Monday, September 27, 2010

Give that man a martini!

The Return of Odysseus
by George Bilgere

When Odysseus finally does get home
he is understandably upset about the suitors,
who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.

In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
But those were different times. With the help
of his son
Telemachus he slaughters roughly
one hundred and ten suitors
and quite a number of young ladies,
although in view of their behavior
I use the term loosely.
Rivers of blood
course across the palace floor.

I too have come home in a bad mood.
Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
behind the library to the new provost.

I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what's-his-name.

And then there was another gin and tonic
and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
and peace came to reign once more
in the great halls and courtyards of my house.

"The Return of Odysseus" by George Bilgere. (buy now)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Equinox, Celtic Style . . .

The sun is waning signaling the start of shorter days, winter winds and Autumn Equinox. Today, the sun and moon share the sky equally, and Celts celebrate the harvest . . .

The Wicker man There was a Celtic ritual of dressing the last sheaf of corn to be harvested in fine clothes, or weaving it into a wicker-like man or woman. It was believed the sun or the corn spirit was trapped in the corn and needed to be set free. This effigy was usually burned in celebration of the harvest and the ashes would be spread on the fields. This annual sacrifice of a large wicker man (representing the corn spirit) is thought by many to have been the origin of the misconception that Druids made human sacrifices.

'The reaping is over and the harvest is in,
Summer is finished, another cycle begins'

In some areas of the country the last sheaf was kept inside until the following spring, when it would be ploughed back into the land. In Scotland, the last sheaf of harvest is called 'the Maiden', and must be cut by the youngest female in attendance.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Talkin' Texas, Austin Style

Austin, Texas is an alluring oasis located smack dab in the heart of Texas. Learn the lingo and you'll fit right in . .

New to Austin? You’re not alone. The little big city on the Lower Colorado River has been growin’ so fast almost nobody’s from here any more.

And it's no wonder. Austin is an oasis of rolling green hills, miles of blue river and more writers, musicians and computer whizzes than you can shake a stick at.

Though the city is located deep in the heart of Texas, you can always tell when you hit the Austin city limit line. The elevation is higher, the landscape is lush and green and the language is a pure, straight up, double shot of Austin. With a good ear and a little coachin’, you too can talk like you were born here.Now, learnin’ to act like you’re from Austin may take a little longer . . .

A Bit About Austin

A couple things newcomers find out right away is that Austin is different—not just different from Texas, but, for the most part, different from the rest of the planet, which is why so many people visit Austin and nobody seems to leave.

The semi-official Austin city motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” and we like it that way.

I hear up north they lock their crazy people in the attic. In Austin, we prop ‘em up on the sofa and invite the neighbors over for iced tea. So it stands to reason we need our own language, which explains everything from our own special pronunciation of regular ol’ English to our own brand of Spanglish.

Talkin’ Austin: The BasicsFirst off, you can always tell a newcomer when they refer to Austin residents as “Austonians” or any other some such nonsense. Be aware—this is a terrible insult, since Houston residents call themselves “Houstonians,” and Austin takes great pride in being unique. Austin folks are Austinites.

Many a new weather man has made the grave mistake of addressing his audience as Austonian, and the unfortunate tee-vee station that employs said weather man gets more irate phone calls than if he’d predicted the weather wrong. To be fair, we don’t much care what weather men, or anybody else for that matter, say about Austin weather—we already know the forecast. We’ve got four seasons: hot, hotter, hottest, and natural catastrophe (flood, hail, tornado, drought, and any coastal north-heading hurricane, and the inevitable evacuees said hurricane blows in with, which we take in with shelter, hot casseroles and good intentions).

To keep things interesting, there’s the occasional annoying cold front that knocks the whole city to its knees—helpful hint: avoid rare rain or ice storms. Austinites don’t know how to deal with bad weather and the resulting skidding, sliding, crashing traffic accidents will likely earn you a nasty note from your insurance company.

Austin Pronunciation Guide

Once you’ve dipped your toe in the Austin pool of assimilation and know enough to call yourself an Austinite, you’ve gotta learn to talk Austin.Begin by dropping the “g” at the end of most, if not all, words—Austinites pride themselves in environmental awareness and that extra “g” is just a waste of time and ink.As in most of Texas and other southern/southwestern states, there is no such saying as “you all” or, even worse, “you guys.” Saying you guys is like scritching your nails on a chalkboard. Best to avoid it at all costs.

Y’all (YAWL) is a plural second-person pronoun. All y’all is a contraction of “all of you,” and refers to an entire group. Y'all is not used when you're referring to a single person.

And you’re not ever “about to do something,” you’re fixin’ to do somethin’, as in, “We’re fixin’ to whoop up on Texas A&M.” There's a whole slew of legend and lore about Texas A&M University, their football team and their bitter and uncalled for rivalry with Austinites, whether said Austinites actually attend or ever attended the University of Texas or not. It’s the principle of the thing, and Austinites are big on principles. For the most part.

