Monday, October 20, 2014

Work Slow-Down

Well, it's  not really so much a work slow-down as adding time for additional work that comes from realizing I need to lay a better foundation before rolling out Escape From Pig Hill.  The result is that my new goal date for releasing Escape is March 8, 2015.  Of course the illustrations need to be completed in the next weeks and the book needs to be proofread and edited by the professionals whose services I have already procured for this project. Those processes are time-consuming, but even more delaying are  marketing concerns that have come to my attention.  I am considering re-categorizing the book as YA (young adult) with an LGBT focus. I am somewhat resistant to categorization of any kind -- I fear it will box me in down the road -- but the fact is that categorization can help a book find its audience.  For that reason, I'll be making some hard choices in the next few months.  I have also decided to publish under the Diva Press plate. Previous books have been published in my own name but I've decided to change that for the novel series.  

My apologies to any who were waiting with baited breath for the novel to be released in November and to the many more who were likely hoping I would quit blathering on about the "creative process" rather sooner than later.  You'll just have to bare with me a while longer.  

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy seeing an illustration from time to time and hearing the occasional reading from Escape From Pig Hill, as I continue smoothing its edges.  
The Granger twins encounter "Mean" Margaret Adelbaum
as they walk down the hill to school.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

For One Week Only, Get *Under The Sheets* Half Off!

Get
Under The Sheets 
for $7.50, now through October 22!  That's half off the regular price!   Original spooktacular art, poetry, and fiction by Stephanie Mesler and Vicki Barnes.  What better time to get your ghoul on than the haunting month of the year? Especially when the book is half off!  

Don't miss this chance to get this anthology of grim goodness at the lowest price we'll ever offer!  Order your copy of 
Under The Sheets 
Today!  Heck, at this price, order it for a friend too! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Illustrating Escape From Pig Hill

October 9, 2014

I am neck-deep in illustrations for Escape From Pig Hill, which is to be published this winter.  That means I am struggling with layout too.  And I suspect you may remember how very much I loath doing layout.  Nonetheless, it is getting done and coming along well.  I wanted to share a couple of illustrations.  Hope you are intrigued enough by them to BUY THE BOOK when it comes out!  






Sunday, October 5, 2014

BOOK LAUNCH Sunday in Second Life

Under The Sheets
by Stephanie Mesler* and Vicki Barnes
Published September 2014

Inworld Launch Date:  
Sunday, October 5, 2014, 2 pm Pacific
Writers' Block, Book Island

Readings
Books To Buy (From Amazon or Lulu)
Books To Win (From The Author)

*Stephanie Mesler is Freda Frostbite in Second Life
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Book%20Island/173/208/36

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Marvelous Tale of Agatha Jones, Wonder-Chef of Whitby

Written and Illustrated By Stephanie Mesler

Part Seven

Published September 28, 2014 (c) Stephanie Mesler


It was a Wednesday when Agatha’s Kitchen reopened, bigger and better than ever.  Of course, take-out service continued as it always had, only now Nancy Carvewhinkle oversaw that operation while Agatha tended to bigger matters.  In addition to her duties as guardian of the door, Mrs. Carvewhinkle was responsible for counting the money when the counter closed each day and for addressing customer complaints, not that there ever were any other than there not being enough food to feed the entire population of Whitby.  As before, those who failed to take their place in line early went home empty-handed.  


Often, little Jems was riding on his “Auntie” Nancy’s hip whilst she greeted customers at the door to Agatha’s Kitchen.  He became a favorite child of almost everyone who passed through the shop doors.  Because Agatha herself was now busy running two businesses and Nancy Carvewhinkle was busy manning the take-out door, a young woman with what might be called a “colorful” past was hired to actually pack and distribute the take-out orders.  Her name was Cecily and she had no last name although she did have a young son of her own, a son who had not burdened his mother with a husband and father.  That boy was known as Roderick Noname.  He was not so handsome as little Jemmy Jones but was every bit as cheerful.  He and young Master Jones passed many an hour cooing contentedly together in a playpen set up just outside the shop doors where everyone who passed could stop to discuss current events with the two young lads who clearly agreed with whatever the wise people of Whitby told them.  


Not surprisingly, Mr. Carvewhinkle’s business grew as a result of his association with Agatha’s Kitchen.  He provided meat for her take-out meals and, now, for the cafe as well.  What he had not anticipated was the uptick in sales to people who came too late to buy Agatha’s ready-made suppers.  These people often purchased from Nimrod Carvewhinkle the makings for meals they would prepare for themselves.   It didn't take long for Mr. Carvewhinkle to see a potential market expanding.  After some intense negotiations  with  Gwendlyn Seedsmith, the vegetable woman, Carvewhinkle’s Butchery merged with Seedsmith Produce, creating the first supermarket in Whitby.  The store was known as Carvewhinkle and Co., Inc.  The new business did so well that Nimrod was able to hire two new butchers and give himself over to the management side of the business.  He burned all his blood stained aprons and began to dress like a merchant of means.

