Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Odd Composition; Where are the cupcakes? For real, yo

I'm back, and some lovely places have run two of my pieces:

Composure -- in which I revisit an old theme but enter by a different door. For me. Do you know what I'm talking about? Maybe not.

Oddity -- in which I revisit the Brooklyn Fair, circa 1985. Teri will know. This is part of Erin Cole's Thirteen Days of Horror. Which I will catch up on as soon as I can.

Barely awake here, and have lots to do, so please forgive my zombieness. Be back tomorrow with delightful cupcakes of wisdom and Twizzlers of intelligent wittery, or witful red licorice smarts.

blerrrggghhh.....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

See you next week!

I'm off to the Land of the Mouse for the next week. In the meantime, look for me up at some point over at sleep.snort.fuck, and tomorrow, Sunday, the 24th, at Erin Cole's Thirteen Days of Horror.


And remember, my chapbook is up and available at Deadly Chaps, where you can read online for free or buy a copy to have for your very own.

Thank you to everyone who supports me. You guys rock. It's just an absolute thrill to have so many people rooting for me, and I'll be sure to raise a glass to all of you this week.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a margarita and a chile relleno and finish packing. ;)

Friday, October 22, 2010

In Which I Am Self-Indulgent and OMG SO EXCITED


Hi. And welcome to my moment of squee. :-)

"Letters" is up and available! I'm going to try and be coherent here, but that is unlikely. However, please bear with me.

Early this past spring, after submitting some pieces to Short, Fast, and Deadly, I received the best rejection evah. Joseph Quintela, editor, said that he didn't want these. He wanted thirty of them. Could I oblige?

I had no idea, but I said yes anyway.

Worked all summer crafting a whole helluva lot more than 30. And with the help of my eagle-eyed friend, Joanne Sheppard, I managed to get just over 50 in. JQ took the best thirty, Deena Acquafredda designed a killer cover, and now, it's out. Letters From The Egg Carton. Please pop over when you get a chance and check out the free reading. And if you can, please buy a copy! They are a beautiful and wondrous thing to behold.

SO FREAKIN' EXCITED.

A huge thank you to Joseph, who is an extraordinarily talented writer himself, a brilliant editor, and unsurpassingly professional. And enormous thanks to Joanne, who had to endure my wibbling. "I can't get these ones to wooooork! Help!" A fabulous writer herself, she's got a gift when it comes to tweaking a piece to make it pop. And her friendship and support has meant very much to this over-sensitive and highly-excitable writer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

5 Things, mostly scary

1. My friend Joanne sent me a kit so I could make my own monster. Because previous attempts using various household objects and the neighbor's little brat turned out badly. The results of the monster kit, however, seem to point to the fact that I am incapable of creating a monster, unless it is literary and atrocious. Which happens a lot. Srsly. Here is my Joanne's monster:




Why, yes, that is electrical tape. Also notice that only one eye is lit up. Once, for a second, I had both eyes lit up. Then neither. Now, one works intermittently. I shall call her Monster Bunny. There was an attempt at using pipe cleaners for arms, but there was a superglue accident, and... I say no more.

2. Rugosa_Rosa won a copy of my chapbook! Here is Bob picking out the name:



Also, Bob said, "Congratulations, lady."

3. Via NewPages, How To Pet A Kitty. I have laughed and laughed. So, so true.

4. Author Erin Cole is hosting her annual 13 Days of Horror!


A short horror story every day. Three days so far. Haven't read today's, but the first two? Gruesome and spectacular! Whoooo! Loved them! Smart and different and YES, creepy! Scary! I love it! And you should read every day's story. Ahem.

5. That is all. Have a creepy day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

3ww: West of the Sun or East

Hello, Three Word Wednesday! I swear I'm going to be brief this week.


West of the Sun or East
Immense, shimmering disks hung over the southern desert. Scorpion and rattlesnake made warnings, rabbit ran for his life. Roadrunner paused, head cocked.

"Hey," he called to the inhabitants of the disks. "You're too late. They made themselves extinct. There's nobody here to abduct anymore."

The disks wavered, mumbling to themselves like low thunder in the clouds. Finally, one belched, a roar that shook the cacti and blew the roadrunner back ten yards across crumbling asphalt. When all had gathered their wits again, they saw on a bed of tumbleweeds a small child, tucked like a baby bird into itself. The disks were gone, sunshine pouring onto the land again. The animals stared.

"He's gonna bake," said roadrunner.

"So?" hissed rattlesnake.

The child turned and drifted among the tumbleweeds, opening gray eyes. It had been three hundred years since the desert had been looked upon by human eyes. It sighed and looked back. The child's soft feet touched earth. It trembled.

The effect was not lost on the citizens of the desert. They crept forward, cautious.

Except for scorpion, who marched up to the child. "Well, I suppose I shall have to feed him then."

