I submitted my short story, “Rocky Rodeo”, before I knew there would be more than one volume of “Space Cowboys” from Raconteur Press. After Lawdog announced the title for this volume, I figured it a happy coincidence. Hey, a nice little home for my story somewhere in the middle. Still being very much the newb, I’ve been quite happy just to have some stories published and be #TeamAndMore.
I got my contract for Electric Boogaloo Rodeo. Huzzah! I signed and sent it back, promptly. No one wants to be the author that holds up publication. But something funny was going on. CV Walter was doing little teases of the cover. No names, just egg-shaped moon, cow, cowboy. Next day: a little more cow, a little more lunar landscape. Lawdog and company do little podcasts a couple times a week. I don’t live anywhere near Itchy Paw (Raconteur HQ). So I tuned into the podcast Tuesday before the Friday publication date and asked “When do we get to see the whole cover?” in the live chat.
“Go look at PubShare,” Cedar Sanderson told me.
I hopped over to that site on another tab, immediately. And the cover was a bit grainy on PubShare, but… Is that two Ts on the first name? Tuvela Thomas? No, it’s gotta be someone else. Let’s see… Rick Cutler, Kelly Grayson and that’s… definitely Thomas. Me. That’s me. My name is first.
It’s probably a good thing I was sitting down. I’ve only just gotten used to the idea that someone might want to read what I write. It’s several days later and I’m still not sure how to react. I know far better authors who’ve been floored by discovering themselves on the cover of an anthology (I’m looking at you, Dot!).
I’m glad it was liked, because I have plans for Jonathon Claymore…
Sometimes the creative pursuits just don’t happen. Or they take a different form. I’ve done a little embroidery in my creative time lately. I started writing on a little short story that may go nowhere but has some fun possibilities. Mostly, though, I’ve been working the day job and taking care of my family. Hmm, not sure where I was going with that. Ah, yes. I haven’t written here much in a week or two. (Actively decides not to check.)
I’ve also been working on a job app. It looked simple enough. Your education and work experience. Your life story. How exactly would you perform said job with notes, footnotes, itemized lists, and agendas, etc. It’s all completely valid questions, though. If I’d ever worked in that sort of position before, it wouldn’t take long to pull it all together. But I haven’t. It would be a stretch for me, but a manageable one. Like, I’m reasonably confident I could do this job well, maybe even have a little fun by slipping in my weird little sense of humor. Getting this job would be awesome, but it would also mean an awful lot of study over the next several months. I wanted those months to use to work on a novel. We also need to really start to thin the household for the upcoming move. Heaven knows I don’t want to schlep ALL this crap back to the USA.
I’ll be blogging when I have time or when I’m procrastinating on something. Cross your fingers and say a prayer I get the job. Or not. It’s up to you.
When Raconteur Press first issued their open call for the Malta Anthology project, I was intrigued. Lawdog’s enthusiasm for Malta is infectious. You start to think that anything could happen on those islands. It’s been an amazing setting for a wide array of stories in Ghosts of Malta, Knights of Malta, and Saints of Malta. What was supposed to be (maybe) one anthology has stretched into four. Falcons of Malta has been confirmed as a go.
Anyway, I spent some time learning about the place and the caves drew me in. I really, truly have always liked caves. I decanted a little of myself into Maggie, the main character in the anthologies. A lot of the action in my Malta stories happen underground. Those stories can be found in Knights of Malta and Saints of Malta.
When we travel as a family, fairly often we visit the local caves. Our trip to Malta could hardly be an exception now could it? On our day trip to Gozo we headed to Xerri’s Grotto in Xaghra. For a small fee, you can go down into this cave that was discovered while a well was being dug.
You wind down the narrow spiral down into the cave space. It was originally only really tall enough to crawl, but a bit of the floor was excavated and lighting was added. Voila! A family business run from home.
Why am I suddenly hungry for bacon?
The tour takes about 15 minutes and costs a small fee. We were encouraged to take pictures and our guide pointed out some features to us.
The stalactites and column are quite fetching, don’t you think?
If you’re into caves and happen to be on Gozo, I recommend a visit to Xerri’s Grotto. I did take more photos, but these are the best.
No need to bless me, that wasn’t a sneeze. It is a fishing town and port on the east side of the island. Even in the off season, there was a little bit of a touristy vibe to it. Just so, it’s still well worth the visit.