The new cafe was called Agatha’s Table.  From the beginning, it was popular with the fashion forward men and women of Whitby, the ones who went places to be seen.  It quickly became a favorite among the village’s artistic types for Agatha’s was known to be a place where form mattered as much as function and presentation was given as much attention as content.  It wasn’t long before Agatha’s Table was known throughout Yorkshire for its singularly excellent meals and casually elegant atmosphere.  Agatha knew how to make her guests feel at home while also making them feel special.  


Just as Whiny Whybrew had predicted, Agatha’s turned Whitby into a tourist destination that could rival any on the shores of the North Sea.  As a result of all this traffic to Whitby, both the seaport and coach service expanded.  Several new inns were opened and a couple of old ones were restored to their original glory.  The old, decrepit Whitby Abby became a tourist attraction with the town itself collecting admission fees.  A museum of art was opened as was a lending library.  


The restaurant, the take-out and the grocery all grew to be amazing successes in a short period of time.  Carvewhinkle and Co. soon became Whitby’s second largest employer, surpassed in employee numbers only by the Great North Fisheries and Marina. Eventually, Carvewhinkle’s opened stores in Scarbourough, Richmond and Leeds as well.  


One year after opening Agatha’s Table, the cafe grew again and began offering a mid-day meal and afternoon tea in addition to the evening supper it always had.  On nights when the Whitby players performed in the town square, Agatha’s stayed open into the wee hours of the morning to serve those who took their meals late as well as people who  wanted to order a decadent dessert and a glass of fine Yorkshire wine or ale.  


By the time Jemmy Jones was five years old, his mother was the wealthiest woman in Whitby. This resulted in a constant stream of well-dressed gentlemen knocking on the door of the Jones home wanting to court the boy’s mother.  By the time the boy was walking and talking he was used to hearing his mother rebuff unwanted advances and it was obvious to anyone who knew Agatha that all advances were unwanted.   Agatha Jones was devoted to her son’s dead father and, by the time the boy was 7, he could recite his mother’s speech for unwanted suitors for  her.  


“Yes, Sir, my mother is Agatha Jones and she is indeed at home.  I can take you to her now if you like or I can spare you the anguish and save you the time--  my mother is quite happy on her own. She has no need of financial support or burden provided by a husband. She enjoys reading in her bed at night above all other activities, and is perfectly comfortable attending social events unaccompanied.  In short, Sir, my mother appreciates your attention and interest, but courting her would be a waste of her time as well your own.”  


Most gentlemen callers took the child at his word and went away to find more willing fish.  Once in a while there was one who thought the boy overstepped his bounds and could not possibly know his mother’s mind on the subjects of courtship and marriage.  These men would attempt to argue with young Jems.  


“See here, young man, I understand you might want to have your mother all to yourself a while longer and that you might have some fantasy that your father will return from the dead to fill the void at the head of your table…”  


“No, sir,  My mother sits at the head of our table,” the boy would say.  “that is precisely how she wants it.”  

These men would insist on meeting Agatha face to face, at which time she would repeat precisely what her son had told them.  Most gave up in the face of such consistency, but a stalwart few believed they knew Agatha’s mind better than Agatha herself.  These unfortunate souls invested time and money in romantic campaigns that could not be won.  Eventually, they would give up but not until they’d made themselves look very foolish.  Then, they’d skulk out of town to seek solace in the arms of some other rich woman more willing to hear their suits.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Marvelous Tale of Agatha Jones, Wonder-Chef of Whitby

Written and Illustrated By Stephanie Mesler

Part Six
Published September 21, 2014 (c) Stephanie Mesler




Agatha’s Kitchen was closed for thirteen days following her son’s birth.  Ag spent those thirteen days adoring her boy and wondering how anyone could think any child too demanding or too finicky.  Her boy, Jems as she had already started calling him, was the most good-natured and beautiful being on Earth.  From the day he was born, Jems slept through the nights, never once waking to be fed or changed.  Each morning, it was the sun peeking through her shutters that awakened Ag from the most restful sleep she ever had.  She would roll over to check on Jems, who slept in a bassinet beside his mother.  Each morning, she would find him laying there, smiling, just waiting for his mama to wake up.  Then he would happily submit to the morning routine, which included feeding, a bath, clean diaper and clothes.  Then, the boy would lay quietly on a blanket beside his mother while she read a collection of poems she had always loved.  

Somewhere around mid-morning, Nancy Carvewhinkle would arrive at Ag’s home to marvel at how rested the new mother appeared and to see what help she could be, always expecting to find some level of chaos in the home of the widowed mother of a newborn who eschewed the hiring of servants. Ag's home never was chaotic though.. Somehow, the dishes were always washed and the floors neatly swept.  There was never a lack of food in the pantries or ice box. The new mother was calm, collected and seemingly without any need of assistance with the new babe. It all seemed to come easily to Agatha Jones.  

