Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pardon Our Absence...

I had a dream that I went to sleep and woke up a year later. At least I think it was a dream. Things have become rather confusing in Stansbury as of late and while I have not been able to document i all properly, I have been trying to keep up. Sometimes I look around and the town is full of everyone I know and other times it seems all but empty. Everything at the same time, as if time had no meaning at all and what happened then is happening now and will happen soon.

What I do know is that I have not written anything here in some time, but what I have written here in the past will be here tomorrow as it was yesterday and what I write today and tomorrow will seem as if it has been here all along. And isn't that the best part of writing and reading? All writing exists at the same time always. All stories, all words, once written, have always been there as far as the reader is concerned. This post that you are reading now may be dated for the day I am writing it, but you may come to it a month from now on the same day that you first come to a poem written by William Blake in 1789, such as "The Lamb." Now while you may know that my post did not exist in 1789, it does not matter to your experience with either this post or Blake's poem. For you, they exist at the same time and, for all intents and purposes, always have.

If you come back again, there will be more words that will have always been here...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A new fiction about Stansbury

I find it interesting that someone is out there writing stories about Stansbury. Now, just so you know, these are not true stories even though the author is using all of our names and she even seems to know us awfully well. And, yes, weird things happen here, but it's a really nice town and you shouldn't judge us by these stories she's telling you.

Anyway, here's a new one that just came out:

I have to warn you, though. This one's kind of scary. I'm sure glad the real Stansbury's not like that.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Celebrating Womanhood in Stansbury

Here in Stansbury, we have a long history of celebrating women. Given that we lost so many of our young men in the bus accident back in the 60's, it's often been up to our women to hold the fort and keep things moving along. But then again, isn't that always the truth of things most everywhere? But men take women for granted much of the time or, worse, spend too much of their time focused on women for all the wrong reasons. But we love our men in Stansbury and they are generally the good sort who just need nudging every time and again to make sure they do the right things even when it's so darned hard sometimes to do.

We'd like to give our chronicler, Natasha Troop, a chance to say a few words (as if she could ever just say a few words!) about what being a woman means to her.

* * *

I will just try to say a few words because my Stansbury chronicles are the work of the day and if I don't finish the second chapter of Autumn, people might get angry at me. 

So a few words...

I've come to my womanhood later in life than most. For much of my life, I could only dream or imagine what it was like to be a woman because I never thought that it was something I could ever be. I never thought I could free myself from the cage I was born into to the point that I made that cage so secure that I did not dare to think about it anymore. I'll admit that when I did think about it, it was without the constraints that bind women in our society. I romanticized being a woman to a great degree because it was just a dream and if you're going to make one for yourself, it should be better than reality to some degree.

I've come to my womanhood as I've stripped away what it was to be a man. The gender roles and attitudes, the social games and expectations. I've learned how to be a woman from those whom I admired and respected, from those who if I had to grow up all over again, I'd want to be like. Because in some respects, I've had to grow up all over again. I've had to readjust to a world where things work differently and it certainly has not been an easy process and it continues still and probably will for as long as I walk this Earth.

I celebrate my womanhood each and every day. I celebrate the freedom that I have to be a woman. I celebrate the science that has allowed me to correct the mistakes of my physiology. I celebrate the company of other women who accept me, embrace me and mentor me. I celebrate being myself.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Reviews: "Riser" and "Reaper" by Becca C. Smith

Shelley called us up to tell us she had just finished reading the first two books of a new science fiction/horror series and wanted to share her thoughts about them with the blog. Not being the kind to stand in her way when she wants to do something, we handed her the keys to the blog…as it were.

* * *

Hi blog reader people! Shelley here. I work over at Osno’s. You should come by and visit me when you come to town…if you come to town. Or you can email me if you like. I like getting messages from time to time. A few weeks ago, I got a note from a friend I made on this Antonio Banderas fan group I’m a part of (Don’t judge me! I love him. He’s adorable, especially when he’s doing Puss in Boots) and she told me if I wanted to read a really good book, I should check out Riser by Becca C. Smith. As this friend has made some good recommendations in the past, I thought I would check the book out.

So, being me, I read some stuff about it and while I’ve had some bad run-ins with YA stuff (Hello, Twilight? I’m looking at you), I thought I would give this one a spin because I loved the cover (yeah, I know) and I liked the idea of a girl who could control dead things. So I downloaded onto the Kindle and took it for a test read.

