Hermosa Beach Pier – A Haiku
Hermosa Beach Pier
Blankets on the sand
Wine and talk between like minds
Ocean strengthens bonds
©2020 Edward J. Branley
Baseball #NaPoWriMo 3 – a Haiku
Grass, dirt, white chalk lines
Play is worship on the field
Ball field as chapel
©2020 Edward J. Branley
I’d been thinking
About that nod of the head
I’ve heard others
Call the Quarters
For years, but now,
It was my turn
To invoke the Guardians.
Miss Lydia watched me
After nodding, indicating
I was to begin.
Two steps forward,
And a turn to the East.
I took a deep breath,
And raised my arms.
“All Honor to the East Wind,
Bringer of the morning breeze
That shakes the dew from the
Hear me, O East Wind, and
Bless our Circle.”
A bow to the East
And a turn to the South.
“All Honor to the South Wind,
Blowing up from the Open Sea
Past the coastal marshes,
Cooking the Midday!
Hear me, O South Wind, and
Bless our Circle.”
A bow to the South
A flicker of the candle.
Yes! I’m connecting!
And a turn to the West.
“All Honor to the West Wind,
Carrying a sense of the unknown,
Through the bayous,
At the end of the day!
Hear me, O West Wind, and
Bless our Circle.”
A bow to the West,
And a mischievous puff
Brushing my toes,
Daring me not to giggle.
As I turn towards a good friend.
Momma let me set alone
On the seawall by the lake
Since I was eight.
Now, at fourteen,
The Wind from the lake
Into what my momma says
Handful of a young maiden.
I put on a very-formal face,
As I welcomed my friend.
“All Honor to the North Wind,
Testing us with water from
A mix of love and anger!
Hear me, O North Wind, and
Bless our Circle.”
A slight snort, as I bowed,
Knowing the North would
Never be angry with me,
Even in the midst of a storm.
My friend responded,
Rustling my skirt,
Frizzing my hair,
As it circled me,
Finally settling in its Quarter.
A final turn, back to the
East, noticing the smile on,
Miss Lydia’s face,
While Momma beamed with pride.
©2020 Edward J. Branley
One would not expect
The ecosystem of the
To be a hotbed
Of gang activity.
As one passes near the
Outlet waterway that
Connects to the park’s
Large lagoon, however,
One finds a rough crowd.
No, it’s not the Muscovy Ducks,
Flown up from Mexico.
They’ve settled into life in
But rather, it’s the
Pekins and Mallards,
Quacking for control.
When the Mallards
The Pekins follow,
Staking their claim
To the turf.
The confrontations do not seem
To escalate into real fights,
The Pekins waddle away,
And the Mallards follow,
It all seems choreographed,
To pass the time.
Maybe they just enjoy
As if they’re acting out
The Sharks and the Jets.
Perhaps they aren’t
But like so many of us,
©2020, Edward J. Branley
#NaPoWriMo Minus One – ready to write
#NaPoWriMo Minus One
I grew up with the Space Race. So, some of my fondest memories are NASA mission countdowns. T-minus one hour. T-minus fifteen minutes, where there was often a programmed hold. Launch Control could take one final check. The countdown at ten seconds. Then Liftoff! While National Poetry Writing Month isn’t a space launch (like the Falcon Heavy in the image above), a countdown is appropriate.
I wrote down a couple of basic areas for writing. Baseball inspires me. Our reaction to the novel coronavirus slows that down, though. Additionally, it’s been a long time since the boys played at the playground. Still, memories. Thoughts. Maybe a pickup game for the Trio? Eleni might not comprehend the game.
Trains. All aspects of trains inspire verse. Trains have rhythm. They are focused. The rails open the tap of words. Freight trains? Passenger trains? Flatcars carrying military vehicles. Travelers, even in this time of lockdown. Passing cars offer sound cues as well as visual. Yeah, there will be trains.
Dragons. Verse provides a medium for new Dragons ideas. Air Dragons appear unexpectedly. Elemental Air is important in a port city. Earth deserves more exploration. There’s always Water and Fire. (I better not let Eleni hear me take the Red Tribe’s name in vain!)
Dystopia. Dystopian ideas pop up regularly. So, less zombies, more other directions. We’ll see.
Write then type
My Noodler’s Ink and trusty BuJo stand ready. So, there’s something more, I don’t know, concrete, to putting verse to paper before putting it here. Writing flashback poems before they become bytes works for me. So, I’ll take that route. While a handwritten manuscript for even a short story sounds cumbersome, a page or two or three of verse is just right. While it’s arguably double work, typing it up is essentially a second draft.
All these random thoughts, and I don’t have a clue what the first attempt will be!
#NaPoWriMo for 2020 while staying at home
I haven’t done National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) in a few years. I’ll be the first to admit that I suck at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). That’s November, and is a much bigger project. I don’t really relate to it because I don’t binge-write, then revise.
