The land of the "rain crow"

The land of the "rain crow"
The old road home. (c) 2014 by RLMT

About the author:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhonda L. M. Tipton, writer and visual artist, is a lifelong resident of eastern Kentucky.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

To blog or not to blog, that's the question!

I'm replying here in response to a Facebook discussions in regard to time usage. It's a little more complicated than it sounds, in my case. Some writer friends go for this or that social media outlet to showcase their name or work. I have presences on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, G+, LinkedIn, and Goodreads, to name a few of the popular ones. However, I spend more time on Facebook in part due to daily practical need versus opportunity. Instagram is possibly the least used. In the middle zone, I have blogs.

I used to be at home a lot, and I kept up my blogs fairly well, sharing links on the various outlets. I like blogging, always enjoyed it. This was before a whole herd of nightmares descended on us. The reason I was home a lot involved chronic physical disability. We lived mostly off grid (a phone line in, with dial-up was the exception).

I grew nontraditional, low-labor gardens to keep active. Then our source of income failed, injuries added to the underlying illness(es), and despite help from valiant friends, we lost our home and all we had struggled so hard to build. It's a common story in these times, though I was startled to find how many people were doing as we have, and living in campers. It's a whole new, nearly invisible American subculture. In search of jobs within physical ability, many middle aged and/or aging, childless (and some whole family units or individuals, too) are going nomad. Some simply want the freedom, and others are following where their special area of expertise leads. It varies.

Workers on Wheels, nomads, ramblin' souls... there's no brick and mortar anchor to hold them. Banking and other laws are discouraging putting down roots.

There's little self-pity being bandied about; it's a case of "Get on with it!" And we are, starting next spring, as soon as some medical releases allow. In the meantime, we're just holding out the best way we can, same as everyone else. It is what it is. I have zero problem with the need to work; I do have problems with chronic pain and low endurance.

Writing gives me a creative form of activity that, frankly, keeps me from going completely bonkers. With five little volumes of nonfiction animal stories (not angled for children), and three fun adult magical realism/fantasy novels in a series self-published through Amazon's CreateSpace, the past year has been busy indeed. (I couldn't have done those without a dear friend. Find her at !)

At present, I'm two-thirds through a far more serious manuscript, a science fiction item with some cross-genre aspects. When it's done, I have multiple works in varying stages of progress. More of the fun fantasy series, a solid mainstream novel, and an Appalachian historical novel that may reach epic proportions, and in the planning stages, a nonfiction volume discussing death (yes, I know... but it's not what you think, haha).

So... when do I blog? Well. Hmm.

Every possible moment, I write. If I'm not typing, I'm listening to the voices in my head (plot, outline... staring out the window really is work, because I "see" a lot anyone else might not), and chances are, I'll field a dozen inquiries such as, "If you aren't busy, could you come help me...?" per hour, roughly. I've learned to be honest. "Yes, I was busy, which you already interrupted. If you really need me to help, I will. Then you can help me by trying not to interrupt my process by poking abrupt holes in my ears." I grin, get them sorted out, and more or less hang up an amiable Disturb at Your Own Risk sign. (The sign is non negotiable, after one recognized interruption, alas.)

One mid-list author told me she'd be lucky to turn out 750 words a day when she's working. NaNoWriMo authors aim for 50,000 words in a finished novel during November each year. Most authors try for 1,000 words per working day. I'm different, enough that I've been called freakish.

My first (fun) novel was in rough draft within 3 weeks: 63,000 words. The next in the series was done inside a month, and I dawdled (busy... other responsibilities) to finish the third in 6 weeks. All in that series range between 62,000 and 65,000 words (fantasy expectations vary from, say, mainstream in regards to word count). The book I'm writing now will be in the range of 85,000 to 90,000 words. The "epic" historical, I fully expect to exceed 120,000. I routinely write 2,000 to 4,000 words per day; once, I spilled out 7,500, but it crashed my occasional chronic fatigue into hyperdrive.

Some days, I spend editing. All I ask is "more than 1,000 words." The imagination does the rest, and I'm along for the ride.

Ah, blogging. With no reliable web access, sometimes no more than a cell phone as hotspot, my resources are limited. The laptop I'm using at present is a Mac, the first one I've ever used. It's a circus, sometimes. The blogs can't be kept up like a Facebook feed, sadly, and Facebook has its limits.

When opportunities permit, I may resume blogging again. For now, the voices in my head have exceeded their monthly allowance and are grounded for the present. That's what the budget allows: health, money, time. Plodding onward, telling stories that free my mind. It's a new hobby, but until it pays the bills, that's what it will remain.

