Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not A Winner; Gypsy Moon

Thanks to Lily Childs, who tweeted about Janet Reid's fast and furious comment-fic contest, I wrote a drabble. Did not win. WTF! LOL. Nah, JK! The finalists were all clever, clever, clever. If you know me, you know I am clever -1. So, yeah. Not a winner. Don't you hate when you buy something, say, a box of cereal, because there is a contest and You Might Be A Winner! and then you open it, and there, printed in bold black ink, is Not A Winner? Don't you feel like it's a judgment on you as a person? I do. That's a horrible thing to say to a person. So visual, it sticks in my head all day. Not A Winner. Not A Winner.

I try not to buy things like that. The disappointment is immense every time. Well. Er, did I mention a drabble? Here it is!

Ghosts

Bruja, he says, as she digs in the dirt to chase away ghosts. She looks up, sees him standing in the doorway, watching. She could tell him he stands in another doorway, too, but which is the bleaker prospect? Right now she is "witch," and filthy besides, but "crazy" has a full belly in a lonely building, twenty miles away.

She buries the page with his name on it, just as something taps the back of her neck. Which entity wishes her harm now? But it is only him. He breaches her protective shields with a word. Madre.

She cries.

*

Thank you for reading. If you are also interested, I wrote a story for my friend asuqi. She prompted me with some words, and I wrote Gypsy Moon. She is an excellent prompter, and an excellent friend. The link goes to my DA, as I had been researching places to submit this strange fantasy fic and couldn't find a good match. It's approximately 1200 words, and isn't too awfully dark. For once. *ETA: The story has a "mature content" rating, which on DA means you can't read if you aren't a member with an age statement. :( Sorry about that, folks. There's only subtle sex, but I do want to keep the kiddies out.

If you've got the time and still feel like reading, may I suggest the top entry at asuqi's blog, which is her 3WW contribution, Trial With Time? One of the best pieces of spec fic I've read in a while, with literary aspersions all over the place. (I may have heard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries in my head while reading, but just for a moment)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

DA Contest; Dead Folks Up On That Thar Mountain

My short story, Flame and Ash, has won first place in the contest of the same name on DA. For the other winners and honorable mentions, go here.

The story is 1500 words, and it had to be based on a specific sculpture. At the end of my story, there is a link where you can see the sculpture and an interview with the artist. I got a one-year paid sub, but the best part? The story now becomes the subject of its own contest, which will be art-related. What a lovely idea! I can't wait to see what people come up with.

*

Viathis article on climbing Everest, specifically, something most climbers are not prepared for: the open graveyard, which is a stretch of the hike which has killed more hikers than any other.

And their bodies are left there. Trying to remove them has resulted in the deaths of others. You can read more on this here. Titled, "Abandoned On Everest," it will certainly get you thinking about willpower. No one knows exactly why each person stopped, sat down, and never moved again, but theories abound. Mine? They merely stopped moving. Be warned, there are pics. Lots of them.

Unrelated sidenote: Everest has never called me, but the Appalachian Trail has. know I've mentioned it before, but B and I are walking now. Up to four miles a day. Someday, when the time is right, I'm doing it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Present; Book review: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

A pair of tiny feet, encased in red sleeping slippers, was outlined by the bedcovers. Her legs were crossed and entangled under a single coverlet, with the curve of her thighs enticingly revealed. Shih-chung was amazed that her thighs were so voluptuous and large. He stared at them thinking: "How hard it must be for tiny feet to support those thighs!" He couldn't help feeling compassion for her lower extremities. Compressing the feet in order to thicken the thighs must have been the invention of a genius. And of course the inventor must have been a woman...

You must have guessed by now that for Christmas, my beloved went back to the used bookstore and got me the copy of Chinese Footbinding: The History of a Curious Erotic Custom. B has become known in my family as the best gift-giver ever, and this is just more evidence. I love it, although it means for poor B that I am occasionally following him around, reading passages from the book. It's fascinating, with fairy tales and myths, personal accounts, folklore, scientific study, photographs and drawings, etc. And yes, there is a fair amount of eroticism within the pages. Why the bound foot (or Golden Lotus, as it is euphemistically known) is more lust-inducing than the breasts, for instance. (Apparently, one must mess around with the breasts and it is more difficult to get to the private parts; whereas, when one starts fondling a bound foot, it is a straight line to the private parts -- I paraphrase, but most accurately)

It has been a most taxing holiday season, and I'm glad to see the back end of Christmas. There have been some truly lovely moments, though, such as the lobster tails we steamed for dinner last night, and it's quite wintery out, though my sister in CT tells me the blizzard has failed to make an appearance as of yet. It was cold last night -- two-cats-cold, as both of them were curled between us. The dogs wanted up, too, but I explained that at 70+ pounds, there simply wasn't room. And today, we start back on a course of healthy eating, as we were before Christmas Eve. We're going out for sushi tonight. Unagi! Yeah!

So before I start end-of-the-year blatherings about where I'm going next with writing (later on this week, if I can tame my normal rambling and make it fit for you to read), a book review:

Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

When the National Book Award deadline was fast approaching -- as in, five days away -- Gordon's book arrived on the scene. And then, shocking nearly everyone, it won. The list of contenders is mighty, the story of the book's release and immediate win is one for the ages, and Gordon is a professor at a Michigan university. Aaaand the book is about racetrackin'. I had to get it, you can plainly see.

It would be too easy to fall into the trap of every other gushing reviewer and talk about "dark horses" and "longshots," so I'll avoid that. But unfortunately, I am falling into another trap. I can't help but compare it, again and again, to one of my very favorite books of all time, Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. If this book has any flaws, it is only one: that it is not Seabiscuit.

This is completely unfair of me, I realize. I can only defend myself by saying that in the past ten years, I've read Seabiscuit three times, and each time is better than the last. I find the characters beyond fascinating, and the races drawn so well that I have, embarrassingly and more than once, found myself jumped up on the sofa, clutching an imaginary whip in my hand. GO, SEABISCUIT, GO!

(and no, I have not seen the film, nor do I want to, as I fear it will spoil it for me)

There are no such moments in LoM; however, that is not actually a fault. Gordon writes with deft, understated gorgeousness, nearly poetic and -- dare I say -- magical ability. This is a tale of losers, losers all around, horses and people, both. But never have such a cast of losers in such a pittyful backstage backwater dump been raised to the sublime.

I use "pittyful" on purpose. Gordon writes in the vernacular of the track, the language of these losers, and it gives her deep insight into them. That she pulls this off -- and in omniscient pov -- is a testament to her skill. This isn't hokey, this isn't pretentious. This is the real deal.

Watch Maggie watching everything and everyone, watch Medicine Ed make one last bet with powers bigger than him (and ain't everything bigger than him), watch Tommy Hansel invoke mad Irish gods in his pursuit of all that is rightfully his from birth. And watch some folks get what theys got coming. And others, not so much. And amongst it all, watch the noble horses living tragic, pittyful lives.

I tore apart Koja's Under the Poppy a while back. All I can say is that everything I hated about that book (including her filly's nervousness of The Sex Scene) is done here to perfection. This was a beautiful, thumpin' long ride down a muddy track.

But may I suggest that if you get this, you also get Seabiscuit. Just... read Seabiscuit second. They are vastly different stories, told vastly different ways, but for myself, I can say it was hard not to compare them.





Thursday, December 23, 2010

LSQ; Philosophy via AOM



Luna Station Quarterly has made "Reach For The Stars" their story of the week. Lovely!

By his estimation, Gryff is now First Mate. (click for the rest)

*
From Desiderata by Max Ehrmann:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Via AOM, where you can read the rest.

Banner by soulofblood.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twas a Rum-Soaked Evening...

Once upon a time, a girl bartended whilst making her dainty way through this world. She was quite good at it, and sometimes, she misses those days. Later on, this girl grew enamored of a darling pair of men called The Fabulous Beekman Boys, and she found that, despite herself, she was intrigued by their fruitcake recipe. One day, she decided to combine a lost passion and a new intrigue and see what would happen.

