Thursday, December 11, 2014
Another issue of 101 Fiction is out! This time, I've got one tiny tale in the black-and-white-themed issue, 'Aumakua. Hawaiian gods and troublesome little girls!
The other stories are really wonderful, especially W.M. Lewis's Celebrity. Gobsmacked by this one. Read it!
The Husband is posted at my DA account, since it's original home, The Corner Club Press, appears to be defunct. "The Husband": I took a nap, and when I woke up, the dog on my chest had become a husband. Speculative fiction about Sudoko, drumming, and, er, friendliness. ;)
Exclamation points and emoticons! Have I been body-snatched by a teenage pod alien?
And one more, if you're in the mood for a bit more reading today: the November issue of Bloodbond is out, with short stories and poetry about shape shifters, and it includes my story, "In the Northern Territories." Werewolves, my friends. Werewolves. They can be great neighbors, as long as you abide peacefully.
Monday, November 17, 2014
And shapeshifters, oh my!
Alban Lake Publishing, home of Aoife's Kiss, a magazine of specfic, and publishers of stand-alone horror and SF novels, has just released "Bloodbond," an anthology of werewolf, vampire and shapeshifter fiction and poetry. Included is my short story, "In the Northern Territories":
Calvin Kilfoil shot the wolf that had been coming around his farm--but come morning, it is not a wolf, but his wife's body laid atop the kitchen table. Faila's father had never been fond of his daughter's husband, but is this murder? He watches Calvin--watches, and waits, along with the rest of the small, isolated town deep in the northern woods. Because blood will *always* tell...
GREAT selection of stories! I just finished reading, and I was really blown away by a couple of them. If you want some good, shiver-inducing fiction, and you want to support a small, independent press, there's no better way to do it than by buying a copy of Bloodbond today!
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
I'm trying to cultivate an awareness of privilege. It's like cultivating an attitude of gratitude, a very overused and trite phrase (or has it become trite due to overuse?). At any rate, it occurred to me recently how privileged I am. Sometimes, I think we associate that word with Beverly Hills housewives, or wealthy white men in suits looking down their old noses at us from the cover of Forbes. But really, if you look at the world in general, I have a very privileged life.
If I want to download a book to read on my ipad, click, I have it. I stopped working one day a week because it stressed me out, so now I work four days. I can turn up the thermostat if I want, although if B is home, he might complain about being too hot—but not about the money it costs to keep me cozy. I have a cabinet with three shelves, loaded with tea and coffee products. I have a table that has no use except to hold my seasonal decorations and—another sign of privilege—our Bose sound dock.
We have a brand new kitchen. And not a cheap one—it's got quartz countertops and a pull-down faucet and soft-close drawers and sliding drawers and a heavy-duty lazy Susan, which we use for all of our pots.
Still, I complain about what I haven't got, what I want and can't have right now, and about other things: I'm lucky to have a job, when so many don't, and yet the clients irritate the shit out of me. I adore my animals, but sometimes, I just don't want to deal with them. I have sneakers without holes in the bottom, but I want new ones.
Buddhism is letting go of "want." Maybe not at its core, but that's a tenet. In some ways, so is Christianity—let go of "want," and the Lord provides. A financial counselor on Oprah used to advise that we cultivate a mindset in which we already have everything we need. Which we do, on a fundamental level (many don't, I realize, but for the majority, and certainly myself, we do).
It seems small, this writing of things I have, and even smaller, the list of things I want. Not the lists themselves, for they are almost endless. But what do I really want? Would I like a childhood do-over, in which my mother never dies? Do I want my beloved grandparents, her parents, to still be here? It's only been a few years since losing them, and I think of them often, and miss them. Do I wish for my favorite dog back, the one creature so devoted to me that I found that I had never understood the word "devotion" before—and probably have already lost its meaning, lost to the tide of "want."