Blog or no blog, there's no stopping the creative fountain once it starts flowing. So what if mine is a virtual Niagra Falls? It's the breath of life to me now.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Feedback, please.

I'd like some feedback from those who read this.


1) What's your favorite book genre? Your least favorite?

2) Why are you reading this blog?

3) Are you a reader, a writer, or both?

4) Do you regularly read blogs? How about book review sites?

5)  Do you prefer paper or electronic media?

Friday, October 7, 2016

"Don't Stop Now!"

The publishing industry is a highly variable field. Publishing books is, despite certain IRS standards, business. That means it's dependent on the seller's ability to get the word out: advertising. Independent authors invariably hit a snag in using various "free" on-demand print and/or ebook production sources, all of it hanging precariously (at best) on their ability to advertise.

I have 8 books out there. Lacking formal education or institutional type support, lacking funds to mount an efficient if not enormous advertising campaign, and physically unable due to health concerns to hold the proverbial day job, I must depend on free/low-cost, on-demand, or volunteer/co-support resources. Not only am I attempting to produce highly complex creative projects that often require research and other sidecar work, but I am also the sole provider of email, advertising, special shipping and delvery requirements, billing and tax records... the lot. I am the entire business/artist.

Having also been involved in the visual arts community for a lot longer than I've been writing, I can tell you that every form of creative arts faces the same challenges. Getting the product out into a selling market and still maintaining time to create is far from easy.

For various reasons, I don't have academic connections. Those can help. However, one must also juggle the cost of college against the benefits - which can vary, given a writer's possible genre branches and any loyalty to those. It's a conundrum, one not familiar to me.

I am a bumbler in the arts world, no doubt in my mind. I'm no longer young. I don't have genre limits in mind, and I have no agent or counselor to guide me, nor do I have resources to use for any media support. Web presence is also lacking: I have blogs, but no website. Social media use is at best a stop-gap. To make it worse, all I can do to avoid being branded by the early nonfiction collection is to use two separate nom de plumes, each drawn from variations of my own name. Ergo the fiction is sold by "R. Lee Tipton" and "R. L. Mackintosh" is used for the nonfiction. Yes... confusing!

After a few months of hiatus caused by economic, personal, and technical (laptop death) difficulties, I am back at work. I work when I can, and I don't mourn about what cannot be done. Simply moving forward has become my focus. It's not too surprising that there's a survivalist angle to the stand-alone dystopian science fiction novel I'm working on. The manuscript has exceeded 28,000 words, aimed at a loose total of around 85,000 - material far more serious in flavor than the Glimmerings series novels, and planned as being twenty-five percent larger than those. At present, the rough draft's estimated completion date is Hallowe'en. The title is The Wayfarer. Publication is iffy... I'm not going to bother with the whole immediate gratification thing any further.

I write to challenge myself, to reach a little further outside the comfort zone, to learn, and yes, to keep from being mentally idle even when my body cannot maintain the physical pace. If I don't like the characters or their story, there's no use in pursuing it.

Following The Wayfarer, I have an unfinished Glimmerings novel (# 4) that might take a couple weeks to complete to first draft status. Another Glimmerings exists in notes - that one will follow, if all goes well, a mainstream stand-alone novel called The Bones of These Hills (Appalachian based). The "big one" - Song of the Rain Crow: Psalms From the Book of Memories (deeply lyric prose, heavy on Appalachian history) - is taking its sweet time, just as it should.

Again, any further publication is iffy on these. Funds do not exist to promote any of them. Sometimes art is only created for the heart of the artist, and nothing else matters. One does the best work possible, and moves on.

Life doesn't stop because of stress, it goes on in spite of it. Try to choose your ground well. Good hunting. T

That's the story. :-) Peace.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Glimpsing Autobiographies and Authors

I read a lot of genres. Books aren't just nonfiction or nonfiction; there are books out there, often good ones, that refuse to fit one narrow category. Mainstream, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, drama, romance? Books that cross genre limits are rarely boring. Give me unpredictable, give me something creative, and give me plenty of it.

Oh, yes. I confess to being a book, I mean "collector." Never mind that I constantly fall short of having shelf space.

It doesn't matter: the collection exists in crates at present, yet their comforting presence is known. They don't leave me lurking alone in the shadows of a dervish inspired brain.

