A fellow scribbler recently asked if I’d thought about working in other genres and I had to take a moment before answering. After a couple of slugs of coffee, here’s what I said: Anything’s possible, but do YOU consciously sit down and say ‘I’m going to write a romance today’?
It’s true that we have an idea what we are about on the page after a few false starts and a meme or two. But if you’re like me, you give your characters a wide berth and let them do the driving.
The tale of halting mortician Enid Krause and her charge, the badly decomposed Jurgen Heuer (read ‘Heuer’ as in ‘lawyer’) for me was a platform from which to launch some stories about what it’s like to be a funeral director in the space of a few precious days. The minutae, the stuff we as directors take for granted, like getting the flowers from visitation suite to church to grave without the family and mourners seeing us do it, became a subject of intense interest for some readers. The fact that the work was so physical, along with the long hours often spent waiting for something to happen seemed to be a jump point for discussion as well.
That HEUER went from conversation piece about an atypical job to an award winner under the HORROR category in this year’s PREDITORS & EDITORS reader poll did not surprise readers, but it did surprise me in the best possible way.
HEUER LOST AND FOUND is many things to me: it is a platform from which to rhapsodize about things near and dear, but it’s also a staging point for exploring complicated grief, guilt, addiction, false love, false starts, and, yes, embalming while under the influence of all of the above. Most exciting to me, was that I was able to present difficult and often horrific subjects under the umbrella of gonzo fiction; that is to say: by making the tough accessible through humor.
I’d like to thank my publisher Summer Solstice, a line division of Solstice Publishing, for believing in what I was trying to do. Solstice gave me the courage to press on through the hard slog that is editing and promoting. Most importantly, they gave me what I needed to keep creating NEW WORK. Thank you Melissa Miller, Kate M. Collins and K.C. Sprayberry for keeping me on task.
The PREDITORS & EDITORS Reader’s Poll is my first award and as such my most precious, not just for the validation it gives me personally (shades of Sally Field at the Oscars back in 1985 dogged me, but only for a moment) but for the acknowledgement that the book and characters are MORE than they appear. What seemed incredibly funny to some, mortified others and vice versa. Tissue boxes, I’m told, were reached for in the closing chapters, while others cheered for Heuer, a “strange and complicated” character, to succeed in spite of his sometimes odious behavior.
Will I try another genre? Most probably, but only if the characters allow me to do so. If HEUER LOST AND FOUND has taught me anything, it’s that everything is subjective at all times.
Thank you one and all for your tremendous support on the journey. I am incredibly grateful.
Adult, unapologetic and wholly cognizant,
NEXT UP: SCOOTER NATION Releasing March 13, 2016 through Solstice Publishing
A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it. Her debut novel HEUER LOST AND FOUND, released in April 2015 after five years of studious effort, has inspired four other full length works and over a dozen short stories. SCOOTER NATION, her sophomore effort, is part of her UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series. Funkhauser is currently working on POOR UNDERTAKER begun during NaNoWriMo 2014.
HEUER LOST AND FOUND
Unrepentant cooze hound lawyer Jürgen Heuer dies suddenly and unexpectedly in his litter-strewn home. Undiscovered, he rages against God, Nazis, deep fryers and analogous women who disappoint him.
At last found, he is delivered to Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home, a ramshackle establishment peopled with above average eccentrics, including boozy Enid, a former girl friend with serious denial issues. With her help and the help of a wise cracking spirit guide, Heuer will try to move on to the next plane. But before he can do this, he must endure an inept embalming, feral whispers, and Enid’s flawed recollections of their murky past.
“Eccentric and Funny. You have never read anything like this book. It demands respect for the outrageous capacity of its author to describe in detail human behavior around death.”
—Charlene Jones, author THE STAIN
“The macabre black comedy Heuer Lost And Found, written by A.B. Funkhauser, is definitely a different sort of book! You will enjoy this book with its mixture of horror and humour.”
—Diana Harrison, Author ALWAYS AND FOREVER
“This beautifully written, quirky, sad, but also often humorous story of Heuer and Enid gives us a glimpse into the fascinating, closed world of the funeral director.”
—Yvonne Hess, Charter Member, The Brooklin 7
“The book runs the gamut of emotions. One minute you want to cry for the characters, the next you are uncontrollably laughing out loud, and your husband is looking at you like you lost your mind, at least mine did.”
Charlene: One of my proudest moments after publishing The Stain on Amazon (and check out the upcoming free days, starting May 19 when you may download Ebook The Stain for FREE) was to receive an unsolicited review that marked the book with 5 Stars!
