Advertisements from the past

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Here’s a cute advertisement from the past, October 1939 to be exact. It made me laugh.

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WOMEN!

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IMPORTANT medical tests reveal WHY Famous Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound has been helping weak, rundown, nervous women for over half a century!

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Over 1,000,000 women have reported marvelous benefits from Pinkham’s Compound. Results should delight you! Telephone your druggiest right now for a bottle.

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I wonder if this stuff really worked. 

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The High King’s Embalmer

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Photo courtesy of morgueFile.com

 

This is a small taste of my novel (one of three), The High King’s Embalmer. It’s a dystopian/speculative/fantasy with a bit of horror mashed inside. I’ve decided to offer a little snippet to the world. Still debating about self-publishing or the traditional publishing route. 

 

The High King’s Embalmer

by S. Copperstone

 

— 1 —

 

The king posed a riddle for Podargos. A wrong answer meant death.

“A sip of your finest Cardia Proper water please, Sire, before I answer?”

“Fine, take your time. Have some wine,” the king’s irritation rose with his voice. He nodded to the hired servant who bowed and disappeared inside the palace.

A whitewashed stone wall enclosed the royal palace. I leaned my shoulder against it to blend in with the shadows cast by the weeping palms between myself and the veranda, I darkened the pigment of my skin while always keeping an eye on the guests. My ears cocked forward, intent on any sound out of the ordinary while I translated the man’s words into the complex nuances of the pictographic language of the distant planet of Kem—my telepathic language—searching for any hidden meanings in Podargos’ words. 

Podargos sipped from his glass, but his gaze roved over the gardens, searching for his famed bodyguards from Kamusta amongst the king’s dinner guests. They had disappeared, vanished as people tended to do in Cardia Proper, even I didn’t know what became of them. 

“Perhaps you need the question repeated? Maybe inspiration will come to you.”

“Sire?”

“Out of the eater, something to eat;

out of the strong, something sweet.”

 

“Perhaps the children of the former high king would—” Podargos said, stalling for time. 

The citrus farmer surprised me with that remark as he had everyone else. Their gasps said it all with such a blatant lack of respect for the king, Podargos had planted the seed amongst the other guests without my mental prodding—a reminder that the last high king still had living heirs.

Even I was losing my patience with the hunger stirring in my stomach. The king had promised me a heart this week. My fingers brushed against the black linen kilt that wrapped around my hips as my hand rested lightly on top of the carved, bone handle of my knife. Years had passed since I had carried out an execution order at a king’s request. Many decades passed since I had tasted a human heart. I’d gladly take the one belonging to the citrus farmer from Kamusta, but it was not the time. 

“Enough! Answer the riddle.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Podargos inhaled a deep breath.

Podargos oversaw the majority of citrus groves on the fertile crescent island of Kamusta. A self-proclaimed overlord and tax collector of the peasant farmers, it was said he had developed a habit of creating the pretense that he was a cultured man worthy enough to obtain a coveted dinner invitation. It was said he had grown disgusted with King Triton, and found the current royal politics of Cardia offensive. I remained neutral, for the most part.

“From death comes sweetness; from the devourer a home is made; from bones and hide a civilization thrives. Come now, Podargos, you know the cycle of nature; the spring tides and autumn monsoons. 

“You stated on this very eve that you knew of the ancient books of wisdom, and of the words spoken only amongst a few of his kind.” The king nodded in my direction.

The garden attendees eyed me with curiosity. Silence gorged itself on the formerly elated conversations. What followed the king’s revelation of my presence, came gasps from the guests and a change in the ambience of the soirée. Faces turned and gawked at me as I stepped away from the wall to walk amongst them but always apart from them. Hatred and fear, the two prevalent emotions surfaced from those who did not know me.

My presence had been hearsay to most of the king’s guests, I learned. They knew the king had acquired me, but few had seen me.

Choosing my native form heightened my senses and allowed me to read the feelings of those around me. It did nothing to remove the fear my native form invoked in humans. They knew me as an alien-creature who communicated with the dead, one of the rarer ouHor Kems who could sense an approaching death, and that knowledge frightened them.

It wasn’t magic, although humans had believed so in the past. My sensitivity was higher than the average ouHor Kem’s. It was a struggle to ignore the lingering aromas from the meal recently served, and the sulfuric odors from the war taking place beyond the palace walls. I welcomed the warmth of the sun’s fading light to erode the chilly anxiety that fell over the guests just then.

Podargos swallowed hard with sweat forming on his brow. Self-importance gave away to nervous fear. The scent of his fear nearly suffocated me though I was a dozen paces away.