"No!" yipped coyote, springing forward. "Me! Me!"

And they gathered around the little desert prince, hope whispering in their hearts: Perhaps this time, it would be different.

*

Thank you for reading, and your comments are always much appreciated. Thanks to ThomG, who does a stellar job of running the community.

And now, a little self-promotion, but only because, to me, it's kinda big: my first chapbook, "Letters From the Egg Carton," drops this week. If you'd like to win a copy, see this post.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Win a chapbook from me; Win Amazon Gift cards from Killer Chicks; And then a story

This week, "Letters From the Egg Carton" drops. Many thanks to editor Joseph Quintela for his hard work and razor-sharp insight, and also to photographer Deena Acquafredda for her cover shot. I'm the last chapbook out this year from Deadly Chaps, and there will be a whole new line-up in 2011.

You can buy it shortly, but perhaps you'd like to win a free copy? All you've got to do is leave a comment to this post. Comments are screened and not visible, and I'll be putting names in a hat for Bob to pick. If you've got an LJ, it'll be the same thing over there. Make sure you leave an email, so I can contact you and ask where you'd like it sent. I'll ship anywhere. Starts today, ends Wednesday night, Oct. 20th at 8 pm, EST.

*

More free stuff: Last week, Killer Chicks interviewed Le R. I loved their blog so much, I followed. And am I glad I did. This week, they're having their first contest, and they're giving away Amazon gift cards. This translates to me as: FREE BOOKS OMG OMG OMG I COULD GET FREE BOOKS!!!! So, yeah, I entered. :) And you can too! Find out about it HERE. Scan the comments if you want to read my entry.

I entered that piece because my first one was too long -- I've submitted it somewhere else; we'll see how that goes. But look! I have a third attempt! Because I like things done in threes!

Fresh Meat

We’re in the back of the meat department, but there’s no meat. It’s just all stainless steel and white tile. Keri says the meat is in the walk-in. This is just where they prepare it. I tell her I want to see it, all that meat stacked up, but she hops up on one of the tables and lights a cigarette and says maybe later. It’s cold, and pretty soon, I’m ready to leave. Plus, the meat department is not as cool as I thought I would be.


“Let’s go. I’m freezing.”

“Wait,” she says. She pats the table. “Don’t you want to…?”

Yeah, I want to. I’ve been trying to get with this chick since March. But when I’ve got my pants dropped, the lights turn off. I turn around and see someone by the door. He’s holding a knife or a machete or something. I fall over, nearly pissing myself, and Keri laughs.

“Happy Halloween.” It’s Brian, the manager. Now they’re both laughing.

“I could kill you both,” I mumble on my way out.

I’m getting a new job. And going vegetarian.

*

That's it. Stay tuned for further developments. And also: comment! But remember, saying nice things about Bob will not sway him. He's completely impartial.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Strange rambling; Wishing we were haunted; Book review: Sjon's "The Blue Fox"

B is reading the obituaries to see if someone I care about but who I am too scared to call and find out about has died. If you don't know me, or maybe you think you do but I'm pretty sure you don't, this says much about me.

*

We drove two hours yesterday to have lunch at an Applebee's. The conversation, surprisingly, did not sink to the level of, "They don't have this at my Applebees's! Do they have this at yours?" It was fun and slightly odd, in the way things can sometimes be when you're having lunch with a parent you don't see but once or twice every year or every other year, and now you're grown up and both parties are struggling with this new reality and lunch at Applebee's is maybe not the place to be doing it. But I was riding the roller coaster and had a beer and realized my dad drinks beer at the same slow rate I do, and that B is a very wonderful partner and I'm grateful for mostly everything.

And then my dad, after having been in a car for a solid week with his girlfriend, pawned her off on us for a couple of hours because he needed a nap. Most surprisingly of all, it was fine. We went to a local antique market that was in what used to be a very small town's surprisingly enormous opera hall. There were balconies. At this point, I stopped being surprised by things.

Wapokeneta. I think they had their sights set on becoming a regional showplace, a highlight of Ohio. Now I'm pretty sure that meth labs are the order of the day, and it had that typical midwest small-town derelict feel. Like everybody got all excited in 1952 and then in 1975 started leaving in droves. I like those places. I'm starting to feel at home on those sorts of Main Streets. Maybe if their ghosts inhabit my bones, I'll understand.

I bought two things, one a book about rural peoples of the Ozarks, written and photographed in the early 70s. The man narrating lost his eye (I didn't go back a page to find out how) and walked half a mile with it in his hand, turning up on his wife's doorstep and settin' down with it. Seemed rather composed about it. I am closing one eye at a time right now. I don't think it would make much difference, but the pain part of it might be something I'd be making a fuss about. The book cost a dollar.

