Sunday, April 23, 2017

An Orwellian Scene

"An Orwellian Scene"
By Stephen B. Bagley

I once had a friend who was a survivalist. Let's call him Jacob, because that was his name. He stockpiled five years of food, a couple of months of water, guns and ammo, medical supplies, etc. Built a nice cabin in the woods with solar power and a windmill, although he still needed an electric line for all his power needs.

All through the Bush years, Jacob complained about how the government was trying to become a dictatorship. He foamed at the mouth when the Patriot Act was passed. He could actually recite the Act and give you point by point how it was taking away our civil liberties.

I thought perhaps he would calm down when Obama was elected, but no, he was even more up in arms. The National Health Plan, you see, would allow the government to embed nanobots into our brains and control us.

Then Trump got elected, and while I hoped Jacob would finally be reasonable, he was not. In fact, he claimed Trump was a tool of the Illuminati and would betray all those who elected him to further their goals of world domination.

Well, after that, I had no choice. I reported him to the Thought Police, and they picked him up yesterday. I will get a share of his goods after the officials take their percentage. It should be enough to bribe the Controllers so they will upgrade my nanobots to less painful ones.

I am proud and happy just as you are. We're not allowed to be anything else.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Live life well

Chilly, rainy day currently. We were forecast clear, sunny skies. No such luck. We needed the rain, of course, and it's not freezing, so the blooming and budding plants and trees are okay. Still, it's depressing. I enjoy such days in the fall, but in the spring, they feel sad.

Rainy days are generally depressing. Humans are--for the most part--creatures of sunlight. We're made to walk in the day and sleep in the night. We lived that way for thousands of years; only now are we up all hours. We may be losing undefined things by choosing our 24 hour day. Despite our desire to do more, live more, enjoy more, make more...we are doing less and feeling more frantic about it as the years--and our lives--speed by.

Sometimes, I think the greatest gift would be to slow down time, to live each hour as a day, to have enough time for walks in the park, enjoying the sun and wind while sitting on a stone bench, to feel the light on our faces like a benediction.

Time doesn't do that, though. Life goes on despite our attempts to hold on to each precious moment. Eventually, we live our lives in our memories. And then we don't. Other people take up the memories which become family stories and tales of times past until they are gone, too.

My point? Be happy now. Live in the present. Let all those "mores" care for themselves. Don't let your life not be lived. Walk in the sunshine now with me, even on rainy, cloudy days, and we will live life well.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Remember these

I will not take these for granted:

A beautiful spring day. I felt the sunshine on my face like a blessing.

My computer. It gives me problems sometimes, but it keeps plugging along, outdated as it is. It helps me write and be creative in ways I couldn't have imagined when I was a kid pounding away on a Smith-Corona.

A roof over my head. It's a modest house, it needs paint and some repairs, but many poor people would love to have it. Many people have nothing at all between them and the bitter winds and the burning sun.

Food on my table. Millions of men and women, millions of children struggle with starvation. Truly I live in a land of plenty.

My country. It isn't perfect, but it's the best that humanity has ever been able to produce. I'm not one to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We'll fix the problems. We'll continue to grow and change and get better. That's what we do.

My dear friends. A close second to my family in my affections. I appreciate the laughter and lunches and talks about life, politics, and everything else.

My precious family. In the end, they're the people I love the most and who count on me and on whom I depend. We've been together a long time, and God willing, have many more years to go.

My personal salvation. I don't preach to people. I'm not built that way. But it would be a mistake to assume that my silence meant that I didn't take my spiritual life seriously. I hope that people can see by my life and by how I live that there's something more to this life, that we aren't alone by any means, and that even the smallest of us matter in this vast universe. I know I fail in this daily, but the struggle makes life worthwhile.

Every now and then, I have to remind myself to not take these things for granted.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Scene from a Cemetary

Scene from a Cemetery

Yesterday I walked among the dead.

Not my dead.

Strangers in an old cemetery a few miles from my house.

Thought I might take photos...that the spring sun might illuminate a particular stone or give a halo to an old weathered angel.

Instead I carried my camera and walked among the rows of graves. Stopping to read a date or name. My feet crunched on old brown leaves. The few trees were mostly bare except for a row of bedraggled evergreens along one side of the cemetery.

And I thought about life and how it goes so fast. How we can't hold our dead no matter how much we try, no matter how much we cry, they slip away when we're not looking.

I thought about those who have left us and how I miss them. My grandparents, my parents, aunts and uncles, cousins...my baby brother.... My mother was so sharp, so smart, she would see right through your soul, and my father loved to laugh and loved to make me laugh. All those losses. Is that why we're ready to go at the end of our lives? Do the losses pile on until our spirit is ready to fly, to escape the burdens of sorrow? Or maybe we're just ready to meet them again. Maybe we're tired of not being with them. Maybe we're tired of this earth.

I sat down in an old concrete bench beside an empty tree.

Across the rows, I saw a robin. A mockingbird called. I watched a lonely cloud make its way across the pale blue sky. And I felt the stillness settle into me, the quiet calm that I call peace for the lack of a better word. I stopped thinking for a while, stopping imagining, stopped remembering.

For a few moments, the horizon held me. That beckoning sky. The endless heavens beyond.

