Posts Tagged ‘The Writing Life’

These things have a way of sneaking up on you!  The essay was actually published on Thursday, February 9, as advertised last week (cf. February 4), but in the circuitous way of the internet at times, word finally only caught up with me last night.  So it goes.

The essay, anyway, pertains to my upcoming novel, TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, but is actually about novel structure.  That is, TOMBS isn’t structured like a majority of novels, as pretty much a continuous narrative, but rather is what is sometimes called a mosaic novel or a novel-in-stories.  Say what?   That is, like Amy Tan’s THE JOY LUCK CLUB or Ray Bradbury’s THE 8451b32b-e3c4-41cb-8f3e-7c6834708f13MARTIAN CHRONICLES.  Or what about Bradbury’s THE ILLUSTRATED MAN?  Or John Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy.  Novels pieced together from parts, the parts sometimes short stories in their own right — but not necessarily always.  And anyhow why do it that way at all?

Well, now we have an answer, courtesy of blogger Heidi Angell who, as of Thursday, has published my “What Is a Novel in Stories” as a guest blog.  And did it really start with Edgar Allan Poe?

To find out, press here.

This was a first, the Players Pub Spoken Word Series (see January 29), premiered Thursday night from 6 to 9 by the Bloomington Writers Guild in conjunction with local bar and music venue Players Pub in off-downtown Bloomington.  This will continue on second Thursdays every month, combining musical interludes with readings of various sorts.  This time, for instance, the readings were prose, with the musical guests the group Urban Deer, while next month’s will most likely feature poetry and, from out of town, the group Shakespeare’s Monkey.  The name of the series is not necessarily fixed yet either, but a flavor is already being established, more freewheeling and possibly “adult” in nature than, say, the more formal First Sunday Prose and Last Sunday Poetry programs.

That said, the first reading ever for this was by . . . me.  The piece read was my story “River Red” from THE TEARS OF ISIS, but with a brief introduction from TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (“River Red” being set in the “Tombs” universe, even if not in the latter book) to help set the mood.  And also . . . well, maybe . . . as a sort of commercial to push both titles.  This was followed by Shayne Laughter, who we’ve met on several occasions before, with a tale called “Incident at Grandmother’s Cottage,” a part of a fiction work in progress; Arbutus Cunningham (a.k.a. Hester), a Saturday morning radio star on local WFHB with four brief and mostly funny (the exception, the third called “After the War,” combining survival and sadness) semi-fictionalized, off-the-wall reflections; and triana3c2001playwright and comedy performance artist Stevie Jay with longer excerpts from a newer work, “Falling Through the Cracks:  a homeopathic remedy for the New Millennium in one dose.”  The audience totaled some 15 to 18 people (not counting bar personnel), most of whom seemed to stay for the whole nearly three-hour period, and once warmed up seemed quite enthusiastic.

Then another note on new goth kitten Triana, who has momentarily held still and in the light long enough for a new photo portrait, this amongst the jumble and clutter of the printer corner of the computer cave.  But the thing is, missing from all other pictures thus far, she has lovely golden-brownish eyes, now seen here for the first time!

The Bloomington Writers Guild’s “First Sunday Prose Reading & Open Mic” (cf. December 4, et al.) was not held last month on Sunday, January 1, since it was a holiday — meaning, among other things, that co-host and venue Boxcar Books wouldn’t be open — so this year’s “first First” was on Superbowl Sunday, February 5.  The featured readers were Writers Guild founding member and chairperson emerita Patsy Rahn who, while primarily a poet, read a selection of essays and observations, followed by retired Indiana University Astronomy professor Richard H. Durisen with a science fiction short story having to do with transforming karma between two people, and why it might at some future time be both physically possible and confusing.  With about nine people attending, a bit under par but also competing with a rare sunny and not-too-cold afternoon, I batted fourth in a field of six readers with a tale I’d postponed from 2016’s business meeting and Christmas party (see December 11), “The Christmas Cat,” a Victorian fantasy of Ebenezer Scrooge, kittens, and (as I put it in introducing the storytriaba2b4001) “intimations of gastric distress.”