A few hours later and fortunately no customers came into the store to disturb me because, wow! I don’t remember the last time I read a book cover to cover (can you still say that when it’s on a Kindle?). I seriously could not put my little device down except to answer the phone once and tell Cathy Hodges that I’ll have to call her back later because I’m busy restocking and she was totally cool with that because she was just calling to invite me over for coffee later and I told her I was too busy for coffee today but we would totally get coffee tomorrow. And then back to the book.

Quickly (because you can read the cover stuff without me), the book is about a girl in Future Los Angeles named Chelsan who can control dead things…any dead things. Also, people can take a drug that will allow them to stop aging and be immortal so long as they don’t go and get themselves killed. Chelsan is in high school and has to deal with high school issues as well as the conflicts the novel presents. The book never lags. Ms. Smith does an amazing job of balancing the details of the girl’s life with the events of the book. I never felt like I was getting too much information, but I always knew what I needed to know.

The fact is, the book is exciting, tense and involving and I couldn’t stop reading it and when it was done, the only thing that kept me from being too upset was the fact that there was already ANOTHER book in the series done, called Reaper. So I downloaded it right away and cancelled my plans with Gil that night (which meant that I called him and told him I wasn’t coming over and he shrugged through the phone…how does he do that?...and told me it was cool, whatever) and went home and read that one in one sitting.

Do you know how you can eat a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting and not even think about it except that it is so good and you just want to eat it all and the when it’s done, you’re sorry because you wish you had kept just a little for later, but you are still totally satisfied because it was awesome anyway?

That’s how I feel about Reaper. I loved this even more than the first one because I didn’t know how Ms. Smith was going to top the first one and she showed me in her text that she could be even more inventive. It’s all just so very unexpected and original. And you might say the romance parts are typical of YA, but they are important to the plot and I was actually really invested in Chelsan’s relationship with Ryan in a way I didn’t think I would be. And as much as I liked Bill in the first book, I was kind of pissed at him in this one, which again surprised me because I normally don’t get involved with characters romances. But it all made sense and was so important to the story that I know the whole thing would be diminished if not for this not so triangular love triangle (trust me, when you read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about). The fact is, the book is exceptionally well constructed and so very hard to put down.

I’m supposed to give the books a star rating out of five because that’s how book reviews do things. So I give Riser 5 stars because it is a perfect first book. It introduces the characters and universe while never sacrificing exposition for story, which is engrossing and wonderful. I give Reaper 5 stars as well, but a better kind of star, a super star, than I gave Riser because it is a better book. Ms. Smith writes confidently and knows how to grab you and not let go. 

So that’s my first review. I hope they let me do more. That was fun! Oh, and read these books. And tell me what you thought of them, because I want to know if you love them as much as I do. 

Oh, and here's some information I found about the author:

Becca C Smith received her Film degree from Full Sail University and has worked in the Film and Television industry for most of her adult life. Becca wrote and illustrated Little Family Secrets, a graphic novel based on the true story of her great aunt who was famous for murdering her husband. Becca is also the author of the teen fiction novel, Riser and is the co-author of the teen graphic novel Ghost Whisperer: The Haunted. She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two cats Jack and Duke.

And you can buy Riser here and it's available on Kindle, too and over at B&N on Nook. So is Reaper which is available here.

Oh, and just so you know, disclosures and all, the books were provided by the author for review.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Shorts with the Sheriff: Roald Dahl is cruel to children

Hello all! Sheriff Tom here. I seem to be the only one making Notes From Stansbury right now. That's cool, I guess. But I didn't even get an introduction this week. What gives? It's like I'm just expected to show up and write about short stories now.

Well, okay, it gives me something to do and it bugs Steve that I get to write stuff for the town blog and he doesn't. His little weasel face gets all twisted up which is just funny which makes this worthwhile.

Anyway, I suppose everyone else is outside doing things and too busy to stare at a computer screen. It's just too beautiful for words around now...or beautiful enough to partake of words outside. Books are wonderful for a lazy late spring day sitting out on the grass under a tree somewhere. When I was a kid, I used to love Roald Dahl's works and as an adult, I was thrilled to discover that he wrote stuff for us, too. 
“The Wish” – Roald Dahl

If you ever have the chance, pick up a Roald Dahl omnibus. There is a treasure trove of wonderful dark stories. "The Wish" is one of those great stories about a child’s imagination that slowly blurs the line between what is imagined and what is real. At the outset, the child’s journey across a huge rug is the kind of game many kids (including myself as a child) play. There are three colors in the rug and only one is “safe” to walk on while stepping on the other two will lead to certain death.  The ending of the story is ambiguous as to whether or not the game had somehow become real.