Gettin’ Around Austin

If you don’t know the Austin pronunciation of thoroughfares and out-lyin’ areas, you’re gonna get stuck in a whole mess o’ traffic because you can’t translate the traffic report.Some of the traffic stuckedness will not be your fault, as some thoroughfares change names three or four times before you reach your destination, and half the name changes aren’t pronounced the way the whole rest of Texas (or anywhere else for that matter) pronounce them.

Some Examples:

Burnet Lane- “BURN-it,” as in, “Burn-it, durn it, learn it!” Also the pronunciation of Austin’s Hill Country pseudo-suburb, Burnet.

Guadalupe Street- “GUAD-a-loop.” Yes, we know the correct Spanish pronunciation is “Gwaad-ah-LOOP-ay,” but stick around and you’ll see that Austinites don’t care much about rules, linguistic or otherwise.

Loop 1- “MO-pac,” so named for the Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks it parallels—sort of.Manchaca Road- “MAN-shack.” Also the pronunciation of a south Austin suburb.Ranch Road 2222- Another multi-named thoroughfare. The correct pronunciation is “Twenty-two, Twenty-two”—not ever, ever, ever , “Two Two Two Two.” This burgeoning byway is changes names as it snakes through Austin, and is also known as Allandale, Northland and Koenig Lane (pronounced

KAY-nig Lane), depending on where you wind up when you’ve gotten yourself lost.Research Boulevard-Depending on your GPS location, this major highway is also known as Anderson Lane, Ed Bluestein, Toll Road 183-A (don’t get us started on this one) and regular ol’ 183, as in, “Pray for me, I drive 183.”‘Nuff said.The Drag—the portion of Guadalupe near the University of Texas, named for fun-loving, free-spirited students, aka “hippies,” in the late 1960s and early 1970’s.

And if you don’t catch on to the lingo or the lifestyle of Austin right away, that’s okay. In the words of adopted, Grammy award-winning Austinite Lyle Lovett, “That’s right, you’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.”

We believe he was writing about Austin. So y’all come on down, ya hear?


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The real meaning of romance . . .

My great aunt tells a similar story about my grandpa and grandma--a bit of romantic nostalgia through rose colored glasses . . .

My Parents' Dance Lessons, 1945

In the story my aunt tells,
this is how they met. It's
September, the war just over,
the air crisp as the creases
in my father's khaki pants,
bright as his Bronze Star,
pungent as the marigold
my mother tucks behind one ear,
the night they both sign
up for dance lessons
"the Arthur Murray way"
at the Statler Hotel
in downtown Philly.

He's there to meet girls, of that
I am certain, and she's there
for romance, though I don't think
that's what she would say,
both of them looking for something
as intangible as the cigarette smoke
that rises in old, deckle-edged photos—
everyone tough, glamorous, vampy.

Perhaps there are dance cards?
Or maybe partners are assigned?
The truth is, no one really knows
about the moment when their glance
catches and snags across the room,
a fishline pulling taut as they
place their feet on Murray's
famous "magic footsteps," and start
the slow luxury of reeling one another in.
Music spills from a scratchy
Victrola as she places her hand
on his shoulder, feels the slight
pressure of his palm against her back,
and they begin to move together,
her hesitant steps following
his over-enthusiastic swings,
until they are both lost in
"The More I See You" or "I Don't
Want to Walk Without You Baby,"
the future stretching out before them
like a polished oak dance floor.

I don't know if they went back
for more lessons, or how they learned
to dip and twirl and slide together,
though I once saw my father spin
my mother completely around—her skirt
flaring out around her like the bell
of a silk lamp shade—just monthsv before she died. It's their story
after all, the one with a secret
hidden deep inside it like all
love stories—bigger than we
are or will ever be—music
from a Big Band coming up
in the background, playing
"You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To,"
while our parents swoop and glide
in the spotlight, keeping back
just enough of the story to make us wonder.

"My Parents' Dance Lessons, 1945" by Alison Townsend, from The Blue Dress. © White Pine Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

A book by its cover . . .

Potential buyers judge books by their covers, making cover art important in today's fast growing indie market. My cover for SCOOP was indicative of the story, and tells you right away that the book is about a young woman with a mind for writing and mystery . . . It says we're in for a snappy, sexy ride.

DEAD COPY, with its image of a young woman near the outline of a dead body, keeps with that theme.

When considering cover art, make sure the art you choose answers these tips:

1. What audience are you targeting?

2. What appeals to that audience?
3. What is your book about?
4. What is the theme of your book?

5. Does what appeals to you personally appeal to your targeted reader? Sometimes it doesn't . . .
6. Does your cover design have a professional presence?
7. The most important thing is to do your homework. Market research into colors, themes and eye-catching art is the foundation of a good book cover that will appeal to your audience.

Remember, your cover not only represents your book, it represents you and your career. Choose wisely . . .

Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing

Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing
My friend Pantera with Tahoe & Me

Tahoe and a new friend at the signing