Old postcards, if they've got writing on them, and old pictures are my favorite things. I didn't find any old postcards that I particularly wanted. I like love letters these days. Most postcards read like this: "Weather fine. Been sunny and warm. Having a good time. Miss you!" Many of the old ones are addressed to Dear Brother or Dear Sister or Dear Mom and Dad.

And then I found this picture:



I have tried, but I can't get a better scan. It is labeled on the back "Edna Joan Ethel." I am guessing that Edna is the oldest. This picture does not do justice to her pure evilness. I am looking at her now, and she looks like she will be strangling baby Joan as soon as this shot is taken. Or maybe with her hidden hand, she is pulling up Ethel's underwear. I do not know. All I know is I woke up last night, convinced that I had brought Edna's ghost home with us, and she was hanging on a wall downstairs, formulating evilness in a gray, damp cloud. I don't know what I was dreaming before I woke up; I just woke straight up and knew that Edna was haunting us now.

In the light of day, it appears we are still unhaunted. Bright sunlight, coffee and bagels will generally do that.

*

I just finished Sjon's "The Blue Fox," which is partly a mystery, partly an Icelandic mystical fable. It is divided into parts; pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each part.

The prose is stark, the atmosphere strange, and the effectiveness of this slight novel in putting you under the blanket of an Icelandic winter is astounding. The way we come to know about characters in so few words is a marvel. It felt like a magical book, in a way that few books or stories are able to accomplish. I admire Sjon's ability to craft a story -- in the end, I felt as if I was holding in my hands the literary equivalent of Abba's package, now unwrapped and sitting before me. When I re-read this, as I'll surely do, I'll have a cup of Fridrik's favored Darjeeling.




I had no idea what this story was about when I started reading. Another gift from Joanne, I merely trusted in her opinion and began reading. I'm rather glad I did. But if you'd like more info on the story, or you just want to read her review, it is here. She's got a lot of book reviews, and her taste is nothing less than exemplary.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Two Book Reviews: "Misfortune" by Wesley Stace; "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman

I'm behind on book reviews, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading. In fact, I've been reading a lot lately. I'm midway through Sjon's "The Blue Fox," and then, per Christopher Grant's suggestion, I'll be starting Book One of the "The Walking Dead," just in time for the Halloween movie (series? I am woefully ignorant) on AMC.

In the last few weeks, I've read Wesley Stace's "Misfortune" and Neil Gaiman's "American Gods." Let's start with "Misfortune."

It was dark and rainy night. I was grumpy. Nothing was holding my attention. I picked up and attempted to read three different books. Then I picked up "Misfortune," a gift from friend and STELLAR book reviewer, Joanne. You can read her review of "Misfortune" here.

Hooked. Beyond hooked. Instantly and without reservation. Stace writes with an intelligent, bemused, singular voice, and takes us through events that I must, to be fair, call occasionally a stretch of the imagination. But to Stace's credit, I not only went along with events, but loved every moment of the ride. It's rare to feel such affection for a protagonist, but I did. And for Rose Old's entire family, especially Geoffrey Loveall, a daft bit of business who adopts Rose after finding the baby boy on a dump heap and raises him as his biological daughter.

I heard you squint and re-read that. Yes, I did. Geoffrey needs an heir. And more importantly, he needs someone to take the place of his beloved deceased sister. That Rose has improper equipment for the job means little. And so Rose Old grows up at Love Hall and eventually goes out into the wide world and comes back again, and the journey is fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking. Kudos to Stace for the research he did on gender assignment -- but don't think think this book is preachy or ever lapses into boredom. It's strange, funny, and joyous. I quote Jo: A bizarre tale of gender confusion and family ties, it reads like an insane cross between Bleak House, Gormenghast, Orlando and The Moonstone with a tiny hint of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Could not agree more.

One of the best books I read this year. I will say that I thought the ending a bit too tidy, and without spoiling it, the ending also lacked what I felt was a crucial scene. I think Stace wimped out. Eh. It's still incredible, and it goes on my re-read list. I don't want to forget anything about "Misfortune."




And last night, I finished Gaiman's "American Gods." I'm a huge Gaiman fan -- even follow him on Twitter -- and I had huge expectations for AG. But while it's undoubtedly one of his best, I admit that I feel lukewarm towards it. For me, it was the protagonist, Shadow. Shadow doesn't seem to want anything, and I never got a sense of who he really was, or what the man is about. He seems as forgettable as a wet leaf on pavement. Now I know that a million readers will want to argue with me; I'm just saying that I never cared for Shadow. Really. No opinion on him. He seemed almost... insubstantial.

The story, however, is epic. War of the gods, new v. old; behind the scenes puppetmasters; a mish-mash of ideas and concepts brought together expertly. A well-woven tale, sharp and paced nicely. This seems to be more the kind of book one appreciates on an intellectual level, but on the level of the heart -- it just didn't reach me.

