Cathy Coley

piano ghosts

 piano ghosts

What.

It's been a little while. I did finish the story for the anthology deadline with revisions, and I'm pretty happy with it. Then I had writer's block by a few contributing factors, and my ten year old daughter got bit by the writing bug for fanfic of a series she's reading. For at least a decade, 10 year old girls have gone crazy for the Warrior series. It's a Nancy Drew prolific series of series, but a Watership Down of cats, plot-wise. I was a bit envious of how easily the creative process came for her.

Last week, one of the block factors began to crack, and this poem happened. I've given a bit of spit and polish to it, and I'm a little more pleased than with the stream of conscious version that poured out of the crack. People who have seen the SOC version seem to like it. Even after revision, I think it still needs a little more musicality. In my experience, if my gut is telling me to put it out there no matter what doubts I may have, it's time to throw it out on stage with jazz hands. So here it is, enjoy:

Ghosts in the Piano

In the end,
We were given a piano
from the widower
of a piano teacher.
We showed up ready to buy it
but he refused when he heard my mother played,
And my sons play, and my daughter wants to play.
His wife had passed away around the same time.
He couldn’t bear to keep it in the house.

He stored it at neighbors who agreed to sell it for him.
The woman told me stories of her gentle friend
teaching students with autism,
and declared that she and my mother must have
put their heads together in heaven to put us together.
The widower refused to take our money.

The old Wurlitzer has been in our house for months now,
I’m just getting around to cleaning it.
The smell of piano wire and old wood,
dust, ivory, and leather have been
filling our house.
Stickers label the keys worn most from middle C to the least -
out the keyboard, the end keys still mostly legible and white.
I’ve been wanting to peel them off.
I’m peeling them off,
the clean ones are easiest to lift.
The left hand middle G is worn straight through.
Its ink-stained ivory tells me the stories of thousands of fingers who have played.
Some dancing, some plodding until hopefully,
they danced.

My mother’s ghost is happy to hear me bang on it.
I was never good at lessons, but would slowly
teach myself songs I liked, or I’d sit,
a melancholic kid who picked and poked at minor progressions
when bored, then banged on the keys, not unlike Mom’s tarantellas and boogies,
but maybe tunelessly moody.

Now I listen to my children the way she may have listened to us
from other rooms.
One plays the same song over and over,
little another makes stuff up.
The first who visits now and then
just plays what he writes on the fly.
Is that a song by someone else, yours, or are you just noodling?
Just noodling, but there’s a little something to work with.
If I talk, he stops and walks away,
like I did when she talked to me.

As I clean it now, swiping a paper towel with a gentle cleaner along the keys,
I hear myself cleaning Mom’s baby grand,
I hear the echoes of her boogies and tarantellas.
I hear the old teacher in the smell of the piano wires, old wood,
leather, and ivory, and
ghosts of my grandmothers, and all of her students,
my cousins banging on my grandmother’s,
as the ghosts of the thousand sticky fingers are washed off each key.
Finally, I play, awkwardly, never very good,
and the ghosts around me dance.

1st draft
11.16.2018
Revision 11.19.2018

I'd love to hear from readers, please feel free to contact me through my Contact page.

Be good to yourself and have an extra helping of pie on Thursday.

Thanks for stopping by,
Cath

updated: 2 weeks ago

It's right there, just write it

It039s right there just write it

should be simple, right?

I've been working on a short story to an anthology deadline for a couple of weeks. I have essentially two scenes left, tops three, depending how you quantify them. I can see them. They are how the story started in my head, and what made me think this anthology submission would be perfect for this. I have now tinkered with all the writing and edits prior to those crux scenes as much as I can possibly tinker... and still they are difficult to write. What's that old quote? Oh yeah, Hemingway. Well, we all know how he turned out.

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

The kid is finally back to school now the district has reopened since Hurricane Florence, and the one who has moved back home after a year away has some things in the works to go back to school in January... as long as he finishes that process, but seeing how well that is going for me, and knowing how he struggles under pressure, I'm crossing my fingers and trusting he's doing it.

I need to do the same for myself, trust that I have this. I mean, IT'S RIGHT THERE in my noggin, I have notes. What is stopping me? Well, the material is hard stuff, stuff I have spent my life in the practice of avoiding or circumventing if it can be at all. This is how I know telling this story right now is worth it.

I seem to have this block issue a lot in writing, putting my characters through difficult stuff. Well, I know she comes out the other side well, because I ALREADY WROTE THAT!