It was this! A Rum-filled Evening With Fruitcake and Music!


There are many recipes for Rum Runners, but this is a classic and how I made mine (note that I eyeball these things when actually making them, and don't measure):

Rum Runner

1 ounce Rum (I used Captain Morgan, since I was already using it for the fruitcake)


1/2 ounce Banana Liqueur

1/2 ounce Blackberry Brandy

teaspoon Grenadine

5 ounces pineapple and orange juice

You could substitute sweet and sour mix for the juice, but bah. Just don't. Anyway, mix, drink, smack your lips and call me Sheba.

While I was drinking this sinful concoction, I made fruitcake, using the Beekman Boys' Generous Fruitcake Recipe. Note that this is a two-night endeavor, though really fairly easy. The first night is just chopping the dried fruit (and eating a good amount) and then pouring the rum over it to soak a day. Stir occasionally.



I call this picture, "Haf made fruitcake, runned out of rum, haf gone to bar to find more."

The fruitcake recipe made a generous THREE fruitcakes, which are delightful and moist and have converted this former fruitcake-despiser. Highly recommended. Oh, music? I don't recall much except for a lot of Live and Bush's "Mouth," played extremely loudly.

*

Guess what? Just in time for Christmas, my flash fic horror story, Under the Boardwalk, has been posted for your enjoyment! I am fiddling with the microphone to see if I can read this one aloud, but my speaking voice is not my favorite thing in the world. I think I sound sultry and sexy, but I really sound like a broken clarinet in need of serious work.

While you are over at TKnC, may I recommend the story there I read earlier? The Blood Makes Me Whole by Dorothy Davies, which is AWESOME, not least because it is about Strange Thing From Outer Space.

Last but not least, over at the Vintage Photo community on LJ, this terrific shot of Stan and Olly Horsin' Around. When I was little, I watched a lot of t.v., especially on Saturday mornings and afternoon. Oh, the Monkees on Saturday afternoon! Huge crush. I also watched lots of old comedies. Not the Three Stooges -- no, no, NO. Ick. Abbott and Costello could occasionally catch my attention. But Laurel and Hardy? Oh, my. How I loved them. Love, love, loved them. I would giggle and fall over on the floor, and I just ate up everything single thing they did. Ain't they just the best?

If I am not around til after Christmas, may you all find in your stocking exactly what you wish for. I hear Santa is very generous this year. And know that I will be toasting all of you with a rum runner on that day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Unseen" -- Lily's Friday Prediction

Unseen

She sat before the mirror, spreading herself carefully. Dark purple, deflated: is this what he saw? Is this why he refused…?


She let a hand drop, covering herself, a chain of memories melting into one another: knickers on the floor, his odd look, lights being turned off, the warm firmness at her open lips, the bed’s silent shaking. A kiss on the forehead before he left again.

Summer months crawling by. Now autumn’s dried leaves on the pavement outside, curved and brown, whispering her self-doubt. She closed her eyes, imagining green shoots bursting forth from the dark earth, deep underground.

*

Runner-up in Lily's Friday Prediction. Each week, Lily gives you three words, and you write a story in no more than 100 words in the comments. This community of writers is simply stellar. They blow the roof off the place each week, and the variety of genres is wonderful. Makes for varied and interesting reading.

Inspiration comes from everything, everywhere. In this case, I had read Hayley Campbell's blog about her experience with the creator of the Wall of Vagina (yes, you read that correctly).
I do believe this is a valuable art project, one which has merit. The cons have been argued by a friend, and while I respect their position, I firmly believe in the power of this to heal -- wounded thoughts, wounded self-image.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

3ww: The Glass Alligator

It's Three Word Wednesday!



The Glass Alligator

The glass alligator had survived two hundred years in the basement, broken crystal eyes staring gray into the void above the highest shelf. King of petrified apples and preserved raspberries a hundred generations removed from the bitter, crooked weeds growing in the yard, it sat cloaked in dust, alone, waiting for Reese's hand to find it.

We'd removed our masks a day past, the air being an utter disgrace of smells but, according to the read-out, fine to breathe. This house, alone on a high hill, was dark when we came, but our lanterns flashed over its flaking bones and showed us a veritable bounty. Metal, nails and cans and spoons and knives. My pack was full. Reese went into the basement looking for "treasure," his pack sagging. He'd put items in his shoes, beneath his cap. He'd carried a ring once inside his mask, pressed into the skin below his left eye. Three days it had been there. He said he could still feel it.

We'd dabbled long enough, I thought. Night falling fast, and a strange, floating dust blew out from the forest. I checked my gauge. Read-out said within parameters. I called to him in the basement.

He came up slow, the alligator in his hand. He told me where he'd found it, and he took off his other glove so that he could run a finger down its grimy glass side.

"It's not metal," I said.

"I think I want it."

"We won't get any money for it."

"Don't matter."

And he put a finger in the open jaws of the glass alligator, sighed, and the alligator shattered. He screamed, and I stood frozen. The alligator was gone. Glittering glass dust littered the floor, and Reese's hand was covered with it, mingling with the blood.

"Stop," I said, dropping my pack and rummaging until I found a threadbare towel. Purified water from my own supplies to wash his hand off, and I wrapped the hand and helped him gingerly place it back in the glove.

"Oh god, oh god," he said.

"Stop," I said. "Let's get out of here."

It was dark then, dark on a terribly lonely hill in a region which had been inhabited by men once. Now we were visitors here, and I thought I tasted their loneliness, their terror, on that night wind, a breath of our ancestors. A warning. I hurried Reese away from that house, and by morning, we were back across the line. Reese gave me his pack and went to bed, locking his door.

It has been two days since the glass alligator and the house on the hill. The money from the metal is in my pocket, and Reese is just now rising from his bed. I hear him in there. I hear his feet, dragging across the floorboards. Scraping. I hear the heavy swish of something else, something I know is not a tail. It is not a tail. I imagine his lean body, rested, strong. His hand, healed.

The door opens. I leave the comforting flicker of the vid to say, "Reese? Are you all right?"

In the dim light, I see him smile. "I am just fine, Max." It is a croak, a growl.

His teeth are made of glass.

*

Thank you to everyone from 3WW for stopping by and reading. Con-crit welcome. For some reason, I think I used "dabble" incorrectly, but I can't put my finger on it. Pfft. Brain dead. Tis the season.

Book Review: "the dead birth, itself" by Betsy Adams

Throughout this year, I've scoured used book stores for chapbooks and small print books. This has yielded more than a few gems, and "the dead birth, itself" is probably the strangest and also, by far, the most affecting of the books I've picked up.

Spectacular Diseases, a small press out of England, published 500 copies in 1993. As both press and Adams seem to have no internet presence, both apparently having disappeared (the last known book published by SD, that I can find, is 1996), you will no doubt have a great deal of trouble finding this, if my review seems to indicate it would appeal to you. I have located one or two used copies on the internet.

SD publishes poetry, and they call this book "long poetry." I break it down like this: two short stories, one story told as poetry but still very much a "story" and less "poem," and then a few long poems of which I  honestly cannot decipher. But the first three stories, well, those I can undertstand. And I found them not only distinctive and beautiful in their own unique way, but the first one was absolutely devastating.

The publisher's note at the beginning explains that Adams was a student of biology at Wayne State University in Detroit during the seventies, and it is clear that this experience vastly affected her. The work as a whole explores the issues of animal experimentation and testing, death, the search for beauty in all things (and I do mean, in all things), and our choices regarding each of those. It explores another issue as well, but I cannot give that away without destroying some of the integrity of the work. I will say that Adams has an unconventional and wholly heartrending view of the above subjects, and the reader cannot fail but to be touched by her disclosures.

While many works are forthright treatises on their given subject, this book approaches from a different perspective, luring you in with beauty and sickness both, with uncommon language, and gently persuades you to consider alternatives. It well and truly did so for me.