Then of non-Christmas cats, Sunday evening I also took some more pictures of the goth cat Triana, star of yesterday’s photo feature — mostly during commercial breaks during the game.  Quite the fourth quarter that!  One of these actually turned out rather well, and so here it is.  I especially like that the white blaze above her eyes appears with a little more prominence (that is, it can be seen in three of the shots posted yesterday but subdued enough that they look like they could be defects in the photos, while actually it’s a distinctive feature).  However, since her eyes are closed in this one too (i.e., as well as the larger one just below), we will still have to wait before we can gaze into their gold/brown glory (and possibly for a long time since computer caves have naturally dim lighting, not to mention the quality of the camera).

triana6001

Yes, I know they’re crappy, but (a) I’m new at this, (b) I’m using a camera that cost $4.95 on eBay, (c) in most cases she’s a moving target.  (But otherwise, enjoy!)

triana8001 triana9a001 triana7003

Saturday brings us news that THE BOOK OF BLASPHEMOUS WORDS (cf. January 27, et. al) has been released on Kindle with, according to publisher A Murder of Storytellers, the paperback version hopefully to be available soon.  More here as it becomes known.  This is the one about people’s relationships with their gods, not always as lovely as one might hope, with my “burnt” offering about a lad who apparently couldn’t get to hell, with a cautionary note to preachers.  Titled “Tit for Tat,” it’s a poem in the class sometimes called “Little Willies,” humorous quasi-Victorian takes on boys who cause, or have caused to them dire things.

Then one more quick note:  Word came last night from Heidi Angell, who we may recall from her interview of me last month (see January 10), that she plans to use  an essay by me on her blog sometime next week.  Again, more here as it becomes known.  The essay is titled “What is a Novel-In-Stories?” and explains why that form may be superior to more straightforward narrative for some applications, with special reference to my own upcoming TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (due in June from Elder Signs Press, for more information on which click its picture in the center column).

So I’d spent a day at the Monroe County Animal Shelter perusing the pussycats.  I had gone to check out a reputed tortoiseshell, but she proved not to be the glamour-puss she had been touted as (oh, all right. . . ).  But, still, with Wednesday departed, as large as those pawprints may be to fill (cf. January 25), the computer cave did need a new cat.  And so I forged on, looking at those in the rows of cages, then into the room they call the Cat Colony. . . .

Long story short, a new cat has arrived at the computer cave, the goth cat Triana.  Her shelter name is (was) Lucy Lu (thus gaining her the ID when she went to the vet yesterday afternoon for additional shots, “The Cat Formerly Known as Lucy Lu”) — she’s a mostly black cat with a white chest and “socks,” short haired, occasional small white bits on an ankle or a knee, but with the black a deep, deep black and the white a snowy white white, giving the impression of what a cat might look like in a Chinese brush drawing.  Very beautiful and, one of my criteria, very different from Wednesday (gray and fluffy) so I can keep Wednesday’s memory separate and not fall into trying to compare them.  She’s only four months old (I expect I’ll advance her birthday a few days to October 1, so she’ll be an “October cat” presaging triana1the fall and Halloween, just as Wednesday’s probably late-April birthday was moved to May Day, for International Labor Day as befit a proletariat in the mousing trade).  Also she’s very lively, in fact at the shelter when I reached to pet the cat next to her she sank her little fangs in my hand, kitten talk for “pay attention to me instead, please” (I joked to the staff about her possibly having not completely teethed yet).  She followed with the rubbing against me bit, purring very loudly, obviously having had her kitty basic training.

And, “dressed” mostly in black, she’s a goth girl cat, and thus the name I’ve given her, Triana, after the necromancer Dr. Byron Orpheus’s daughter in the VENTURE BROS. cartoon series.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of her for now (she was new enough to the animal shelter that they hadn’t taken any of her yet), so the picture here is that of her namesake, Triana Orpheus.

Back for 2017, this afternoon saw the new year’s first “Last Sunday Poetry Reading & Open Mic” (see November 28, et al.), co-sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and the Monroe County Convention Center.  Featured poets this time were Lisa Low, in her final year in the MFA program at Indiana University, whose reading covered such subjects as grocery stores, ghosts, and gold, ending with a group of poems from a work in progress about a girl named Ruby; and Stephen Hopkins, “born in Texas but raised in the Midwest, bloomingtonwritersguild[and] moved all over Ohio, often,” an IU PhD candidate who read works from his recent chapbook HYMNS OF PERPETUAL MOTION.  This was followed by snacks and an open mike session in which I was last of six participants, with five short, relatively light poems about vampires, “The Vampire’s Reflection,” “An Unsuitable Kiss for the New Year,” “Something New,” “Nothing Better,” and “The Vampiress’s Embarrassment.”

Also announced was a new Writers Guild “Second Thursdays” evening series to be held each month at Bloomington’s Players Pub, beginning February 9.  While programs will vary, the premiere offering will highlight prose readings,  including a short tale by me from THE TEARS OF ISIS, “River Red,” set in the same universe as my upcoming TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.

It’s a small thing, but one that is greatly appreciated — an endorsement in a sense that one is doing some things right as a writer at least, over and above what may sell or not sell.  And a very nice touch by pure coincidence that this was in my inbox yesterday evening, when there was so much of sadness that had to be shared here.  This was a post by TammyJo Eckhart, a fellow writer who actually is also Bloomington based, though we don’t tend to run into each other that often.  But still legitimate, I think, in that I’m just one of a number of authors she cites, for whom read below or, to see it in context, press here.

