AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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Where does the time go?

10062I had such high hopes for this year. I had a plan, a schedule, things to do. How is it nearly half way over already? The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men and all that. Nothing to do but gather my (few) accomplishments and push on, gentle, but not into that good night.

Obviously I’ve been reading too much poetry (is there such a thing?) but what else have I been doing? Not finishing books, that’s for sure! All right, that’s not true. I have finished a novella and it’s coming soon to an Amazon screen near you (other venues to follow eventually).

Star Quality, is a smutty little story of falling for your hot friend and his husband. In Canada! With bonus TV show production back drop. Yeah I definitely realize this isn’t everyone’s cuppa, but hey, some of you, somewhere, have been looking for really explicit m/m/m married menage, gfy/ofy fic with made up TV stars, right? If so, watch this space for details forthcoming, just as soon as there’s a cover!).

That’s an accomplishment I’m pretty proud of, but life has mostly just gotten in my way this year. Some family stuff. Some personal stuff. Then I started a new job, which is a great job, but has upheaved my life just enough to cut down writing time. I travelled to Seattle, to New York city, to San Francisco. But I’m home and I’m ready, I’m steady, I’m gonna get back to it. I have the next Queen City Boys novel, Bad Reputation about halfway done (what does that even mean?) and a good start on an as yet untitled sci-fi book. And two short stories in the making. Things are coming!

And hey, new website is happening soon too. And there’s a mailing list to go sign up for fiction updates and extras.

So, my friends, what have you been up too?

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Not Enough Time to Be Lazy

I’ve been writing a book. Or rather, I’ve been writing a series a books, in fits and starts, in the few hours I can grab between doing this and doing that and pretending to be a responsible adult. I’ve got one close to done and many others started.  Right now I should be pouring through my recent edits and making a crap draft into a good working draft.  Instead I’m drinking chai, watching the rain and listening to the dryer.

Despite having not achieved much more than a long, long walk and few household chores yesterday, I am utterly wiped today. I feel like I’ve been beaten with sticks. Like I could sleep for a week. Hopefully the chai will clear my foggy head enough that I can intelligently string words together in some semblance of story of and character development.

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I want nothing more than to lounge in bed all day and read comics.  Okay maybe something more.  Maybe someone could prepare my food and bring it to me and rub my feet too?  I never think I’ve done terribly wrong with my life until I’m forced to confront my lack of houseboys to do my bidding, then suddenly my choices seem sinister and stupid.  I could have done better.  Sigh.


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An open letter to Sherman Alexie

Just read a line in a Sherman Alexie story about standing in line at Bartell’s and suddenly I’m so homesick I’m not sure I can live through the heartbreak of it. In my head I ask Sherman Alexie if he imagines how many of his throw away lines profoundly affect people?  I think of every word I’ve put out there, every bit of fiction I’ve written, and no one has ever come back to me with the important words, with the phrases that I labored over, they only come to tell me about the how they were moved by my fast lines, the ones that drop out, that I don’t consider at all before I put them to paper.

Perhaps the lines I don’t labor over mean the most, come more truly from me?  Perhaps there is no meaning in any of it and will just keeping spilling out words, looking for the turn of phrase that will free my soul and find it someday.  Perhaps Sherman Alexie labored over that line and still will never know will never know how his two sentences made me break my own heart.  I could write him a letter and tell him, but I would labor too hard over the words, I would lose the importance of sharing what he gave me.  I have always been writing this letter to him in my head, through out the years, every time I read his stories and poems.  A letter that never makes it to paper, to computer screen, never achieves more than some small form of therapy for me.

I am talking to Sherman in my head (can I call you, Sherman, I feel we are close enough now) about my homesickness, about how I cannot ever really understand where he is from and he cannot understand how I am from where he is now.  I tell him it is a continuum that no one but me can see, a story that can’t quite be told, but is important all the same.  And the The Butchies pop up on shuffle on the old mp3 player and I start to cry because this is more homesickness than a soul can bear.  But this makes me get up and start to cook dinner: fettuccine alfredo with smoked salmon (real, PNW smoked salmon), peas and caramelized onions.  Because I am homesick and if I lived close enough that I could call my mom and ask if I could come over she would walk to me to a restaurant near her house (one Sherman Alexie has surely been too) and I would order some variation of this dish because you don’t really find it anywhere else in the world, not the way we make it in Seattle.