Okay, now that is out of my system.... time to face those paragraphs, and my own demons.

Thanks for stopping by, and until I am done,

Cath

updated: 1 month ago

Whirlwind

Whirlwind

If this is the worst for us, and some yard waste, we are incredibly grateful.

My goal with this blog is to post about writing process every couple of weeks. The time table is to hold myself accountable to keeping on track in writing, and to not overtalk process, thereby writing myself out of the main writing which I'd rather be writing.

Well, life and hurricanes happen, and it's been a month. Our house is still standing, I don't think we "house guests and fish-ed" our way out of our evacution hosts' family. Sadly, many of my neighbors and community have trees in their roofs, or beach or rivers and sewage washed into the rest of their homes or businesses. School is still out for our district and it's taking a routine toll on our family, but we are home, all is well for us. We survived. The community is strong and cleaning up as quickly as possible. Beach access is off-limits, but the little park where I walk along the Intracoastal is cleaned up and open, and there is no longer a curfew or limited access to Topsail Island. The dunes are no longer in the streets, but still being repaired.

With that out of the way, I'm going to once again thank the handful of readers who contacted me through the contact page to buy a signed copy of Felix the Comet. I still have about two dozen copies of the first printing taking up a shelf in my house and mental room in my brain. I would love to send you a copy, too, signed to you, or for a kid or teacher you know, around 4th-7th grade. I'm cleaning house, not making any money on it, $10 a copy covers printing and shipping and handling. I'm moving on in writing. Felix is a great little companion to have in my brain, but I feel like he and his friends want to grow up and move on, too.

Now for the writing:

I had been mulling working on existing projects that won't let go, started years ago in some cases, but with news being what it is lately, I found myself stymied to write after we settled back in and cleaned up the yard. Then I had a stroke, or maybe a few, and maybe that's an overstatement that shouldn't be joked about, but I had a stroke of conscious and began a story that may be story, may be a novella, may be something bigger, and it's a woman's story of what it is like to live in these times. One woman's story, and regardless of who you support in the current news, I think any woman could relate to this story, has lived aspects of it, knows what it is like to be a woman now, or in the last fifty years. I hope I'm adding a surprise twist in it, still a work in progress. Another for the cohort.

Thanks for stopping by.

Be well, be safe, and be kind to yourself.

Until next post,

Cath

updated: 2 months ago

Florence and the Writer

Florence and the Writer

looking eastward from my backyard, so far, so good.

I've spent my whole life on the East Coast of the US. The sea gives me life. When Hothouse Flowers came out with their song Good for You, that opens, "I spent my life watch sky and sea change color, hypnotized by the beauty of it all" I cried. It was my life. Yeah, I'm a big sap.

So, I have a bit of experience with hurricanes. My family moved from a block away from Long Island Sound, inland and up a hill, after a small hurricane when I was seven years old. A few decades later, that house was destroyed by Sandy. My father still lives in the house we moved to in '73. I do not seem to follow his good perspective, and moved within reach of the major Hurricane Alley trajectory at this stage in my life. Florence is about to hit 2 miles from my house we moved into a year ago. I thought it was far enough from shore, but now, I know I am in mandatory evacuation zone for above a Cat 3. Florence is currently looking like a Cat 4-5. It's Monday, She's due Thursday, pregnant with the swirling central Atlantic.

We bought plywood for the windows, but my husband's job has amped production before the storm hits, somewhat because of the storm, maybe, but also the nature of his business. It's his business, I won't go into here. This blog is about writing. Somehow, my 20 year old son and his broke down old mother need to get it hung over the windows. I'm checking in with the neighbors today.

We are in deep hurricane prep, and I have had an invitation to evacuate my family to another writer's house, further inland. Check out her work! Christa Miller writes across genres and recently published the first book in a series for kids about raccoon rescue from the perspective of the raccoons. My daughter loved it! so did I. She also writes great dark cross genre fantasy, crime, mystery stories, and novellas.

Speaking of children's books, again, thanks to those who bought mine recently. I still have some on hand to let go of, and would love to sign and send them to you, a teacher, or student of around 4th-7th grade. Please email me through my contact page, I'm selling them at cost plus shipping, not making anything from it myself. I'm cleaning house is all.

Wish my family luck that Florence turns back out to sea before she makes landfall, or we may be going on a grand adventure. And so will Christa, because my family is mayhem.

updated: 3 months ago

Heading into Fall

Heading into Fall

This could belong to you, a teacher's classroom, or a child you know!

Salutations!

