The Beginning of the Termitary: An Introduction

About two years ago I began writing a novel. Now that I am very close to completing all of my rewrites and revisions I felt I needed to look back and document all that has transpired. It's been incredible ride from the very spark of the idea, to the research I've done, the people I've spoken to and mostly the changes I've gone through along the way.

I see this blog as a way of remembering my experience, sharing some of the incredible things that happened during this time, look at everything I've learned and also, as a way to perhaps bring it all together, to help solidify my thoughts as I complete the novel. This blog is mainly for myself. Or it can serve as a cautionary tale, perhaps, for others who might embark on such a foolish task as writing a novel. Or even, as encouragement to those who have committed themselves to any kind of creative fervor.

Before I get into the particulars of the novel and what it's about, I feel I should start at the very beginning; with the idea, where it came from and possibly, how it got there. I could go back to my childhood, or even the beginning of time (!) but I'll spare you that. Maybe a few years will do. 2007 seems a good place for me to start. That's only a decade, after all.  

In 2007 I wrote a novel entitled, Faux Brick Exterior, sent it out to various agents and waited. There were a few nibbles but nothing manifested. Eventually, I gave up the idea of getting it published traditionally and didn't have the steam to publish it myself. There were all sorts of reasons why it was passed over, I'm sure, but mostly, it seemed that it didn't fit easily into any box. It was an odd novel.

 Strike One.

After that, I decided I'd write something more provocative. I would throw away my high ideals about art and just sell something and make money!

 I had been rather amused by the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and wondered if I had it in me to write something tawdry and commercial. I would use it as an exercise, I thought. Anybody can do that! All that takes discipline and an active imagination! I have that! So I bought a few books about writing erotica, read some examples and started writing.

This would be easy! Right?

 I decided I'd participate in the National Novel Writing Month project that takes place in November each year. The idea was to write 60,000 words in a month, just getting words down on the page, not worrying too much about quality, turning off the inner editor and writing from the heart.( I was already cheating at this because I had started in October, instead of waiting to November.) But nevertheless, I remained true to the other rules.

All I needed was a hook!

About that time my daughter, Molly, and I had an on-going joke about writing a musical called Stalls.  The musical would be a collection of various vignettes that take place in the stalls of public bathrooms. So from this idea (which to this day still seems like a funny idea to me) I started writing Glory Whole. (I credit Molly for the title, in case she's reading.) After a month of writing and hitting my 60,000 word mark, I realized I had gotten so carried away by the characters and the story that very little sex actually happened. What sex that did happen was rather comical, and probably not the sort of thing that the market would want to buy. I had written myself into a corner and by that time, I lost all interest in continuing.

Strike two.

During all of this, writing was something of a side dish for me, something to distract myself from  my other life as a singer. I had been trained as a classical soprano, had done various jobs both professional and not-so-professional over the years.  I sang in Operas, did concerts, musicals, developed my own shows, sang in churches, wrote music reviews, sang in choruses, all the things you do when you just want to make a living singing. Whatever it takes...

When I wasn't pursuing that, I also had an online store where I sold resin pyramids and necklace
Orgonite Pyramid I made in 2015
pendants that were infused with metaphysical properties, called Orgone to customers all over the world.

 I had made a study of crystals and semi-precious stones and then learned to arrange them within the pyramid with the intention of bringing good feelings and healing to the owner. It's a strange combination of things to do all at once but at the time, I found that I needed a lot of variety in my life in order to keep things interesting and therefore, productive. I have a mercurial nature and I tend to jump from thing to thing. .

You may wonder, how is all of this related? Trust me. It is. 

And so, let's jump forward a bit. Two years ago I started thinking about putting together a song recital, something I had threatened to do numerous times but hadn't done in a long time. It's a big undertaking and requires months to put together.
Naomi Farr, Soprano

My beloved voice teacher Naomi Farr had just passed away at the age of 96. I was feeling the loss and sad that we never did the recital we had talked about doing. She had been encouraging me to do one during our last few lessons together and we had made a few plans. But after her stroke, it just wasn't possible. Now, with her gone, I decided I would do it alone. All I needed to was commit to song songs,a pianist, a venue and follow through. The spirit of Naomi would be with me.

Simple enough, right?

Zemlinsky Sheet Music.
  I began the process of going through the songs I had sung before and those I'd like to learn. Naomi and I had worked on some particularly beautiful Waltz songs by the Austrian composer Alexander von Zemlinsky that were based on Tuscan folk songs that had been transcribed into German by an Italy-obsessed historian named Ferdinand Gregorius. I don't know if that is his real name or a pseudonym, but whatever the case, I found it all fascinating.  I really loved the songs and wondered if Zemlinsky had any other lesser-known songs. I could have easily been carried away by Gregorius, Zemlinsky and their stories but somehow I pulled myself away from that vein of thought and refocused my attentions.

 It was then that I stumbled upon these other Zemlinsky songs:

I saw that the poetry was by Maurice Maeterlinck, a name I was familiar with but truthfully, I didn't know much about him. Although the songs were written with a mezzo soprano in mind (and I'm a soprano), I wasn't convinced that they were wrong for me. Curious, and wanting to know more about Maeterlinck,  I pulled up a trusty Wikipedia article and started reading:

In reading these kinds of biographies I tend to scroll down to the end. I wanted the basics: seeing how long he lived, what he wrote,  how he died and before I got to that part I saw in bold print.

Confirmed Plagiarism

Nothing like a scandal to spark my interest. According to the article, Maurice Maeterlinck had plagiarized the work of a little known poet and scientific researcher, named Eugéne Marais. He had done an insightful study of the world of termites entitled The Soul of the White Ant. I had never heard of him before. However, it was intriguing to me that a Nobel Prize winner would dare to do such a thing. Why? I wondered.
Eugéne Marais

Questions, to me, are gateways to ideas. I've always had a tendency to ask questions, rarely just accepting what I'm told. I'm the curious sort, always examining things from various angles. My questions opened a gate and directed me to a rabbit hole. I jumped in not knowing where it would lead. That was the first step. Then I was free falling. This was just the tip of the iceberg. 

Needless to say, the recital was put on hold indefinitely.


  1. Wow! The beginning of an epic and strange tale! Congratulations on taking that first step of your thousand-mile journey.

    1. I couldn't do it without your support! Thanks first reader!

  2. I'm intrigued! What's gonna happen next?


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