‘Beautiful Sorrows’ by Mercedes Murdock Yardley

Just wanted to say how happy I am for, and proud of, the wonderful Mercedes Murdock Yardley on the upcoming release of ‘Beautiful Sorrows’, a collection of 27 short stories from Shock Totem Publications.

Here’s what Shock Totem Publications has to say about the book:

There is a place where sorrows pile up like snow and rest in your hair like cherry blossoms. Boys have wings, monsters fall in love, women fade into nothingness, and the bones of small children snap like twigs. Darkness will surely devour you—but it will be exquisitely lovely while doing so.

Mercedes M. Yardley’s Beautiful Sorrows is an ephemeral collection encompassing twenty-seven short tales full of devastation, death, longing, and the shining ribbon of hope that binds them all together.

The official paperback release for Beautiful Sorrows will happen on Saturday, September 22, in Las Vegas, at the fourth annual Killercon convention. The entire Shock Totem team, as well as some of our extended staff, will be on hand for this event, and Mercedes will be autographing and reading from the collection.  Beautiful Sorrows will be available in limited edition hardcover, paperback and e-book format (keep checking Shock Totem for details).

I can’t say how pleased I was to see this news about Mercedes’s first book.  I’ve known Mercedes since way back in September/October 2009 when her short story ‘Ephemerality’ became the first story ever published at my fledgling magazine, With Painted Words (you can – and should – go and read it HERE).  Since then I’ve found in her someone strong, brave, funny, loving and – of course – talented.  I’m so proud to know her as she’s one of the special people who never fail to make you smile and I look forward to the day when we meet … and our kids raise Hell together ;)

Here’s to you, my friend, and may all your sorrows be beautiful ones.

Mercedes M. YardleyMercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She writes whimsical horror, nonfiction, and is the nonfiction editor for Shock Totem: Curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted.

To find out more about her please visit: http://abrokenlaptop.com/

Right in front of the eyes.

I’m not really prone to introspection at the best of times and when it involves self-praise I really avoid it. However I was asked recently why I had the phrase ‘hopeful writer’ in my biography. When I explained that I thought that I was still simply dabbling at this literary lark and that, one day, I would no doubt be caught out as the pretender that I view myself as, it was pointed out that I am either an idiot or full of false modesty (they actually said that I was full of something else, but we will stick to the nicer version of things). Now, I am really not one for false modesty either so that left me with the other option.

An idiot.

Honestly I don’t think that I am that either (at least not all of the time) so just as I forced myself to do back in February, during the lead up to Rare Disease Day 2012, where I ‘outed’ myself as someone who lives with a rare genetic disorder (no, it isn’t idiocy so if you want to find out what it is, or more about it, go read the archives) I was challenged to look critically, and honestly, at what I had accomplished, in terms of writing, so far.

So, here goes:

Back in September/October 2009 I had my first short story, ‘Rainbow’ published in a short-lived print magazine called ‘Offshoot’. Since then I’ve had another twenty-five pieces of work – poetry, micro-fiction, flash fiction, short stories, and even a novella – also published. Out of those there have been a couple of award winners, a story short-listed for the Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition. Individual stories ranked pretty highly in the critically acclaimed Preditors and Editors polls and had positive reviews in places such as Barnes and Nobles. I even have a collection of short fiction (aptly title ‘Short but Sweet’) available on Amazon.

I compiled and edited a collection of superhero fiction for an anthology entitled Powers, which included sixteen short stories and one novella. This was long listed for an Eagle award.

I started publishing two online magazines. One, With Painted Words, is published monthly and is for poetry, micro and flash fiction inspired by a different piece of artwork. To date it has published one hundred and forty two individual pieces of creative writing. The second, The WiFiles, is a weekly speculative fiction publication, which is queued up well into June 2013 and has accepted over one hundred pieces of fiction so far.

Coming soon is also an independent small press for collected anthologies, charity books, and much more.

Coming even sooner (as in it has already started) is my first real attempt at a novel. A LOT of work – planning, outlining and research – has already gone into it and I am now at the stage where that is all being collated into actual initial drafting. In other words, I suppose, I’m actually writing a novel.

To summarise:

26 publications – awards & short-listings – anthology edited – over 240 other peoples’ stories published – small-press on its way – novel commenced

If those paragraphs above were about anyone other than me I’d be impressed. I’d probably also be a little jealous. You see that is where I’d want to be, what I would want to have as MY ‘brags’. Of course, only an idiot would be stupid enough not to realise that those accomplishments were their own, wouldn’t they? Only an idiot would fail to see what was in front of their own eyes.

