Flash Fiction Friday!

The house looked the way it always had.

The rain gutter still sagged at the south corner. The paint on the porch was still peeling, and the front curtains were still drawn.

The garden, on the other hand, was not the overgrown tangle of weeds and juniper bushes run wild that he remembered. It had been ruthlessly all trimmed back, and a small fishpond had been installed in the centre of a small square of improbably green grass.

And the path was new, too. The cracked and uneven concrete slabs, scavenged from a building site down the road around the time his parents had just moved in, had been replaced by mellow red-brick paving stones.

So pretty. So tasteful. So…incongruous.

What self-respecting demon-spawn would do this?

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Clothes Maketh the Man and Woman…

Every so often, there’s an article or story bruited abroad (ie: the internet) about nudism.

David_von_Michelangelo

It’s been around for decades. Centuries, even. The desire to walk around free and the wind caressing your skin forever is very common, and the rationalizations and excuses (“It’s healthy!”) abound.

It might be true, I suppose. Certainly there are times when wearing absolutely zilch feels better. I love skinny dipping, and way back when sun tanning was a “thing” it always felt better to get the entire body in on the act.

And don’t even get me started on stuff like saunas and hot tubs. Those things are emphatically several magnitudes better naked.

But other stuff? Eating food/riding my bicycle/watching movies?

Big nope.

The thing is, I LOVE clothes.

I love dressing up to go out. I love dressing down to slop around the house.

I love the way clothes can change my mood – and how they change how others interact with me. I love the rituals of getting ready to go to some social thing: deciding what signals I want to send, and considering how those signals might be received.

And I’m fascinated by the ways in which other people dress themselves. Think about how much cultural and social information we unconsciously absorb just from looking at someone’s sartorial choices.

There’s a negative side to it, of course. Making snap judgments about class and status based on what someone is wearing for one brief moment of interaction – we all do it to some extent, and one has to be on guard against this tendency, although, from an anthropological/historical point of view, that is part of what clothing and body ornament evolved for – to give visual clues about status and belief.

There’s a (probably apocryphal) story from way back last century about Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins going to buy a Cadillac after he’d hit it pretty big. He was long-haired and wearing jeans and a t-shirt, maybe beat-up sneakers. I don’t know, really, but you get the picture.

The car salesman refused to deal with him. He assumed someone dressed like that could not possibly be a serious buyer, and first ignored and then was rude to him.

Hawkins went home, changed into a suit, came back, and, when the same salesman, alert now that he had probably made a mistake, tried a conciliatory approach, Hawkins chose another salesman, and bought the car. Supposedly for cash, in a briefcase, although that, too, seems unlikely.

The point is not whether this story is true or not (I want it to be, but…). The point is that we, as humans, rely on the visual cues clothing gives us to tell us a lot we need to know – or at least think we need to know.

Somewhere between the snap-judgment part and the information given and received, there’s another part of this, and it is about joy and celebration.

There’s a particular delight one can get from decorating the body with tattoos, jewelry, and the brilliant colours and textures that one can drape over one’s body. There’s something almost magical about matching your outward appearance to your inner self, and the tactile pleasure of well-washed linen sliding over your body, or the warmth of a fisherman’s sweater hugging your arms is like no other enjoyment I know.

And not just for oneself: the gift is one you can give to others, the moment you step outside. The beauty of that flash of colour on a city street, the sudden sight of someone looking like a circus acrobat or a prima ballerina or  an actual Black Panther superhero – those are like visual candy. You never know what effect you are having on some random bystander.

Nudism, on occasion, is probably healthy, as its proponents declare. The freedom from everything I have described: the signals sent and received (not to mention the constraints some kinds of clothing put on one’s body – underwire bras, omg!) and the various times when no clothes makes the experience better – we probably do, as humans, need those times.

But I would miss the other things far too much to make it permanent.

 

Flash Fiction Friday!

Mother is sleeping.

She dreams in darkness, and over her, the tree roots dig deep, and the rivers run cold. She shifts, restless, and mountains fall.

She turns over, and cities groan. Children weep, uncomforted, and the birds take flight.