Then I took a deep breath of the cool wind. I smiled for no particular reason other than it felt better than not smiling. I stood, walked back to my car, and drove back to my life.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Scene from a Writers Group

"Scene from a Writers Group"

I got involved in an interesting discussion with some other writers the other day -- WAIT! Don't go away. This discussion involved SEX! I thought that would peak your interest -- about SEX in books. I had struggled through a book recently that featured fairly explicit SEX and had wondered out-loud what made that book "literature" and not just plain porn. (Names changed to protect me.)

"Because the sex was integral to the story," said Writer Aromance. "It wasn't just thrown in to titillate. It revealed the characters."

"Yes, it revealed they liked sex," Writer Begenre said. "But doesn't everyone? Sex scenes are put in books to increase sales. And give lonely writers a thrill."

"Are there any more cookies?" asked Writer Cookbookins. "I only got one."

"I don't read books with explicit sex," Writer Divine said. "In fact, I'm quite happy to read about a sweet kiss and then a sunset."

"Today's readers want more than that," Aromance said. "They want to feel the characters' passion. They want to experience the hot, steamy moments, the indescribable sensations." Aromance panted, head rolling slightly, eyelids fluttering. "They want details. Oh yes! YES!!!"

The rest of the group moved their chairs away from Aromance.

"Isn't reading a sex scene the same as renting a porn movie?" Begenre said. "Just because they're not watching a sexual encounter with their eyes and instead 'watching' it in their minds, doesn't mean that it's not for the same purpose."

"Well, I don't read romances for that!" Aromance said, scooting over to join them again. "I want to read about true love, and sex just happens to be part of it. We need to turn the air-conditioning on."

"There were enough cookies for two apiece," Cookbookins said, looking around. "Someone had to have three."

"True love is more than just sex," Divine said. "It's a marriage of spirits, of souls reaching out to each other."

"Those souls come with various pieces of plumbing attached," Begenre said. "I think fading off into a sunset leaves the reader hanging."

"Some things are better left to the imagination," Divine said with a sniff. "It totally kills the romance when a writer starts describing ... er ... how the pipes fit into the joints."

"We're going to run that plumbing metaphor into the ground," Begenre said.

"I blame TV," Writer Eongo said. "People have become accustomed to seeing everything right before them. They don't exercise their minds. So they can't even imagine people having sex!"

"You know, I brought those cookies to share," Cookbookins said. "I think it's a shame that someone is so greedy that he or she deprived another writer of their cookie."

"Eongo has a point," Divine said. "What's wrong with letting the reader know that the characters have had sex, but not showing the sex? When two characters make love, that's one thing, but when we invite the reader along, that's an orgy."

"Not really an orgy," Begenre said. "Or least I don't think that's one. It's been a long time since my college days." The others looked at Begenre. "I heard about them back then," Begenre hastily added. "But I think a good case could be made for it being voyeurism."

"I love ocean ones," Farawa said dreamily.

The other writers regarded the elderly writer carefully.

"Not voyages, dear," Begenre told Farawa. "Voyeurism."

Farawa frowned. "I don't think I'm familiar with that. I do like to travel, though, so perhaps I'm a voyeur, too."

Divine's face turned red. Eongo choked back a laugh.

Begenre patted Farawa's hand. "I'll explain later, dear."

"I guess readers' tastes are just varied," Divine said. "Some people like to read inspirational, morally uplifting books while others prefer filth and gutter-life."

A long pause ensued.

"Hmm, I hate to agree," Aromance said. "But she's basically right. Readers' tastes vary. Some people like stuffy, boring, moralistic, and simple books while others like to read about a complicated, adult, intelligent world view that reflects contemporary life."

A longer pause.

Divine smiled too brightly. "Perhaps we should discuss this afterwards, dear."

"Oh, let's, sweetie," Aromance said, smiling just as brightly.

"I brought cookies because I thought that would be easier to divide," Cookbookins said. "When I brought pie last time, someone took nearly half of it."

"To return to the original question, I think intent has a lot to do with it," Begenre said. "If a writer is writing the sex scene and the whole point is to simply give the reader a sexual thrill, then maybe it strays into the ... let's not say porn, but the titillation arena. But if the scene is for character development and illumination, it's firmly in the literature arena."

The clock chimed nine, and that was all the time we had. They filed out, leaving Farawa and me. She gathered up her large purse and her notebooks. I smiled at her and asked, "How was that third cookie?"

She winked at me. "Delicious."

(Copyright 2017 Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Scene from a Farewell Party

"Scene from a Farewell Party"

She had waited all evening. Waiting for the time to be right. Or a miracle. But he stood on the other side of the room. He never walked her way. And she knew he left in the morning for New York. This night was her last chance, but her last chance for what? She didn't know. She couldn't begin to hope, but she knew the perfect words she wanted to hear.

Most everyone else was dancing. Hopping up and down to a manic pop single, but the beat of her heart took all her attention as it drummed a rhythm of fear and hope.

All the way through high school and college, the time had never been right. She had been with Kent and then with Richard. He had been with Laurie, Joanne, and Jenny. But now they were both unattached. What kept this from being the time?

How long was she supposed to wait to hear those perfect words? Or had their time already passed? She knew some things got lost. People grew up. Passions faded. A fire couldn't smolder forever.

They had exchanged glances. Significant, perhaps, but nothing more. They had never been close friends, just friends of friends. They had kissed once in a gazebo in a summer rainstorm, but his cell phone had rang. Joanne was looking for him. Richard was looking for her. She ran all the way back to her cousin's house, soaked to the skin and spent the rest of the vacation suffering from a cold and hiding in her room. He tried to call her several times, but she never took his calls. They hadn't spoken since.

