Posts Tagged ‘research’

Winter to Spring, and the House Guest from Hell….

March 16, 2012

Well, I’ve been coasting this winter, mostly doing research, reading whatever I can grab that either fulfills the self-imposed requirements of ‘research’ or whatever comforts, satisfies.  This last varies, but I keep coming back to the soothing nature of Japanese classical literature.  Tanka, waka, biographies with work attached of Ono no Komachi, Saigyo, Basho, and the works of Royall Tyler (“Japanese Tales”, which are ‘fairy tales’ of a folk, horror nature), another attempt to settle down and plow seriously into Ruth Benedict’s “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” (a dated but weighty book on the Japanese written during WWII from her anthropological studies and interviews of interned Japanese in the US), Morris Berman’s “Coming to Our Senses” (and excellent and too far ranging book), and most recently,  Albert Hourani’s “A History Of The Arab Peoples”, which was started recently for more research for “Tin Hinan”, but is actually so well written it’s something I climb into bed for comfort at the end of the day.

This past week I’ve needed comfort, or perhaps a realization that some ‘friendships’ are not what you need in life: or perhaps I need some ‘smudging’, a clean broom or something to dispel negative energy left by a short-lived houseguest. Although we had little winter, I am ready for spring and all the changes to come.

When she was finally gone, (after changing plans repeatedly) it was a great relief.  But the negative energy she left behind was ‘real’.  I felt the house needed to be purged.  It was that bad.  So I opened windows, vacuumed, moved furniture around (the ‘go to’ when I need a change in environment or am bored….) and then on the suggestion of a dear friend, burned some candles and tried a little ritual of “bad be gone”.

It was a process that took all week, and I kept finding different and annoying remains of her around the house, like her cast off toothbrush left on the tub rim.  I kept throwing things out. In case I sound intolerant, yes I am. Guilty as charged.  It’s been a halting process, but it has rewards.  I should have developed this ‘aspect’ of my personality a while ago.  I think women in general tolerate too much in life: stupid, insulting, demeaning people because they are relatives or because we have assumed the position so long that we don’t realize the nature of things. We are numb to insults thrown out by hurtful people.  Either we can’t believe our ears or we don’t want to ‘rush to judgment’.  Hah! That kind of  behavior only emboldens these kind of people because they are insensitive to what they do…most times.  If they do it on purpose, they generally fall on the side of sadism and nobody really likes a sadist.

Perhaps we finally find our place in the sun.  I know  it took a long time for me to do so.  I am  considered accomplished enough,  but it took years  to ‘own’ those accomplishments.  Perhaps that has something to do with my intolerance now.  I refuse to have fools and ignorant people around me. I refuse to accomadate them, and if I lose ‘friends’ …well, so what.

I have a 99 year old Aunt  I call “Mother”, and she calls me “Daughter”.  It has taken many years for this to happen, but we both know that there isn’t much time left on the earth to acknowledge our deep love and respect for the other. She has told me many things that makes sense of my family life, and I have told her many things of great concern.  I love her deeply, and find that her love, instead of having to reach for it….reaches down to me. She is not only a cherished relative, but she is a friend.  I know that this can’t be forever, but I write to her every week, and call her, too, and she does the same.  I just wish, and I say this with tears, that I had done so earlier in my life.  She gives me love  I have never understood because it is constant and it is unconditional. 

 My aunt is a regal and elegant woman.  She  knows her place in the sun, but she does have regrets. I know she teaches me many things, and her age is no barrier in this. Perhaps tolerating people who ‘grate’ on the mind is one of them.  It’s not just good health that gets you to 99.  Perhaps it’s something else.  Perhaps it’s called grace.

Lady Nyo

(I love it when a reader, in this case, a fine poet, Yousei Hime, suggests an illustration to go with a poem.  I went to Google one, and my own painting was in the Google Image pile…LOL!  And it was under the caption: “Pitcher of Moon”.  Now, it’s not really a moon picture, but it is late dusk, and the sky is reflected in the pond…but what are the chances that this painting would pop up under that caption?  Thank you, Yousei Hime, for suggesting an illustration.  Good thing I had something to post that I didn’t have to steal!)