But Mother sleeps on, tranquil in her knowledge that all things end, in time.

More from my hippie mom’s kitchen

It’s hot, you don’t want to start the oven, but you still want fresh-baked bread.

Or you just have left-over mashed potatoes and you cannot imagine what you’ll do with them.

Open up a can of tomato soup and make these Potato Scones. Trust me. They do the trick.

 

Ingredients:

About a pound of potatoes (half a kilo/500g) cooked potatoes, mashed till very smooth

1/4 cup all purpose flour, or possibly a bit more – it’s hard to give amounts because elevation and humidity alters this.

1 tblsp unsalted butter (melted, if the potatoes are leftovers and cold. If freshly made, just add the butter in as you mash them.)

1/4 tsp salt

 

Directions:

Mix the butter and salt into the mashed potatoes really well.

Work in about half the flour with your hands. Add the rest of the flour, even a little more if needed, until the dough is soft, but not sticky.

Divide the dough into equal portions. Quartered, it’ll make good-sized scones, but divided into sixths works pretty well, too.

Flour up your rolling surface/board. Roll each of them out to about 1/4 inch thickness, and prick them all over with a fork.

Heat up a griddle or a cast iron frying pan. There’s no need to add any fat or oil. Just bake them for 3-4 minutes on either side, making sure that they

A) Don’t burn

and

B) aren’t raw on the insides

 

Serve warm with butter.

They aren’t bad cold, but there’s nothing so amazing as warm bread things!

 

 

A “Flash” repeat, because it’s been one of those weeks

Charley was a witch.

I don’t mean that in any pejorative sense. She really was a witch.

If she lit a green candle, she found a crumpled twenty in her winter coat pocket the next morning, when she was leaving for work.

If she said “Bless you” after someone sneezed, invariably, some small thing that had been troubling them resolved itself happily, minutes or hours later.

If she stirred a pot of tinned soup while muttering some seemingly nonsensical words, it tasted better than any mass-produced, no-name brand had any business to.

And if she was annoyed with someone or something, things frequently went awry for them in ways that could never be explained by rational means.

It paid to stay on Charley’s good side.

Where Marketing Meets Reality

I’m an author. A self-published author.

bergman

As such, I’ve had to wrestle with a lot of marketing questions, and I read around a lot on the subject.

One of the very first, most often repeated, and strongly urged on pieces of advice is for the author to know their market, know their demographics, understand who their audience truly is.

The other thing about being an author is that you wind up in a lot of writing groups, both on line and in meat-space.

And we all read and discuss all this marketing stuff (honestly, put any two writers together in one place and the conversation will almost inevitably turn to marketing/sales within five minutes), and we offer each other suggestions, one of which always is “Identify your readers and gear your work and marketing to them!”.

So it’s kind of a shock when, despite this good advice, male writers routinely dismiss the following observable truths.

  1. Most readers are women.

Don’t believe me?

There is a lot of data to prove it.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14175229

 

  1. Most writers are men.

Again, statistically, the publishing world is mainly run by men, in every facet of the industry.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2017/oct/19/male-writers-still-dominate-book-reviews-and-critic-jobs-vida-study-finds

 

And the vast majority of the male writers then routinely dismiss the concerns that their female counterparts bring up.

Weirdly enough, those same male writers are full of the standardized marketing advice – they are the most likely to pay actual money for on-line marketing courses, in my experience, despite having been warned by other writers that the “advice” is exactly the same as the advice given on open/free websites and blogs, and that most of it is out-of-date by the time you read it.

“Know your demographic” is almost always in the top five bits of wisdom doled out. Everywhere, every time.

And yet, the vast majority of male writers seem to be A) uninterested in finding out what women like to read about, and B) most likely to complain of low readership.

They want to write what they want to write, and I respect that – there’s no point in writing things your heart isn’t in.

But, like your characters, it’s important that you learn and grow over time, that there be change, that you progress.

It’s up to the individual, of course, but if you really do want a wider audience, you need to consider whether or not you really do understand who your reader is now, and, more importantly,  who you want them to be.