B. Nelson was kind enough to say:
“This is a beautifully written book, a complex tale of love and loss. In The Stain: A Story of Karma Reincarnation and Release from Suffering, author Charlene Jones takes us through time in a flowing literary style that is not only a pleasure to read but difficult to put down…
“This is a beautifully written book…Highly recommended. Five stars.”
Charlene: I want to say nothing cheers a writer more than hearing another person notice with favor the style in which she writes. Thank you B Nelson and I am in your debt although I do not know you.
Another top reviewer for Amazon, Pennie Mae, had this to say:
“Well executed novel that spills out so many types of emotions. Three women separated by centuries deliver romance, heartache and betrayal. ..The stories move smoothly throughout and crafted and entwined together which makes for a great read. My favorite one is ‘Tahni’, who is from the 1640’s though I don’t want to give away any spoilers.”
Charlene: I crossed paths with Pennie Mae on Goodreads, a fabulous site for writers and readers of all interests. Pennie not only read my book on a whim, but enjoyed it so much she has requested copies of any other writing I do! I’m not sure my next book, due out this fall 2015 will suit her tastes, as I veer wildly away from Fiction into Non-Fiction with my book on (hold on, be patient) Vajrayana Buddhist Meditation parallels Neuroscience! The book, Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind really is an easy to read guide to how to best make the most use of that amazing organ, your brain! I’m deeply excited in a kind of quiet way for this book to hit neuroscience readers, meditators, writers, all of us interested in how our brains work.
Back to THE STAIN…
Diana’s deepest struggles echo thunderous trouble from unresolved lives in the distant past. She discovers she has the power to release every one of them—for a price! Will she walk with the Dead to cleanse The Stain? Would you?
Charlene Diane Jones’ 40 plus years of Tibetan Buddhist study and meditation inform The Stain, her description of the laws of Karma and Reincarnation in novel form.
Her love of Neuroscience highlights her experience as a meditation teacher in the soon to be released non-fiction work “Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind: a Short, Easy to Read guide to your Brain and How to Use It.”
Charlene: Here are more excerpts from reviews. You’ll find the reviews in their entirety, and the book of course, at Amazon.com under Charlene Diane Jones (right next to the ads for cleaning products!!) lol
or at Amazon.ca under the same.
Brendan S Gall – Writer in Residence Tarragon Theatre “…THE STAIN – a fearless first novel that spans continents, cultures and centuries to tell the unflinching stories of three women…underneath…a quiet hope persists, winding through its pages… An astonishing debut.”
AE Horn -“The Stain will linger long after you turn the final page.”
Mehreen Ahmed – Charlene Diane Jones’ sensuous book is seriously captivating…The writer’s story-telling talent is evident in her stylistic strength of conjuring profound and eternal themes of suffering, death and disappointment.
Yes, the themes universal and constant do engage the reader with some sad territory but the outcome I hope is as these reviewers agree, worth it. Redemption and a path for shifting out of, away from one’s own “stain” or repetitive ongoing patterns, shines through in the work, a beacon to those of us curious about the nature of human life, the position of suffering, our history as a species and the deep individual lives that have come before us. I hope you enjoy it and may you be well and happy!
Reviews for the novel Kalki Evian are coming in and with a new promotion in the works, Malay Upadhyay is certainly keeping busy. Malay has been to the blog before, so I feel especially glad that he was able to take some time with the questionnaire and visit us again. Ever thoughtful, Malay takes as a muse, Beauty ‘in toto,’ which suggests to me that it must be everywhere. Something to consider…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Malay A. Upadhyay grew up in the Eastern provinces of paradoxical India. It was a childhood of anomalies – a different spacetime, where he could not understand a friend’s passion for books on one hand even as he wrote for school elocution on the other. Recently back to contemporary Earth, he conceived many of the techno-economic ideas described in his book – Kalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea – at Bocconi University in Milano. His Blog of a Fly subscribes to the elusively effervescent, ephemeral connection among beings across space and time. That is after all, a belief that underlies every piece of literature ever written.
Every choice we make leads to its own unique consequence. To change the consequence, therefore, one must travel back in time to change the choice. But what if such change, instead of altering our future, simply created another – one that came to exist simultaneously with our world?
This is a story of how one such moment of love led to two parallel futures; a story of how your choices have an impact far beyond the world you know; a phenomenon that we had sensed, and wished for, all along. Set in Italy, while one timeline scales a city of the future where not just people but also things like money evolve, the other cradles itself in an amalgamation of contemporary Europe with ingredients of a new age. Step by step, the story embarks on a journey in a parallel world that we all live in but rarely see.