Pitcher of Moon

  

I dip into the pond

And gather a pitcher of moon.

Above it glimmers,

Smiles at my efforts

This late-winter moon.

 

It is just a bowl of cool water

I am holding

But the magic of the cosmos settles

In this plain clay vessel.

 

Janekohutbartels,

Copyrighted, 2012

Royalty Checks…..

May 20, 2010

"The Zar Tales"

I  want to thank all  who have bought “A Seasoning of Lust” and the new “The Zar Tales”.  I just got a first quarter royalty check and was pleasantly surprised.

Wow!  Baby’s got new shoes!

Last year was a  challenge.  I was growing as a writer and had to pick carefully what influences came into my life.   I had to learn to ignore the bad, tempting though it could be.   Especially the dangerous.  There usually is more than a touch of madness  in this last category.

It was difficult but I learned discernment.  It was not an easy battle.  Some people exist  as human potholes.  They need to be avoided but sometimes you see the hole too late.  You can fall in, but the point is to climb out of the muck.  Shake yourself off and go on.

I had to readjust my sites and purpose as a writer.  I moved away from erotica in the main. There is good erotica….and then there is the horrendous.  Mostly fanciful literature of the bdsm nature.  But too inhuman by far.  At least for my nature.

Writing isn’t something I started out to do, but over the past 5 years it has taken a big part of my life.  I have met some absolutely marvelous people who helped me in too many ways to count.

I think being a writer is in  part about influences.  I have had the great guidance and friendship of really good writers. Bill Penrose, Nick Nicholson, Steve Isaaks and others have helped and encouraged in ways I didn’t foresee.  I had the support of people who were dedicated READERS and that made all the difference to me.  I could chart what worked and what didn’t through their eyes and opinions.  It all went into the mix of becoming a writer.

Readers of this blog know  I have been writing a novel about feudal Japan.   “The Kimono” is also a time- warp story and the research for the 16th century parts (which is 90% of the novel) has been all consuming.  It’s thrown my life, and my husband’s…into new territory. With a novel like this, it should.  We are planning a trip to northern Japan for next year and to do some observations of the Yamabushi cult somewhere around Gassan (Moon) Mountain.  Yamabushi figures in strongly in this book.

Recently I exchanged correspondence with Lucia St. Clair Robson, the author of “The Tokaido Road”.  She published this novel in 1991.  It is a heavily-detailed and researched book.  Having some of the same issues in writing, research, we have a lot to talk about.  Lucia has been very open and encouraging on “The Kimono”.  We find that we also have a lot of opinions in common about writing.  That really helps because sometimes writing historical fiction seems like the most lonely thing one can attempt in life.  Research, the foundation for these kind of books….is never ending.  You just settle in and hope  what you read doesn’t contradict what you read before- but it usually does.  You learn about different cultures, and you learn  there are no “Chinese Walls” between people or cultures.

This is a really exciting period for me.  I’ve shaken the restricting and ridiculous influences of the past and feel  I have grown in my potential: as a writer but more as a woman, a human being.  I expect more of myself, and forgiving folly and fools is on the list.  I am also on that list.  And like “Earl”….I have a list.

I have received so many emails and phone calls of encouragement and congrats on the publication of the first two books.  That people are buying them and LIKING them! is a source of amazement to me.

“The Kimono” will take time to finish and rewrite.  There is always the necessary rewrite of things.  But “White Cranes of Heaven” is piecing together nicely and hopefully by this fall it will be published.  Though “A Seasoning of Lust” was an ‘adult’ book, and I learned a hard way it wasn’t suited to rabbis/nuns/and 90/92/97 year old readers,…. I am toying with the idea of a section in “Cranes” called “Bad Cranes of Heaven” for those poems which are mostly erotica.  Perhaps a ‘tear-away’ section that could cover it’s tracks???

Lady Nyo

Comments on Writing a Novel, Literary Influences, Works-In-Progress, and Chapter 42 from “Devil’s Revenge”

April 7, 2010

I wrote this blog entry last July.  Noticed that some were reading it this morning per my blog stats, and went to re-read it myself.