Another song started, more frantic than the last one, but she couldn't hear it over the slow drum in her chest.

Somehow she pulled away from the wall. Somehow she took a step and then another. Four steps, and she reached in the middle of the room. If this had been a movie, he would have met her halfway, but it wasn't. Among the dancers she was alone.

The next step was the hardest. But the rest were easy. She reached him, put out her hand, touched his shoulder.

He turned, his ready smile fading as he saw her.

She couldn't wait anymore. Now. Now before her courage failed her.

She pulled his face to hers and kissed him.

If it had been a movie, he would have laughed and kissed her endlessly. He would have said, "I love you," the perfect words she wanted.

But he didn't.

He looked at her for a long moment.

Too long.

Panic filled her. This wasn't a movie. This was real life, and their time had passed. She was a fool.

But then he reached out and crushed her against him.

He said, "What took you so long? I've been waiting forever."

As it turned out, those words were perfect, too.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Passion

Passion
By Stephen B. Bagley

If I could, I would seduce you
into poetry. I would run
feathery words over the bare
shoulders of your muse, touch gently
the moist secret places of your
metaphors, delicately brush
your lips with similes and plunge
rhythm and rhyme into your soul.

I would take you past the threshold
where passion and structure meet, where
one image means the difference
between indifference and glory.
If I could, I would do these things
and do them long and do them well
until when you heard poetry,
you would gasp, don’t stop oh don’t stop.

Excerpt from Undying by Stephen B. Bagley & Gail Henderson. 
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. 


Friday, March 17, 2017

Letter

Dear old friend,
      I'm just writing you a note to tell you that I'm done with regrets. When I hung up the phone, after you told me that you were getting married again, I thought, It's never going to happen now. We're not going to be together.
      For a moment, I cursed the bad timing that has always plagued us. For a moment, I thought of the crazy loving we weren't going to share. For a moment, I thought of laughter in a shared, cozy dark. For a moment, I thought, well, my heart will break. And I braced myself for the shock.
      But my heart kept right on beating. And then I realized it was okay. I had been in love with you so long, had become so accustomed to it that I hadn't even noticed that it was only habit now. Somewhere over the years, the passion had been replaced with friendship.
      I thought about it all day yesterday. I turned it over in my mind, examining this strong, healthy reaction that I hadn't expected to find. Somehow, some way, some time when I wasn't looking, I grew up. And it feels fine.
      So I'm done with regrets tonight. There's a whole world still out there. I've wasted too much time already. A part of me will always love you, but it doesn't love you any more. I hope you finally find happiness. You deserve it. And so do I.
Your friend,
Me

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Sometimes

     Sometimes you're not enough. That's the one of lessons of growing up. You get to learn that some people can't be saved, that you're going to have to watch as someone you love makes wrong decisions and chooses darkness, that you can't do anything except hope the damage won't break them. 
      You can only do so much. Ultimately it's their decision about their lives. All the good advice in the world means nothing if the recipient won't listen. All the kindness in the world can't reach someone who won't let themselves be reached. You hope and pray, but they take that next drink or that next hit or one more time around with the wrong guy. They say they want to be rescued, but they've chosen their hell, and you can't save them. They don't want to be saved. 
      Sometimes miracles happen. People do step back from the abyss. It happens every day many times. It's the hope you hold on to. Even when you lose. 
      So you learn to take the victories you can, and you mourn the ones that fall, but there's always someone else walking along the edge so you don't have time to waste. 
      You keep trying because we all court disaster sometimes. But for the grace of God, you might be that one who's failing, who's falling, who needs someone to catch them, who needs someone to say, "Hold on. I won't let you go. Hold on." 
      Over the past few weeks, I've watched a friend choose something bad. He's lost his job and now his family, but he wants something he can't have and he's going to ruin himself in his attempt to get it. He's had books of good advice and libraries of warnings, but somehow he thought he'd be different, that he could walk along the hungry abyss and be unharmed. That he was different from all those others that fell before him. 
      Sunday night he called me and asked what he should do. So I gave the usual good advice (counseling, marriage therapist, N.A. meetings) and as I did, I realized that he was going to ignore me, that everything I said was not what he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear that it was going to be okay, that it was going to work out. That he could keep what he had already lost by continuing to do what he is doing. 
      Because I really am his friend, I didn't tell him those lies that because they're not true. The call ended shortly thereafter. I doubt he will call me again. I'll continue to hope and pray for him and his family, and that's all I can do for now. But miracles happen. I want one to happen in his life before he suffers too much, before he gathers too much regret. 
      Miracles do happen. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Darker than you think

I've always had a dark(er) sense of humor. I don't know why. I certainly don't like it when people get hurt or any of the other gory/senseless/immature/vulgar events that seem to pass for humor these days. (Never liked America's Funniest Home Videos or their ilk.)

But...sardonic humor. Like that in William Goldman's The Lion in Winter. Or the biting insults in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woofe? have always sparked something in me. The intelligence in the cuts, the knowing wit dissecting its object with no mercy nor regard to anything except the devastating impact....

In my plays, there were flashes of that. Sometimes the joke twisted the knife if the audience took a moment to look past the initial laughter. Not often. For one thing, I believe in mercy, and for another, I liked my characters for the most part. I hated hurting them, but I did.