Because of the literary style, this is not a book to pick up and read during commercial breaks on television. At first, the words teased me. That’s how different the author’s approach is in this masterpiece. I wondered how long it takes to grasp a new concept. But what prompts us to judge anything? Perhaps it’s another way of thinking—subtleties emerging in and out of consciousness to give us understanding. Of course in a book, you can’t gather information by shape, sound, smell, or feeling, but words can create them in your mind.
Malay approaches deep subjects in a novel way. His glimpse of the future is so real and so logical that I almost believe it will happen. But, in this book, we can take nothing as it first appears.
The plot expands in a manner that is slow enough to allow comprehension, via an overview of events. You could imagine yourself holding a camera, diving in and out of each person’s mutterings to capture pictures displayed in your mind rather than on a screen. The plot is pleasantly thought-provoking, and questions the reality underlying all our concepts.
Throughout the story, you follow two sets of people in their own scenes. The main characters are wounded, perplexed people who must learn to trust, to adjust to living in different surroundings, and to change their way of thinking. Omnipresent point of view, written with panache and flair, allows you to understand the elusive interplay of every character’s reaction.
I came away from reading this book with a new awareness and a questioning mind.
—Francene Stanley, Author, STILL ROCK WATER and more
The grasses were longer than usual, partially discoloured and flowing flat. Fridgeon watched their restlessness as they waved in position with the flowing water that seemed to have drowned them eternally. The current was notably strong and she had never bothered to check where it came from. For, the canal had been artificially made centuries ago. It had served its purpose well, though the purpose itself had altered from time to time. There were two, to be precise, threading across the south-western parts of the city; straight lines meeting a couple of kilometres south of the centre of this radial city, carving out a piece angled approximately at thirty degrees from a largely circular piece of pie that Milano was.
Fridgeon stood on the right bank of one of these – the Naviglio Grande – a few metres away from where the two streams met. She remembered having taken numerous walks on the narrow streets that lined both banks. She could recall the knocking of her stilettos, like many others, on that charming pebble-draped surface of the road. The tiles, though, were now embossed with sensors that scanned the footfalls to immediately activate messages or projections of a particular shop every time a person crossed its perimeters. That was the order of this new world – one that bore shiny new elements embedded in structures that continued to fashion traditional exteriors.
Cars were not allowed and it bode well for the walkers as well as the chain of restaurants that set up their tables outside for multiple rounds of apertif – a kind of buffet – that the Milanese fancied in summer evenings. She remembered having spent hours popping in the dozen varieties of those little savouries, baked or fried and topped in familiar ways, while she held on to the thin stem of a conical glass graced with il vino that regularly moistened her lips as she idly chatted with Jelzan, feeling every wisp of the gentle cool breeze at play. He loved the apertif, she thought and remembered how she had craved it herself. Why wouldn’t she? It was her outlet from the confines of a home that had come to comprise her world for most part. Jelzan had never been one to socialize much but his reservations ever since they had moved to the city had particularly dwelt upon. Nonetheless, he usually managed to balance the lack of comforting family friends. So prey to her own naivety, amidst her forgetfulness and a generally unassuming line of thought in the little period of her residence in Milano, it never occurred to her to question his state of affairs.
She looked at the stretch ahead. It was early morning and the sun had swathed the pavements and the water alike. The tables had been stacked inside the shops and the street was largely empty except for a few tourists. She looked at the opposite bank. A thin stream of water – barely a foot wide – flowed into an alleyway like a distributary of the canal itself. It was housed under a slanting red-tiled roof supported on bamboo sticks with several large slabs of stone placed slanting along its left bank. The place had been used for laundry once but now served purely for aesthetic purposes. The canal itself had been aimed to allow trade of goods to and from the city but now lay idle, tasked with reminding one of the richness of local heritage.
Her slender arms looked quite out of place on the metal fencing. The arms converged to fingers that gripped each other with an unusual firmness. She was staring at the long underwater plants that had been allowed to grow, then bent almost entirely so as to minimize their overall reach above the soil and as if that was not enough, submerged in flowing water that would not offer a moment of respite. That was, until winter came when the water would be drained and the plants left to shiver and freeze. Fridgeon felt amazed at this thought – she had never considered the Navigli as anything short of beautiful. Suddenly she found herself too aware of the ironies at play.