That is correct. I didn't mumble. I cannot bear to be alone in my own head. It's like sitting on a single crate in the middle of a huge, abandoned warehouse somewhere you've never been and where you know no one. The echoes, the faint scrabbling of tiny claws, the _whisht_ of wings... on what?! Then the footsteps that don't quite seem to come from any one direction.


That's me. Afraid of the Great Emptiness. And so I tend to go inside, building tales that tame the weirdings and gaps in reality in a way duct tape simply cannot. Though I do believe in duct tape. (WD-40 does not apply here.)

I often read author autobiographies, generally contemporary voices. Mostly those of people no upper class college would hold up as classics, granted. They suit me well enough, leaving the door open to the accepted literary glitter too. Ursula K. LeGuin, Louis L'Amour, Stephen King... many I can't conjure up the names of at the moment.

Plausibility is a small, insistent point bouncing around: all the writers want, like everyone else, to be different. "I always wanted to be a writer." A listing of personal quirks to follow. Of course.

There's no need, I think, for me to worry on these counts. First, it's unlikely that I'll be required or asked or needed (?) to write an autobiography. Second, I did not "always wish to become a writer." (Tragically, I must confess that I wanted to become a veterinarian. Physical limitations and an inability to manage higher maths killed that idea off years ago.) Third, since the market is flooded with wannabe artists, photographers, and writers, anything most folks, myself included, do in that area ends up being a mere hobby.

Since I read as a hobby (the I.R.S. says a hobby is that which you do without regularly realizing a profit from the pursuit of, more or less), it follows to order that I also write for a hobby. The whole writing as job concept has been met, examined, and subsequently discarded as unrealistic. It takes money to make money, and there's a barrier hard to bounce merrily past.

I do have some books available on Amazon; if you want to help perpetuate my hobby habit, go to (copy and paste, please, as I am blogging here via cell phone) for information on how to buy them. I'd appreciate the nod, but won't hold anyone's feet to the fire in that regard.

I learned to read at an early age, not because I was inspired by supportive adults (it mostly confused my family that I enjoyed reading so much), but because I was unable to see much beyond my own nose. I didn't get eyeglasses until the third grade, but I did get yelled at for always having my nose stuck in a book and for always trying to sit in the front row at school (still too far from the blackboard to see anything on it), and for disappearing silently into my room for hours upon hours on end. And later, for having answers to certain questions most people certainly don't have the nerve to ask a child. (So...yes, I developed a dry sense of humor. More yelling.)

By the time computers came along, I was officially "over the hump" and, being weird as usual, took to them like a happy duck on a big swimming pool. (More yelling.) After all, now I can go on Facebook and take part in conversations with Anne Rice, Charles deLint, Amy Tan, Stephen King, and several other well-known authors.

If you can't join 'em, go on learning from them, I say. The joy in living vicariously applies even so.

I met a young lady today, her age a ripe old elementary school number, who told me she wants to grow up and be an author. Smiling, I gave her a set of my nonfiction books, signed them, and accepted a lovely handmade bookmark in return. The dream is real. I'd love to attend one of her book signings someday.

Monday, August 8, 2016

August Recollections

The mist is on yonder hills these mornings of late, the scent of fecund, late-term summer turning fey and mysterious. Some places, that mist swirls up thick, ghostly in its grace. Those who live and breathe among the hills and mountains know it's not the frogs a-makin' coffee as the "childern" are told, but the good mother earth sending up notice of a spring trickling among rocks blanketed in emerald mosses and ferns.

The secrets of mountains are a bittersweet joy, from the birthing places of creeks among the broken cliff's stones, to the bits of grave marker which lie in solemn silence over memories long since buried and decorated with reminders of more of the same. Among these hills, generations of ancestors have laid down memories. Some were washed in spring or creek or river water, others in tears or blood, as the case may have called for at the time.

They were people of every description, light or dark, short or tall, thin or fat. Yet each of them was tied to the land by something more powerful than mere chains. The power of love made them fight, for no nation of people lives forever in one place, and fight they did. The need to protect that love gave them callouses on their hands, scars on their bodies, and called upon many, even newborns, to pay the ultimate price before the final resting of a tired body. It was love that made them take pride in gardens, or in the stark, vivid beauty of quilts made into art by careful hands, from nothing more than the frugally saved fragments of hard-earned and never wasted bits of bright cloth. In a land with no easy riches, love wrought wonders, not the least of which was given voice in a unique form of music.