Maybe all authors are darker than you think. Maybe darker than you are comfortable with. What other being makes its living by writing with great skill about another's torment? Look away. Better to not know. Just take the laugh and leave us in the shadows.

Where we're watching you.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why you can't

For a long time, self-help gurus have preached a message about "having it all," "doing it all," and so on. In many ways, their message--reaching our full potential and trying for more than the average, trying to learn more, be more active--is a good one that we all need to hear and to apply, but...and it's a big "but" and I cannot lie...we have to understand how time influences our lives.

We don't get a lot of time down here. Almost nothing compared to the time that has gone before and even less to the time that is yet to come. "...our little life is rounded with a sleep," to quote from The Tempest. The question becomes how to choose what is important to us. What are we going to spend our precious time on?

The reason we can't do it all/have it all--to put it plainly--is we don't have enough time. So we must choose, and each choice turns us from one path to another path to another to another. It always comes back to our decisions, even if we choose not to decide--which is a choice of sorts.

I have always liked the wisdom in this: "If you don't know where you're going, then how will you know when you get there?" We have decisions to make. We decide. And we must live with those consequences of those decisions.

In our lives, every single day, we make decisions. If we want to be a better person, make a better world, we have make good decisions. Prayer and reflection will help with that. And maybe being conscious of how precious time is to everyone.

And that's all the time I have for talking about this today.





Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Excerpt: "Taking Aim At Cupid"

Ordinarily at this time of year, I make a few disparaging remarks about Valentine’s Day, or "Passover" as I call in my house, but never within earshot of any of my Jewish friends as they do get the joke, but they don’t think it’s funny, and I hate it when they get all Samson on me.
But this year, I’ve decided to direct our attention to that clothing-challenged archer who wings around shooting people with arrows to make them fall in love with people guaranteed to ruin their lives. I don’t understand Cupid.

Oh sure, I get the metaphor that love is like a sharp weapon that pierces your spleen and makes you hemorrhage to death while your loved one runs off with your best friend, but beyond the obvious, what’s up with him?

He's strange. Has little tiny wings on his back.He flies around more naked than the birds who at least have feathers. He has nothing to protect him from the elements. (People thought that the mythmakers were saying Cupid carried a quiver, but actually they were saying he shivered.)

Supposedly, Cupid was the son of Venus (Goddess of Love) and Mars (God of Candy Bars). That's the accepted story, but other myths say he was the son of Heaven and Earth, Venus and Vulcan, Night and Ether, Venus and Mercury, Strife and Zephyr, and Venus by herself. The point of this is Venus got around, and the Renaissance mythographer Natale Conti says Cupid's parentage was uncertain. (Conti would go on to have a short-lived career in the Renaissance version of the Maury Povich show.)

It wasn’t until Cupid was in school that he learned his parents were mythical and didn’t exist. The other school children used to mock him by saying, “Your daddy's a myther; your mama's a mythssus." At this point, he took up the bow and arrow, but the school counselor disarmed him and sent him to military school where he was ignored because no one wants to look at a naked person all the time.

Not that his life was all bitter solitude. In fact, while carrying out one of his mother’s bizarre revenge schemes—Venus had depths of crazy that even my ex-girlfriends don’t have—he met and stalked a beautiful woman by the name of Psyche, who was a soul sister. (That’s a clever joke because Psyche is Greek for “soul.” Get it? Ha ha.... Well, fine. You try making jokes about love gods and see how easy it is.) He stalked her because he accidentally nicked himself with one of his arrows; there's some sort of lesson in that, but let's not take the time to figure it out.

If Cupid wrote a tell-all memoir, he would feature his mother. Here's this story as an example. When Cupid was a little boy, he stole honey from a bee hive, and the bees stung him. He cried and ran to his mother Venus. She laughs and points out he is also small like the bees and he delivers the sting of love so his pain is justice.Then she kicks him back outside. Listen, if that's not movie-of-the-week gold, I don't know what is. Move over, Joan Crawford, there's a new hanger-shaker in town.

Cupid and Psyche had their problems, of course, as any couple does when the man likes to soar around naked shooting people, but eventually they did marry and had a daughter whom they named Voluptas for no good reason. (She was also known as Hedone, which doesn’t seem any better. I can see Venus standing on the celestial porch hollering, “Voluptas Hedone, you get yourself back in this house right now!”) She hated her parents, mostly because her father’s lack of modesty meant she could never have sleepovers at her house. She left home at an early age and lived a wanton life, but no more so than any pop star or Congressman.

Mercifully, Psyche faded from history (or mythistory) at that point. Cupid, however, showed up a few more times, but marriage had changed him. He now carried two set of arrows, one gold-tipped set that brought love, and another lead-tipped set that brought hate. Some scholars think this is a pointed commentary on marriage. Other scholars wonder why we’re talking about this and think we should get a real job. The other scholars are often grumpy.

Anyway, I want you to think about all this when you get a card with Cupid on it. If you do and then find your Valentine’s Day is a bit less happy, then my job is done.

(Excerpt from the forthcoming Floozy Comes Back. Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Please do not copy without explicit permission from the author and publisher. Thank you for reading.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Update

Sorry to be so quiet. Between doctors' visits, my medical problems, and life, it seems I haven't had much time.

However, in good news, I have been making significant progress on "Floozy Comes Back." My plan is to have the book finished--first draft state--by the end of February.