The canal had changed functions, which itself was an unimaginable eventuality for those who must have toiled for months and years to build it. Those workers had had a singular objective in mind, one they had consented to, found a valid reason in and had clung their hopes with. Little could they have known as to what becomes of their efforts long after they were dead. That, in a nutshell, seemed to be the truth with every human invention. Objects evolved and changed, either in structure or in functionality. “Things in this world often take a turn you never expected them to, even long after you are gone,” she mumbled. The words had unsettled her further. She stood uneasy and straight, looking no longer at the water but keenly into the distance. Is this what is at stake now? She wondered as she stepped back and took a deep breath under tightened jaw muscles over her slightly raised chin. There was no time to waste.
What are your thoughts on muses and do you have one?
Muses are a natural catalyst of the human condition. As long as you feel something about anything, you are bound to discover one that influences you more than others. I think if one can find a muse in one’s very existence, that’d be the pinnacle of free thought and unrestrained artistry.
But this is not an ideal world and so, yes, I do have a muse – beauty. It lies in my memory, as the sound of a moan, the sight of drooping eyes, the pain of facing an inevitable farewell, the quiet touch of a smile you are left with. And the idea that it was all surreal, omnipresent and evidence of an astounding world that has been playing itself out without our knowledge. The muse. A muse that makes the few decades I have seem too short for answers. Characters have a great capacity to love, yet they’re starved. Why do you think this happens in fiction and in real life?
Everyone is capable of loving. But those who have a capacity to share it, to express it, will always find themselves starved. How can a glass pouring its wine into another complain that it is not receiving enough simultaneously? In the physical universe we occupy, it is not possible. The question then is whether it gets its wine due when it stands still. The answer is a matter of expectations. For, any glass that has truly enjoyed pouring itself out for another, truly revelled in the satisfaction of watching the other glass fill up with wine/love, will never feel the same enjoyment receiving it in return. Isn’t that the very law of nature? There are donors and there are recipients. If one truly wishes to experience love, one needs to understand just how it is expressed by these two polar opposites. Not everyone can love in the same way. But everyone can love.
Fiction is made of two elements – what we experience in real life, and what we miss out on. Either way, it is made of our feelings, our beliefs. And that is why the principles which govern us in reality end up being reflected in our stories. Like they say, the big problem with disguises is that however hard we try, it is always our self-portrait.
Without giving spoilers, would you say you’re a “happy ending” writer?
Yes. Absolutely. It does not apply to individual chapters or parts, but to the overall story. If an end is not happy, it is not the end.
What would you like to be remembered for?
For making people believe they can set examples of their own.
If you could dine with any historical figure living or dead, who would it be and why?
Tolkein. I’d like to understand what made him create an alternate world.
Hitler. I’d like to understand what fuelled his passion.
Ashoka. I’d like to understand what secret he saw that changed his perception of this world.
Buddha. I’d like to understand how leaving his wife and kids for enlightenment was the right thing to do.
Past, present or future? Where does your mind dwell?
All three. I do not believe in forgetting one’s past, for that is where the lessons are. And to cherish one’s memories – with their mistakes, pain and achievements – is to respect one’s own being. Dwelling on future is inevitable because that is where the incentives to go on are. But it remains my genuine attempt – and objective – to prioritize the present.
What informs your writing most?
Curiosity, speculation, the internet.
Growing up in the Seventies, school kids were encouraged to think globally and act locally. Have you ever flirted with this philosophy?
I must have, in my previous life, which is where I probably was in the seventies!
Guilty pleasures: we all have them. What is yours?
I wonder if this question is ever answered with complete honesty! I’d say it is to escape on a me-time with some movie and food, every once in a while.
Your greatest victory?
I’d prefer to save this one for later. These are things I have achieved because I decided to rely on an approach whose efficacy we only always speculate on – one was based on having faith, pure and almost senseless; the other was a chain of Sherlock-ish deductions. And both were in extremely high risk situations.
Tell us about the one that got away. Person, place or thing.
Europe. The great artistry of our time. I made a choice and that was its price.
What are some of the overriding themes in your work? Do you have a favorite?
Human thought is at play in most of what I write. So the script tends to become very analytical. And because I have never preferred anything to be straightforward, some amount of brainwork is always required.
Who do you admire and why?
Grandpa, dad, mom, uncle, friends, certain people in history, a fly… That is the problem when you venture out to find greatness in everything.
Are writers fully formed works of art or works in progress?
Everyone, everything is a work in progress. That is the very idea of evolution – always happening, at varying speeds and forms. It is the central tenet of my book ‘Kalki Evian – The Ring of Khaoriphea’, where not just people and societies but also things like money evolves. So how can a writer be any different?
THANKS MALAY. SEE YOU ON THE PATH…
TOMORROW: AUTHOR TONY RUDZSKI CONFRONTS THE QUESTIONS AND LINKS US UP TO THE UNDEAD
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