Mrs. Carvewhinkle was happy to see such smooth sailing in the life of this woman and happy to be allowed just to hold wee Jems for a couple of hours each day while his mother cooked, because other than the days of the labor and birth, Agatha never missed a day at her stove.  She took advantage of the days Agatha’s Kitchen was closed to try out new recipes.  There was a butter bean and rosemary pie Mr. Carvewhinkle said was the best meal he’d ever eaten that did not contain meat; also a tomato tart topped with the mildest of smooth white cheeses, served hot with yeasty rolls and braised beef; there was steamed salmon over rice with broccoli, all topped with a creamy pink sauce.  There were new deserts too, the best of which was rosewater ice cream that brought tears to Winey Whybrew’s eyes. 

“You have a real gift,” she said to the cook.  “You are a real chef, a great wonder.”  

“Why thank you, “ said Ag, touched by the woman’s kind words.  

“Seems to me,” continued the midwife, “your food is too good to be sold at the counter of a butcher shop.”  

When Ag did not ask what she meant, the woman continued, you should shut down that take-out kitchen you are operating.  It attracts the wrong types!”  

Ag did not need to ask what Winey meant by that comment.  The woman had already made known her opinion of Agatha’s Kitchen’s current clientele.  Somewhere between hours 6 and 9 of her labor, Ag had endured a scolding from Winey Whybrew about attracting the “wrong sorts” to her business.  "A young mother should not be associating with those whose children would be a bad influence on her own!"

“Open a restaurant, you should!  A cafe or a great dining hall,” the old woman continued.    “You could hire staff to serve the food and help in the kitchen.  I bet your new restaurant would put Whitby on the map.  We could give those smug snoots down to Scarborough a run for the tourists’ money.  Might even teach those muckety mucks over in Leeds a thing or two!”  




Ag wasn’t interested in showing anyone anything, but it did occur to her that a town such as Whitby was always in need of new industry and the jobs it created.  She liked the idea of employing some of the townfolk who need employment.  Of course, she’d never consider closing the take-out business she operated at Carvewhinkle’s.  In fact, she had every intention of expanding it.  


Day thirteen of her recovery from childbirth, Agatha walked beside Nancy Carvewhinkle to the butcher shop, where Mr. Carvewhinkle jumped right over the counter to hug the new mother and greet the new baby boy. “He’s a big one!” the man cried.  “A real bruiser!  I’ll have him slinking a cleaver in no time!”  


“You’ll do no such thing,” growled Nancy Carvewhinkle stepping between her husband and the babe, preventing the big man from scooping the child right out of its mother’s arms.  “You’ll wait ‘til he is full grown before putting a tool in his hands. Even then I hope he shows no interest.  This boy will be refined, as refined as his good mother!  She reads poetry to him already, you know!" Then, pushing her husband toward the wash basin, she said, "Go wash your hands and put on a clean smock before you hold him!”  


Mr. Carvewhinkle did as he was was told while his wife sat in a rocking chair she had bought and placed in a corner by the front door for the sole purpose of rocking Jeremy Jones while his mother worked.  Agatha herself started cleaning the shelves and counter where her meals were sold each day.  When Mr. Carvewhinkle appeared to take his own turn holding her son, Agatha made an announcement.  


“Agatha’s Kitchen will reopen tomorrow.  This time next month, we’ll have expanded the business to include a full-service dining room, which will be open for tea and for supper.  I am hoping I can count on you two for help.”  


Of course she could!  There was never any doubt.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

From Under The Sheets: A Night For A NightMare

Illustration by Vicki Barnes
A Night For a Nightmare
by Stephanie Mesler

It’s the right sort of night for a nightmare,
when spectres of old times are right there,
next to your bed, weaving memory’s threads,
like spider webs dangling just over your head.  

Sitting up in the dark, turn to face them,
these demons of best forgot jetsam.
Open your eyes; let your gorge rise!
The horror of yesteryear plays its reprise

In the gloom of the hour for witching,
your mind digging burrows for pitching
your sanity, lost, your dreams are tossed!
Banshees from hell your slumber accost!

Questioning all past decisions,
bury yourself in derision;
for choices not made the price you have paid
is counted in hours when peace is betrayed.

The wind whistles, shaking the rafters.
Rain pelts panes like the laughter
of those you despised.  You wished their demise.
Now you find they saved a surprise.

They bring you at midnight reminders
of how you could have been kinder.
Scarier yet, they come to suggest
myriad ways to pay your old debts.

You’ll start by tossing and turning;
soon your brow will be burning.
Dripping with sweat, your earnings collect
in the form of wee hours when slumber is vexed.

When morn streams at last through the window,
felling the walls of your Limbo,
a bugler plays taps but you have rolled craps.

Back in your bed you finally collapse.  



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