As much as I loved the first three stories, I was lost on the poetry that came afterwards. I do not claim to be a poetry expert; as I always say, I only know what I like or dislike. In this case, I simply could not comprehend, and it felt as if it came from a different mind than that which had penned the stories. A fragmented, wretched mind, one that implored the reader (or God? I somehow doubt Adams believes in a God of any kind) to understand and, possibly, to help.

Having said that, this is worth it for the first story alone, "On Her Off Days," and the other two are incredible additions. Do be warned that Adams's scientific background plainly shows through, and I notoriously have a weak stomach. There were moments when I wanted, desperately, to look away. But could not.

If you have ever thought that your scientific, logical mind could not quite find the answers to certain things, I think you will find Adams's book a help, if only, as I said, to give the reader alternatives.

Nothing is set in stone in this world. Nothing. If you can find this, I highly recommend it.

And as a sidenote: I cannot find anything about her other than the publisher's note that she currently resides on a huge tract of land north of Detroit, where she has a sort of animal rescue (though, again, this was in 1993, and I know just about every dog and cat rescue in the state today and do not know Adams). The cover to "the dead birth, itself" is a collage that is a collaboration between herself and Dr. Hiroshi Mizukami, who has been with the Wayne State U faculty since 1965. If anyone reading this does have any information, I'd be much obliged.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ATON: Exit

Up at A Twist of Noir, my "deeply and darkly depraved" story Exit. Thank you, Michael Solender, as I'm still beaming over that! And big thanks to Christopher Grant for allowing me to add my sick two cents to the awesome 600-700 challenge. I'm 638, and A.S. is right after me with 639 and her elegant, gorgeous debut noir, "Remember Paris."

I'd honestly forgotten this one. Christopher sent an email yesterday, and I went over to read and was all like, "Seriously? I wrote this? COOL!"

For once. LOL.

*

Rachelle Gardner asks in today's post if anyone has ever told you not to write, that it's a waste a time.

Indeed. My first husband, who told me I couldn't do a lot of things.

In some ways, I regret those years. He held me back from an education, and from experiencing and doing things I wanted to do. Things I was passionate about. But I have been known to dwell on that time in passing shades in my writing today, and I'd rather be a woman with a rotten past and glorious future than a spoiled little brat who's always had it all and doesn't know the meaning of hardship, or the true bleakness of existence.

I wanted to slap Paris Hilton across the face when she went to jail and cried incessantly and then got out early. At least Lindsay was stoic and accepted her sentence. And Martha Stewart? Strength. And that strength is born out of a difficult life. So sign me up to do it all over again, if I must. No pampered princess here.

If anyone's told you writing is a waste of time, go to Rachelle's post and talk about it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lily's Friday Prediction; Used Books and Dogs, a spectacular combination

Lily's Friday Prediction: What can you do with only 100 words? Mimi, A.S., and I have got the goods. Darkness x3. Must be something in the water. Play along.

*



On Saturday, B and I were Christmas shopping in Berkley, MI when we found the BEST USED BOOKSTORE EVER.

First, we were greeted by Marconi (see above), a corgi/husky mix who looks like a husky with its legs chopped off. Marconi gave a friendly hello and then immediately dropped onto his back for belly rubs. Then ambled up to us an ancient shih-tzu with one eye named Billy Bones, after the pirate, of course. The shop owner is an older gentleman who apparently believes in exceptionally well-categorized and chosen used books, but not heat. Twas chilly. To a bibliophile, it wasn't anything. I was lost in his world of dark wood shelves and fabulous choices. Everywhere I turned, something beckoned. The only item I didn't buy was Chinese Footbinding: A History of a Curious Erotic Art, which was behind glass. I wanted to. But that would have meant asking, and, well, I can barely talk to strangers about mundane things such as the weather, so asking for the book on Chinese Footbinding was certainly out of the question.

He also repairs antique radios in the shop, hence the dog in the chair above's name. And he rescues rabbits. Loved everything about this shop, and I have been in many used bookstores. Will be back. Dressed appropriately.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Writing!

Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things people do.
--- William Zinsser





William Zinsser, author of the classic "On Writing Well." Coincidentally, this is exactly what I thought all writers looked like when I was growing up. This is what I thought I should look like, should I be crazy enough to want to be one. I managed to get the trash-compactor-sized typewriter by age 11, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control and that are still somewhat of a mystery. I forget what I first typed. I think it was, "The boy went to the " TO THE WHAT? THE BOY WENT TO THE WHAT? We found this sheet years later, but sadly, my dad's house then burned down, taking with it this sheet of paper, my refrigerator box packed full of Breyer horses and all their accoutrements, and the green strapless dress that I wore to my senior prom and which appears to have been made of tin foil.

It should be noted that I had the glasses from an early age. Little RS was blind as a bat. She somehow thought that thick, dark-colored frames (oh, maroon glasses of infamy! where have you gone? incinerated as well?) would be less noticeable, or maybe were cool. They were neither. Also, I stole my boyfriend's tie in 1989 and wore it. A LOT. It was a skinny tie, which was all the rage back then. Huey Lewis was to blame, if I recall correctly, and did you know that he is reputed to have the biggest cock in rock n' roll? Peter Frampton, smallest. So I have heard.

AND THUS ENDETH ENTRY OF LITTLE USE. YOU ARE WELCOME.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mindfulness

On Mindfulness:

Our suffering stems from ignorance. We react because we do not know what we are doing, because we do not know the reality of ourselves. The mind spends most of the time lost in fantasies and illusions, reliving pleasant or unpleasant experiences and anticipating the future with eagerness or fear. While lost in such cravings or aversions, we are unaware of what is happening now, what we are doing now. Yet surely this moment, now, is the most important for us. We cannot live in the past; it is gone. Nor can we live in the future; it is forever beyond our grasp. We can live only in the present. If we are unaware of our present actions, we are condemned to repeating the mistakes of the past and can never succeed in attaining our dreams for the future. But if we can develop the ability to be aware of the present moment, we can use the past as a guide for ordering our actions in the future, so that we may attain our goal.

~S.N. Goenka

So very true, especially the bolded part. It's easy to relive experiences that have emotional weight while sleepwalking, essentially, through our daily lives.

This quote, and others, from an AOM post on Mindfulness. Remember if you click that AOM is NSFW. Oh, the pretty men. The pretty, naked men. Did I mention that they're naked? Look, there's me, lost in reliving the pleasant experience of perusing AOM's offering this morning. :)

*Update: Wrote this entry this morning with the intent of coming home tonight and seeing how I did.

Many years ago, I studied Buddhism. Not because I needed some sort of religious compass, but because I was searching to calm my mind and spirit.

Gryff is helping me type this right now. I'm going to snap the little bastard's neck if he doesn't get off the 5.

Okay, back to being calm and all that b.s. So what I discovered is that daily mediation and mindfulness are separate things, that you can meditate once or twice a day, emptying the mind (or attempting to -- it is useful to realize that meditation is an exercise, that you are training the mind and JFC Gryff get off the damn keyboard), but the rest of the day, as you go about your business, you should attempt to remain in the moment. Being "in the moment" is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot, and for me, conjures up images of surfer dudes living "in the moment" on some huge wave. But anyway.

Just like meditation, the more you do it, the better you become. The more you notice. You will suddenly pick up details of your environment that you never would have noticed before. What this ultimately leads to, if you are also studying Buddhism and its tenets of kindness, is a greater compassion for those around you and -- get this -- yourself. Yeah. True.

You might ask why, if Buddhism and meditation and mindfulness are so freakin' awesome, did I ever abandon those practices? Well, I never abandoned them completely, and so many of the lessons I learned have stayed with me through the years. In recent times, especially, I've had to look at those who have not behaved well and, instead of becoming angry, I've felt the compassion in my heart for them, and begun to think deeply about why they would behave so, the emotions in their own hearts that lead them to say and do such things. Honestly, it's made me feel quite sad for them (which has taken, in place, the burden of feeling sad for myself). And this has led to forgiveness, and that single thing is at the center of all human interaction. So rarely do we forgive or have compassion for one another, while so quickly we leap to judgment and anger.