30 poems in 30 days
Now, this is something my short attention span can handle. I can write a few poems in a sitting, revise, then pick a couple for posting. When I traveled more, I sat at the bar in restaurants for dinner. I always carry my Bullet Journal or a pocket-sized notebook. Perfect for jotting down anything from quick notes to story ideas to verse.
I prefer a simple style when writing verse. Something that’s visually evocative. Keep it simple, give the reader visual cues. Maybe even sound cues as well. I challenge myself this year to carry that a bit further. Maybe not dark-night-of-the-soul stuff, but longer treatments. If I start on a couple of ideas early in the month, they’ll be ready by the end of the project.
the NaPoWriMo website offers participants the opportunity to register their sites, so others can read. I plan to do that, as soon as this article goes live. I need to get away from “political twitter” for a bit, and this helps.
Social Media for #NaPoWriMo
I share this blog with my @EdwardBranley account on Da Twittah. I tweet from several accounts that reflect my multiple personalities. While a lot of what I write fits both the “professional/writer” account and @NOLAHistoryGuy, I like starting the fiction and verse here. So, if you don’t follow me on @EdwardBranley, feel free to add that one. I tweet anything from computer stuff to Star Trek to pop culture there.
Additionally, if you decide to do #NaPoWriMo, let me know, so I can cheer you on.
I use a plugin for SEO on WordPress, YOAST. NaPoWriMo posts will use that keyword and the date. So, that makes things look boring, but it keeps the search terms unique.
Two days to go! I’ll post preparation thoughts tomorrow.
Noodler’s Ink is my latest fountain pen dalliance.
I enjoy writing with fountain pens. I like to keep three with me, one filled with black or blue ink, one with red, and a third with green or purple. Waterman ink works fine for me. A few weeks back, though, my friend Jeff mentioned buying some older pens at a show in Los Angeles. He also bought ink from a company I’d not heard of, Noodler’s. One of the inks he bought was “54th Massachusetts” blue.
My ears perked up, because Union uniforms at the time of the Southern Rebellion were a nice shade of blue. So, I bought a bottle.
The shade of blue is indeed nice!
The 54th Massachusetts
This regiment is the focus of the movie, “Glory.” The 1989 movie tells the story of the formation of the regiment, up through the Battle of Fort Wagner, one of the fortifications protecting the harbor at Charleston, SC. The 54th Massachusetts lost 270 of its approximately 600 members that day. So, I like the notion of thinking back on the sacrifices made by these men. I also think to the times I’ve stopped at the monument plaque on the wall of Boston Common that honors the regiment.
As a concept, working to flatten the curve on COVID-19 isn’t all that tough for me. Most of my teaching these days is via remote. So, I’m able to train up enterprise storage professionals without breathing on or touching them. My writing is usually a solo endeavor, with the exception of back-and-forth texting with Lady Duchess of the Red Pen. While I wouldn’t mind sharing a table with Lady Duchess, distance keeps me from breathing on her as well.
So, I’m doing my part here. I’ve never been big on crowds. Since I appreciate how much y’all will miss FQF, I’ll survive. Let’s hope keeping some distance between ourselves keeps us out of that overall two percent fatalities for this thing.
Lydia scanned the neighborhood from their perch on the roof of a local apartment building, while Amadeus groomed himself. She froze as she spotted a man walking in the street, two blocks away. He was testing the door handles on parked cars as he walked. So far, none of his “door pulls,” as the police call these, bore fruit.
It was Lydia’s responsibility to spot trouble. Well, not all the time, of course. Cats need their haps! Right now, though, she dispatched the neighborhood WatchCats. She nudged Amadeus, who looked up from licking his paw. The grey tabby knew what the nudge meant. He looked up, scanning below. When his eyes spotted the walking thief, Lydia nudged him a second time.
Amadeus nodded and nuzzled his WatchCat partner. He walked over to the fire escape and cautiously jumped from their perch onto its step. Lydia yawned and scratched as he made his way down the stairs. Amadeus jumped to the sidewalk and trotted down the street. He let the man walk to him, but then changed plans, as one of the car doors he pulled popped open! The WatchCat crossed the street, positioning himself behind a garbage can. He waited for the man to lean into the car, then sprinted across the street.
The man wore sweatpants and running shoes, with no socks. Amadeus targeted his bare ankle, slashing it with his right paw as he dashed under the car.
“Fuck!” The man said, loudly. His complaint drew attention from two folks who lived in that block. One was a teen, just walking out her front door. She looked at the house next door as her neighbor yelled at the man.
“Get the hell out of here! Stop trying to steal from my friends!” the demand came from a woman in her late-40s, one of the stay-at-home moms on the block.
The thief flipped the thief off, turned, and walked back the way he came. Amadeus stuck his head out from the front of the car. He saw the thief’s feet as he retreated, then came out to verify his departure.
“Amadeus! I didn’t see you there. Did you stop that man?” the girl asked, walking over to the cat. Amadeus purred loudly as she scratched behind his ear.