Our souls are so small. Some say they are vast, that they are the universe itself. I feel that that is correct, and yet, the universe is so small. Everything is so tiny, it fits in a marble in my hand—that's how it feels.
And perhaps this is depression talking now, reducing things, because joy and the largeness of that joy are its opposite.
I cannot understand the size of my want or the solidity of my soul, and I cannot tell sometimes sadness and grief from love and love and more love. So this is all I can do today: make a list of what I have, and try not to think of what I want and do not have. And I have two hands to write this, and a computer to write it on, and dogs snoring next to me, and hot tea (although, bleh, I bought it and this one's not so good—see how I go, all the time? with the complaining?). It's an exercise, much like just living every day is. And exercise. At which I will, apparently, never become proficient. I'll drown the want of my desire to be a great writer in another document, and today, in just this minute, I will try to be satisfied. And grateful.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The doors slid shut behind him, and the sounds of the casino—the jangling slot machines, the piped-in music of nineties superdivas—disappeared, muted by mahogany paneling and plush burgundy carpet.
The room was long, no chairs, with a desk at the end, tall and narrow. A woman stood behind it, black hair hanging down her back and catching the glow of the wall sconces.
She turned as he approached, and smiled. Jack paused, steps from the desk. She was two women. Or rather, one woman with two heads. No, that wasn't right either.
Each woman wore a blouse, ivory, sheer, with a lace collar and three tiny buttons, the blouses stitched together at the chest. The women faced each other, the distance of an eyelash between them. He could not see below the desk. He felt uncomfortable wanting to.
"Mr. Gray?" said one.
Jack nodded. So as not to stare, he watched their hands; each used a hand to rifle through a stack of unmarked envelopes, fingers dancing along white creases, plucking one from the rest. The one who had spoken used her left hand to open the envelope, and the other used her right hand to remove a key.
"Here you are," said the one on the right. "Good luck, Mr. Gray."
He took the key with unease.
She gestured to a door on the left; her twin echoed the gesture.
The door opened onto an elevator. Jack stepped inside, and an attendant dressed in livery, as if he were a chauffeur, smiled and nodded.
"Mr. Gray," said the man, tanned and wrinkled beneath a black cap.
The door shut on his last glimpse of the women.
"Beautiful," said Jack, not knowing what else to say.
"Beautiful, yes. But only one heart." The man shook his head. "Two people cannot have one heart."
The door opened.
"We're here?" said Jack. "I didn't feel it move."
The man smiled. "You have your key?"
"Good luck, Mr. Gray."
He stepped into a narrow hallway, with another attendant, this one dressed less elegantly: the bulge of guns beneath his cheap suit was excessive, comic.
"That's a lot of firepower, considering you can only fire one at a time," said Jack.
The man shook his head. "Two." He withdrew two of the pieces, both hands turning the guns simultaneously.
"Impressive," said Jack, and the man smiled, replacing his guns. Jack sniffed. "Is that... chocolate I smell?"
"Good luck, Mr. Gray," the man said, and opened the door.
Jack had possessed a terrible sweet tooth once.
Once. Now he'd much rather have a nice, medium-rare chateaubriand, steaming on the plate, meant for two but all to himself.
The sight of her, however, dressed in cream-colored silk behind a sleek, ebony desk, caused in him a pang, a longing for something warm, and soft, and sweet on his tongue.
A chef in a white coat stood beside a small cart, a glass bowl of chocolate before him. He unwrapped a stick of butter. She motioned to the chef, and before he dropped the butter into the chocolate, he presented it to her. She drew a finger across the top and tasted it.
The door shut behind him.
"Mr. Gray," said the woman. "Won't you sit?"
"You can call me Jack, Charlotte," he said, and took the chair in front of the desk. "I promise, I won't think you're anything but business."
"Why would you?" she said. Her gaze was cool; her hair, not nearly as black as the women's in the lobby but still dark, dark like the chocolate in the bowl, was tucked in a neat twist at the nape of her neck. There was a tattoo there, he knew, an ostrich feather.