Today, I had a difficult work day, but it wasn't so much mentally taxing as purely physical. And while normally, I would allow my mind to roam in those above-mentioned fantasies and replays without pause, I instead concentrated on noticing exactly what was happening in the moment. The way the dog's fur lifted, the way the water droplets went along the fur, the way the brush went through the fur. I'm a dog groomer, FYI. And so, although my mind constantly wanted to go back to those negative thought patterns, I gently brought it back to the moment, again and again.

And though I am exhausted beyond belief this evening, I feel a new clarity and peace. It will, I'm sure, be short-lived. But it is the constant application of this technique which, over time, produces better results.

Perhaps unrelated, but I am extending the same love to my short story in progress, which is now nearly finished. Mindfulness, instead of racing to the end. Allowing each moment to exist, to be noticed.

That's it. I'm going to kill this cat. I've dropped him on the floor twice. You think he'd get the message. Well, Gryff cat wants to share love too. And nobody is more "in the moment" than this guy.

555555555555555522

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hugs? Hell no

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's people who constantly are negative, who always have some sort of complaint. I hold my tongue, but when I see people complain about some things, I want to slap them. I want to say, "Really? You think this is so awful? Why don't you come live my life for one day, and then we'll talk."

I pride myself on being tough, on handling situations. I take care of things, and I generally react to stress by being very productive. My motto: What's the problem? Here's the solution. I have no time for complaining about something when there is a viable solution or when there is no solution and one must simply deal with it.

In other words, shut up and get on with it.

Having said that, I recently mentioned in brief that things have been very difficult for me lately. Unfortunately, I am dealing with two separate situations with people close to me that have reached a truly heartbreaking place. Combined with the day-to-day nonsense of running one's own business and every other little thing, it's just about wrecked me. I don't see what I can do to "fix" either of these situations, because it would mean "fixing" broken people, and that is something I am simply not able to handle. And these are not merely friends or acquaintances that I can walk away from.

What can I do? I've made attempts to talk to these people, but their behavior is impacting severely negatively on my life.

I have watched the tv show "Intervention" since it began. That and "Hoarders," two shows that freak me the fuck out. But now I'm glad, because at one point, I got very frustrated while watching "Intervention." I wanted to scream at the screen: WHY are you doing this? You are ruining your life and making those around you miserable!

And now I know that it's not the people, it's their disease. When they say something hurtful or do something awful, it's their disease. It's not them. And without professional help and the person's willingness to accept it, there is nothing else to be done.

This is causing me such great despair that I am not sleeping and barely functioning. You must also understand that I am a person of action, and if there is nothing I can do, I feel useless. Useless, and as if I am watching people throw their lives away. Possibly literally.

My personal life is something that is usually off-limits, except for things of little consequence or things that might entertain. But I feel compelled to write this because I know that I am not the only one. I know that there are people out there who are dealing with the same issues, and who love deeply certain people, and who feel that their love is not being returned. But I know that I am loved. Just... not by the alcoholism. Which wants me to go away and leave it alone, so it can exist in peace.

I should note, though, that I am taking my own advice in this situation. I've often counselled people, when they are feeling horrible, that they should write. And so I am. I've polished and submitted two pieces that were languishing in the "unsubmitted" folder, and I've been quietly escaping to another world, where a man meets a dragon of little fire but much heart.

Yes. A story with dragons. What, did you think I'd write about the terribleness of addiction or neurotic personality? Ha! You're out of your freakin' minds, my friends. Every time things gets too much, I open up this one file, and I am pulled down a dark alley and up a set of stairs to a barren apartment where a man in threadbare clothes goes eye-to-reptilian-eye with a tiny green dragon. It's a Christmas story. And it makes me feel snuggly and good.

I rarely feel snuggly. Ask B. I am the anti-snuggler. Hugs? Nooooooo!

So that is all for today. You're a kind group to read. No need to offer sympathy, because I know many of you are dealing with either similar issues or your own demons, unrelated to addiction. Perhaps, for example, you have a teenager.

In that case, my sympathies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book pr0n; The Walking Dead final review

I may have promised porn yesterday. And I will not disappoint you, friends and bibliophiles. Here it is.



This is from Bookshelf Porn. That's right. Bookshelf. Porn. Yes. Yes. Yes. There are so many images at this Tumblr-hosted site, I really had a difficult time choosing. And I could've chosen just about any of them. Go. Drool. Plan on moving in, secretly, and bringing a backpack with sandwiches. Do not, under any circumstances, give me away should you happen upon my cheerfully-ensconced person.

*

So this is not the review I promised when I spoke of a collection of short stories and poetry that was "devastating, in a good way." But you still like me, right? YES YOU DO. BY THE POWER OF ALL THAT IS UNDEAD, I COMMAND YOU.

I've finished "The Walking Dead." That is to say, I've caught up on everything there is to read, and the next issue comes out next Wednesday, and I will be there in line with my three dollars, just like the rest of the suckers.

Should you have forgotten: The Walking Dead takes us on a journey with a group of ever-changing survivors (get attached to NO ONE), centered by former sheriff's deputy, Rick Grimes, as they navigate in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. I don't even want to tell you anymore. Instead, I'm going to say a few things about my reaction to this series.

I don't think I have actually jumped up -- literally, jumped up, out of my cozy seat on the couch -- and gone, "Oh my god!!! Holy shit!!!" and then immediately sat back down and read like a crazy person. And I did this several times over the course of reading this.

The last graphic novel I read was Chris Thompson's "Blankets," a coming-of-age, small-town story. I loved it.

THIS IS WAY BETTER.

I have, for the first time ever, ventued into a comic book shop. Wow! That is an entirely different world, right there! And now I have a club card with them!

I don't think I've spent this much time discussing a book since my days of Harry Potter infatuation. Seriously. I've logged hours and hours, sitting by my computer with whatever volume I'm talking about so I can reference things.

I love zombies, we all know this. This is not about zombies, I swear to you. It is subtly written, complicated, occasionally heartwrenching, highly intelligent, thrilling and an absolute joy.




This link is to the Compendium. It covers about half the issues currently out. From there, you will want to buy: books 5 and 6, volume 13, and then the individual trades. Current issue is 79, and 80 is next week. That will take you seamlessly from start to... obsession.

Word of warning: AMC is currently showing the six episodes they tout as season one. Except for episode four, which TWD author Robert Kirkman himself wrote, they fucking suck balls. Another thing I have spent hours doing, lamenting the shit they call TWD on AMC. Having said that, it seems that people who have never read the comic think the show is fantastic. While those of us who have read it uniformly dislike it. Greatly.

Sentence fragments. I like them.

ALSO ZOMBIES.

Get it. I admit that I nearly didn't. I was kind of like, "Yeah, sure, buddy..." But I got the first issue, all by its lonesome.

And went out directly afterwards and got the Compendium. And then tried to read the rest slowly, which didn't go as planned. Hooked. I'm hooked.

So will you. If you're not a comic book reader, as I am not, then I can assure you that you will still find this enjoyable. Look at me. Enjoying.

And also wanting more people to talk to about this. :)

There is a kick-ass bitch with a katana and two zombies on leashes. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Channeling my rage; thanks, Cee Lo Green

Thank god for the Grammys, bringing this to my attention.


Ain't that some shit. And yeah, you'll have this in your head all day.

Do you know how many people I think of when I'm singing along to this song? MANY. Like A. Yeah, you, A. If you're reading this blog, let me let you in on a little secret: big muscles and a pretty face ain't all that, you barely five-inched prick who didn't even know how to use it. There's more to fucking than the missionary position and OH YEAH girls get to have orgasms too, you fucking dick. And "kissing" does not mean to pry open the girl's mouth and ram your tongue down her mouth. Also, we've got multiple ways to remove back hair these days. I mean, a little fuzz, yeah, I can deal with that. But you're a fucking gorilla. No wonder you hated to remove your shirt. To think I was following your sorry ass around like a little puppy dog. And fucking my best friend at the end of it? Yeah. Fuck you. And fuck her too.