Throughout the story, Dahl’s language captures the mindset of the child perfectly. Because it is a child’s imagination, the reality of the situation is always in doubt. It is only when the titular wish is made in passing that there is even an inkling of a sense that the child has willed something real into the world. As a reader of Dahl’s work, I always have an expectation of some kind of twist at the end of the story, something unexpected (but expected). More often than not, it is a moral or a lesson being taught to the reader from Dahl’s very strict sense of right and wrong. This story was an interesting diversion from the norm because I didn’t get the sense that the child was being punished for anything. Because of the ambiguous ending, I am not even sure if anything happened to the child at all and, unlike many Dahl characters, I did not really want anything to happen to this child.

The tension in the story reflects the sense of play. Dahl effortlessly creates a lack of danger by filtering everything through the child. Because I felt this was a child’s game, even though I suspected that it would become real, I was never really worried for the child. The tension is consistently deflected until the end, where the lack of definite resolution creates a greater tension. Not really knowing what happened, worrying that the snakes in the rug were real and devoured the child… there is real angst in this beyond a tidy conclusion.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Shorts with the Sheriff - That's Mr. Lovecraft to you.

Sheriff Tom was so happy to take part in this, that we're letting him make this his weekly thing. We'd actually like to rename it, Sunday Shorts with the Sheriff. So here's our lawman with his pick for the week.

* * *
Hi, everyone. Being the sheriff of a small New England town that has...a history, it's only natural that I have some interest in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I mean, when things around Stansbury get bad, I can at least look to Lovecraft's work and say, well, at least it's not as bad as all that. This week, I want to share the story, "Nyarlathotep" with you.

Lovecraft mainly wrote of people who discovered the world was doomed to succumb to dark, insane gods. If you have never read a Lovecraft tale, it is hard to relate to you the power of his language. His vocabulary and tone make Poe seem like Jane Austen.

This particular story is a treasure trove of dark descriptions. Just about every line is pregnant with dread. I am particularly fond of the line: “A sickened, sensitive shadow writhing in hands that are not hands, and whirled blindly past ghastly midnights of rotting creation, corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel winds that brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low.” It is poetic, evocative and deeply disturbing both in the context of the story and, simply, in the image it creates.

Writing horror is a tricky business because you really have to think about what you intend your story to do. Do you want your readers losing sleep to nightmares? Do you want to create disgust or shock? I think Lovecraft wanted his prose to disturb his readers. He wanted to create vivid landscapes of a nightmarish pseudo-reality and mindscapes of psychosis born of the knowledge that nightmares are the pale reflection of the really horrible things that exist and have been discovered. This story is effective because it is relentless horror. It smothers the reader with so much vivid dark detail that by the time you reach the end you are breathless and, yes, disturbed.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Something About Bridges - Sunday Shorts

So here in Stansbury, we like a good short story as much as the next person. As a matter of fact, Sheriff Tom has written a number of them and he keeps submitting them to The New Yorker and The Atlantic and "important" magazines like that and he always gets rejected and everyone keeps telling him that the stories are really good, but just not quite right for the Algonquin set. But we did ask the sheriff to contribute something about a story he likes for Sunday Shorts, which can be found both here at Goodreads or here, which is a cool blog from another northern town. 

So here's Sheriff Tom with one of his recommendations...

Neil Gaiman - Troll Bridge

Neil Gaiman writes excellent fantasy tales. He knows the tropes and he works well in the genre. Because I write a lot of bridge centered stories, this one stuck out to me simply on title. But I really love all the stories in this book...and most of Gaiman's work. As an illustrator, I wish I could draw the stuff he writes. That would be incredible.


There are two aspects of this story that work nicely. The first is the way Gaiman seamlessly introduces a very basic fantasy character, the troll under the bridge, into the very real, ordinary life of his narrator. There is never a moment where the narrator wonders how the troll exists in his world. He simply accepts the troll and the troll’s demand of his life as he would a criminal who had stopped him to take his wallet. The magic of the creature and his “attack” is not shocking for the reader because it is not shocking to the narrator. I have never read magical realism that integrated traditional fantasy until this story. The magic is natural and of nature in the way that defines magical realism.

The second aspect of the story that was very successful was the melancholy of the narrator’s life. It is sad while not pathetic. It would have been very easy for Gaiman to create pathos. But it is simply sad. As the character’s life progresses, the missed opportunities and poor choices play nicely against the fall of the natural world to modernization. The simple fact that the narrator would rather be the troll under a graffiti-scrawled, condom strewn bridge than to continue in his own sad life, or, as he states at the end, any sad modern life, speaks volumes to the decay that modern life has imposed upon living.