Sp what that boils down to is simple: either I stop using the word ‘hopeful’ – at least as far as it means prospective – from my bio or I start using the word ‘idiot’.

Of Queens and history

Yesterday was a pretty wonderful day.  Journey to Stormont wasn’t too bad: very quick car drive in, wander around Belfast, managed to get a shuttle bus before the 500 people queue formed and then a gentle 70 minute journey (normally takes about 15) through multiple police checks.  The estate entry itself was easy and there was a tonne of stuff to see and do (food stalls, bouncy castles, amusements, live music, etc) while waiting for HRH to arrive.  Was extremely warm and, after a couple of heavy rain bursts (we were bone dry; tree umbrellas at Stormont are great) the humidity factor did start hammering me so body/breathing was getting ropey but managed to remain vertical until The Queen’s arrival and drive-by … including having a Mackenzie on my shoulders so that he could see (yes, I am paying for that one now!).  Was definitely worth going to, of course; how many kids can say that they were at a Jubilee celebration for the Queen of England, in Stormont, on the day that she shook hands with martin McGuinness?!  That’s history, that is ;)

Exit from Stormont was mad – we stayed around for a good hour or so after HRH left (watching the exodus of people thereafter) and did the bouncy castle again, got some ice-cream, listened to music, etc.  There was STILL over an hours wait for the shuttle bus, and no cabs were taking bookings for the area due to congestion and lack of cars, so decided to go to the Stormont Hotel instead, to grab some dinner.  At 5:15pm we were told it would be 7:30pm before they could seat us and decided to just go and queue for one of the shuttle buses … only to find a beautiful taxi-man right outside who drove us back into my carpark for only £20 (normally £15 ish so not bad at all!).

Carole, on the taxi ride back into the centre of Belfast, had the foresight to book at table at Eds Bar and Grill so we stopped and had a wonderful (if tired) dinner at their fabulous eatery … though I did forget to pick up the £10 voucher I won (again) whilst there, so really must do that sometime soon.  Great service, entertainment for the kids, and good food – what more can one ask for?

Very late night for the boys as it was after 9pm when we got them in bed … I say ‘we’ but, by this time, i was somewhere between horizontal and vertical on the couch trying to decide between aching, breathing or staying awake.  Ultimately I didn’t make the decision but, at about 11:30, Carole woke me up and dragged me upstairs were I don’t recall anything until just before 7am when Nathaniel wandered in and asked it if was time to go to nursery.  It was his taster session (an hour or so) in his new nursery while it was Mackenzie’s first day in P2 (again a taster as he spends a couple of days there before summer).  More history in the making, as both boys are now officially in full-time education – forget HRH’s 60 years, where on Earth has my childrens’ time gone?!

Mackenzie is still at school, Nathaniel had a blast at nursery (didn’t want to leave) and is now with his grandmother, and I’ve got a car with a flashing maintenance light just as I’m meant to be driving 50 miles through rain and floods to work … life, ey?  One day your at a party for the Queen and the next you are tired and sore and wondering if your car will explode :)

The GeekDad Song by John Anealio

Took some time and hacked the toaster
This steampunk oven timer’s swell, what the hell?
Let’s a build a LEGO rollercoaster
The boy can take it to show and tell. And all is well.
Chorus:
People say I’m a GeekDad
My co-workers think I’m a nerd
People say I’m a GeekDad
But my wife just thinks I’m absurd.Our coffee maker seems redundant
There must be a better way, what you say?
Solar energy’s abundant
Even if we fail we’ll be okay with our new deathray.

Chorus

A working TARDIS in the basement
A Stargate portal on the lawn
Trans-dimensional displacement
helps the traffic move along.

Chorus

credits

from GeekDad, track released 13 June 2011
John Anealio: Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Organ, Synth, Ambient Loop & Drum Programming.

Music by John Anealio
Lyrics by John Anealio & Z.

For more wonderful stuff check out http://johnanealio.com

Green eggs and ham

As the more eagle-eyed of you – or perhaps just those of you who are awake, paying attention, and had your medication – will remember in February 2012, during the lead up to Rare Disease Day 2012, I ‘outed’ myself.