*

I feel like I have lost the ability to write. Like it's gone. Now, in fairness, I am just climbing out after a serious two month depression, which I am not going to complain about because, hey, that's my life sometimes and I deal with it. But I cannot write anything that doesn't sound like utter shit. And now I have made myself this crazy promise, or deal, or something, and I think I am setting myself up for the biggest failure ever. My heart starts to race when I think of it, and I know that when the day comes to fulfill this promise, I am going to crash and burn. And then what do I do? I'm not sure. Sometimes I think, maybe I should really hit rock bottom with this depression thing. Maybe I struggle to stay afloat, and maybe I should let myself sink all the way down down down instead. Maybe if I really become a fucking mess and ruin my entire life, then nothing else bad could ever happen that could be that bad, so the rest would be cake.

I don't know if that makes sense. It seems to make sense right now. I wish I could have a glass of wine right now, but aside from it being quarter after nine in the morning, I am worried about someone's alcoholism and so I feel like I can't even have a drink now. But maybe that fucks up the universe. Maybe if I drink something, she'll have one less. Maybe if I drink nothing when normally, I would have a glass of wine, she then must have extra. Which she don't need, trust me.

I'm going to listen to Cee Lo one more time, or ten, and see what he says. I think, being as he is one half of Gnarls Barkley, that he has got some serious wisdom yo. I think that. Ain't that some shit.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Blogs of interest; asuqi; wallpapers

Rachelle Gardner was asked what about a writer's blog turns her off, and does it affect whether or not she chooses to represent the person. Her brief answer and your turn at answering the question here:

Blogs we don't like

Since her post is about blogs written by writers and agents, my own comment stuck to that. But let me add that I've dropped bloggers that rec books when it becomes clear that they receive a lot of books for free and they review them all positively.

If I can't trust the reviewer, I no longer follow them. I sometimes dislike a book I've read, and I will say so here. If you've known me for a while, as many of you have, then you have a sense of my personality and tastes, and if we mesh in some way, then you can usually trust if I say, "Loved this book!" And you can save your hard-earned money when I say, "I fucking hated it."

*

What I love this morning: Asuqi's winning entry over at Lily's Friday Prediction! From the moment I read the title, I loved it. You'll have to scroll down through the comments to find it -- that's how Lily's contest plays -- but it's well worth it. And check out her blog. Asuqi is a brilliant writer.

I had something in the race, too. A little piece about Vegas. Will I play again this week? Who knows. But Lily's got three new words up, so wander over and see what you make of them.

*

I've got a new wallpaper from artist Ryan McGinness. Find all of his downloadable art here.

I absolutely love it. Best one I've had... ever? Maybe. Found via SuperPunch.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Women writers, rejoice!


Luna Station Quarterly is a genre zine which solely publishes women writers. For issue 004, they wanted drabbles. You'll find three of mine, including my favorite, Fox-boy. Romance a la RS.

Even more exciting? I bugged a few friends, and my work is alongside theirs! Find Mimi Gregor's signature darkness all out on display for you, and A.S.'s delicately troubling psychological beauties. AND OMG THERE IS A ROBOT I LOVE ROBOTS.

Ahem. Find it all HERE!

And this recent art, Winterplanet by *caw, received a well-deserved DD and also perfectly synthesizes everything great about LSQ, I think: an android crashes on a distant planet. Yours...?



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter Edition of MiCrow -- "Spaces"

The winter edition of MiCrow is now up. The theme for issue #4: "void." My piece, "Spaces," was skittering around in a coffee cup before I heard the submission call. Glad it found a home here.

MiCrow #4

What a gorgeous issue. And free to download.


Read it, or Bobby Chiu's zombie bunnies will eat your fucking brains. (statement not endorsed by MiCrow, Mr. Chiu, or anyone sane)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Up At Powder Burn: And I Know

Now up at Powder Burn Flash: And I Know

Thanks to Aldo, editor, for featuring me, and for saying re: my submission, "Well that was a nasty little surprise to wake up to." Hehe. I love noir.

*

If you've got a minute -- actually, a minute and fourteen seconds -- take a look at this animated film over on Deviant Art: The Great Jump by *boum. It earned a well-deserved DD, and the ending... wow. Just watch.

Since DA has begun allowing film as a category, these short little gems are cropping up more and more. Glad to see it. An amazing category of art.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book Review: "Bad Marie" by Marcy Demansky

All right, look. This won't be much of a book review. Honestly, this is probably the third in a string of books I hated. And I'm not going to bother delving deep into why I might dislike it. Let's keep it brief, okay?

Marie is thirty and fresh out of prison after serving a six-year stint for aiding and abetting. Her boyfriend robbed a bank and someone died, and then he picked up Marie and then they went to Mexico to hang out. The authorities found them, and she ends up in prison, and somehow, she doesn't mind this. So now she's out, doesn't talk to her mother, and her only choice is to see an old friend for help. Ellen is wealthy and needs a nanny. Marie moves in. She drinks whisky and eats chocolate and takes care of Caitlin, Ellen's 2 1/2 year old daughter. And she fancies Ellen's French husband, the idiotic Benoit Doniel. There's a scene in a bathtub, Marie is forced to leave, and then...

Marie makes an unending series of bad decisions which are barely decisions at all, as if she's just coasting along through events which are not her fault and which she doesn't understand. Pets die, movie stars are ridiculous, and there is a lot of macaroni and cheese. And then the book ends. See? Now you don't have to buy it.




As with Koja's "Under the Poppy," I will now reveal to you that this came rather highly recommended from a source I now find dubious, at best. Probably they -- and a lot of other people who apparently found book this "hilarious" and "irresistible" -- either have something in common with Marie or wish in some way that they could be like Marie. I am neither, and hence, I found nothing that reverberated with me. Possibly I am too fucking old to find this amusing. But I will say that the writing, and especially the voice, are wonderful. It was simply Marie herself that I wanted to kick and leave flattened on the curb, like a particularly sad creature from the book.

*

In good reading news, I started another book. It has short stories and poems by a single author, and having only read the first story, I am devastated. In the best way, I suppose. Review when finished, but the story alone ranks as one of the very best I have ever read.

However, there is definitely a current of sad loneliness, despair, and it appears I am in for more of that. I wish for another book like Wesley Stace's "Misfortune." After this next one, I am looking for some lighter reading, and something decidedly humorous. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

3ww: The Curtain



The Curtain Rises

The applause of ten, a hundred, never seemed enough, even though he told himself he was only pandering to the basest instincts of the human animal. Still, he found himself, night after night, behind the heavy red curtain, listening to them shuffle in. Trying, when those curtains opened, to see through the stagelights, to feel their number out there, in the creaking, worn velvet seats. A spiritual head count, ending when he darted through the curtains once more, bowing to encores, his heart sinking even as he was awash in their purported admiration.

But now, tonight, he is stopped in the alley by a man in a black cloak, black top hat, shoes shining like puddles in the street after a four a.m. rain.

"Sir, if you would oblige me--"

"I don't do that anymore!" he snarls, feeling surreptitiously for the knife in his pocket.

"Ah, no," says the man. "I did not mean... It's just that I missed the performance, and I know it is too much to ask, but even a song -- no, a note. Just one. That's all I ask. If you wouldn't mind."

He cannot see the man's face. He looks around the alley. They are alone.

A soft, warbling note. It rises, clear as a distant bell, and then the alley is filled with it, this single note, the bricks sending it back to two men standing in their shadows.

When he stops, there is silence.

And then, applause. A slow hand-clap. And finally, the man removes his top hat.

"Sir, you do me the greatest honor," he says, voice trembling, husky.

The singer, player, actor, he advances. Pauses.

"No, it is you." He swallows, tries to keep, for once, the stage out of his voice, his mannerisms. Still in his performance garb, he is, for once, uncostumed. "You who do me the honor. Father."