I had to laugh!  Not much changes in my life because I am writing a couple of novels, and Bill Penrose’s warning to FINISH A DAMN BOOK!  still stands true.   I did finish “Devil’s Revenge” and in posting parts on a website and on this blog  it had its supporters.  A lot of times I kept going because of the dedicated readers who pushed me with suggestions, questions, ideas…things I hadn’t considered myself in the writing.

The last 3 plus years has been productive.  I went through some diversions (D/s, bdsm, some scoundrels, a bit of a bad patch health-wise) but I never stopped writing. Even published two small books.  Sometimes I wondered where in hell all this was going.  And WHY was I continuing to write….blindly some days.

There are no pat answers to any of this…and with some other writers who have become dear and abiding friends, I can say this:  just keep writing.  Some days it seems  there are no ideas in the brain pan, and other days you are sprouting in all directions like a tree in spring.

Perhaps the key here is reading….and reading broadly.  For a couple of years I was involved in an erotica website, but I didn’t read much erotica except what was produced on that site.  Erotica can be a dead end I think.  Bill Penrose (“Ancestors of Star”, etc) has always maintained that my dipping my toes in this genre was slight.  I think he is right.  And frankly, I read such ponderous bdsm crap  I wanted to cry.  Some of it was horrifying and some just…boring.  Be careful of the influences you let into your life.  They could be worse writers than thou art.

I have a couple of friends who are serious writers.  We churn a lot of issues over together and I think one thing is proved:  You have to read broadly.  Not just the Iliad, some classics, some contemporary novels, but take some risks here: it’s only time and these efforts, regardless whether you finish something or not, will have an impact.   You will find bits and pieces sneaking into your writing and perhaps that will be all to the good.

I do remember some influences when I was writing “Devil”:  I had attempted “Tristram Shandy” (I hold no one can read that complete novel!), read for the third time (took 25 years, though) “Tom Jones” (I love this novel!!  It’s archaic but very, very valuable for so many things) “Pamela” and “Mists of Avalon”.  All these works found some resonance in this new (only my second) novel.  Perhaps uncomfortable places, but they settled in, sometimes in the dialogue, some times in the plots.

Since January I have been working on “The Kimono”.  This is a hard one to write because the research is paramount.  But! It’s going…slowly, and some days I could cry and tear my hair, but it’s going.

Recently I picked out an old book from my shelves:  “The English Spirit, Essays in History and Literature” by A.L. Rowse.  Good God! This is such a wonderful book!  It has absolutely nothing to do with what I am writing, but the lyricism of the writer is so good, and the essays are so involving,  I can’t help but learn something from this for future usage. Beyond that, though, it’s just a joy and pleasure to read, and I am hoping Rowse’s lyricism will rub off onto my own attempts.

Nothing more than the pure joy of reading and reading broadly. I am hoping my writer friends heed this, because I do believe we don’t live by our loins alone (that’s to the erotica writers…lol!) but there are worlds out there….that we pull in here….for our productions.

Lady Nyo

(below from July, 2009 blog entry)

Where are the directions for writing a novel?  As much as it’s discussed, apparently, there aren’t any. Well, there are suggestions and some guidelines, but  nothing in concrete.  It’s as individual as the author and has different approaches.  The key thing I am told is to keep going.

And that’s the rub.  I’ve been working on this quirky novel for over 3 years now, and it never seems to finish.  That is ‘normal’ from what I am told by those who HAVE finished novels.

And it keeps changing before my eyes.  Some days the characters gang up on me and take over the action, and other days they are as glum and silent as stones.  They take me down dead ends  and plot twists where I am blind as a bat, but for some reason,  they usually throw me a bone and with the breadcrumbs of design, I can work my way back into the light. (All this begs who is in control of the novel? Not exactly an easy question….it’s a weird partnership)

Bill Penrose has been a great influence and encourager on my writing this novel and other pieces.  He has always stood at my side when I was really lost in space on this novel (and other things) and given me the wisdom and experience of his own efforts.  Bill Penrose is a writer and a terrifically polished one at that.  Many decades writing does that to one who is open to learning and change.  Three years ago, Bill and Nick Nicholson, a fine Aussie writer, grabbed me from the lists of ERWA and put me in a private group and gave me lots of advice and guidance.  They continued to do so in another group for serious writers:  Not Dead Yet.  They worked over my beginning attempts and I learned.  Not enough, but I did learn some important and elemental things about writing.  I still have a lot to learn.  But they both stuck with me and believed in the characters.  Bill taught me how to critically ‘love’ my characters, and my imagination was fired by his own.