“I did not know that jackal-thing was here.” He choked out the words so low, I doubted a human heard unless standing next to him.  

A “thing” I was not. Despite my dislike for this simple man, and my abhorrence of being called a thing, I needed him. If I could plant a thought into his brain, an easy answer to the riddle…’

King Triton leaned forward in his blue wicker chair. He acted like the pharaohs of old. I recalled how they too, addressed themselves in such a manner.

“Come closer, Podargos of Kamusta. My Majesty may not be able to hear you correctly and I’m certain you would not want me to misunderstand your answer,” the king said.

Instead, the citrus farmer inched toward the gate as if prepared to make an escape. 

A fruitless gesture. The king’s men blocked the exit. Their weapons would shatter his femurs before he ran three paces.

My elbow brushed against the citrus grower as I walked passed him on the way toward the veranda where the king sat—not unlike his dais inside the palace. From that touch, an electrical charge surged through my neurons. 

Podargos glanced at me with a blank expression as I spoke telepathically into his head. Through his lips came the words:

“O wise and noble master. Your greatness shines from the deserts and rain forests of Cardia, to the rolling, verdant hills of Kamusta, and down to the plateaus and mountains of the southern lands. Your riddle is hard, and yet, familiar to those who know the greatness of such poetry. My hesitation was due to the choice offered to me. We are simpler people on Kamusta. Our language is not as poetic and lyrical.”

“Hmmph.” King Triton nodded for Podargos to continue, but raised an eyebrow in my direction. 

I slowed my breathing to calm Podargos’ thoughts, revealing none of my intentions to the king.

“I was momentarily confused,” the citrus grower said, “for as you said during your fabulous dinner, I know few things.”

Nervous laughter erupted from the nearest guests. 

“In our dialect of Kamusta, I say this: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweet—”

The telepathic link was lost from a distraction on my part. An aura-less human entered the gardens without hinderance from the king’s men. I suspected he was the king’s war counselor. That energy of authority followed him.

“Most sorry, Sire. I lost my train of thought.”

To cover his sudden lack of infused knowledge, Podargos choked and coughed. He cleared his throat and finished his drink.

“Stalling again?” the king asked under his breath. “So far, you’ve told me nothing.”

“Please Sire if I may, I shall now continue.”

To assist Podargos in his recovery, I provided another clue.

“The answer is from the scriptures. Nothing is stronger than a lion, nor sweeter than honey,” Podargos said quickly.

The king was furious. 

I smiled inwardly. King Triton had wanted the citrus grower dead, but his powerful, political guests would never allow that. He needed their support and money—promised no one would die at his dinner party. 

With Podargos’ life spared, there was to be no assassination that evening. No one needed me that evening. I climbed the plank steps of the veranda, and bowed my head to the king with both wrists crossed over my bare chest. I kneeled on one knee before him, but never fully.  Born into slavery on Ocana, it was something I had to do. Even a slave had hopes and desires whispered away where no one could find them.

A Brand New World

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Photo courtesy of MorgueFile (http://morguefile.com)

 

I know many people who have lost their jobs due to the economy, out-sourcing, downsizing, etc. I’ve now joined the masses of this elite, yet growing group known as the unemployed. It’s a lost group, one struggling to find employment comparable to what they were making prior so they can pay their bills and taxes. When I say, lost, I mean it’s easy to fall through the cracks or sink into the depths of despair and depression. 

It wasn’t exactly a surprise, although when it happened, it still was. The newspaper industry has been sliding downhill for many years, but always there was that tinge of hope that things will get better and advertising will pick up. Desperation entered the picture, desperation of clinging onto old ideas and ways of doing things, while introducing new ideas but still not thinking outside the box enough to compete. 

I hold no bitterness told the lack of a job although the timing was inconvenient for re-entering college. I now have to wait until the next term with no idea what I will do in the mean time because I’m in the mood right now to put 100% into studying. Oh sure, there is plenty to do: I’ve got tons of yard work to do and cleaning/reorganizing the contents of the house’s interior too and I’m thankful to have the time to do these things I’ve been neglecting for years. I’m also thankful for the time off. I’ve earned it, seriously. The stress-level was seriously high, and my stomach now thanks me.

I (of course!) had to do some investigating into the history of recessions in the United States. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions_in_the_United_States) and it appears we’ve been worse off in the past. As famous as the “Great Depression” was during 1929-1933 with a peak unemployment rate of 24.9% it wasn’t the longest. According to Wikipedia, our country has been in recessions since it’s been documented. There are few years where we weren’t in a recession, actually. So, I would call a recession the norm.