A carriage arrives at the end of the alley. Carefully, awkwardly, the two men make their way to it. Inside, a silver flash of brandy, padded seats, and a short ride across town. And in the alley, a cat continues hunting, its coat sleek and dark.

*

Just a little something. I am maudlin and overly dramatic today. :) Thank you again to ThomG and the whole Three Word Wednesday community! The best promp comm on the web. Much love.

As always, comments, including con-crit, welcome.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Review: "Under the Poppy" by Kathe Koja


Gorgeous cover art for Kathe Koja's "Under the Poppy," isn't it? When I first read a review of this work, I found out that Koja lives about 20-30 minutes from me. Then I saw the cover and was sold.

Or it might have been the references to brothels, sex puppets, homoeroticism, and Brussels. Whoo! That sounds pretty much like an RS homerun, wouldn't you think?

Or not.

Poppy is, in some ways, historical fic: Belgium in the 1870s, war coming, and besides a fair amount of political intrigue, there's a lot to do with social standing and the relative importance (or non) of women, gays, those with money, those with not. It takes off with a barn-burner of a scene: up in one of the private rooms at Under the Poppy, a rather specialized brothel, poor Pearl is being accosted by two men. Or is she? Manager Rupert Bok answers her screams, and all find out that Pearl's patron isn't who he seems.

It seems the prodigal son has returned. Or brother, or long-lost lover, depending on one's perspective. Now, against the backdrop of imminent war and a financial crisis, the Poppy is, essentially, under siege. And so, too, are the hearts of our three main characters: Decca and brother, Istvan, and their mutual friend and mutual love interest, Rupert.

And now things get messy, and unfortunately, not only in the plot.

I wanted to like this book. I wanted to love it. But at every turn, I found myself sighing with aggravation. Let me return to the inital review that caught my attention: Koja has written a fair number of books, and the reviewer seems to put the reason that she isn't a household name yet squarely in the territory of "subjects too strange and out-there for the average reader."

I hold the reason is something different entirely.

Yes, I'm aware that many people don't want to read a book whose main love interests are two men, nor do they want to read about puppets that perform sex acts on stage. But neither of those things is portrayed graphically, if at all. (a minor quibble from me, and undeserved, but nonetheless: WHERE was the sex? A shirt is unbuttoned and then... fade to black. Harrumph. Harrumph, I say!)

The problem, I believe, lies in Koja's writing itself. The author is a staunch supporter of the emdash, the run-on sentence, and most of all, the beloved head-hopping. While Cory Doctorow calls her writing "poetic," I call it a bleedin' mess. I had to stop quite often to figure out just who said what. And what is this? Same paragraph, different scene altogether? If the author was trying for an omniscient pov, I believe she failed. The voice never catches, and leaves one aggravated.

As, in fact, do her characters. While Decca made my heart ache, the two supposed stars of this show, Istvan and Rupert, did nothing. They both remained as insubstantial as the gauze on a performing whore's tits. Istvan, our master puppeteer and brilliant strategist, a man with a shady past and a flair for the dramatic, should have leapt off the page. And Rupert, supposedly a magnet for men and women alike, a man who does not understand his own massive sexual attraction -- er, I didn't understand it, either. And trust me, that man should've been right up my alley.

Add in an unrelentingly grim story, some obvious twists, and the regulation "and this is how they all lived afterwards" ending, and you've got an unsatisfying read.

The editor in me wanted desperately to clean this story up. It's already complicated enough, with characters designed to put on a good show; if Koja had stepped back and let the story tell itself, they would've been the star. Instead, I felt as if she was trying to be impressive. As if her true goal was to say: Look at me! Look at what a writer I am!

Now. I loves me some experimental literature. But it doesn't always work -- for me. And so I end this review on this note: Bryan Russell wrote an intriguing blog, You Hate Me and I'm Okay With That, which talks about writers being crushed when a reader disses their work. He uses JK Rowling as an example: despite selling 900 billion books, some people despise her work. About his own writing, he says:

not everyone will like my writing. It doesn't really matter how good I become, there will always be people who won't connect with it.

He goes on to talk about this subject, and I bring it up because, while Koja isn't a household name, people do love her books. For me, though, there was no connection at all.

But if you think, despite this review, that this book is intriguing, and you'd like to give it a read, let me know. I was going to put it into the box for the used book store, but it occurs to me that someone might love this book. If you think you're that person -- and you live in the US -- let me know. I'll be happy to mail it out to you.





Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lego Zombie Apocalypse; Crepes at Midnight

If the zombie apocalypse ever occurs while we are all Legos:

Holy fuck my feet are stuck to the ground!

There is something called Zombie Con? And I must now go to it? For rlz? YES.

Also, this is to get you ready for tonight's fourth episode of The Walking Dead. Of special interest: Kirkman wrote this episode. If I had a goatee, right now I would be stroking it as I contemplate this information. Also, I might be in a traveling circus.

*

Last night, B and I tried a new place for dinner, What Crepe? in Royal Oak. Crepey goodness. Not creepy -- crepey! Before I review, we got a certificate for $40 for only $10 on Living Social. Apparently, 700 other people did as well. No, really. They sold over 700 of them in 24 hrs.

So we took our certificate and got there at quarter to six, which is very nearly early bird time, but it was a good thing in this case, because by 7, when we were leaving, the place was packed and had a line waiting. Of course, I don't think they've got more than ten tables, and only a couple of them seat more than two, so it would be easy to fill the place up.

The restaurant is tiny, cozy, and filled with dark colors, chandeliers, comfy chairs, and a few antiques. The service was pefectly adequate and friendly enough. She did forget our appetizer, but that didn't matter: the dinner crepes are fairly large, and we barely had enough room after to split a dessert crepe. I had a glass of Wende chardonnary that was absolutely wonderful, although I would caution the drinkers among us that though they advertise a full bar, they don't have the most popular beers and wines. No Bud on this menu, no Sutter Home zine, and no, oddly, Bailey's for my coffee after dinner. Having said that, they're infamous for dazzling, delicious martinis, which I'll try next time around.

The crepes were slightly rubbery in spots, but considering how difficult it is to make them, I'll let it go. Besides that, the fillings are divine. B got the Mushroom Madness, with shiitake, crimini and white mushrooms, spinach, gruyere and a truffle zip sauce. I got the smoked salmon, with a dijon sour cream on top, avocados, capers, onions, and diced tomatoes. Fully enjoyed my crepe; the salmon itself was wonderful. Dessert was a crepe with Nutella on the bottom, just enough, topped with strawberries, bananas, and blueberries, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Nummy. And I had a coffee with hazelnut liqueur instead of the Bailey's.

Crepes don't run more than $9, and you can create your own. They offer a coffee press, martinis, and totally vegan options. If you are vegetarian/vegan, this is an awesome place to go. Open until midnight some nights, and we really want to go back on a Friday night: Friday's, dinner is by candlelight, and they show a black and white movie at 7:45. And on Wednesdays, it's $20 pp for unlimited wine and tapas-style sweet and savory crepes. Saturday nights is live music; last night was jazz musician Wendell Harrison.

We used our certificate and owed $5 more. What a bargain. And better yet, it did what they hoped: we'll be back. In fact, we can't wait.

Reviews on Yelp are overall good, though some people who went when What Crepe? first opened complained of poor service and some bugs in the system. That, people, is why you don't go to a restaurant when it first opens. Sheesh. Also, some guy complained that they have a lot of vegan/vegetarian options, and he thinks that's ridiculous and any place that caters to such idiots should be docked stars. Well. That might take the cake for most ignorant thing I've heard in a while.

We absolutely loved it. Truly an experience.

*

That's it, people. Zombies and crepes. Think about that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Online zines ranked; My pipeline to the universe is porn

Short, Fast and Deadly editor Joseph Quintela tweets about Flavor Wire's list of the ten best online lit zines. S,F, a D didn't make it, but I agree: if there were a top twenty, JQ, it'd be there. Def.