All this is to say that Bill gave me a good kick in the fanny very recently and told me that I owed it to him and my other readers to finish ’some’ novel.  (I have about 3 others more than 1/2 way through)  He’s right, and I was distancing myself from the hard work of finishing it.  I’ve been warned.

This is a quirky novel.  This is also a rough draft.  It’s been serialized a bit on this blog, and elsewhere….and the readership has been consistent.  I have a good ‘dedicated reader’ for this one, and I am listening hard to her opinions.  Every author needs this, and it helps a lot.  Thank you, M.

This is a bit unfair to new readers, to bring you into the action towards the end of a novel, but if interested, you can go back through the year’s blog and pick up the threads.

Bess: the narrator, is a 21st century  writer who is zapped through dimensions to the 19th century, and further to 8th century Wales, and  ‘home’ again to the 19th.

Madame Gormosy:  A Devil, a shapeshifter.  She can appear male or female at will.  She is a crucial character in most of the novel and one of my favorites.

M. Abigor:  A very powerful and nasty Demon, an Arch Duke of Hell, and also a Healer.  Go figure.  He’s the main ally of the next character, and pulling the strings and planning the final action.

M. le Devil, or aka:  Garrett Cortelyou.  Tall, handsome, dangerous and funny, Garrett is half human, but also half Demon.  He is locked (for centuries) in battle with Obadiah, a particularly demented demon.  Bess seems like a prize, but she is just a pawn  between these two.

Lady Nyo

Chapter 42.

DEVIL’S REVENGE

We came home.  How this happened isn’t clear.  Perhaps we flew out of that castle, off that island, out of that century like cannon shot and soared through the universe into the present.  Perhaps we tumbled like meteors over and over until we crashed into the earth.  I have no idea, but I would suppose it had to do with the mythical ley lines .

Garrett explained before what he knew about them. Some mystical,  magical spirit markers where the astral body could easily move.  He called it a ‘rip in the fabric of time’.  A portal to other dimensions.  I think Devils use this frequently to hop and jump from century to century, to show up when they are least wanted.

I read a while ago about this new mathematical “String Theory”, where scientists were theorizing extra dimensions more strange than anything we could conceive (ha! I could tell them some things…)  where we could pass from one dimension to another.  Certain  places the Earth’s energy increased and perhaps these were the portals.

But I just don’t remember how it happened to us, to return to the early 19th century. I must have had my eyes closed.

No, that’s not quite true. I do remember something.

I was lost in the darkness, with pinpoints of light travelling above, and small hills far under my feet. Those lights must be whirls of distant galaxies, stars and all that occupy the heavens, and those hills?  I remember Garrett talking about mole hills, the nurseries of different creatures, things beyond our imagination, things only a mother could love.

I seemed enormous, crossing great distances with only the breath of the cosmic wind to blow me afar, yet at the same time the universe was too vast, there were no breadcrumbs to follow.  I couldn’t see Garrett at all, I seemed to be alone.  Perhaps this was Death.  But I knew it wasn’t because I still worried, there was no peace.  Death would bring peace unless I was a ghost.

“Ah! She is coming back to life, she is awakening.”

I heard the voice of Madame Gormosy and I came conscious like a drowning woman, gasping and gulping air.

I blinked my eyes, trying to focus and there was Garrett and sweet Madame looking worried.  I still felt the effects of whatever drug was used for the time travel, but moaned with joy to see that troublesome Madame. I passed my tongue over my dried lips and tried to speak.

“Don’t labor yourself, ma cherie.   Here, drink this water, don’t gulp.”

She held a glass to my lips as Garrett slipped behind and pulled me up to a sitting position.  Of course I gulped and spilled more down the front of my nightdress.

“She will make it.”  I heard Garrett’s voice and turned my head to look at him over my shoulder.