“I knew it! Good kitty!” the girl said. Amadeus rubbed against her leg, then trotted off. A few minutes later, he was back on the perch. Lydia groomed his back, then left the perch. A Maine Coon named Penelope joined him, as he took over the spotter’s position.
© 2020, Edward J. Branley. All rights reserved.
Envisioning editors: I’m starting to think I’ve got it wrong.
My understanding of editors took a turn over the last couple of days. I replied to a tweet from a writer. They said they were struggling with cutting down a piece to fit a publication’s 5K word limit. I suggested, maybe have a freelance editor look at it. After all, taking a chainsaw to our well-loved words is what editors do. The reply I received was that the piece had already been “workshopped” and an editor would not be necessary.
I try to empathize with people hitting a snag in their work. My Firstborn regularly calls me, using me as a sounding board. I don’t offer advice as much as an ear. So, when my suggestion was summarily rejected, part of me said, well, this writer has hit a snag, it’s not me. I couldn’t help saying, “yet here you are, editing,” when told an editor wasn’t necessary, though.
But the part about “workshopping” in the context of talking about editors struck me as odd. I thought about the different roles an editor performs.
Dara Rochlin keeps me going in the right direction. She functions as both a copy editor and developmental editor. She’s also a friend. Because of the friend part, she bounces ideas off of me. Look for a snippet based on an image she sent me shortly. Her long-suffering husband, Jeff, gave me the idea for a location on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles for Dragon’s Discovery. The lovely and talented #flutegirl, Alyson Rochlin, has been my Dragons beta reader for a while now. Jason, Aly’s older brother, provides needed expertise for gaming. I also flip the role with him, reading and offering notes on his work. So, the family is part of the team.
That’s why maybe my perception of what an editor does for others is skewed. But here’s the thing, naturally I work with other editors. I’ve worked with acquisitons and developmental editors on nonfiction projects, from the Arcadia books and The History Press. Then there are all the editors for tech publications. So, It’s not like my exposure is to a single person.
I had a time getting the Introduction to one of the Images of America books down to 1200 words. Dara got me there. She “workshops” my stuff. Editors offer suggestions. Sometimes, they insist on things. It’s part of the process.
What are your experiences with editors?
Soldier litanies are common timing and coping mechanisms
Timing mechanisms are useful for folks in many professions. Invoking the deity is quite common as well, particularly among military personnel in stressful situations. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to me when an ex-military character on “FBI Most Wanted” used “Mother of Sorrow” as a litany.
If you were raised in a religious household, you may know one or more litanies connected to your family’s faith. Catholics in particular are able to recite numerous parts of the Mass that they said over and over and over as children, weekly, if not more often. That’s why following the Star Wars line, “May the Force be with you,” with, “And with Your Spirit,” strikes the Catholic funny bone.
Then there’s the Rosary. While kids attending Catholic school don’t pray the rosary as often as older generations, those that did have it stuck in their heads forever. A Catholic child got their first rosary beads when they made their First Communion in second grade or so. They prayed a decade (ten Hail Marys) before class in many schools. Say the Hail Mary that often, well, you get the idea. The rosary has potential for numerous soldier litanies.
The most memorable example of using a religious litany as a timing mechanism is in the book/movie, “A Bridge Too Far.” In the push by the US 82nd Airborne Divison to take the Waal River Bridge at Nijemegen, Netherlands, then-Captain Julian Cook led an assault to the far side of the bridge by boat. To keep timing while paddling, he said, over and over, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” Soldier litanies help focus and keep those reciting them alive.
Prayer as timing assistant happens to this day.
Mother of Sorrows
One of the ways folks pray the rosary is to reflect on the “Mysteries” of Mary, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. They’re a great way to take a long, meditative prayer even longer. So, when a former Army sniper with mental health issues invoked “Mother of Sorrows” on the FBI show, it wasn’t a big surprise. He repeats “Mother of Sorrow” over and over, while loading rounds into a magazine. It’s a particularly dark reference. While non-religious and/or non-Catholic folks may roll their eyes, if you recited the rosary as a kid, it’s less odd than you think.
Of course, it doesn’t fit for a guy loading up a weapon of human destruction to reference the Joyful or Glorious items. Sorrows strike the dark chord. I got it immediately, but my memories of this particular visualization of Mary was fuzzy. I was always more of a positive/happy Catholic than a suffering Catholic. So, I needed to look back on Our Lady of Sorrows. This image is the first thing that hits you on Wikipedia:
This is “Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary” in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain. It’s a particularly violent and dark image. When you stop and think about it, though, it’s reflective of the grief of a mother. Four of the seven sorrowful mysteries touch upon the Crucifixion of Christ, from his mother’s perspective. Women will tell you, many would rather suffer and die than see their children come to harm. All of a sudden, an incredibly violent statue of a woman being pierced by swords hits home.
I’m not sure how this will all fit into a story, but it may well. Catholic themes pop up at odd times for me as a writer.