Now. I am in the minority. "American Gods" is huge -- #3609 on Amazon's book ranking list, and it's been out for years. And further proof of how much people love it can be found at the blog for House on the Rock. In a little over a week, this tourist attraction in Wisconsin will be hosting its first convention, for fans of "American Gods." There will even a costume party, where you dress as your favorite character. It's nearly sold out, and the hype online is crazy. Hey, Gaiman will be there himself, doing a reading. What is House on the Rock? In the book, it's a spiritual place, and the carousel within provides a portal into the mind of Odin, the All-Father, Norse god, etc. In fact, HotR will be raffling off tickets to ride the carousel (it's currently off-limits to riders). So when you look at the people coming in droves, booking themselves 5 or 6 to a hotel room down the road, planning their costumes and generally squeeing over this opportunity, then you've got to admit that there is something about the book, don't you?

So yes, I admit there is something special about this book. I'm just not sold on it myself. But I'm a big fan of Gaiman's and will continue making my way through his works. Will anything ever top the love I have for "The Graveyard Book"? Probably not. :) But that doesn't matter.



* * *

Thanks for stopping by and reading. Get yourself a copy of "Misfortune;" you won't regret it. Now, I tried to find a good writer's hotel, but I'm having no luck today. So let's pretend we're all sipping coffee in a quiet bar in the lobby of a cool hotel, writing our stories and occasionally glancing at the sunbeams dancing off the walls as we try to think: "What word? What is that word? It's like... like... Fuck. What the hell is that word???"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

3ww: The Grove


Hello! It's Wednesday again! My Three Word Wednesday piece:


The Grove

 
"I can absolve you of all your sins," hissed the snake.

"Look, I'm not falling for this again." Adam crossed his arms and stared into the orchard.

"Are you referring to that silly apple incident? Merely a little missscommunication." The snake twisted around the branch, dipping it with his weight. Olives thunked to the ground below.

"Miscommunication? Sure, and now I've got to wear pants all the time and try to do good deeds." He glared over his shoulder at the snake. "You really fucked things up for me."

"What about me?" said Eve. "I've got to bear big-headed babies. You try doing that without massive amounts of drugs."

"Oh, is it painful? Are you sure that isn't your massive guilt?" snapped Adam.

"What guilt? Over sharing a piece of fruit with you?"

"I was talking about the bj you gave Tom outside Red Lobster last month. Oh! Don't look at me like that! Did you think I didn't know?"

Eve shut her gaping mouth. "What did you expect? It was the first one I'd seen in months."

"Blaming this on me? Because I don't want to sleep with you?" He laughed, short and hard, and said to the snake, "You try keeping it exciting after a few thousand years. Hell, ten years."

"I did try!" said Eve.

As their squabbling went on, the snake thought, Humans. Ridiculously easy prey.

"Ahem. I said, AHEM." He waited until they were both looking at him. "Have we forgotten why we're here? I'm offering you the opportunity to start over. Cleanse your souls, be free of sin, and so on and so forth."

"So... we could get into heaven?" asked Adam.

"Something like that," muttered the snake. "Yesss. All you have to do is eat an olive, each of you. So? Who's in?"

"I don't know..." said Adam.

Eve pushed Adam out of the way. "I am." She plucked an olive from the branch.

"Tut-tut! One from the ground, please." The snake watched her pick up a fallen olive. Adam snatched one up as well. They stared at each other for a moment and then popped the olives into their mouths.

"Ew," they both said.

"Ew, indeed," said the snake. And with a very un-snakelike smile, he watched as their faces contorted with horror, and they began to twist and curve, growing talling, branching out, their flesh silvering and turning hard, their screams eventually muffled by layers of bark, mouths frozen in eternal Os of terror. He dropped to the ground between them.

"Your souls are now cleansed. You are free of sin. When you die, you will undoubtedly get the keys to the kingdom. Of course..." he hissed, winding around their slender trunks, "Olive trees live a long time. Thousands of years, possibly. Unlesssss someone comes along to cut you down. Burn you. Well, I must be going! Enjoy the purity of your new state."

He slithered off through the tall grass, humming a little snake song, and then the grove was once more silent.




Thanks for stopping by and reading!  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month!



It's my annual "Get your boobies checked!" post. I've gone for my mammogram; have you?

When I was 12, almost 13, my mother died of breast cancer. She was diagnosed at age 29, died when she was 32. I remember many things from those years, and not many of them are fuzzy warm memories. Yes, today we've got better at detecting cancer and treating it, and life expectancy after dianose has increased. But cancer is cancer. And it is horrific.