This is just a few of the authors that I not only enjoy but also respect for their bravery with the topics they tackle.  I know that their bravery will continue in the next few years and hopefully beyond.

If I have left you out, there is no intended slight on my part, I promise.

Laura Antoniou, Cecilia Tan, Janet Hardy, Elizabeth Schechter, Stephen Zimmer, Chrissy Garrison, Race Bannon, Lisa Kaye, John Warren, Jack Wallen, James Robert Crews Wylder, James Dorr, Angelia Sparrow, Travis Clemmons, Rosemary Laurey, Lee Harrington, Peter Tupper, Matthew Barron, and Gloria Brame.

So thank you TammyJo, and thanks to the others on the list too.  In current times, it’s good that we writers can stick together.

Yes, a raise of the glass to Edgar Allan Poe, “who started it all,” January 19 1809 – October 7 1849 — and see, as well, my interview by Weldon Burge linked in the post just below, start-poecoat1ing quite by coincidence with a quotation from Poe.  Go ahead, take a quick look — I’ll wait!  Okay, and now to the business of . . . well, actually late yesterday, but posted today.

Wednesday afternoon’s email brought, from Bards and Sages Publishing’s Julie Ann Dawson:  When we launched THE SOCIETY OF MISFIT STORIES last August, we knew it was a bit of an experiment. We really didn’t know how readers would respond to the project. I’m pleased to say that the response has been wonderful.  So wonderful, in fact, that three of the stories placed very well in this year’s Preditors & Editors Reader Poll.

Chamber Music By Peter A. Balaskas earned 2nd place in the non-genre short story category
Raising Mary:  Frankenstein by Ace Antonio Hall earned 5th place in the horror short story category
By Force and Against the King’s Peace by James Dorr earned 11th place in the fantasy and sci-fi short story category

But the email goes on to say [t]he one question I keep getting asked, however, is “When will the print be available?”  A great many of our readers still prefer print (I know, shocking!).  Of course, individually, each story is too short to justify publishing as a single book.  But as an anthology, it would be perfect.

Which is why I would like to invite each of you to participate in THE SOCIETY OF MISFIT STORIES, Volume I.  This will anthologize all of the stories published in the first year of the project.  We would love to bring your stories to print and, potentially, audio formats. . . . 51hxoyeaatl

Then follow some details, plus an attached agreement which went in the mail today with my okay.  And, let’s not forget the neat Preditors and Editors news, not just for me but a huge shout out for THE SOCIETY OF MISFIT STORIES itself!  This, we may remember (see, e.g., November 18, 2, October 3 2016, et al.), is a continuing series of electronic chapbooks for stories from 5,000 to 20,000 words long, both new and reprints (“By Force and Against the King’s Peace” is the latter, originally published in the December 1999 ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE), awkwardly long for some electronic markets but too short for novels.  A little more money would change hands too for the print anthology, which is always a sweetener for the writers, and since, judging from the Preditors and Editors standings, the stories themselves seem to be top drawer, some at least of them, it should be a good deal for readers as well.

Also,  for another quick “The Writing Life” extra, here’s a note from A Murder of Storytellers on my story-poem “Tit for Tat.”  James,  Wanted to let you know that I looked over this piece and saw no need for editing.  So, unless you’ve got a burning desire to fix something, it’s good to go.  What it’s going to is their upcoming THE BOOK OF BLASPHEMOUS WORDS (see January 16).  And an editor’s pass with no changes at all is always good news for a writer to receive.

So the first answer starts with a citation to “Allan Poe.”  That’s Edgar Allan Poe, of course, but what’s in a word — I still stand by the answer.  And thus the promised interview by Weldon Burge for Smart Rhino Publications (cf. January 11, 8), in conjunction with a Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming ZIPPERED FLESH 3 anthology, is now live.  A mention is made at the very beginning about my Smart Rhino story appearances, “The Wellmaster’s Daughter” in UNCOMMON ASSASSINS, “Labyrinth” in INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS, and “Golden Age” in the upcomi8451b32b-e3c4-41cb-8f3e-7c6834708f13ng ZIPPERED FLESH volume, but that’s not what the interview is about.  Rather, with reference to Poe as well as my Stoker(R) nominated collection THE TEARS OF ISIS, we talk about short story writing in general and why, as a writer, I find short forms more interesting than novels.  But then novels come up too with reference to TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (expected in June this year, not really “spring,” but that’s because of a change in schedule after my original biographical notes were in) and what is, exactly, a novel-in-stories, also known as a “mosaic novel”?  And, more importantly, why TOMBS is put together in that style.

The Poe citation, incidentally, is to his essay “The Poetic Principle,” which I believe he meant to apply to prose fiction as well.  But to read the whole interview, including some things on the challenges and joys of writing, and what to expect once one has written, why not press here?




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