I could have spit at him.  I was angry, and didn’t know why.   I felt disconnected and wondered if my atoms had been so disarranged as to warp my body, perhaps my mind? I pinched myself, as I would do over and over in the days to come, just to feel that small pain, to know I was alive.

I recovered after two days, felt more ‘normal’.  Something had changed though and it wasn’t just me.

Madame was always present. She hardly left me alone.  I didn’t say much, too distanced somehow to talk, or even play faro.  Madame was patient.  She didn’t push me in her usual fashion.  At times I glanced at her and she seemed worried, preoccupied in some way.  But then her expression would clear and though her eyes did not sparkle as before, she gave me encouraging little smiles as if to reassure everything would be fine.

It became clear things really had changed, would not return to whatever appeared before as normal. If I thought our coming ‘home’ would have allowed us more time together, I was very mistaken.  Garrett was mostly absent from the house.  When he arrived, I was asleep.

One evening after Madame had lit candles and found me sitting in the window seat, she came and sat down.  Smoothing her skirts across her thighs with her wrinkled and spotted hands, she sighed and looked out at the gathering darkness.

“Can you talk a little about your troubles, ma cherie?  You are so silent now, no laughter, no lightness.  I worry about you, dear child, but you seem none the worse for wear.”

I looked at Madame, the powdered gray hair, skin a lead white and those familiar moue on her face.  Suddenly I felt a sob rise in my throat and great tears began to fall.  I looked at her dear face and realized I had missed Madame Gormosy more than I could bear and here she was, before me, her own pain creasing her aged face.

“Oh, Madame!  I have missed you so much.”

I sobbed out my fear and loneliness and blindly pushed forth my hands towards her, feeling her catch me and draw me to her bosom.  Her hands went around my back, patting me firmly as I heaved great gulping sobs into her breasts, washing the lead powder from her skin and soaking her bodice.

“Ah, ma cherie, I have missed you, too! Who can I play my beloved faro with?  Once I told you how stupid other devils were.  Who can cheat like you? They are bumblers and no fun. They never tip their cards towards me, the solemn devils, they never kick their shoes off under the table, never let me read their deepest thoughts.  Ah! They are no amusement at all!”

I had to laugh.  Madame was very vain about her winnings, and kept them in a lacquered box.  But when I had no more coin to play with her, she would dump the box out and divide the coin equally. Well, perhaps I give her too much credit and have to remember she is a tricky devil, so I would suppose she would rake a bit of coin into her lap.  But all in all, she entertained me, and took great pains to do so.

She snapped her fingers and produced two rather large bowls of tea for us.  So much better than the stout Garrett would snap for.  Madame understood women, even though she was half male, and knew a crying jag would not be comforted by a tankard of ale.

I sipped the hot tea and wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, and heard her ‘tut, tut’, as she leaned over and attempted to dry my tears with a large linen handkerchief. I started to laugh, a rather forlorn and empty attempt at laughter, but Madame was predictable.  So was I, apparently.

“What is now to happen, Madame?”  I looked at where my tears had made her white powder run and her wrinkled, old bosom exposed over the top of her plum, velvet gown.  She smelled a little like boiled cabbage.

“Ah, M. le Devil should have many plans by now.  Since you both have returned, he has met everyday with some creature or other.”

Her eyes glittered as she dipped her face into her bowl. The old devil knew something!

“Have you seen who he meets?  Is M. Abigor a visitor?”

“Ah, my curious girl, I only get a glimpse of a tail or a hoof, not much to go on.  Perhaps a slight smell of brimstone, nothing much to identify. These queer devils are all the same, n’est ce pas?”

Madame Gormosy was lying. We both knew they didn’t have tails or hooves, they would look like respectable gentlemen, even though their danger did not come from the swords that dangled at their sides.

Madame cocked her head and narrowed her eyes.  “Perhaps we apply some powder and rouge, get you into a tight corset, do your hair and you will feel like facing life again?  No one can face the future in their nightgown.  We women have our own power, neh?”