Then March I will spend editing, lengthening, writing new material, and proofing (with the help of my proofers).

April, off it will go to the publisher.

And if things go right, I will publish in May! I'm looking forward to holding another new book in my hands.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wordless

Sometimes I don't have words. Not because a particular event has stolen them or left me bereft—although that can happen, also—no, instead, it's because there aren't any. I wander around the empty halls of my echoing imagination with only my steps disappearing in the silence.

No panicking. Been through this before. The words will come. They always do. I can feel them out there in the shadows, lurking in the woods, obscured by the clouds in the rose-tinged sky. But they will return. Probably late in the night or early in the morning or at a wedding or maybe the dentist—wherever it's most inconvenient. The words are like that. They require inconvenience and sometimes sacrifice.

Everything good requires a price. The price is what makes such things valuable. If we don't pay for what we have, how then do we know its value? That is a hard truth, but it is wisdom of a sort.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Excerpt from Undying

Metamorphosis
By Stephen B. Bagley

In the failure of his life,
he stirred the ashes,
recognizing each mistake,
his lover there,
his career here,
his hopes scattered
by the brutal wind.

He stood and spread his arms.
His hands couldn’t hold
—he dropped them.
His tongue couldn’t speak
—he spit it out.
His skin flawed and torn
—he sloughed it away.

That which he didn’t need
he would not keep;
all things have a time,
even humanity.

He raised tentacles
to the night sky,
roared his fury
as the ravens circled above,
craned his sinuous neck
to see the town below.

His lipless mouth
curved into a smile.
She would wake to terror,
she would see her unfaithful heart
beating in his grasp,
and her screams would be his lullaby.

(Excerpt from Undying. Copyright 2016 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.  No copying without prior permission of the publisher.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Struggle

How are you doing on your writing goals this week? I confess here that it's been a struggle for me this week. I've been really sick: sinus infection, IBD flare, diabetes blood sugar climb, and finally a bad recurrence of my spine troubles. Not fun. And it made it hard to write—it made it hard to even want to write.

Life is like that. It doesn't give way to our plans. Always tasks and problems will leap up to beat us back. It is easy, understandable, and maybe even correct to fall back at times. But the problem with retreat remains that we might not advance again....

I see it all the time. A person drops out of college for good reasons and says she will go next year--but she doesn't. A person doesn't pursue a romantic relationship because he doesn't have time now and will later--but years past and he never found the time. A writer will write tomorrow or next week or as soon as the kids leave home or when retirement rolls around—but the stories don't get told.

We have to be writers in the present. Not writers tomorrow or next week, but now. Now despite everything else before us. That's what I tell myself in weeks like this. Writers write. To be a writer—to be truly committed to what I believe is my vocation in life—I have to write.

Even in the weeks when I struggle...I have to write. And every word is a victory, a confirmation of what I believe about my calling in life.

Writers write.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Second Week

Made all these goals last week when I was filled with the excitement of the new year. Still have some of that, but the shiny is wearing off. It's the beginning of the slog, the necessary trudging that new habits require to fasten into place. This is the place where people give up, make excuses, fall gratefully back into the familiar, the safe, the rut.

It's easy to do. Our old habits are fighting back. We have our reasons, our excuses, our justifications: We're busy, we're tired, we're not good enough, we're too old, we're too young, next week we'll do better, next month we line ourselves back up. Who do we think we are, anyway?

The days flee by, and soon we're staring at another new year and think, "I didn't change last year so why should this new year be any different?" And we sink back with our regrets and chocolates and TV remotes, and in the end, that's our life.

Or...maybe...we can choose something different. We can make one new habit each month. One good habit. We can recycle cans, give up sugary soft drinks, send money to our favorite charity, write a letter of praise to a friend, sing happily at church, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate clothes to the homeless shelter, hug those who will be hugged, pray for those who need to know someone is praying, check out books from the library, aid the literary council, walk 15 minutes in the sunshine, sincerely compliment one person a day for a week, be kind in real ways, be a listening ear and offer a caring heart...oh, the world has such needs and we can't fulfill them because we're just ourselves, but we can do what we can.

It's not such a hard thing to change things when you look at it like that--just one new good habit a month for a year. And that good year would be followed by another and another and another, and then at the end, it would be a good life. A very good life.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Setting goals

It's been a strange past two weeks. Well, maybe not strange. Just different enough to keep me busy and unable to focus on my plan for the year.

Today I celebrated my last 2016 Christmas with my roomie and his family. It was a great, busy day. My house still needs to be put back into shape--and I don't want to think about my kitchen--but I wanted to take a moment or two to discuss my plans for 2017 before the first week ends in a few minutes.

Here are my goals:

Health
-- Get new glasses.
-- Get my diabetes under control.
-- Exercise daily.
-- Take my meds regularly.
-- Control my meals.
-- See a dentist regularly.

Life
-- Read at least two books a month.
-- Continue learning about art.
-- Finish one of the Great Courses.
-- Keep my budget under control.

Writing
-- Post on this blog at least once a week for the entire year.
-- Post on Stephen B. Bagley Books blog at least once a week for the entire year.
-- Publish Floozy Comes Back.
-- Publish Murder by the Mile.
-- Query three magazines for articles or essays.
-- Publish on Kindle six short stories.
-- Submit six short stories to traditional markets.
-- Start a new book.
-- Writing group meeting once a month (weather permitting).