Now, before any of you get the wrong idea I didn’t come out as gay as I’m not that way inclined – not that there is anything wrong with that, of course, and not that I possibly wouldn’t be tempted if Ryan Reynolds turned up at my door with flowers and a smile – I just happen to prefer women; and, by women, I do mean woman as I am extremely, happily, married to a wonderful one who may be a tad annoyed if I suddenly became polyamorous though, again, if Sandra Bullock came begging at my door … but I digress.  When I say outed I simply mean that I made it publically known that I lived with (not suffered from, remember!) a rare disease or two.  If you want to know more about that you can easily find out by looking back through my blog posts.

I’m lucky, I know that.  My muscles are weaker than average, I fatigue faster than normal, I don’t have a very good track record with breathing as well as regular folks, and if I get ill it can hit me in a big way.  However I lead a relatively healthy and active life; yes, I do have to make adjustments to what I do, and plan activities around how much energy I need to use versus how much I want to risk not breathing  … so hills, lots of stairs and arduous stuff is completely out of the window … but, on the whole, I’m not majorly affected (by my terms).

If you passed me on the street you may admittedly remark on how amazingly attractive, witty and urbane I appear (of course you’d be right on that and, in many ways, that is my real disability – being a paragon of awesome in a world that hates and fears us pretty folk) but unless you were very observant you probably wouldn’t pick up on any of my disadvantages – yes, I walk a little slower, my breathing may be laboured, I may not be lifting/carrying as much as you’d expect but, on the whole – as I’m not in a wheelchair, don’t use walking aids often, or have medical devices strapped to me – you’d probably think that I was pretty normal.

However last couple of days two things happened that, being honest, shook my foundations a little.  The first was an internal thing; I was baking a cake (a German, sour-dough, friendship cake with desiccated coconut, almond and cocktail cherries – delicious in case you were wondering) which was rather thick and stiff.  While stirring and mixing the ingredients I suddenly realised that I actually WASN’T stirring or mixing the ingredients … the spoon wasn’t moving.  I tried very, very hard to stir it; I changed my grip on the bowl, I changed my grip on the spoon, I changed hands, etc.  Pesky thing wouldn’t move.  So I did the obvious thing – I called my wife and got her to stir it.  Obviously … OBVIOUSLY … I knew that there was a fault somewhere along the line: the spoon wasn’t the right sort, the bowl was causing too much friction, the ingredients had morphed into super-glue, a nearby pinhole blackhole was exerting enormous gravity on the localised area of said cake.  Or something.  I knew … KNEW … that Carole wouldn’t be able to stir the stuff either.  But she did; rather easily too.

It was just that I wasn’t able to do it myself.

Now it was rather late in the evening and I’d had a busy day at work; I’d had a busy week/month at work too.  I’d had bronchitis within the last month and, within the last week, had had gastroenteritis so wasn’t at my best.  But it was still just stirring a simple cake mix; I should have been able to do that, surely?

No.  I couldn’t do it.

That was rather annoying.  That was rather frustrating.

… the cake, though, was rather delicious (which Carole maintains was due to her stirring, of course).

Next day – yesterday – I was at a work event, getting acknowledged for my greatness (true story; me and a bunch of colleagues were at a rewards and recognition lunch for our continuous professional development in terms of qualifications and specialisms)  when I was asked by a colleague if I was ok.  I asked why and he said that I looked like I had been punched in the eye (or was having a stroke – he actually was very concerned).  Now I was tired and sore and … well think of any negative adjective for being as weak as a weak kitten and still trying to function at 100% which is pretty normal for this type of genetic muscular condition and you’ll get the idea … but, on the whole, didn’t really feel that much different to any other day.  I went into the bathroom to have a look at what he was talking about and this is what I saw:

That is called ptosis.  Ptosis is a drooping or falling of the upper or lower eyelid which, as you can see by the photo, is pretty self-evident and myogenic ptosis is a known symptom in CMS (and other diseases) which basically means that there is a dysgenesis of the levator muscle … the muscle either isn’t 100% or it doesn’t function 100%.

Now as physical symptoms and ‘tells’ go for me in regards to my wonderful genetic mutations that isn’t a major one; it isn’t even particular debilitating.  I know this.  I’m rather intelligent so, mentally, I realise that a half closed eye doesn’t cause too much trouble (tired eye, headache sometimes, slightly weird/blurred vision) and isn’t normally noticeable when compared with using a wheelchair or obvious aids like that.

… but it annoyed me.  It frustrated me.  Someone had noticed that I wasn’t right and had called me on it.  My gloating in February that I had done something ‘big’ by admitting my issues was completely and totally challenged by my reaction to someone realising there was something wrong when I wasn’t telling them of my own choosing.

I didn’t like it, Sam I am, I didn’t like it at all.

