesn’t get done. When I rise to the surface, I realize the magnitude of this colossal waste of time. Then again, I’m getting pretty damn savvy on all things writing, publishing, reading, and marketing. Seems the click-cycle has scared up some priceless info. Should I shun the dreaded click? Yes! No! I don’t know!

THE MOTIVATIONAL POWER OF BOREDOM: Over the years, I’ve made a decent living typing medical reports. However, as Ogden Nash would ask, do you like your tedium rare or medium? Trust me, it’s tedious work at best. All I want to do is write. How the HELL am I going to knuckle down and type another hemorrhoidectomy report? Here’s the upside – to avoid being crushed by utter boredom, I let my imagination wander. During those forays into weirdness, I come up with all sorts of ideas for stories. What if the world were gripped by pandemic and the cure lay in the hands of ancient mystics? What if mental illness was illegal, punishable by death? What if a brilliant megalomaniac figured out a way to enhance intelligence far beyond anything dreamed possible? What would life be like for a girl who could read auras in a dying world? Tedium – I thank you. Without your gray expressionlessness, my stories would never be born.

CARLYLE IS CRAZY TOO: Carlye Clark is a most patient man, remarkably even-tempered. If he’s a “cyclothymic”, one would never know, but I’m onto him. He’s just better than I at keeping it under wraps. Proof- didn’t he dream up, in one of our stories, a whale-shaped living star ship bigger than the moon? Didn’t he write the line: “I eat the hearts of my enemies” uttered by a six-inch cyber-avatar who somehow stepped OUT of the cyber world? How can someone write such insane coolness and not have a “diagnosis”?

PROOF POSITIVE – I NEED HELP: This brings me to a little jingle I wrote and would love to share. It is sung to the tune of the Oscar Mayer classic –  “My Baloney has a First Name” – that one!

Okay. Are you ready kids?

Oooooohhhhh – My dysfunction has a first name, it’s
C – Y- C- L – O,

My dysfunction has a second name, it’s
T – H – Y – M – O,

I love to swing it every day,

And if you ask me why I’ll saaaaaaaayyyyyyy,

‘Cuz cyclothymics have a way with

E – U – F – O – R – I – A !

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Review: The River God by Wilbur Smith

River God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt (Ancient Egypt, #1)River God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Wilbur A. Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A bloody hippo hunt, the intricacies of ancient Egyptian culture, this book is entertaining from first to last.

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Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Preposterous, silly, flat, annoying, and not-the-least-engaging. In fact, the preceding should be the five factions. I can’t finish it. Life’s too short. The only reason I gave it one extra star is because it’s ambitious, and I’m nice.

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Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Unrelenting darkness, despair, and hopelessness. How could I give this five stars? Because it tore me up. It made me feverish with desire for the tiniest speck of hope – right along with the characters. I felt them completely, and that translates to a profoundly engaging experience. Most importantly, it made me love our beautiful planet with a depth I’ve never known. If you’re not prone to depression, I highly recommend this inexorably bleak, horrifically moving novel.

THE BODY OF “STORY”

The skeleton (PLOT) provides a structure upon which to build, its marrow rich with potential. It is not a rigid thing, but bends at the joints (SCENES) in a limitless variety of shapes and postures.

Tendons (STORY-CRAFT) hold the organism together so it can move where it will without falling apart.

The circulatory system delivers blood (EMOTION) to every tissue, courses with love, pulses with fear, flows with hope, shame, regret . . . and bleeds. Oh how it bleeds.

Muscles (CHARACTERS) move. They run, leap, march, stumble, dance, fold, and rest. They take your hand and invite you (READER) to join them, strong and reassuring, because if weak and insipid, they remain forever alone in their pages, their very existence threatened.

The throat, tongue, teeth and lips (VOICE) speak in all the variations of the human soul and psyche. When timid, they inspire a need to protect. When bold, they raise the spirit. A quiet whisper brings a tingle. A groan evokes dread. A murmur inspires a deep and needful longing. Quirkiness and irony shape a smile.

The nervous system (SETTING) provides the basis for sensation, the nuance of everything felt, the smells in buildings and forests, of paper and cream, the pungent reek of fear. The colors of light and water, a gibbous moon, a shiny beetle on a snapdragon stem, the coolness of night wafting across the skin, the sound of birds and quiet moans, the ripping terror of a distant scream.