As she twisted her head to pull a file from a drawer, he saw it then, except it wasn't a feather any longer, but two swords, one up, one down.
She drew a single sheet of paper from the file. Without looking at it, she said, "My. This is quite a bit of money you owe us."
He shrugged. "I'll pay it back soon. Tables have been bad, that's all."
"Are you saying that the casino has rigged tables? Or that they are somehow sub-standard?"
"No, of course not. It's just... things haven't exactly gone my way lately. But they will soon." They always do, he thought. The coin always flips. "Your father let me run a house tab."
"We've extended your tab eight times this month already. And my father no longer owns this casino."
Beside them, the chef lifted the spatula, inspecting the silky fall of chocolate. Satisfied, he removed the bowl from the flame.
"A little more time, Charlotte. That's all I'm asking. Things will change."
"When your luck changes?" She stared at the bowl. "Chocolate, sugar, butter. It's not just the ingredients, you know. It's timing and skill."
He swallowed, turning the key in his palm.
The chef cracked two eggs, and added a sprinkle of salt. He stirred and poured the batter into a silver pan. The bowl scraped clean, he set it down and took up the pan, presenting it to Jack.
"Your key," she said.
"We used to have crepes every morning, and scones. Lemon, blueberry... And your cakes... Caramel. Coconut..."
He implored her with his eyes, willing her to remember when they'd been young, willing to her to recall nights he'd come to her, flush with his winnings, and her apartment smelling like cinnamon, her skin tasting like vanilla.
The elevator attendant's words came to him: Two people cannot have one heart.
He dropped the key atop the batter. It sank, vanishing from view.
The chef took the pan with Jack's cake to a door that slid open, revealing a room with an oven at the center, and all around, on every wall, shelves, and those shelves laden with cakes.
"Seven days, Jack. The casino gets what's owed." She closed her eyes. "I can taste it already."
Well, that was strange.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
My short story, Midnight Swim, won the monthly challenge over at WerewolvesAtHeart. June's theme was "Escape the Heat!"
"Midnight Swim": In the basement of a safe house, Finn struggles to keep cool as summer temperatures rise outside. When the full moon comes and he decides to slip out for a late night stroll to a nearby beach for a swim, he finds that he might not have made the best decision, for his own personal hunter has found him, and she never goes anywhere without her weapon...
Werewolves, mild horror (at best), and naked ocean swimming ;)
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
I thought I was a serious Disney fan. Turns out, I'm just a pixie duster with mildly naughty aspirations.
That's okay, though, especially since I landed in the world of warped Disney fic--that is, stories set around WDW, often involving rather adult themes, such as drug use, trespassing, physical violence, and assorted mayhem. My portal to the chaos was Leonard Kinsey's The Dark Side of Disney, a non-fiction, sort of Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole look at the World:
Now, I've been to WDW six or seven times in the last twenty years, and I must admit that while I love it, I do often wonder about what I'm not seeing, or not knowing, if you will. What other dimensions am I missing?
Apparently, a lot. Utilidors, ticket scams, the truth behind the cast members' (what Disney calls its employees) cheery, semi-permanent smiling faces. Aaaand more. Dark Side is essentially a tourist guide to WDW, though many of "tips" aren't for the vast majority of travelers, but for those seeking a... different perspective on the happiest place on earth.
Kinsey wrote Dark Side after having spent a good part of his misspent youth at WDW; he grew up nearby, and when other teens are sneaking into movie theaters, he was attempting to sneak into DisneyWorld. Kinsey can tell you the best rides to go on while stoned, where to attempt a furtive grope--and more--and how to save money on food. Yeah, how did I not know you could get groceries delivered to your frickin' room?
I loved it, not just the tips and advice, but the endlessly entertaining misadventures of Kinsey and his friends. He's got great "voice," as they say, but be forewarned: the man drops f-bombs like my neighbor's oak drops helicopters all over my lawn. Yo.