I sighed. I was back amongst devils, and at least they were familiar. Their magic I knew, at least some of it.  No tattooed snakes travelling the length of arms, nor Warrior Queens speaking in tongues.   Just Madame Gormosy with her transvestite ability and snapping her fingers for bowls of tea.  There was still this issue of Garrett disappearing and it seemed that coming ‘home’ had done little to change that.  I needed some answers and the only way was to do as Madame demanded.  I shook off my suspicions and gathered myself.  I was still very much a part of this puzzle.  Dark forces were gathering and I still was just a pawn on a demented chessboard.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

Why do we write?

March 25, 2009

I haven’t a clue.  But I do know, once started, it’s hard to stop.

I have a particular problem, though to some it’s NOT a problem, but a blessing.  But it has become a problem for me.

I started a novel, “Heart of the Maze”, all 120,000 words of it, in 1990.  This was the month we adopted our 3 year old son.  Since he wasn’t actually an infant, and my husband was heavily bonding with him, I thought it  permissible to start writing for some unknown reason.  For 5 months I wrote  and finally put it down.  I went back to being a new mother, and my son didn’t seem to be harmed by the event.  I still don’t understand why I picked that time to write a novel.  Beside the obvious shock of being a new mother for the first time, and avoidance of what I worked so hard for.   I didn’t look at the book  again until 1994, and then only wrote a few chapters.

I started writing in earnest in very late 2006.  And from this period to now, I have written 5 novels or novellas.  “Devil’s Revenge”, “Tin Hinan”, “The Zar Tales”, “A Kapitany” (was “Az Kapitany” until I found out the Hungarian Az should have been A… Meaning “The Master”) and finally,  “The Kimono”, my longest work,  and also not finished.

None of them are finished, (well, “The Zar Tales” is actually) in fact most are all at a place where they are ‘pushing’ to be finished, but what is the holdup?

I plead this:  I fell in love with writing, and wrote indiscriminately.  I wrote longggg short stories….some top out at 8000 words which is pretty long, and shorter stories.  I wrote series of flashers (2o0 word stories) and strung them together.  “Metamorphosis”, “Shibari Series”, “Diary of a Changeling” became projects in of themselves.  I wrote tons of poetry: tanka, haiku, freeverse, cinquians, chokas, sonnets.

Along the way I published a book:  “A Seasoning of Lust” this January.  There is enough left over of short story and poetry and flasher series to publish another Volume, and I intend to do so this summer.

I also published a few poems, and have now been approached by a publisher for a short story. That was a surprise.  He has been reading this blog and stories posted on ERWA, he tells me, and his anthology wouldn’t be complete without a particular story.  Heh.

I am, of course, flattered.  I will see what comes of it.  He’s a very nice man, and rather different from other editors I am coming to see.

For all the novels, there was a lot of research because I’m not Japanese (though at one time my name was Mori because of a 13 year marriage…) and I’m not a Berber (“Tin Hinan”) and I’m not Turkish (“The Zar Tales”).

Hell, for “Diary of a Changeling” I bought about 10 books from the net, (thank you, Amazon.com!). This is a series of flashers about the French Resistance in Paris in 1940.  And I am not French, and I don’t speak it anymore.  Did, but not now.  Terrible to lose stuff through lack of use.

However, the question remains:  Why do we write?

I believe for some of us, it’s a compulsion.  We are natural storytellers. Perhaps our characters populate our lives because we are basically lonely people?  Writing fiction is a solitary art. In musical terms, we are both composer and performer.  Or rather, we are both storyteller and writer.

I have had to make a distinction, to understand the difference. The actual writing of a story, the choice of style (and being cognizant that there IS a choice), concern with point of view, dialogue, that is what makes up us as “writer”.

The creation of the characters and events, along with plot and setting and historical background, (and much else) is what makes us the “storyteller”.

These two parts become a whole:  the story, the novel.

But research is the backbone to any story that is complex, historical, longwinded.  And that is where I am going right now.

I have said that I want to finish “Devil’s Revenge”  (and God knows well it needs severe rewrite….)

Its paltry actual historic events that have been put down in text for the 6th century Wales, but you have to use what you can find.  I have a marvelous book:  “The Brothers of Gwynedd”, by Edith Pargeter, set in 12th Century Wales…and though 6 centuries later, things moved slowly in Wales in  medieval times.

The benefit of this book are the battles and I have to take where I can find information.

But all in all, I would rather be writing than….doing dishes.

Lady Nyo


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