Friday, January 25, 2013

Bee Dazzled by Packages

First 'Proof' Copy of Bee Dazzle...sitting on my laptop

When I emerged from the New Portland Post Office on Tuesday morning, I was smiling.  I’d stopped by on my way to work because I was hoping to receive in the mail a ‘proof’ copy of Bee Dazzle, a novella originally written as a game of Writers’ Tag by my friend Saint and me.
Saint... and Me
To my delight the proof copy had arrived – and so had two additional packages; both from Australia.  One was sent from Grahame and KK, my friends in New South Wales.  It was a Christmas gift and I’d known it was en route – and that it had been…for six weeks.  Lord only knows what Aussie Customs agents found ‘interesting’ about a calendar made from photos of Grahame and KK’s luxury resort in Australia’s wine country, but I’ve come to depend on those hard-working and diligent agents to find something – anything – to focus on which will delay shipping packages to and from Maine and Oz.
Varykino Mudgee in glorious Autumn colors

 The second package was a mystery and even though I was pressed for time, I opened it while sitting in the Post Office parking lot.  The return address told me it was from my friend Larry of Russell Island in Brisbane Harbor.  The package was comprised of a very large padded envelope and there was a big tear along the back.  The bag was squishy.  Like there was something made of cloth inside.  Was Lal sending me clothing?  After all, when he left Maine after his visit in 2010, he gave me his calf-length Australian leather coat, called a “Driza-bone”.  Perhaps he hadn’t had room for the coat in his carry-on luggage… or maybe he’d recognized the covetous looks I’d cast in the coat’s direction during the four weeks he was here.  Whatever the reason, it wasn’t unheard of for Lal to gift me with something to wear. Larry's "Driza-bone" after  shooting his cell phone with a 9mm  WWI Luger
My frozen hands worked at tearing through the glue and staples which held down the envelope’s flap.  Successful at last, I peered into the gloomy interior of the bag.  Whatever it was, it smelled slightly…musty.  For all I knew, the package had been subjected to inclement weather for weeks on end –perhaps riding topside on a slow boat to China, via the ‘scenic route’ along the east coast of America. 

I reached inside and pulled forth…a kangaroo skin.  A kangaroo pelt.  A kangaroo rug?  I held in my hands the furry hide of an Eastern Gray Kangaroo….long tail, included.

I laughed.  In surprise.  In dismay.  And more than anything else, I laughed because I knew that the gift was sent in an effort to let me share part of Larry’s Australian life and culture.  I immediately looked at the tote bag sitting beside me on the truck seat, which sports gifts from Jack in Queensland.  A ‘roo scrote pouch’ in the back interior pocket and a desiccated ‘cane toad purse’ (both of which Jack says no self-respecting Aussie kid would be without) attached to the exterior key ring holder.

Yep, I’ve been the recipient of a plethora of Aussie ‘culture’.

Lal is (when sober—which of course is almost always!) a man of few words.  The brief note accompanying the gift was short and succinct.
Ornamental pelt on my upstairs bannster...
“An eastern gray kangaroo.  Don’t add water or it might hop away.”  No signature… just those few words penned in his unique scrawl upon a scrap of paper.  It was enough. Enough to make me laugh.  Enough to make the start of my day one filled with humor and good feeling.  I chuckled as I backed my truck out of its parking space and headed west on Route 16 towards Kingfield.

So…I am the owner of a kangaroo pelt.  The question remains – what will I do with it? As I’ve shown it to my co-workers and my kids, suggestions have been plentiful.  The most popular notion has been to make it into a full-sized apron by attaching a ribbon to the upper ‘neck’ part and tying the front legs around my back.  The long tail presented a bit of a dilemma, but again…the majority ruled.  If ‘tail’ored properly, that long appendage could contribute to the making of a one-of-a-kind ‘thong’ apron.

Oh, Lord.

At the present time, the pelt is draped over the banister at the top of our stairs.  The first night it was folded up atop the table…and our three cats took turns curling up on it.  But hides of any kind don’t belong on a kitchen table (nor do cats of any kind) so over the banister it was draped.

What to do with it?  I have two full-sized Aussie flags that haven’t been hung or displayed – for this isn’t Oz and I’m not sure of proper flag ‘protocol’.  I have photos of much of the eastern half of Australia… and videos of pythons eating possums or slithering along the tops of pagodas… and books on local Australian history and (often-deadly) flora and fauna…and local maps of specific regions Down Under (so I can find these friends if I ever travel to the South Pacific).  I carry Australian money in my bag --bills AND coins -- just in case I ever need it or want to show others what Oz currency looks like.  I have autographed novels from best-selling Aussie authors...and Aussie calendars which threaten to confuse me because their weeks begin with Monday on the far left and Sunday on the far right.  I have all this and more…but I’ve never agonized (much) about what to do with these treasures.    