Blue-green shadows stretch long, smoky lines denoting waterways, brassy golden sunlight filtering in fool's gold shimmers through shifting tree branches. As evening settles into place, an eerie warble heralds the arrival of a tiny hunter, the screech owl, sending mice scurrying in mad haste for the safety of cedar and blackberry thickets. Haunted by intrinsic elements of natural self, the high places take on a spirit to be meddled with only with great care. Not by accident do the stones, the veritable bones of these hills, harbor serpents, symbols of wisdom, and plant life which can both heal and harm.

Down the long, dark hollows, that high, sweet sound of an old fiddle echoes, meandering and traipsing on its way to a creek, a river, and eventually to the sea. A message it carries, solemn and regal, that what was once sea will again return to the sea, that love given is also taken, that what is may exact a toll, and be changed, and in its changling dream, be carried forward, immortal, beloved, an august recollection waiting only for spring's caress to live again.

Friday, August 5, 2016

26 Letters, or Music in the Eye of the Beholder

It all started when a friend sent me a copy of an autobiography. Lee Smith's, to be exact. An Appalachian author whose roots run deep among the bigger mountains to our east. I wasn't familiar with Smith's work, nor her background. I'm a voracious reader, given half a chance, but things, and authors, do escape my attention at times. (Existing as I do outside the academic realms, I learn and read among different flows of life.)

My husband loves for me to read aloud to him. Once I had seen the Lee Smith book's foreword, I told him I had to share it with him, and so commenced a-readin'. That foreword is laced up and down with music. Words, yes, but also word of growing up among certain great music artists. She mentioned the _a capella_ rendition of O Death, by the late Dr. Ralph Stanley, and we were both hooked in. Music, and words, which sing the fine, sensitive neck hairs aloft, punching up lumps in throats and setting loose oceans of tears from a part of the mountain folk psyche that dates back to the stone age soul.

It's impressive what someone with skill can do with just 26 letters. It goes beyond mere words, above the pedantic, everyday of communication. Some of the greatest writers, past and present, have roots in the storyteller culture in these beleaguered hills. It's as if life sent them here to hone the experience those stories, bringing inevitable sharp clarity and razor keen insight to the human factor.

Some of these hollers don't see daylight until noon, each day, and sunset follows just as abruptly. Growing a garden is as much art as necessity... or it used to be.

Ronnie's comment, when I had stopped reading for the night sparked off a lively discussion. "I know you don't like Bluegrass music, but I just love it." Mistake. I quickly, and softly began to set him straight on his opinion. We've been together for 35 years, and sometimes I forget he wasn't this close to me when I was growing up. He would, I now remind myself, have loved it. I'm sorry he missed seeing it as I did, in fact.

My Daddy played a grand old Gibson guitar he acquired during the World War II era, indeed even playing it on stage during his own stint in the U.S. Army. He played with folks who had radio fame during that time, and I was privileged to know some of them. Little Clifford. The Coldirons. That wasn't all. My mother grew up knowing the Coon Creek Girls, jitterbugging and trying to make sense of a war she couldn't imagine the reality of in her wildest dreams. I was born late to my parents, preceded by a brother and a sister. The 1960s and 1970s rocked and rolled for my siblings, and I lay in a heap of old pillows and quilts beside a smokey cookout fire on weekends, near the lake Dad built, listening to country, folk, bluegrass, and some pop music of the time.The background noise was from the drag strip a few miles away, bull frogs, and crickets and cicadas. Kids and dogs, trail horses (with a hint of manure), laughter, the clinking of suspiciously aromatic bottles, the flop of bass sounding under a brilliant moon, often the _ban sidhe_ squall of a bobcat, and I knew I was home. I went to sleep countless nights while listening to some one tell an involved story, while not far away, someone tuned their instruments quietly, loosing that peculiar silken, metalic hiss of calloused fingers on metal strings.

Ballads were stories I could take with me by day, ragged canvas sneakers reeking of fish and squished earthworms spilled out and stepped on in the dark hours. I ate homegrown foods, toasted marshmallows to the tune of You Are My Sunshine. I even tried to sing along. (Bad, bad idea. Trust me on that one.)

I don't hate Bluegrass music. I hate fake Bluegrass music. There's a vast difference. I also know bullshit from horseshit, after only a whiff. Growing up real, you learn.

Plastic can't compare to the real thing, made by an artisan instead of some impersonal, soulless, money oriented machine. Money can't buy truth. Truth, illustrated by shapes made of 26 letters, music written on tough, gossamer souls, that's how the tune goes among my people.