It's going to be a busy year! But a productive, wonderful year! I hope yours is, too!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I hope 2017 for you is filled with good health, wealthy sufficient for your needs and a few luxuries, solutions to your worries, peace to quiet any anxious thoughts, love unconditional, sweet laughter, and much joy!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Blackbirds Third Flight On Sale!

Blackbirds Third Flight is now available at 
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion, Lulu, 
& other online retailers!
Enjoy these dark fantasies: 
➧ A dead girl asks one final question. 
➧ A young man rides a forbidden dragon. 
➧ With claw and fang, Malone will fight. 
➧ Justina Grave battles a dangerous witch. 
➧ A father faces his family's terrible secret. 
➧ The end of the world begins in a backyard. 
➧ A predator prowls on Halloween night. 
➧ Thunder Mountain will kill the careless. 
➧ Learn the final truth of the Tooth Fairy. 
➧ A wolf reveals the face of the true beast. 
     And much more in this anthology of thrilling tales and poetry from Kathy Akins, Stephen B. Bagley, Wendy Blanton, Michael Canton, D.E. Chandler, Erin Cochran, Gail Henderson, Mariana Llanos, Jean Schara, and Heath Stallcup.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book Signing Slated

ADA—Ada Public Library will host a book signing for the new Many Rivers Harbor anthology Blackbirds Third Flight on Thursday, October 27, 4:00-6:30 p.m. The anthology features stories and poems from area author Kathy Akins, Ada author Stephen B. Bagley, Wendy Blanton, Michael Cantin, D.E. Chandler, Erin Cochran, Gail Henderson, Mariana Llanos, Jean Schara, and area author Heath Stallcup.

The signing will offer signed books, Halloween candy, special gift bags for the first 25 customers, giveaways, special pricing on the authors' other books, and author presentations. The book will also be on sale at that time for $12.  

Blackbirds Third Flight is an anthology of stories and poetry with a dark, adventuresome twist,” said Kyra Childers, Many Rivers Harbor associate editor. “The stories run the gambit from thrilling urban fantasy to fantastic encounters with mythical creatures. The book includes a new story in the Justina Grave Mysteries™ and a new dragon rider adventure in the World of Balphrahn. The poetry is dark, funny, and excellent.”

The authors featured in the anthology include:

Kathy Akins began writing when she retired from a 30-year career with the United States Postal Service. She has won several awards with her poetry, devotionals, and short fiction. A love for history, family, and animals touches her everyday life and inspires her story ideas and characters. She lives in Oklahoma and shares her home with miniature long-haired dachshunds and a rescued Catahoula. Her dachshunds assist her when she presents dog-related educational programs for children in her capacity as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Ambassador. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

Stephen B. Bagley co-wrote Undying, a collection of poetry with Gail Henderson in 2015. He wrote Murder by Dewey Decimaland Murder by the Acre. His other books include Tales from Bethlehem, Floozy and Other Stories, and EndlesS. He wrote the full-length plays Murder at the Witch’s Cottage and Two Writers in the Hands of an Angry God and co-wrote Turnabout. His poetry, articles, short stories, and essays have appeared in Writer’s Digest, ByLine Magazine, Nautilus Magazine, Pontotoc County Chronicles, Tulsa World OKMagazine, Free Star, Dark Prairies & Deep Rivers, and other print and online publications. He graduated from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit his website at StephenBBagley.blogspot.com.

Wendy Blanton started writing when she learned to string words into sentences. She published three fantasy novels, The Dragon’s Lady, Rogue Pawn, and Sword and Scabbard, under the name Elizabeth Joy with co-author Scott Carman. Currently, she writes novels and short stories in several genres. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Management from the University of Mount Olive, Mount Olive, North Carolina, and served on active duty for the United States Air Force for eight years. She is an apprentice bard and specializes in telling Celtic folk tales at Scottish Highland Games and other venues. She and her husband are members of the Clan Campbell Society of North America. She lives in Illinois with her husband and three rescue cats. Visit her website at wendyblanton.wordpress.com.

Michael Cantin is a poet and sloth fanatic residing somewhere in the wilds of Orange County, California. He writes fitfully between bouts of madness and periods of lucid concern. You can find him in dark corners where weird fiction and stiff drinks are most readily available. His poetry has appeared both in print and online publications. You can find his work in The East Jasmine Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, 50 Haiku, several anthologies, and other venues.

D.E. Chandler released her debut novel, Bone Sliver, in October 2015. In 2013, her poem, “Oppenheimer” and her short story “One Way Window” both won honorable mention and publication in Outside the Lines. In 2015, her poem “Carroll After Dark” won first place and publication in the Tulsa Review’s 2015 Spring contest issue. She is currently a senior at Rogers State University, in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Creative Writing and TV/Radio Broadcasting. She lives with her husband Tom on a beautiful lake in Oklahoma. Email her at tcmedia@hotmail.com or connect with her on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Erin Cochran writes dark fiction including everything from classic horror to literary thrillers. Her love for the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and later Stephen King, began early in life with bedtime stories from her dad and listening to Mystery Theater on the radio while nodding off to sleep. She has numerous short stories and offerings of dark poetry, as well as her first novella in the genre, Of Noble Blood. She lives on a homestead farm with her family and all manner of animals from a pet snake to milk goats. She is writing a collection of horror short stories based on mythology and a vampire novel, The Sang Fye of New Orleans. Connect with her on Twitter @ep_ferguson and Facebook.