I still don’t like it.

It has stayed with me and I am very self conscious about it now.  I’m checking my eye a lot, seeing if it is more or less open than usual … .not even knowing, really, what is usual.  I look like I’ve had botox as I’m trying to keep my forehead tight so that my eyebrows are raised, so that my lid is lifted a little.  It looks stupid and it is giving me a headache.

But I’m still doing it.

Because as much as I would love to say that I’d accepted this ‘thing’ of mine – as much as I’d love to be the bigger person and say that the little things don’t matter – I can’t.  I haven’t and they do.

However I’m posting this blog … and especially ‘that‘ photo … because I will try to accept it better, and will try to not let the little things (or the big ones) get to me.

Because without trying you never know if you’ll like the green eggs and ham, ‘ey Sam?

Hand in hand

OK, Northern Ireland decision makers … when will you realise that perpetuating a state of apartheid within our Country, starting at the earliest ages by having a state backed segregated education system means that you have no leg to stand on when decrying the fact that sectarianism exists here?

Support and promote integrated education here in Northern Ireland (or the north of the Island if the other offends your delicate sensibilities) and within a few generations there will be no culture of hate, or them and us … just US!

When children from one religion actually grow up and go to school with, hand in hand, children from another religion they will understand and respect each other and THEIR children will not see the differences between them, or feel ‘hate’, simply because of which church (if any) they attend, or which football team they support, but will see the similarities.  Children do that, you see, they find the things that make them alike rather than dwelling on the spurious, man-made devices, that make them different.

Maybe they should be running the damn Country; couldn’t do a worse job, after all!

The Church of Jay

OK, debate from Monday (on Facebook) provoked a question about what I personally believe in. Here goes:

I believe in mankind’s potential for doing good things; I believe in trying to be the best person I can be; I believe in freewill and choices being based on a simple precept of what is good for me while AT THE SAME TIME not being detrimental to anyone else; I believe in hoping for the best while being prepared for the worst; I believe in life, love and family; I believe in hope; I believe in treating others as I would want to be treated and doing so until the prove unworthy of such treatment; I believe in doing whatever it takes to defend myself, my family and my friends from harm; I believe that we should ALL try to be good to one another, be tolerant , and be respectful; I believe that this is the only life that we get and we should try to live it to the full each and every day.

I DON’T believe in God, or Gods; I don’t believe in religion trying to claim that it has all the answers when, at the end of the day, it is just asserting beliefs from its own perspective (not facts); I don’t believe that the worship of a higher power should come before individual freedom, love, or choices; I don’t believe in the need for an external influence/force to inform my ethics or morality; I don’t believe that there is ‘One’ religion (or any) that is right to the detriment of all others; I don’t believe in any man made edifice, be it a book or a religion) being infallible; I don’t believe in life after death as a reward in Heaven, or a punishment in Hell.

However I wouldn’t class myself as an atheist at all. An atheist ‘knows’ there is no God and tries to uses science and facts to prove this; however the lack of hard evidence for something does NOT disprove it being possible. Just as a book, written by man over centuries and generations, translated, changed and edited, does NOT prove the existence of a supreme power any more than Lord of the Rings proves the existence of Elves.

 

I would say that I am an agnostic with humanist tendencies. I don’t KNOW if there is a God, or Gods, but I also don’t care. I don’t NEED a deity, higher power, divine being, sky father, God, saviour, or anything else in order to live my life. I don’t need the promise of Heaven, or the threat of Hell, in order to try to be a good person. I don’t NEED a book to give me contradicting viewpoints on how to live my life – especially not when it is fallible, and claims that insects have four legs, or that prawns are evil.

However I also don’t need the Humanist movement to tell me that I should state there is no God, that religious people are idiots for believing in fairy tales, or that they are 100% right. They are as bad as religions by trying to PUSH their own belief … the ONE TRUTH so to speak … on everyone else.

Ultimately I believe that no-one KNOWS what is true and what isn’t. It is the ultimate in pride and hubris to state that you are right and everyone else is wrong, after all. Geography and culture have as much to play in what religion you will follow as any real choice; if you’re born in Iran you probably won’t be Buddhist, for example, or Christian, just as if you are born in Northern Ireland, from generations of Catholic/Protestant family, you probably won’t be Muslim, or Shamanistic.

The Book of Me, if I were a religion, would be really small, and really simple (with no caveats or punishments for not following it – and you could end prawns if you wanted to):

Be good for goodness sake, be kind to one another, and party on dudes.