But a roo rug? Hah!  I have no idea what to do with that.  If you’ve any suggestions (which don’t include a scenario in which I’m wearing it) I’d love to hear them

You know where to find me.  Not Down Under but ‘Up Above’… in Lexington Township, Maine. Lexington Township...Maine

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Coming Soon.....

Okay... the published cover will feature Saint's name in the primary position... but this copy is all I've got!

Within the next few weeks I’ll be the proud author of another published novel.  Bee Dazzle is its name and it’s a ‘collaborative effort’ between two writers.  I’m one of them.  My friend Eugene Saint is the other.

Saint is from Tennessee.  Although he and I have been friends for three years, we’ve never met in person.  I owe our association to my pal Jack; that Scotsman now living in Australia who has been the springboard for many wonderful long-distance friendships.  Jack and Saint ‘met’ on an online authors’ site and after the two men corresponded for awhile, Saint decided to send Jack an autographed copy of his ‘Coming of Age’ novel, The Eggless Club.  That was almost four years ago and I didn’t know anything about Saint at that time – but I remember when Jack wrote to me one Saturday to tell me that he spent a good part of his day lazing in the hammock while reading an ‘excellent little book’ sent to him by an American author named Eugene Saint. 

Fast-forward a few months to January, 2010.  Jack – who always looks out for his pal ‘Kaz’ – emailed, telling me of a website where authors read and critiqued each others’ work.  I checked it out and – always doing what Jack advises [except when he’s DEAD WRONG] – I enrolled as a member.  Within hours, I got a message from an old guy named ‘Saint’.

“Hi, Karen.  Welcome to the site!  Hey, some of us have a game of ‘writers’ tag’ going and we’re looking for people to participate.  Hope you’ll check it out!”  

Well, I checked it out…and then signed up to play.

The rules were simple: There were no rules!  One writer composed an opening ‘post’ in the style and genre of their choosing and then ‘tagged’ another player – who would then have to continue the story without any collaboration with the previous writer and without any idea of their intent or vision or plot.  I was told that the scheme was to try to write the other players ‘into a corner’ so that they would have to use their skill and imagination to get themselves back out.

That first game –which included 5 other writers – was fun (but rather weird).  I quickly realized that Saint was talented, intelligent – and the most wicked sort of troublemaker!  He had the ability to make me laugh out loud – even while he aggravated and insulted me.  How could I resist such charm?

Saint and I, along with various other writers, participated in several games of Tag but a busy home life and work schedule kept me from ‘playing’ as often as I wanted.  Eventually someone suggested a variation to the game: a contest where several teams consisting of only two writers created short stories and let readers choose their favorite ‘Tag’. 

Saint and I teamed-up…and Bee Dazzle was born.

We authors all agreed that our own work product in each Tag would remain our personal ‘intellectual’ property.  For example: everything I wrote in each collaborative work belonged to me, only – and could be used/re-worked/published by me; exclusive of the others’ contributions.
Eugene Saint (and Wibby...)

By the time the site folded, Saint and I were firm (if somewhat adversarial) friends.  We decided to use our own bits and pieces of the individual Tags to create original novels.  Bee Dazzle – being a short story – seemed like the best choice for a ‘trial run’ at co-writing.

In truth, it’s been a hellish experience.  Saint is opinionated, sarcastic…and he thinks he’s ALWAYS RIGHT.  On the other hand, I AM always right… but have had to cede him some small concessions due to my desire to keep his blood pressure within life-sustaining range.  He has yet to acknowledge the fact that co-authoring with me is good for his image – but I expect that that humble and appropriate homage will be paid to me in due time (i.e., when hell freezes over.)

Bee Dazzle is the result of a light-hearted game in which two authors battled it out in a public forum.  I wrote the first ‘post’ but had no idea where it would go from there.  I STILL don’t know where it went – but I do know that every time I read this collaborative story…I smile.  Sometimes I even laugh out loud.

But I’ll never admit that to Saint. It’s bad enough that he thinks he’s God’s gift to the literary world.  It simply wouldn’t do for him to know that he’s been an amazing gift to me, as well.   

Bee Dazzle has been type-cast in the “Chick Lit” genre –which tickles ME…but which must irritate poor old Saint!  A ‘google’ search defines Chick Lit as “smart, fun fiction for and/or about women of all ages…revolv(ing) around jobs, children, motherhood, romance, fame…friendship…and much more, usually with a touch of humor thrown in.”

Our novel was an ‘off the cuff’ endeavor but it surely fits within the confines of the ‘Chick Lit’ definition. I can live with that.  As ornery as Saint is, I suspect that he can, too.

We hope you’ll agree…because we surely can’t!