And while I am chopping onions the mp3 player turns again and gives me Kevin Gordon singing Watching the Sun Go Down, and I remember how I stopped at 6:42 am, on my way to work, to photograph the sunrise over an electrical power station, and got distracted by some horses too.  I think of how the redbuds are surely more beautiful this year than they have ever been before, blooming riotously, everywhere, making the edges of every roadway glow purple.  I think of how  the heat in Tennessee makes me feel warm all the way through to my bones, like I’ve never been warm before.

So I tell Sherman that he is lucky indeed, to be able wait in line at Bartell’s, but he has to go through cold rain to get there and I am saved by the sun  and the green in spring and the sounds, all the sounds, here in the dirty South.  Perhaps I am homesick for a place that no longer exists.  A place I visited, moved through in childhood, that is just a fairytale now, I can not go back.  My adult self does not have the magic to cross back over the boundaries of the places I’ve been before, I can only go to new places or create them myself. And I’m still crying when I sit down to eat my dinner, but not because I miss anything.  I am so lucky to have been so many places, both real and imagined. Lucky to be me and to be still so full of emotions good and bad (love) about all of those places I have been and the people in them.  Even the rude lady in the Bartell’s line that you have to tell to fuck all the way off.  So thanks, Sherman, for reminding of my home, the past one, the new one, the one that is always me and goes everywhere inside my heart.  I’m certain that you never knew that namedropping Bartell’s in a story would make some girl in Tennessee break out the fancy smoked salmon from way back home and cook herself a good dinner on a night when she would otherwise have been too tired, too worn down by work, to do more than make a quesadilla.  Thanks for dinner, Sherman, I really feel like we are close now.

 

(Pictures taken early this morning in Tennessee, when I stopped, before I even had coffee, to remember that there is beauty in the world.  Even when you feel like you break to pieces because of the stress that swirls around you and puts the anxiety inside you, there is still the color purple and leaves that were not that green yesterday and sunrises.  The redbuds really are spectacular this year.)


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Adventures in substitutions

It’s a cold, cold winter night here, so I did the only thing one can do, cooked and baked until the house was warm and smelled good.

Quinoa Red Lentil Soup


I used this recipe (the stove top version which only took about 35 minutes) which came highly recommended from a trusted friend.  I saw it and thought, oh I have all those things, I’ll make that.  HAHAHAH!  Well, I had quinoa and red lentils.  Of the spices I only had fresh ginger, paprika, cumin and thyme.   So I used those and substituted 2 tbl of green curry paste for everything else.  Also I didn’t have any of those vegetables, so I used a yellow onion, diced, a yellow squash (the zucchini like kind), also diced and a can of diced tomatoes and a couple cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  I did follow the directions pretty closely, despite all the substitutions.   At the end of cooking I also put half of it through the blender until it was smooth and added it back in with the rest (a secret that improves 85% of soups).

I think it turned out great.  Would be excellent with a dollop of sour cream but there’s few things that isn’t true about.

Apple cake


2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 apples, peeled & chopped

Directions:  In large bowl, beat eggs, applesauce and oil until smooth.  Add sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, baking soda, salt and mix well.  Add flour, beat until smooth. Fold in apples. Pour into greased and floured 9 by 13 pan. Bake at 350F degrees for 50-55 minutes.

I substituted Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free baking flour.  Also I normally would do 3/4 cup applesauce and no oil, but I was unsure about this flour mixture, because I’ve never used it and I figured a little oil might help.

I’ve used previous versions of this recipe (I seem to reinvent it every year, whole wheat flour, less sugar, no oil, now gluten-free) to make muffins for which it is excellent.   The original recipe called for 2c sugar and a cinnamon and sugar glaze, but I really prefer things less sweet.  You should experiment until it tastes how you like.


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Rest my weary head

I have been completely over hauling my tiny bedroom to make it more colorful and more comfortable since winter is inevitable and bed should always be welcoming at the end of a cold day.  I’m 98% done and pictures of the whole thing soon enough. Today I made throw pillows for the bed:

This is made from the curtain that I didn’t end up using the room, deep teal canvas.  I applied the stencil repeating diagonally with fabric paint.  the back is a soft, dark brown stretch twill.