I have one kid left going into school this fall. Fall is a relative term here, as she is starting in August, and the Equinox isn't for another month. I don't know if this is a particularly southern thing, or farming thing. When I grew up in Connecticut, we always started after Labor Day, and that made much more sense to say Fall, at least it was the same month in name. My boys did so, too, in our Massachusetts days.

This is neither here nor there, except to say life moves on, and I get caught in the current, no matter my good intentions to write daily. May that be more possible once the house is a bit quieter. I'm crossing my fingers and toes. I have also opened up a few old manuscripts and started to poke around.

Thanks again to everyone who bought books I have on hand, signed and delivered. I still have about 15 left and to restate, I will happily sign and send them to you or a child or teacher for a classroom for the low price of $10 per book, to cover printing and shipping costs. I am making nothing on this. I am just clearing them out of my house, to make headroom to write anew. It's a fun tale of social negotiations of a 6th grader who loves science, his friends, family, and dog and runs into trouble with a new kid in town. Target audience is a good third grader reader up.

Please note I have added buttons for easy sharing on Twitter and Facebook!

I still think of this time of year as the beginning, after my own school years and a couple of decades in education profession.

Happy turning of the season!

Cath

updated: 3 months ago

Away we go

Away we go

hm, which one first?

Hello!

Firstly, thank you to those of you who bought copies of Felix the Comet through me so far! I still have some copies on hand that I would love to sign for a student, teacher, or you! Please email through my Contact page if you'd like to park one in a 4th-7th grade classroom for the new school year, signed! It's a fun story of friendship and negotiating social miasma at 12 with a little science thrown in. If you run into an error message in Contact, you can DM me in Twitter or Facebook. So far, things seem to be working well since the webpage redesign.

Secondly, in my writing career reboot since (see my last couple of blogs) my big life transitions, I am digging back into projects for editing and rewriting. I left off another children's book a few years back, a fantasy that was becoming a can of worms I couldn't contain. I didn't have plot bunnies, as they say, I had plot elves, centaurs and Chthulus. I am opening that back up again. I am also taking another dive into the recent fantasy-horror short I wrote in a rush to a deadline where it didn't get accepted. Working toward a deadline was a good jumping point to exercise my atrophied writing muscles. It's a good little story, just needs to be cleaned up.

One tool that works for me as I edit is to print the project out and break out colored pens. I can slash lines more easily that need to be cut, and rewrite in margins and page backs. Yes, I know great software programs exist for that now, but I'm an old dog who likes her old tricks. My brain works tactilely as well as visually. My handwriting is a mess but it helps me process mentally much better to write things out. Then when I go back into the digital version, I rewrite what I can't read in my handwriting, and usually third time is the charm.

Do you write or are you another type of creative, visual, music, performance? I'd love to hear from you how your process works. We can talk through my Contact Page.

Happy mid-August,

Cath

updated: 4 months ago

Welcome to my new look!

I think this better reflects where I am now in life and writing. Please take a look around the home and about pages.

Initially, this website reflected the look of my first book, with Melissa Gay’s (http://www.melissagay.com/) beautiful artwork. And it was exactly what I wanted, for a time.


Among the many changes mentioned in the previous blog post, I have reached a point where I am ready to say goodbye to all the great things that Felix the Comet gave me. I took a great ride with those characters for many years through the writing and publishing, and I may still have some love for a second book in that world, centered around his friend Kelsey. I have an incomplete manuscript that I believe clocks in around 40k words so far, but I haven’t opened that in a few years. It may not be time yet. It may never be time to finish that. Sadly, that is the nature of writing sometimes. Even the best of ideas can fall off a cliff and live better in oblivion.


Part of that big goodbye to Felix and his friends is to say goodbye to a small stash of copies I have in my house. So here is a ONE TIME ONLY offer of a limited number of books. I will happily sign them to you, or a child you want to give a copy to, or to a classroom. First come, first serve, when I run out, that’s the end of this offer. Please email me through this website on the contact page. We will set up payment and I’ll get your address. I will amend this post to announce when I am sold out. I am offering them at $10 a copy, simply to defray printing and shipping costs.


Meanwhile, Felix the Comet is still available for digital orders and in paperback through my Links page.


I’m happy to be writing again, in different areas. I have one project I’m going to peek back into that is more of a fantasy story for the same middle reader age group, and a few more things I’m keeping quiet for now. I do have a recently completed cross-genre fantasy-horror story that is ready to shop around to magazines or collections.


Thanks for clicking!


Peace and Beaches,

Cath

updated: 4 months ago