A few still know how the song goes. The rest wish they did. The price is more than they'll want to pay; it's constant sorrow, history written on millstones and gravestones with equal eloquence. It's the cost of life, a life that no one expected to be easy, and few have been disappointed by.

Oh, the memories. Psalms limned on the shed bark of sycamore and bear hide. Old times, near forgotten.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Adversity vs. Success: Concepts.

Life is never "fair". I don't and won't expect it to be. Life is what it is, and a good long look at what seems to be a tranquil forest puts the lie to an otherwise naive fantasy. Life is, my dears, a vicious fight for domination, all of it pitched to favor anyone and anything but the meek. Every tree pulls all possible resources into exceeding the growth of its neighbors.

The price of life is, quite simply, death. Don't believe me? Look at your food at your next meal. Only the minerals (salt, primarily) and water were never alive in any recognized sense.

I know this. I've known it for over 50 years. This planet is our sole refuge, and we humans pretend we control it at our whim. The truth is that even people are only small parts of a complex, multi-aware entity with a system of checks and balances set into it that no puny human brain can fully encompass or (how egotistical the word is...) rule. Earth is home, mother to all species in an abstract, extended sense. Late born humanity are her problem children. Brats, at that, greedy and spoiled rotten brats. We not only wantonly kill everything around us, we kill each other the same way.

As a line in an old movie had it, "Success is when you crush your enemies and listen to the lamentations of their women." Paraphrased from memory (apologies to Mr. Arnold S.). Only... maybe not.

The human world is bent and twisted. Good people working for the good of all, morally obtuse fools scraping after everything their neighbors (and former so-called "friends") have and need, in order to accumulate more. Thus is created a culture of broken whiners, too tired to care if their choices are right, or even if they live another day. (These are the "meek.") Ironically, the broken often end up angry and destructive because, well, you know they created their whole mess by "bad choices."

Responsibility has become outmoded; the average person is amazingly helpless compared to their ancestors. Even looking back a mere 100 years is enlightening. The answer contemporary society has for those who are capable? Weird.

I, personally, am tired. I'm tired of greed, society, fashion, conventional, entitlement, and a host of other warped and misused concepts. I'm tired of struggling to merely breathe while others change the rules so they can succeed. Give me a tree over human blithering and foolishness. I'll show you what a peaceful day looks like.

Success? That's a concept. Like beauty or perfection. It's all in the eye of the beholder. That would be me, in this case. Where success is trying to live a decent, reasonable life while making every possible effort not to crush anyone who is also struggling.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On Writing... and Summer.

Summer is on fire. Her stalks of tall corn curl their long leaves into wilted, holy spirals, prayer flags of sunlit living tissue. Rains, when they do come, are brutal in their intensity, viscous viscious, pouring tears of mammalian grief atop uncaring flood waters.

The shadows call, forests holding secrets. Tiny springs and hidden caves, glacier-delivered boulders covered in cool, rich, dripping moss and ferns. Alas, hunters large and small know the value of clean water as bait for prey. From omnivorous bears to infinitesimally small ticks, they have only to wait. The meek, the suffering, shall come calling in their own time.

Time, spiraling without a visible ending, cycles upon cycles, births and deaths a vortex of amazing power. The greatest machinations of predators - not merely humans - will be ultra dwarfed by the power of a single, small star going nova. Neither tree frogs or elephants will care, going merely about their solitary businesses of living; life is not fair, as some see it. Yet the balance always swings true.

The call of cool pools where sleek minnows nibble bubbles from the legs of giggling intruders, a sirene song of innocence. The touch of calloused hands on rich soil, cupping gently around the roots placed just so, a little pond water added. An old dog wading patiently near a child with a chocolate-smeared and happy face. These are the songs of hope.

I turn the pages of a book. It is a story I created and wrote for myself, a small escape from the ugly, insistent narrowness of human inter-destructive behavior. Reading aloud so someone else might escape with me for just an hour or perhaps two, I find myself wanting to shed a fond tear when I have to let my characters (children born of my mind instead of my body) go back to invisible silence on the pages where they hold a semblance of life. They're good people, even those who chose wrongly, just as living people do: they teach how not to behave, even as the others provide examples of positivity. I miss them, when they're silent, and wish them well.

What tomorrow may bring is a bittersweet question. Life, perhaps, and what in it? I do not know, and no longer dare, quite, to wonder. One goes on. One provides a positive, hopefully, example, even if it's from the mirror's edge view, where reflections can become eerie and macabre. One feeds the hungry. And if one is fortunate, one finds the correct words to string together. Words on paper or stone, words to live by.