This is made from the piece of cream canvas left over from the curtains I did hang.  I painted the stencil on with fabric paint, did a terrible job of masking it, got paint everywhere and hand embroidered some stitches into the design to cover the paint flubs.  I wanted yellow or brow piping on this, but I didn’t have either in the house and I’m making an effort to use what I have laying around, rather than buying more stuff.  I’m actually really pleased with how the blue looks, though I do think yellow would have been great to highlight the stitching.  The back side of this is piece from the sheets currently on the bed so I can pretend it all ties together.

And here they are on the bed!  YAY!  The pinwheel quilted pillow in the middle was made by my friend Michael Frazier, about a decade ago.  He has since died, but this pillow always makes me smile and think of him.  I think he’d like the pillows I made today too.

Hooray for pillows! And for projects finished.  Now to get back to the 10,000 other things on my weekend to-do list that still aren’t done.


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Things made and unmade

I’d show you pictures of sewing projects this weekend, but alas, there’s nothing to show.  Still working on the same dress I was working on last weekend.  I think so far I’ve ripped out more feet of stitches than I’ve successfully sewed.  Great for a patterned advertised as ‘One Hour.’  I’m about 6 hours into it right now.  As far as I can tell it’s going to look like a sack when I finish.  Still I persevere!  Maybe next weekend I’ll finish.

For your jolt of color, here is my new summer weight bedspread!  I tried to make curtains out of my previous summer weight bedspread, which I messed up so bad it basically became rags,  YAY ME! Luckily that meant getting a bright new one.  This is basically the weight of two sheets together, so total weight on me is an airy, breathable, nothing, but allows me to pull the covers up to my chin (as is my wont) even on hot, Southern summer nights!

My browsing for a new bedspread gave me this, which I now really want for when the weather gets cooler.  And of course I’d need this to hang in the bedroom.  It’s sweltering in Tennessee and I’m fantasizing about an autumnal, Moroccan interior design.  Of course then I’d need all new rugs.  And maybe a new lamp.  It seems unreasonable to think about this now, but I am seriously considering buying these things slowly over the summer and stockpiling them for a dramatic room transformation when fall comes.

I did manage to make a website this weekend for my friends, The Magnificent Others. Their album is going on sale soon and you should totally get it.  It’s rock n’roll for people who like rock n’roll, yeah?

Now it’s on to a week of work with hopefully a few short days that I can sneak something creative into, or maybe a festive fire in which I burn the simple dress that is taking me far too long to create!


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Everything that came before now

I might have way over committed myself in the past couple weeks.  If I owe you something, I promise it’s coming quickly.

Between my new position at work and a a few days out to the PNW to see Crackerjack Sister graduate, I’m wiped out. My capacity for critical thinking is surely at an all time a low, and even that is devoted to work.

I did have a great time in Seattle.  I put the pics up here, though most of them are probably only interesting to you if you’re related to me in some way.  I tagged along on many shopping trips from which I benefited greatly (new Converse, fancy new shirt, excellent new dress).  I got an awesome new laptop which is so light and fast that I feel like I can go everywhere with it, though I probably won’t, since one doesn’t need to be computing all the time.

Back in TN now, where it looks like we got a very brief reprieve from the oppressive heat.  I’m already planning to stay inside all weekend and finish projects of my own and other people’s.  At least the cicadas seem to have all passed while I was out of town!  Plus I missed Bonnaroo and CMAfest crowds, both of which are cicada like in their noisy and mass.

Obviously no sewing going on lately.  I did buy new handbags yesterday as I can’t resist a good deal.  I love Fossil handbags.  All of the ones I’ve owned except the one I’m currently using, which I got used, quite cheap and I just sort of hate it.  So I got this one and this one (in a brownish grey not depicted there) for $101 total for both!  I spent forever standing in the store trying to decide which and then made a last minute choice to get both.  Hurrah!  I should be set for a good long time now.  Both came with an extra detachable strap and I can’t figure out what it’s for.  The extra, removable strap is that same length as the strap on the bag already.  If it was much longer or something, it would make sense to me, but at the same length, it just seems weird.

So, uh, yes, there’s all the news that’s fit to print. I better get to doing something, so I’ll have something good to show off, eh?

I took these pictures with my phone to remind myself of the color of the sky after 9pm, in June in the Pacific Northwest.  One of the things I really miss is the summer light.