Now, I’m thinking of this as a time for regrowth. Out with the old, in with the new or, the spring to my winter. It is a time to shift gears and venture into a brand new career, a new life and maybe a new location. I am that sapling trying to come up through the crack in the pavement to reach the sun and to grow. With luck, I will grow and widen the gap within the crack and push the pavement out of my way.

And… write more novels while perfecting those I’ve already written.

Painting adventures.

ImagePhoto courtesy of MorgueFile.com

First let me point out that the grand Victorian pictured above is not my house. This house above was found on a great site for photos: MorgueFile, and this is located in Port Huron, Michigan. My house is much smaller—a Victorian Italianate cottage, actually—built approximately 1878 although I found another date as circa 1858. It was originally the gardener’s cottage that belonged to a much larger Victorian, and not located in Port Huron, Michigan. I wanted to give the viewer an idea of the intricate details that I had to do with my two porches and deck, although I see that this porch, pictured above is only half as ornate as mine.

I originally painted my house about ten years ago with three colors, a dark mauve; burgundy; and a stone base color (like a grayish, creamish color). I studied many photos of painted Victorians to get an idea of the color schemes and found most were usually three to seven color patterns. I stuck with three.

During the scraping and paint removal process (yes, I was careful about the possibility of lead paint and used a great product called: Peel Away, a paint removal system which neutralizes lead paint. At that time I had to order it online from the manufacturer or from a boat-restorer (I can’t remember which at this date!), but now I see versions of it can be found at stores like Lowes and Amazon), I found the original colors. On the north porch, the ceiling had been painted sky blue—that was the color they used to deter spiders! Later someone painted it a light spring green, then a dark forest green, then the military ship dark gray (which I came to find out was painted circa 1911, from an old photograph I was able to find via the local library’s historical archives. Luck was with me that day, as the photographer who took the original photo was working there!). I don’t know what colors the outside siding were painted over the years, as someone covered the whole house in aluminum siding during the early 1970s — gold. Again, I learned from that same photograph above that the last color of the original siding had been a light gray (at least that was the last color).

I repainted all the ornamental corbels, and porch posts the opposite from the usual. Instead of the corbels having a lighter painted base and darker painted interior, I painted the base the dark burgundy and the interior that stone-cream color. Very striking. With the doors and flower boxes, I painted them the dark mauve. The posts alternated between the stone-cream color and burgundy. Very pretty. The floors and ceilings were painted burgundy. I don’t have many spiders hanging from them. (The aluminum siding, by the way was painted that stone-creamish color)

The old wood floors had dried and warped with age. I mixed a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine (I loved the smell, by the way) and painted the boards, letting the mixture soak through to hydrate the wood. I was using an oil-based paint, so that was fine.

Our severe temperature changes and weather patterns took a toll on my porches over the years. So it was time to do major touch-ups. I ventured into our local Home Depot and found the perfect paint: Behr Premium Deck Over http://www.behr.com/Behr/home  It came in a color similar to my burgundy and claimed to cover splinters and old wood. So… I tried it.

I’m a bit of a rebel. A first-born Aquarius, there’s no hope for me. I will follow my own drummer. So… when the guy working at Home Depot answered my question of: Can I use this over old painted wood? He answered: No, it needs to be stripped and cleaned. (He’s right, it’s what the manufacturer and the directions state)

Anyway, I bought the wood cleaner, and some paint stripper. Then I set out to work. It was taking forever and I didn’t have forever. Michigan summers are extremely short and it’s very hard to find a day that I had off work that wasn’t raining, too. So my time was limited. The paint wasn’t that expensive so I thought, hey, I’ll try this over existing paint!

Behr Premium Deck Over is a latex-base paint. My painted porches were a combination of oil-based paint and latex. I had to sand the oil-based sections so the latex would have something to grab on to. But… let me say, even on painted surfaces, the Behr Premium Deck Over (sold at Home Depot) was fantastic. It took a while to get used to the texture on the brush. I had a lot of drip mistakes. The paint goes on thick and thins out after it’s applied. The color is lighter when wet but dries to the dark burgundy I wanted. It has some sort of silica in the paint that somehow hardens the paint and melts it into the wood, it seems. It has a very, very slight diamond-like sparkle in the direct sunlight. I highly recommend this paint for 100+ year old wood and even 4 year old wood on the deck. Fantastic stuff.

I hope it lasts another ten years. Time will tell.