Gail Henderson co-wrote Undying, a collection of poetry with Stephen B. Bagley in 2015. She collaborated with noted photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a book of poetry and photography that explores the enigma of womanhood in the world. She wrote Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry published in 2013 under the name Gail Wood. Her work has also appeared in Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, Creations 2014, Creations 2013: 40 Ways to Look at Love, Creations 2012, and ByLine Magazine. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma. Visit her website at RedbirdWoman.blogspot.com.

Mariana Llanos was born and raised in Lima, Peru. She has written poetry and short stories since she was a young girl. Hoping to give a voice to the many characters that lived in her head, she studied Drama with the prestigious company Cuatrotablas, based in Lima. After moving to Oklahoma, Mariana worked as a preschool teacher, standing out for her creativity and passion for arts education. In 2013 she published her first book, Tristan Wolf. Now she has six titles under her name, four of those also in Spanish. Mariana visits schools around the world through virtual technology. She finds it to be a great way to reach children and spark their passion for reading and writing. Visit her website at marianallanos.com.

Jean Schara retired from a 28-year career in the United States Air Force in 2008 and took up residence in Central Texas. Since then, she’s been writing and helping her husband with the never-ending To Do list under the guidance and direction of their nine rescue cats. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland University College with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and of the Troy State University, Montgomery, with a Master of Science in Adult Education. In the summer, she is primarily occupied with yard work while her husband paints their Queen Anne Victorian home. She has had several book reviews published in the Air Power Journal and several short articles published in Vision: A Resource for Writers. Visit her blog at pmtoo.jeanschara.com/journal.

Heath Stallcup was born in Salinas, California, and relocated to Oklahoma in his teen years. He joined the US Navy and was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, and Bangor, Washington, shortly after junior college. After his second tour, he attended East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, where he obtained Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology and Chemistry. He then served ten years with the State of Oklahoma as a Compliance and Enforcement Officer while moonlighting nights and weekends with the local sheriff’s office. He lives in Oklahoma with his wife and three of his seven children. His books includeWhispers, Caldera, Forneus Corson, and the continuing Monster Squad series: Return of the Phoenix, Full Moon Rising, Coalition of the Damned, Blood Apocalypse, Homecoming, Wayward Son, Obsessions, and Specters. Visit his website at heathstallcup.com.


Blackbirds Third Flight is available from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Lulu.com, and other online retailers. For more information about the book, signings, and the authors, visit blackbirdsflights.blogspot.com.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Last Day To Save 30%!

TODAY is the last day you can save 30 percent on Blackbirds Third Flight at Lulu! Soon the book will be at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion, and other online retailers, and it will be up to them to offer discounts or not. So, if you were waiting, NOW is the time!
Use discount code: OCTSAVE30
ENDS TONIGHT, Monday, Oct. 10, at 12:59 PM

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Author Spotlight on Stephen B. Bagley

Later in October, we will mark the official release of Blackbirds Third Flight, which features 10 authors and poets sharing dark, twisty, and exciting stories and poems. Here's a bit of info about one of our authors.

Stephen B. Bagley co-wrote Undying, a collection of poetry with Gail Henderson in 2015. He wrote Murder by Dewey Decimal and Murder by the Acre. His other books include Tales from Bethlehem, Floozy and Other Stories, and EndlesS. He wrote the full-length plays Murder at the Witch’s Cottage and Two Writers in the Hands of an Angry God and co-wrote Turnabout. His poetry, articles, short stories, and essays have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, ByLine Magazine, Nautilus Magazine, Pontotoc County Chronicles, Tulsa World OKMagazine, and other publications. He graduated from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. Visit his website at http://StephenBBagley.blogspot.com.

Read his stories "The End Begins" and "Grave Fortunes" in Blackbirds Third Flight, now available exclusively from Lulu for a limited time. Click here to buy! Save 30% thru Monday, Oct 10, by using Lulu discount code: OCTSAVE30


Friday, October 07, 2016

Author Spotlight on Jean Schara

Later in October, we will mark the official release of Blackbirds Third Flight, which features 10 authors and poets sharing dark, twisty, and exciting stories and poems. Here's a bit of info about one of our authors.

Jean Schara retired from a 28-year career in the United States Air Force in 2008 and took up residence in Central Texas. Since then, she’s been writing and helping her husband with the never-ending To Do list under the guidance and direction of their nine rescue cats. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland University College with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and of the Troy State University, Montgomery, with a Master of Science in Adult Education. In the summer, she is primarily occupied with yard work while her husband paints their Queen Anne Victorian home. She has had several book reviews published in the Air Power Journal and several short articles published in Vision: A Resource for Writers. Visit her blog at http://pmtoo.jeanschara.com/journal

Read her story "Malone Stakes A Claim" in Blackbirds Third Flight, now available exclusively from Lulu for a limited time. Click Here to Buy! Save 30% thru Oct 10 by using Lulu discount code: OCTSAVE30


Thursday, October 06, 2016

Author Spotlight on Gail Henderson

Later in October, we will mark the official release of Blackbirds Third Flight, which features 10 authors and poets sharing dark, twisty, and exciting stories and poems. Here's a bit of info about one of our authors.