When I was approaching 29, I got nervous. I'd already had two or three mammograms -- they called them "baseline" mammograms, but they always looked at me a bit apprehensively as they said it -- but that age made me nervous. I turned 29. Then 30. It was when I turned 32 that I began to feel quite sad. At 33, realizing I had already outlived my mom made me incredibly sad. Despondent. There is no way of turning back the clock or getting my mother back, and I have never had the conversations with her that I wish I could've had. Even today -- I can't simply call her and say, "Mom. B is being such a jerk. And why does my eggplant keep burning when I fry it?" Someone else taught me to shave my legs. My step-mother took me for my first birth control pills. My mom isn't with me in any of my prom or homecoming pictures.

When I went last week, they said after the mammogram and physical exam, "Hm. Something isn't right. It's probably nothing, but... we're going to get someone to take you down to ultrasound right now." And they did. And they wrote on my boobs with a pen. And it was nothing! Never had kids, so I've got dense breast tissue. But for about 45 minutes, I had to focus on my breathing in order not to pass out. I was lying there in a hospital bed, wondering what was going to happen to me. How my life might change. What if I wasn't here in a year.

It was nothing. This time. So I'll be back next year. And until then, I'm fighting the good fight, trying to keep myself healthy in a variety of ways. And I'm urging all of you to look at your risk factors, assess, and today in the shower, give yourself a good feel. Arms up. Press around. You know the drill. And if you should -- then please, make that appointment for a mammogram.

PS No health insurance, like me? Most major cancer treatment centers offer free mammograms to those who qualify. Everything at my yearly visit is covered, even that ultrasound. And I got some chocolate. :)

PPS Interested in helping out women currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer? Eclectix posted a link to an art auction on eBay. Some gorgeous art there.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Flame and Ash Short Story Contest

I keep an eye on the lit contests over at DA, but one hasn't caught my eye in months. A few days ago, one did: The Flame and Ash Short Story and Poetry Contest. You can find out more at the link, but basically, it's a contest based on this sculpture by sleetwealth:


Word count max 4000, and go wherever the art inspires you. I did not read the interview with the artist, as I didn't want it to affect my story. Will do so now. Mine, btw, comes in at 1500 words: Rivers of Gold.

Some nifty prizes: first place gets a year's paid sub, plus features, plus -- and I think this is really cool -- the winning story becomes the subject of its own contest, one for artists creating art based on the story. Whoa. A Mobius strip of coolness and art.

In other news, hurrah! I finished my second piece for A Twist of Noir. I'm 638 and 655, baby! The train just left the station today, so get on over and hop aboard. There's a handful up today, and it starts off with a bang -- Jimmy Callaway's appropriately titled Six Hundred. And hey, I think Christopher might have a few spots left. You like writing noir? Crime? Thrillers? Contact him and see if there are any spots left.  

Regarding my 638 (no, I ain't telling you the title!): I sent it to Christopher with this note: It's that time a year, when an author's fancy turns to bloody toilets. See? You totally want to play along, don't you? Yeah, I thought so. ;)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

4 and 3 and 2 and 1...

From one of the best albums of all time, the Beastie Boys, puttin' it on wax:





I'm pumped. Some seriously cool shit coming up in the next two months. Also, I bought a hat that makes me look really cute. And Loreal's new Million Lashes is super good, but then, all Loreal mascaras are da bomb. Like fur coats for your lashes. And this new one is no clumping and feels good when you put it on. Purrrrr.

Me: So I've been a pescetarian for three days now.

RedSky: What does Bob have to say about that?

Oh, Red. Yeah, so the LJ spotlight on a vegetarian comm gave me the final push to do something I've always wanted to do, and it feels so right. Like a fur coat for my soul. Wait! That is wrong.

So, yes, things coming up of intriguing literary nature, and since they have sewn my mouth shut (the witches!), I write the following:

WoD: Improbity: (many, many things, incl...) betray, knavish, roguish, deceitful, unfaithful, trothless, two-faced, corruptible, purchasable, stab one in the back, crooked, and Many More! Now in your Local Thesaurus!

There were many things she liked about him, not least that he was positively incorruptible. She was a perfidous bitch, herself, but there are many that walk this earth not knowing who they truly are, and she felt sorry for them. But truth be told -- and did she never tell a story that wasn't at least half truth? -- it was in the arms of her golden-hearted lover, his honest lips upon hers, that she felt for a moment to be outside herself. She could dwell in that span of time, stringing it out like false pearls on cat gut, and in the morning, tell herself that it was back to reality. Back to pseudonyms and check kiting and the Helpless Lady.

But when he called one day to say he wouldn't be coming around anymore, that his wife had caught on and he just couldn't, you see, just couldn't, and he didn't want to hurt her, after all, he was a good man, it was a mistake. It had been a mistake. And his wife understood... Well, it was in that moment that she understood that the petty larceny of the heart was something she had miscalculated. Misunderstood. And she looked into her heart and, without a second's doubt, closed that account. Permanently. And a new reality began.