I recognized half of the ten -- Pank, kill author, DecomP, anyone? -- but now have a few more to check out. Not sure about number one. Are its contributors really Matt Damon, Ben Whofleck, and Sarah Silverman? I... huh. Gotta think about that before clicking. Don't think I'm anything less than a media junkie and total TMZ follower, but this disturbs me. Could be that I've got this thing about circles in my world overlapping. All circles stay separate! There shall be no mixing!

Along with the questionable list at top, I found a blog by Tom Kepler, writer of flash fic, reviewer of online zines, and... instructor of transcendental meditation? For the moment, I'm ignoring that last part. I dig meditation; the whole world could benefit from a bit of that every day. But a blog of "consciousness" by an instructor of TM makes me slightly wary. Everybody and their brother has got a pipeline to the next dimension, a way to open your mind to the universal wavelength. For a fee. So, yeah, I'm wary. But since the blog isn't about that, but is actually totally interesting and very informative and well-written, I'm recc'ing it!

And besides, he's got a writerly, reviewerly blog with a side of peace-and-love, and I've got a writerly, reviewerly blog with a side of cocks!




This was on AOM. He has no idea what it's made of or who did it, but I'd say it looks like a very good Sculpey creation to me. Could actually be bronze and gold, but I doubt it.

It is definitely, however, a cock yin-yang. And that makes me happy. Something else that made me happy: AOM did a whole self-love series on Sunday. For once, I don't care that the guys are hot underwear models and not real men I'd meet on the street. Is there anything hotter than men masturbating? Not much.

For the people who are here because Joseph Quintela said my chapbook was a "stunning debut" and some other very nice things (that made me cry -- again!), or for the folks who are here because my review of "The Honey Month" has been linked somewhere literary, the above must be a shock. Let's end this, then, on a piece of micro-flash that didn't make it into "Letters":

Light Change
He beats off to beat the light. The long red at St. Mary’s and William is his favorite. Most days, it’s an exercise in frustration. He imagines the lights winking at him -- yellow a sly challenge, red a lone hard stare, an alien eye of denial. He tenses through the seconds, floors it on green, eager to meet his next conquest.
He rarely visits his mother. She lives a long, light-deficient stretch of road away.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: "The Honey Month" by Amal El-Mohtar

The premise of "The Honey Month" is deceptively simple: the author received twenty-eight imps of different honeys, and for each day of February, she sampled one. Each "chapter" is a day, with a description of the color, scent and taste of the honey, accompanied by a poem or story. Her descriptions are worth reading in themselves, but it is the stories that are at once strangely engaging and sometimes pure magic.


El-Mohtar is probably best known for her spec fic poetry, which abounds here, and her style translated into short stories becomes like some of the honeys: crystallized, complex sweetness. Something to be savored:


"... the time for coaxing sweetness from the world: sap from trees, scent from flowers. It needs to be tapped, to be gently drawn from its winter bed like a child on a chilly morning, sand in its lashes, dreams in the eye. It does not yet know itself to be sweetness; it is a snowdrop, not a rose." -- Day Three, Early Spring Honey, Sag Harbor, NY


The sweet lightness of many of her tales is sometimes underscored by a flash of darkness, but it melts on the tongue and is gone. She rises highest, in my opinion, when that darkness is given free rein. Day Eighteen, Manuka Honey: crows and medicinal-tasting honey, a story of a small child and a nighttime visit that gave me shivers. Day Twenty-Seven, Leatherwood Honey: an intriguing and deliciously dark take on what it means to give, to take, to bow one's head.

Although the volume is slim, I wouldn't recommend reading this all at once. Much like her tiny vials of honey, the days should be sipped, enjoyed. There are countless elegant turns of phrase, and descriptions apt and unusual. Accompanied by the beautiful artwork of Oliver Hunter, and with a gorgeous cover to boot, this is a book to be treasured. And best of all, this is not something you'll find on the shelves of Borders or other major chains. Published by Papaveria Press, this book is a rare gem, and a look at what major publishers are passing up (though I think El-Mohtar has quite the writerly career ahead of her).





Note: Amal El-Mohtar co-edits the online poetry zine Goblin Fruit, along with Jessica Paige Wick. Published quarterly, GF hosts some amazing spec fic poetry.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Alice Coltrane; two micro-flash




Alice Coltrane. Wife of John Coltrane. Pianist, organist, and jazz harpist. Via Madame Lamb, who asks you to seep into this mystical jazz. This is reckoning.

Two micro-flash written recently. It's good to have written something, let me tell you.


Out Of Tune

The percussion between my legs belonged in my heart, but no matter how he played it, I couldn't match up, note for note, moan for moan. Instead I laid on my sister's sofa and thought of her admonishing me, all those years ago, not to wear too much make-up. I'd look like a slut. And here I was, in four coats of mascara and enough Bonne Bell lipgloss to reflect the moon back at itself, a musician I'd just met at the bar atop me, crooning off-key in my ear. At least it sounded off-key. Everything did these days.


*originally written for Lily Childs's Friday Prediction. Each Friday, Lily gives you three words. You use them in a drabble, no more than 100 words, written in the comment box. The following Thursday, Lily picks a winner. I must say that the collection for this week's was outrageously strong. Superb collection, and it's well worth going over to see what everyone else wrote. Lily's blog here.


* * *


Box

Six crayons left in the box. One of them says "Halloween," but it's brown. Another says, "Killer," but it's pink. One says "Fuzzy Chick," but it's green. I use them anyway, drawing on the back of the bathroom door until it's covered with a story about people in spaceships. When Shane sees, he takes away my crayons, and he yells. He tells me this is why I'm in here. Because I can't treat anything nice. But I'm quiet, and when I'm curled up in the bathtub later, Barbara comes in and puts the crayons in with me. She puts a finger over her lips. She kisses my forehead, and my temple, and my ear. She leaves, and the door locks, softly.

I eat the crayons one by one, so Shane can't take them away again. The last one is "Mink," and it's purple, and it tastes like the people in the spaceships.



*originally written for Killer Chicks for their Halloween contest. Three words, drabble must be under 150 words and written in the comment box, much like Lily's contest. Killer Chicks' blog here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Walking Dead -- reviews

Reviews, plural. Both graphic novel (through vol. 8) and the first two episodes of the new tv show, currently airing at 10 pm Sunday nights on AMC. Show's website here.

When I was a little RS, my mother would pick up nearly anything readable for me at yard sales. Among the things she picked up were the occasional horror comic -- I didn't really care for Batman and Superman and Hulk. But I did kinda like that Cryptkeeper...

Still, comics were never my thing. Every writer or voracious reader has a story like this, and mine goes: I read "Jane Eyre" for the first time (of many, many, many) at age 12. So, yeah, I like a lot of words. I like description. I like sinking my teeth into a novel.

And I love zombies.




So when Christopher Grant, editor over at A Twist of Noir, emailed to say, "I heard you like zombies. Ever heard of this?" I was skeptical but intrigued. He said, "You should probably just buy the Compendium, which is the first eight volumes." I said, "Yeah... think I'll just buy the first volume for ten bucks and see where it goes from there."

Two weeks later, I've devoured the Compendium, watched the first two episodes of the tv show, and I'm pretty much sending him obsessive emails about this. I called him a pusher. I'm not far off. This thing? It's like a drug.

You've heard this story before, or have you? Zombies rise up for unknown reasons, plague mankind, and now civilization is a fond memory and scrounging for food and thunking the heads off the undead is the rule of the day. There aren't many survivors.

Most movies and stories take you from day one, the outbreak, and lead you through to either the characters' deaths or the point where they realize this is a new world. The camera does a long, panning shot of a horizon, complete with drifting black smoke and crows. The end.

Not Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead." Here is where we start. Because this isn't about zombies. Zombies are, at their best and when used by a skilled writer, merely a metaphor. A vehicle. And Kirkman's use of them is a masterpiece. This is about what happens to people in extreme circumstances. Every page, you are confronted with a decision: what would you do? That's what he excels at.