Gail Henderson co-wrote Undying, a collection of poetry with Stephen B. Bagley in 2015. She collaborated with noted photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a book of poetry and photography that explores the enigma of womanhood in the world. She wrote Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry published in 2013 under the name Gail Wood. Her work has also appeared in Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, Creations 2012, Creations 2013:40 Ways to Look at Love, Creations 2014, and ByLine Magazine. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma. She and her husband enjoy life in beautiful Minnesota. Visit her website at RedbirdWoman.blogspot.com.

Read her poems in Blackbirds Third Flight, now available exclusively from Lulu for a limited time. Click Here to Buy!   Save 30% thru Oct 10 by using Lulu discount code: OCTSAVE30


Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Author Spotlight on Wendy Blanton

Later in October, we will mark the official release of Blackbirds Third Flight, which features 10 authors and poets sharing dark, twisty, and exciting stories and poems. Here's a bit of info about one of our authors.

Wendy Blanton started writing when she learned to string words into sentences. She published three fantasy novels, The Dragon’s Lady, Rogue Pawn, and Sword and Scabbard, under the name Elizabeth Joy with co-author Scott Carman. Currently, she writes novels and short stories in several genres. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Management from the University of Mount Olive, Mount Olive, North Carolina, and served on active duty for the United States Air Force for eight years. She is an apprentice bard and specializes in telling Celtic folk tales at Scottish Highland Games and other venues. She and her husband are members of the Clan Campbell Society of North America. She lives in Illinois with her husband and three rescue cats. Visit her website at http://wendyblanton.wordpress.com.

Read her story "Mage Hunt" in Blackbirds Third Flight, now available exclusively from Lulu for a limited time.
Save 30% thru Oct 10 by using Lulu discount code: OCTSAVE30


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Author Spotlight on Erin Cochran

Later in October, we will mark the official release of Blackbirds Third Flight, which features 10 authors and poets sharing dark, twisty, and exciting stories and poems. Here's a bit of info about one of our authors.

Erin Cochran writes dark fiction including everything from classic horror to literary thrillers. Her love for the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and later Stephen King, began early in life with bedtime stories from her dad and listening to Mystery Theater on the radio while nodding off to sleep. She has numerous short stories and offerings of dark poetry, as well as her first novella in the genre, Of Noble Blood. She lives on a homestead farm with her family and all manner of animals from a pet snake to milk goats. She is writing a collection of horror short stories based on mythology and a vampire novel, The Sang Fye of New Orleans. Connect with her on Twitter @ep_ferguson and Facebook.

Read her story "Music of the Nightingale" in Blackbirds Third Flight, now available exclusively from Lulu for a limited time. Go Here to purchase!
Save 30% thru Oct 10 by using Lulu discount code: OCTSAVE30


Monday, October 03, 2016

Author Spotlight on D.E. Chandler

Later in October, we will mark the official release of Blackbirds Third Flight, which features 10 authors and poets sharing dark, twisty, and exciting stories and poems. Here's a bit of info about one of our authors.

D.E. Chandler released her debut novel, Bone Sliver, in October 2015. In 2013, her poem, “Oppenheimer” and her short story “One Way Window” both won honorable mention and publication in Outside the Lines. In 2015, her poem “Carroll After Dark” won first place and publication in the Tulsa Review’s 2015 Spring contest issue. She is currently a senior at Rogers State University, in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Creative Writing and TV/Radio Broadcasting. She lives with her husband Tom on a beautiful lake in Oklahoma. Email her at tcmedia @ hotmail.com or connect with her on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Read her poem "Corvus" and short story "Her Last Question" in Blackbirds Third Flight, now available exclusively from Lulu.com for a limited time HERE.
Save 20% thru today (Oct 3) by using discount code: SAVETODAY


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Author Spotlight on Mariana Llanos

October will mark the release of Blackbirds Third Flight, which features 10 authors and poets sharing dark, twisty, and exciting stories and poems. Here's a bit of info about one of our authors. 

Mariana Llanos was born and raised in Lima, Peru. She has written poetry and short stories since she was a young girl. Hoping to give a voice to the many characters that lived in her head, she studied Drama with the prestigious company Cuatrotablas, based in Lima. After moving to Oklahoma, Mariana worked as a preschool teacher, standing out for her creativity and passion for arts education. In 2013 she published her first book, Tristan Wolf. Now she has six titles under her name, four of those also in Spanish. Mariana visits schools around the world through virtual technology. She finds it to be a great way to reach children and spark their passion for reading and writing. Visit her website at marianallanos.com.

Read her poems "Wolf" and "Bird" in Blackbirds Third Flight, now available exclusively from Lulu.com for a limited time HERE. Save 20% through Oct 3 by using discount code: SAVETODAY


Friday, September 30, 2016

Author Spotlight on Michael Cantin

October will mark the release of Blackbirds Third Flight, which features 10 authors and poets sharing dark, twisty, and exciting stories and poems. Here's a bit of info about one of our authors.

Michael Cantin is a poet and sloth fanatic residing somewhere in the wilds of Orange County, California. He writes fitfully between bouts of madness and periods of lucid concern. You can find him in dark corners where weird fiction and stiff drinks are most readily available. His poetry has appeared both in print and online publications. You can find his work in The East Jasmine Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, 50 Haiku, several anthologies, and other venues.

Read his poems "Tooth Fairy" and "Carcosian Love Poem" in Blackbirds Third Flight, now available exclusively from Lulu.com for a limited time. Click here to purchase!