Fin

Friday, October 8, 2010

Milton Glaser's Ten Things; B's One Poem

Don Simpson is one of my favorite artists. It'd be hard to pin down what he does -- he does whatever catches his fancy. And a lot catches his fancy. But besides that, it's his constant musings on art, on creation, on life, that draw me in.

Today, he posted a link to an article by Milton Glaser. Do I know who Milton Glaser is? No. Sorry. Apparently, he's a leader in the visual and graphic arts, a profound talent, etc. And "10 Things I Learned -- the Secret of Art" is part of a speech he gave in London in 2001. It's dynamic, it's thought-provoking if not also thought-changing, and while it purports to be about art, it's about life. If you ask me. Which I know you didn't. Number 6, Style Is Not To Be Trusted, particularly spoke to me, but because I already believe it. There were a few others which challenged my way of thinking, and it's for the better.
***

Wise by darrenmallard -- art! I was inspired to find it some by B's newest poem:

a wise guy
to which
an elephant

will then come to light


I always ask him what they mean. I get weird answers. Inform yourselves of the meaning as you wish.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

3ww: The River


3WW: The River

Three minks. At first I thought there were only two, but in the brush further down, I spotted another one, body wet and limp and wrapped around the weedy fingers of a broken branch. It was bigger. It was the king, I decided. The King of Minks. The other two were its Queen and their daughter, the Princess. Mink royalty, dead and soaked in the mud on the riverbank across from the library, the two-screen cinema, the motel that people lived in all the time.

I thought about asking my sister if they were minks, since she and I played endlessly with the mink stoles our mom had got at a yard sale. Minks with the tail of the next mink in their mouths, sewn together, black bead eyes and skulls that felt strange, lumpy, small. If those circles of fur were plumped up, they might look like this. I tried to figure the odds of minks swimming in the river of our small New England town, but it seemed to go against my theory of a Mink king and his family, so I gave it up and pushed up the head of the Queen with a stick beofre letting it set again atop her daughter's. They were entwined, but next to each other. Neither of them was biting the other. Neither of them had black bead eyes. The river mud seeped into my sneakers, a hint of death, an intimate, cold, slimy smell. My socks were wet.

I pushed at the King with my stick until he tumbled ignobly out of his snare, dropping onto his back with a splat. The water tugged at him, wanting him again. It sluiced away some of the silt, showing the dull brown sheen of his fur. It took two sticks to pull him up more on the bank; he was heavy. His teeth showed for a moment, sharp, and then his head twisted away. I crouched, staring at broken whiskers, curved claws, an ear cut nearly in half. I looked for a long time at the King, and when I stood up again, the Queen and their daughter were gone. I stared out at the river, but I couldn't see them floating. The river moved fast. They might have gone down quite a ways already. I hurried back to the King, but he was already returning to the river. Eyes closed, he slipped in. For a moment, I saw him beneath the water, and then I couldn't tell the brown bottom from a dead mink, and still I watched. I wondered when they would be together again.

We moved. I couldn't come to the river for years. When I did, I drove. There were broken beer bottles and used condoms in the bushes by the tiny parking area. I pushed through weedy young maples and snappy birches, legs scratched. I showed my boyfriend where I had found the minks -- I didn't tell him they were royalty, exiled and drowned. He didn't believe there were minks around, they were probably rats, he said. He stayed away from the river's edge. My sneakers got wet. He told me to come back up, and I could tell he thought this was stupid. Besides, the car was just back there behind us, hidden from the afternoon sun and passing cars on the road above. I turned and looked at him, cajoling me, lust in his eyes. The river soaked into my sneakers all the way, my toes getting cold. The river kills everything, because it loves death.

I followed him back up, the river in my shoes. I thought about mink floating under the water. I thought about them for a long time that afternoon.



***

Thank you again to everyone who stops by and reads. This week's words were hint, sheen, lust. It was quite difficult not to write outright porn, because god knows, I loves me some porn. Also, the above is true.

Hey, 3ww partiers! Luna Station Quarterly is hosting its 31 days of writing challenges for Rocktober right now. It works much the same way as 3ww: a prompt a day, you write a genre fic story up to 500 words and email them the link, which they add to the posts so that people can go around and read. LSQ is a genre fiction zine, and normally, they only allow the ladies to submit to the zine. But for this month's challenge, the boys can play too. See the link above for the info. If you're not familiar with LSQ, look them up. I love their stuff, especially their stories of the week.

Monday, October 4, 2010

LSQ: The Diner

Day Four of Luna Station Quarterly's writing challenges for the month of October. Calling all genre writers! Today's is a good one.