The characters are presented with such subtly; Kirkman never panders to his audience. He expects you to be intelligent grown-ups here. He expects you can handle this, and maybe you can. I've had my moments of nearly not-handling it, but it's not his fault. He's imagined the possibilities in depth, and it all strikes home with truth and realism. Not everyone's a hero.

The Compendium is the first eight volumes. Volumes 9-12 are currently out and will be in my hot little hands soon, and volume 13 arrives in due course. In the first eight volumes, you'll follow (former, I suppose) sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes as he confronts this new world, fights to protect his family and to create a new, bearable existence, and sees a lot of shit go down. Be warned: there are some graphic moments in this graphic novel, and this ain't for kids. And there are a lot of things which just made me really uncomfortable.

But it's a great ride, and I look forward to finding out what happens next. This from the girl who's never really liked comics.




As for the tv show, weeeelllll.... I thought episode one (currently free on AMC's website) was great. I knew up-front that the show's producers had said they wouldn't be sticking to the book exactly, that they would be diverging in spots. And oddly, I, like most of this fandom, it seems, was very open to that. It was kind of exciting. And the changes to the initial story were small but meaningful, and whether I liked them or not, I was perfectly content with them.

And then I watched episode two.

I'm still grumbling.

Diverge? Okay, I'm not going to get started on a rant. I'll be giving this some time to play out, and I'm not giving up on it right now. But I ain't happy. On the plus side, this show looks great, the acting is fine, and it's been wicked cool to see iconic scenes from the book portrayed on the screen. It's already got an enormous fan base, and as Christopher told me, he'll be watching the show as an "alternate universe" from now on. That's good advice, and I'll get on board with that and see if it doesn't help my view.

That's it. Oh, one more thing: you get the Compendium and you'll be hooked. And when that happens, drop me a line, okay? I love dissecting this. It's a very immersive, rich experience, and one that begs to be shared.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

3ww: The White Bear



I haven't done Three Word Wednesday in a few weeks. Today's words called me back.

*

The White Bear

The bear's belly was slit open, a gaping, steaming hole through which I could see its treasure: two cubs, one brown, one white. I fell to my knees, sword abandoned by my side. Blood soaked the pine needles. My grief was immediate, for I remembered the dream of only last week: the white bear, rising up over me, its roar waking me and leaving me trembling amongst my furs in the dark.

And now I had slain it before it had ever grown to test me. I could never be tested now. I would never be a man.

"I did not know, I didn't know," I cried, pulling the white cub from its mother's belly. Crimson fur, closed eyes: I held the death of my dream.

But from within, a whimper. The brown cub lived! I rubbed the sleeve of my parka over it, and it opened tiny jaws and mewled like a kitten. Standing, I tucked the thing next to my own skin and I ran with it, sword on my back. My village was three miles away. I ran and ran.

From high in the branches of the cedars, an owl watched. And with a blink of yellow eyes, a slow, sleepy gesture, it called the moon, who called to a white bear far away on a mountaintop, muzzle deep in a caribou.

The bear stopped eating. And turning on huge paws, it began its descent. Down the mountainside.

To find its daughter.

*

Thanks to ThomG and the 3WW community. I appreciate you reading and your feedback.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Santa Gryff; Disney RSB--pic heavy post!



Santa Gryff would like to remind everyone that there are 47 days until Christmas.


He says if you want to stuff his stocking, he likes Pounce, and not those other cat treats. Specifically, not kitty Greenies and none of those icky Taste Temptations. Also, he says that if any ladies out there would like Santa Gryff to sit on their lap, he is very warm and very purr-y. Yes, he's got claws and he uses them, but love hurts.

*

Pics from my trip (and wow are they totally random):


Best shot I could get of Billy Ocean performing at the open theatre in Epcot's World Showcase, where they present different perfomers every few nights for Eat To The Beat during the Food and Wine Festival. Okay, I could've got up closer, but I was all a-giggle and a-wiggle. First off, Billy Ocean is an amazing performer, and he sounds exactly like he did in the 80s. Unbelievable. He was dressed impeccably, and he's got great white dreads. He really put on a great show, sang all his hits, and he would lean down to take roses from the ladies in the front. He would even go down the steps from time to time and sing to a lucky lady and kiss her on the cheek! I thoroughly enjoyed this show. Wanna feel old? Yesterday, while listening to America's Top 40 Countdown from 1984 (via Sirius channel 8), "Suddenly" was the #3 hit.

NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FOUR. I am so old.

Upcoming, they had Boyz II Men. Yes, I am sad I missed them. "And we've come! To the end of the road... though I can't let go..." *sigh*



Cucumber margarita had at the Tequila Cave in Mexico's pavilion. I highly recommend this place and this margarita, and I overheard quite a few people saying that this is the best bar in Disney. Totally. Only tequila (over 300) and margaritas, but seriously, do you need more than that? Next time, I'm having the passion flower.


Hollywood Tower of Terror. My favorite ride. Remember not to do your seat belt tight -- keep it loose, so when you drop, you'll lift off the seat a couple of inches. *grin*


Me and Arnold. Planet Hollywood shop. They had a gremlin and various movie props, but I loves me some Terminator.



Every day, Jiuliana who cleaned our room made us new towel animals. Not actually sure what the two little ones are here, but the middle is probably a basket of flowers. With eyes.


Me and B on the boat over to Wilderness Lodge for dinner at Artist's Point. Beautiful evening, great ride, the Lodge is stunning, and dinner was OMG so expensive and... maybe not worth it. B disagrees entirely. I just think that it was far, far over-priced for what you got. A menu with emphasis on fresh game and fresh, seasonal ingredients is wonderful, but the creativity was seriously lacking and I was not in any way wow'd by my choices. They were competent and delicious, but did not reach the next level, if you know what I mean. Still, it's the highest rated (per reviews) of any signature dining restaurant at Disney, and the service was fabulous. Could've been slightly warmer, and the atmosphere could've been a bit... more. It was sort of blah. Meh. Everyone's a critic, right? If you're interested, we shared smoky portobello soup and then I had cedar planked salmon with white truffle chips, and B had a buffalo steak cooked r/mr. We shared a berry cobbler for dessert.



Waiting to go into the Toy Story ride/competition. Much like Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, you sit two to a car and shoot at things. But we both preferred the Space Ranger Spin over this one. Personal preference, I guess, but I didn't like to have to keep pulling the string to fire. I'm a button masher. Either way, B racked up the points, and I sucked. :)


Vampire bat in its enclosure in Animal Kingdom's walk-through "forest" in the Asian section. My favorite part of AK is all the animal stuff: the safari, the two walk-throughs, and Rafiki's Conservation Station. I could really just do those things all day, over and over. I wish they had more benches, as I just love to sit and watch the animals. Favorite: gorilla. Second fave: tiger/vampire bats. Couldn't decide.


Expedition Everest, roller coaster in AK and my favorite ride in that park, and my second favorite overall. Goes backwards, and the theming is just fun. Also, they have a single rider line and I will totally use that over and over, riding Everest four or five times in a row before I get tired, while people are still waiting for their first ride. The only benefit of having a partner who doesn't ride the coasters.



Some decorations inside Magic Kingdom. Very nice overall, but they do so much more for Christmas.


Pool at our hotel. They had a waterslide. We loved it. Also loved the nachos and the pool bar. We made nachos and frozen rum runners our afternoon treat.

That's it! We've been to Disney a few times before, so we didn't take a ton of pics this time. Highlights of the trip, for me: Billy Ocean, the Thunderbirds doing a fly-over at Magic Kingdom to salute our troops, finding a new little part of Disney that we hadn't seen before, dinner at the Irish pub in Downtown Disney called Raglan Road, and indulging in things I normally don't, such as having nachos four times in a week, a rum runner every day, and hot fudge sundae in a waffle bowl several times. Also, they upgraded us from a regular room to a suite -- for free! -- and that turned out to be wonderful. Two full bathrooms, now that is a luxury. :)

Back to writing for me, and to my normal job. Happy Monday, everyone!