Lungs (THEME) breathe a subtle current, the wisdom gained from successes, failures, and outcomes, the subtext of dialogue, the profound meanings of metaphor. They manage the flow of oxygen, which is the fuel of transformation (CHARACTER ARC).

The heart (CONFLICT) must pump. It is the engine that drives the body forward, at times calm but it also threatens to burst, beating a dire rhythm that walks, marches, or crawls unfailingly, to the end.

The brain (TECHNICAL) commands an army of words. Nouns and verbs are the elite force, their value unquestioned. Well chosen, few are needed to complete their mission. They make careful use of their support staff of Adjectives. Pronouns, while necessary, are always in danger of being dismissed to wait in their bunks until needed, while adverbs must fight for their right to exist on the page, and in a good story, they often lose.

Whether STORY is told while gathered at low fires, or rattling along battered landscape on the wheels of chariots, chugging in boxcars on the hobo’s lips, rustling in the pages of a cherished book, riding the static of ancient radios, sizzling on screens, or dancing the wireless electrons that permeate the modern world, it is a living organism that has been and will always be with us, as long as there is consciousness to give it life.

Roots in Virginia

Grandma was a pillow
She twirled my pigtails
The Greyhound bus pushed through the fog
Like a shovel through Virginia
We bumped on in to coal country

Mama skittered like rain on hard ground
Cigarette ash long and curved
Irradiating her cheek in a sullen glow
We road the bus forever
Bucking the furrowed road

She said
My roots are in Virginia.
And planted a sideways glance
Green eyes spiked with thorns
Seeking moisture
She tipped the bottle like a trumpet

Grandma’s damp affection
Unbreathable
The studded metal roof
Faces formed of rusted rivets
Screeching brakes mimicked
The claws of nausea that raked my gut
Mama took my left hand
Grandma my right
I spewed into the weeds
At Piggly Wiggly
We crouched together

The road – a black ribbon
Tied up the mountains
Clothed in September reds
Stitched with asphalt
Edged with glinting gold
The periwinkle sky peeked but
Clouds dominated

Exhausted we arrived
Houses tossed like pickup sticks
Rickety in the Appalachian ambiance
The door creaked, uninviting
A witch’s maw
Chairs shrouded in smudged sheets
Ghost piano draped in linen shadows
Grim tables
Sunken couch

Phantom light through coal blackened windows
Opaque
A vapor of forgotten memories
Mama was a girl here
Not yet sodden
Downtrodden
We disturbed the air
Sluggish tornadoes, unaccustomed to swirling

The house pushed me out like
Oil paint from a tube
A splotch of pink
In an abstraction of mute

The house perched a cliff
Backyard plunged vertical
Patterned green, a dizzy portrait of
Fall, a season and a danger
The bottom, just a theory
I edged back from the edge

Then carried on a whisper
A southern voice
My city eyes widened
The neighbor lady spoke
I’m Theresa.
Are you Bunny’s little girl?
Is she back?
Honey child – she was a beauty.
A dog barked at her window
Theresa clipped snippets of memory like violets
And offered me a handful.

Your Mama sang and danced
Graceful as a willow
Famous round these parts
Well loved
She went a hoppin’ off
You favor her, you know that?

My eyes brushed down, face burning
A late, tender shoot, innocent as a curl
Brushed my sneaker toe, interesting
Among the browned grass
A disobedient tear zigzagged
Wended its way to my chin
A rope of regret like saltwater taffy
Stretched between us

I ran inside in a bashful flurry
To the kitchen
Corners cloaked in darkness
Grandma pulled at white bread
Slapped turkey on a paper plate

Mama clutched a bottle
Leaned against the oilcloth table
Blue shirt smudged
“Where did you go?, she cried.
Eyes, narrow green.

There was nothing I could do
But search for candles

PREMATURE E-DRAFT-ULATION

HOW EMBARRASSING! Too quick!
Once again, impatience overrides prudence. The draft for The Apocalypse Gene book trailer was finally complete, and the first thing I did was post it on Facebook. It got a bunch of hits and a positive response. Then I realized my mistake. The hit counter was going up up up on the DRAFT, which means when I post the final trailer, I’d have to ask everyone to kindly hit it again so I have an accurate count.

This isn’t the first time impatience got the better of me and it won’t be the last.

When the final book trailer is ready, I’ll blast it everywhere. Until then, I will sit on my hands and WAIT.