***

The Diner

Worst Coffee in Detroit said the handwritten sign next to the door. I pushed in anyway. "Worst" probably meant strong, and I could use strong. Huddled in my coat, I took a seat at the counter, the cracked red plastic seat swiveling under me. There was one short-order cook at the grill, which looked cold and clean. I could smell the burned coffee, though. See the steam coming from the two half-empty pots. I smiled.

"Coffee," I said to the guy. He raised his eyebrows but said nothing, got me a white mug with a chip on the handle and poured the coffee to the brim.

"No milk," he said.

"Sugar?" I asked. He reached under the counter and came up with a handful of packets, yellow, white and pink. I took six white and dumped them all in.

I thought about asking for a menu, but that might be too much trouble. And I'd just got myself extricated from a whole lot of trouble. Perhaps it was better to do things smooth and easy, for the time being. I searched for the pie case, found it. Empty. Turned my head over my shoulder. The neon sign still blinked: All Nite Diner 24rs.

The door opened, bringing with it a rush of December and five girls. Short coats, shorter skirts. I looked at my watch. It was after 3. Must be from the club next door. They laughed, settled into a booth with a jingle and shush of costumes, a whiff of florid perfume. Then they quieted. I looked at them. They were looking back at me.

"More coffee?"

"Sure." I put my cup out, but he shook his head.

"You wait. I'll make you the best damned cup of coffee you ever had."

I watched him dump one of the pots, scrub it out and rinse. He spooned coffee into the filter; I couldn't see the brand. In minutes, the smell of fresh, good coffee filled the diner. I accepted it gleefully; I'd needed the caffeine, after three days on the run, but to have something that was more than just an energy jolt, more than just something to keep me on my feet, something that felt smooth and delicious in my mouth... I closed my eyes, inhaled more of the scent, and took another sip.

When I opened my eyes, the cook was gone.

"You like the coffee, huh?" It was one of the girls, leaning on the counter beside me. In the harsh diner light, she looked horrible. Make-up caked on, eyes bloodshot, hair crisped and full of dandruff. "Harry makes the best coffee in Detroit. Sometimes. But only for some people."

"Yeah. Nice guy," I mumbled, wishing she'd step back. Her perfume, up close, was vigorously rancid. I silently congratulated myself on being one of those guys who has never set foot in a strip joint, ever. Those other guys, they were throwing their money away on... this. She kind of turned my stomach.

"Nice guy," she repeated, and laughed. They all laughed. They'd got up, clacking about on high heels. "Yeah, he's a real nice guy."

A click. I turned -- one of them had locked the door. I began to stand. The lights went off, leaving only the blinking red neon. Then that went off too.

Outside, I could just see a flurry of snow begin to fall. Inside, the smell of coffee was gone. All I could smell was their perfume. And as they got closer, their breath. It smelled like grease and garbage, like the dumpster behind an all-night diner. Their teeth, for one moment, shone in the dark.

I dropped my mug.

***

Thanks again for reading! Everything's better with zombies. Especially stripper zombies. Hey, everyone's gotta work.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

LSQ: The Tourist

As I've mentioned before, Luna Station Quarterly is hosting 31 days of writing challenges. You can jump in at any time. This is day three, but I'm taking a break from other things to pop in with this odd bit of sci-fi.

The Tourist

The Mars Central Time Converter malfunctioned, sending the twelfth tourist that day back three hours and into a transistor dump that had closed sometime in the 2750's. They already had Rosa stationed there, waiting, though at the Grifton Desert Plateau, they naturally told everyone that such occurences weren't liable to happen anymore, since Mech Services had fixed the bug in the code. Please, enjoy the Plateau. Explore to your heart's content, knowing you are in complete safety. And remember, freshly made ice cold sno cones, just like on Earth, waiting at the concessions once you've finished. All flavors, including rainbow!

Rosa stared at the newcomer. He sat on his ass atop a heap of ancient transistors, his expensive loafers knocked off by the fall. His hair flopped in his face, not unattractively, and the surprised look he wore almost made her job worth it.

"What..?"

"So sorry for the inconvenience, sir. Please, have a complimentary pass to the Infinity Deck atop the hotel, and here is a voucher for the dessert of your choice at the Bradbury restaurant, Mars' only Michelin-starred dining facility."

He stared dumbly down at her hand. "How do I get back to the Griffin--"

"Grifton Desert Plateau." She waved, sighing to herself. "Over there. We've established a temporary port that will return you to the lobby." A necessary untruth. The lobby belonged to a research office in which the unfortunate party would be forced to wait as they caught up to the moment from which they'd been abducted, an entertaining visit that would also, subtly and unknown to the visitor, re-set their body clock by a minute amount. Hardly worth mentioning.

"They said this wouldn't happen again."

"Your vouchers, sir." Best to keep the conversation short. How she hated to get into arguments out here. "I'm sure you'll want to get back to your friends or family as quickly as possible."

"No. I'm here alone."