The ships are painted beautifully in a traditional style with vivid colors and eyes on the bow. We had a light lunch on the waterfront. The good weather held for us our entire stay and we were glad for the shade of the umbrella over the table. We walked around and took pictures and looked at the trinkets on sale. Lunch was very reasonably priced, but the service was quite slow. The restaurant was frankly slammed with many people out to enjoy the fine day.
While waiting for the food we tried to decide how fisherman get to their boats anchored out in the water away from the edges. Apparently, they catch a ride in one of the little rowboats in the foreground on the right.
We were also wondering why an anchor this large would be right next to the promenade in shallow water…
It’s 4 ‘ by 6’ if I had to guess. It’s much too huge for any of the little boats we saw close to shore. Anybody got a guess? We didn’t notice any others.
One of my favorite tv shows of all time is Parks and Recreation. Such fun with the small town schtick and characters who are all a bit crazy in their own way. One of my faves is Donna (played by Retta). She’s the sassy office manager who doesn’t take crap from anyone.
Retta is hosting a show “Ugliest House in America”. And I’m really enjoying her commentary on the houses. Many hosts on a show like this try too hard. Retta brings a refreshing sincerity and liveliness. She is expressive in her reactions and she doesn’t fall into the trap of repeating the same phrases over and over. I am laughing near to tears while watching this show. Recommend.
Most of our time was spent on Malta proper. But we did take a ferry one morning to the island of Gozo. We just happened to time our arrival to the ferry perfectly both to and from. We were nearly the last ones on going over and the very last car to board on the return.
View from the ferry.
The ferry wasn’t the only boat ride we took that day. We drove to the inland sea. This is a sheltered inlet that has access to open water by means of sea caves. We took a ride out into the open water for the very reasonable price of 4 Euro/person. The deal may have been especially good because this is the off season for Malta/Gozo.
You can really get a feel for the stratigraphy and the propensity for caves from the waters here. And the water is so crystal clear…
I absolutely love being out on the water. It makes me so happy.
We also visited the Citadel of Victoria. There are great views from the walls, it being the highest point on the island (I think).
The cathedral inside the walls has an amazing forced perspective painting in the dome. You completely lose the lines of the dome and are awed by the geometric perfection. The loft of the rotunda is not as great as it appears.
There were a couple of shops inside the grounds of the citadel. One was selling lace, the other silver jewelry. I’d bought lace in Cyprus, so I opted for a silver Maltese cross. It’s nowhere near as fancy as these, but I still like it quite a lot.
These were in the Cathedral museum. We also found “hand cannons”. I know some firearm enthusiasts may refer to a particularly large caliber as a hand cannon. That’s not what I mean. These are actually hand held cannons used for signaling like we might use a flare gun today. I’d guess the barrel diameter at 2″ or 5cm.
(One caveat about the museum. There was a particular painting depicting the martyrdom of a woman. It was disturbing. The thought of it turns my stomach even now. If you have impressionable littles with you, you may want to send an adult in to scout it out first. We’ve seen portrayals of martyrdom in art before, but this one just hit different.)
We did one further thing in Gozo, but I’m afraid it will have to wait as this post has gone on long. I will leave you with a couple more pictures:
Our second day was Christmas, so we took it easy at the lovely hotel and watched Christmas movies. We walked around the neighborhood and ate at a Chinese place for lunch. Yes, we do watch “A Christmas Story” every year. At this point, I have to give a shout out to the hotel we stayed in “Cozy Room” in Sliema. It is a small family-run hotel. Every morning they had a great Continental spread and eggs made to order by Grandma. Her holiday baking of fruit cake and banana bread were fabulous. We felt very welcomed and greatly enjoyed our stay. Highly recommend.
The third day was a short boat ride across the water from Sliema to Valletta.
The water was remarkably clear. We could easily see jellyfish and small fish in the water. The morning light was good for photos of the scenery as we passed.
After landing, I attempted to make a new friend. He was having none of it. I’m a one man woman, but a shameless flirt with cats.
And up the hill we went from the dock. We walked to the city gates and went out and back in. The walls and gate are just massive.
We visited St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the National Archaeology Museum as per the recommendation of Lawdog. The Co-Cathedral was overwhelming.
It might sound completely dorky, but I have never, never seen such a column. Ionic, Doric, Corinthian? Yep. Seen ’em. Columns with diagonal grooves going up the vertical column? Yep. Seen those in Cyprus and Turkey. But this? Nope. Never seen a curly column. And there is a collection of paintings by Caravaggio, too. He did some of his best work on Malta and you can see it in this cathedral. I took pictures, but I’m afraid they don’t do the work justice.