Wow, I did say I was a pixie duster with aspirations, right? Or maybe just one who likes to live vicariously through far more daring, and interesting, people, people like Leonard Kinsey.
Uh, it should go without saying that the entire book The Dark Side of Disney is NSFW. Language, subject matter, pics, you name it. And a couple of those included links, whew! I have been educated, yes, sir, I have.
After Dark Side, Kinsey wrote an entirely fictional book called Our Kingdom of Dust. Blaine McKinnon is disillusioned, depressed, and filthy rich. He decides to return to Walt Disney World, a place where his happiest childhood memories were made.
And here, I relate. Personal story: my entire childhood, I wanted to go to Walt Disney World, but my parents couldn't afford it. When I got my first job at age 14, washing dishes in a restaurant, I knew that I wanted to save up for a trip. At 18, newly graduated from high school, I was able to do just that.
And it was everything I expected and more. I fell in love, hard, and I will never forget that trip. It was 1990, the era of Horizons at WDW, and it spoke to me and filled my heart to bursting.
I've been back a number of times since, but I will say this: I will never recapture that initial overwhelming joy. Yes, it is my favorite place to vacation, and yes, I adore it as much as ever, but as they say...
You can never go home again.
Someone tell that to Blaine McKinnon.
Blaine sets up camp at one of the Epcot resorts in a swanky suite, and immediately makes a few acquaintances of dubious character. In fact, the book is filled with colorful characters, all of whom are making vastly poorer choices than Blaine. Not the least of those choices is their drug use, a designer drug called "Pixie Dust," which recreates the feeling of being in the parks, that incredible joy, when one cannot be there. He becomes intricately involved with this group, and very quickly, things reel out of hand.
OKOD is a fast read, and capitalizes on Kinsey's unique voice. Exciting, it never fails to hold the reader's attention. And of course, it's loaded with atmosphere--WDW is as much a character as any of the humans in this book.
I'm a bit on the fence with this one due to some editing issues, which honestly, seem like first-time author issues. It's stuff I can grant a pass on. Kinsey has talent and voice, and you can tell he's really learning to hone his craft.
Where he's strongest, though, is in the unwritten lessons he's imparting, about learning to accept your past, and more than that, to accept each day as it is. Not all of them are going to be pixie dust. Some are going to be Tinkerbell's asshole after a Taco Bell run. And whether it's drugs or, in my case, yearning to be in DisneyWorld because that's "where I'm happiest," you need to realize that it's all in you. Nothing can fill that void.
My own reflections sometimes made this an uncomfortable read. So, hey, the guy swears a lot. And the writing is sometimes a tad rough. It's rare that a book really makes you think and feel. This one did.
Kinsey does have a new book out, Habst and the Disney Saboteurs. You can listen to the Creepy Kingdom podcast with guest, Leonard Kinsey, and hear him read some of it. I wanted to keep listening! Yes, I've got the book, so I'll be reading that soon. And Kinsey's a great guest; sometimes, podcasts make me cringe, and I have to turn them off, but this one was intelligent and interesting and, well, made me want to buy the guy a tequila some night and keep him talking.
By the way, there's a whole universe of "Dark Siders," as I call them. You start with Dark Side, and you're going down the rabbit hole too. See you there.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Vampires are incredibly romantic to some. I get it, but I often find the werewolf more fascinating. I've got a werewolf short story in an anthology arriving this fall, and in the meantime, I've got "The Ranch," a short story posted now:
Five pups born to the werewolves in the last six weeks. Of course they should be returned to their mothers. They would have a better chance for survival. But then they would never learn to be human, and it is a great risk to have five more of the adult creatures, as ferocious as they are, in the compound. Efforts at rehabilitating adults, even juveniles, have been largely unsuccessful, to judge by Robertson's torn-out windpipe...
Newborn werewolf pup by Were-pups on DeviantArt. Her whole gallery of handmade dolls is astounding!