Alone? No one came to Mars alone, unless he was here on employment tags. It didn't matter. The male to female ratio was outrageously in favor of the ladies, and Rosa had had quite enough of being hit on by lonely engineers and construction workers thirty-six million miles from home.

"They said it wouldn't happen again, but I took a chance."

"Yes. And once more, we apologize."

"Don't apologize." He grinned, showing teeth so perfect only a dentist-droid could have made them. "This worked out perfectly."

"I'm..." Rosa frowned. This was not how they usually reacted. "Excuse me?"

"Where did you say the portal was?"

Another sigh. She turned, exaggerating with her arm. "Right over th--"

Her breath choked off, as efficiently and sharply as if she'd stepped outside the domes into Mars' own atmosphere. For a startled moment, she thought that was what had, indeed, happened -- that the damned engineers had made yet another mistake, and the transistor dump's dome had moved, evaporating and leaving her exposed. But instead of crushing heat, instead of a red landscape, she saw, frantically, that nothing had changed.

The pressure around her neck increased. She clawed first at her mouth, then at his hands. His impossible hands. What was he doing? A game? Dear God, dear God, she couldn't breathe, her eyes hurt, her lungs screamed, and she fell to her knees.

When he was finished, Jack Shott dragged her body to the edge of the heap and pulled a minimal amount of transistor debris atop her body, just enough so that her corpse would not be obvious when the next tourist fell through. And then he waited. Mars had grown too fast, become too popular. Repair services were notoriously delayed, and often shoddy. It could be days before they fixed the code.

While he waited, he fingered the vouchers in his pocket, thinking of which dessert he would pick.

***

Thank you for stopping by and reading.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Two -- Sorry, make that three! -- things to read today

There are two things I'd like you to read today, quite different, but words are words and their meanings on their own don't change. Sometimes I see words like those edible candy necklaces, the colors a code I wish I knew how to break with something besides my teeth. Someday, I tell myself, and then another writer comes along and bites the candy off the string on my neck and walks away with my words. I feel slightly less, and I feel the saliva on my collarbone, and I feel gross and lonely. Then I eat another piece of candy from the necklace, maybe the light green one.

Issue 14 of the Molotov Cocktail is out, and if you haven't guessed by now that it's one of my very favorite zines, you must be new to this blog. ;) I once again applaud editor Josh Groller, and my two picks from this issue are "In His Clutches" by Dakota Lewis and "The Magician" by Patrick McLaughlin. Interesting: Lewis takes a story I think I've heard before and makes it compelling and interesting, and McLaughlin takes a story I thought I knew and makes it into something fresh and new altogether.

And now something quite different. Everyone should read it. For many of my friends, this is preaching to the choir, but I have rarely heard this topic so well discussed. I cried, very much, while reading this.

Artistry of Male is a blog dedicated to the beauty of men. It is by and for gay men, and as such, be warned that although this is not an erotic piece, there are ads/images on the sight that may not be suitable for the workplace. The blogger himself often posts about issues related to homosexuality, usually philosophical in nature or referencing Buddhism. But in this post, he talks about the sadness of teenagers killing themselves because they've been persecuted due to their sexuality. He then posts a letter written by a Vermont mother to her fellow citizens in that state. It is one of the most moving pieces I have ever read on the subject, and I urge you to read. I believe the message here is: compassion for all.

*

I prepared the above entry over a day ago. This morning, I see that Michael Solender is featuring my piece, Bottle Rocket, over at the NOT. Many thanks to Michael: his Dog Days of Summer contest was awesome, and I'm so honored to have my work picked as one of the Special Jury Awards Winners.

If you haven't already, download the PDF. I did, and printed it out -- and am now amazed that I received any recognition at all, considering the quality of work therein. Wow. Peeps brought it! This is great weekend reading, with some intriguing photography. Loved the juxtaposition of images and words.

So, um, three things to read today? ;)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Golden Visions

The October issue of Golden Visions Magazine is now up, with a reprint of The Librarian's Assistant in their *free* online edition. This story was originally written for the Writer's Art contest on DA, where it won first place, and later, it became my first DD. If you are interested in reading the DA version, it's here. It was inspired by this art:





"Paper Birds" by kmye_chan


Golden Visions also has a downloadable PDF/print version, featuring more well known genre authors, great cover art, and a forward by Piers Anthony.

*

WoD: maggoty: nasty, filthy, capricious, blighted, eccentric, fanciful

Terrence found maggoty dreams of Renata awaited him each night. He slipped into bed with a deck of playing cards, all four kings missing. An offering he hoped she might accept, but if she did not -- the notebook would grow. And grow. He shivered, imagining an epic after so many years. It was the playing cards, or he would have to forge a dedication. Closing his eyes, he shuffled one last time and lie back. Behind his eyes, the darkness took over...