We also stopped into the Archaeology Museum. In this place you really get a sense for the depth of the history. The long-past inhabitants of Malta built temples that were ancient when the foundations of the pyramids of Giza were being laid. From my own research, I imagined this work to be rougher than it was. There is refinement still evident in the carvings.
We didn’t make it to Ft. St. Elmo. Nerdling broke a bone in his foot a few weeks before the trip and was crutching around most of the time (a surprising number of sites had wheelchairs available which we borrowed). But the paving stone in Old Valletta is slick when wet. After a tumble and a half, we decided to cut our exploring short. I can leave you with a few other pictures I took that day.
We got up *very* early in Budapest and headed to the airport. I’m a little fuzzy on how we got to the airport. I think a bus was involved. Maybe the Metro. Oh, yes! A bus. And it was crammed full of people.
We flew into Malta at a semi-reasonable hour and rented a car. The guide book warns that driving in Malta isn’t for the faint of heart. Now, we’ve lived in Eastern Europe including the Balkans and the Caucasus for a long time. Driving in Malta is very civilized and we didn’t see a single driver or pedestrian with a death wish. We see death wishes on the daily in our current home. The only part about driving that proved a potential challenge (for us, at least) was driving on the left and managing a stick shift with the left hand. Landry drove, because I’ve had a grand total of one lesson in driving a stick.
I have a fondness for small walled cities like Sighișoara, Romania and Cité de Carcassonne, France. Mdina falls into this category. It doesn’t take long to get anywhere within the walls. The buildings and walls are largely made of limestone. One can only enter with a car with permission, so we parked at a public lot and walked over. In medieval fashion, one must cross a bridge over a dry moat to get to the gate and enter. There were horse drawn carriages for rental to ride through the streets. We wanted to do our own thing however, because things were closing early due to the holidays.
First stop was the St. Paul’s Cathedral and it’s associated museum. Now, I’ve been to Notre Dame, the Duomos in Milan and Florence, the Sistine Chapel, Westminster Abbey and many others. The cathedrals in Malta are small by comparison, but stunning. The wealth of Malta and the devotion of its citizenry sings in these chapels. They are among the most ornately decorated I have ever seen. The smaller size allows you to better appreciate the quality of the paintings and finery. There is an intimacy which you don’t get in those giant spaces. And there is light. The fault of some of those others I’ve been to is in darkness. Building with heavy stone, windows can be overlooked. Notre Dame is (or was) dark. Not so the Maltese cathedrals.
It did help that the weather was uncommonly good for our whole stay: sunshine and sweatshirt weather. If we were walking briskly in the sunshine, I found a t-shirt to be sufficient.
We also did a couple of ‘touristy’ things including the “Knights of Malta” film and their dioramas showing the history of the Order of St. John. This was good for the kids, I think. It was a good brief hit of history to give them a taste of what Malta was and is. We ate at their associated tavern for very reasonable prices and watched another video “Mdina Experience” focusing on the siege of 1565.
By mid afternoon, we were exhausted by our early start and we headed to the hotel.
A post by author Cedar Sanderson over at the Mad Genius Club has me thinking about goals. What are my goals for the new year?
I didn’t exactly plan to get published this last year. Or start a new job. But here we are.
I’d like to finally tackle finishing my science fiction story that I started ages ago. Maybe that will be my first novel(la) that I publish independently. Yes, that is the goal for my writing this coming year. I started writing it back in college while I was working at a job that had a lot of down time of just desk-sitting and waiting for a phone to ring.
I wrote a snippet for one of the characters and submitted it as a short story to Raconteur Press for the upcoming Space Cowboy anthology. I’d already established that this character had an outdoorsy upbringing, so it was fairly easy to work in the cowboy aspect. I don’t have word on acceptance yet. Whether it’s green-lighted for publishing in that project or not, it was time well-spent. I thought he was too passive. I’m seeing this character in new ways and fixing that passivity.
I also have to work on the muddle in the middle. The beginning and end have been clear for a long time. Bridging the two has been a challenge. I expect that having fleshed out my character will help here. If I have to, I’ll toss it to a feral structural editor and scream for mercy. When I joke about writing for my own enjoyment and torment, this is the story that torments me.
Anyway. Happy New Year, Auld Lang Syne, and “may the odds be ever in your favor”.