Monday, December 29, 2008

um, boo?

forgot to note that I read The Man In The Picture, by Susan Hill--very readable and pretty little book (the paperback is checkbook sized), but it doesn't really do anything new. But to be fair, not everyone needs new when it comes to ghost stories. In fact, TMINTP reminds me very much of the old Night Gallery episodes, especially since it is a 19th century style frame tale (ha ha) that features a haunted painting. If you want to write one of these, here are the parts (sans frame):

1) weird object at the center of weird doings
2) weird person claims knowledge of object, but really just has an experience of its effects from the past--doesn't know the why, but fears the how
3) new events mirror past ones, protagonist or protagonist loved ones doomed

The moral being that we must respect the unknown and its unknowability. which is silly, of course. I'm no fun.

Friday, December 26, 2008

next to normal

xmas with family is good, as long as it's not my family. hung out with friends & their kids yesterday. A highlight? the 12yr old observed: "giant space wasps are homophobic" (we were watching doctor who and eating toffee)

oh, and I'm not usually a whiner about these things, but who sends out rejections on christmas day? lump of coal in my email . . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

6 sentences

too much fun. too distracting. thanks david-

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

mmm, delicious kool-aid

I’m fresh off a couple of conversations with new or rejuvenated writers who are positively giddy about the indie fiction scene and their own successes within it, and predictably, doubts prowl the perimeter of these exchanges, taking the form of familiar rationalizations about net vs print, short vs long, etc. It might be a tired subject for those of us who abandon or embrace the values of our MFA programs when it pleases, but the anxiety for other writers, including those not in or fresh out of academia, is still pretty real. And so permission, even from an asshole, is a powerful thing. I yearn to move beyond my canned responses about industry and technology shaping the aesthetic to get to a discussion that is not so freaking circumstantial: flash on the net—at least the best of it, which is a lot—manages to reclaim written fiction as essential. It is fiction that must be itself form-wise, resisting subjection to other forms. I know: duhhhh.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I win!

I'm the last woman in my family on my mom's side who still has a gallbladder.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Story at elimae!

Render, or to transmit to another
(contest: where would you place the word 'dewy'?)

massive issue with massive people--I'm pretty thrilled and can't wait to read it. but I may have to wait--the holiday is imploding. Mom in hospital, low enrollments, the tax document is hinky ($800 for a title search? really?), and we still haven't worked out the in-law visit.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I read Midnight Picnic

Just read Antosca’s Midnight Picnic, which is based on the (correct) observation that the West Virginia woods are lousy with ghosts. As a weekender with a cabin in the WV panhandle I can confirm that we spend our nights in battle against the restless dead; our days are spent smiling and agreeing with our neighbors that it is “so beautiful and peaceful here.” So that’s the novel’s irresistible launch point, and what follows is action that feels continuous and lyric save for those moments when the main character, Bram, transmits the memories and emotions of other characters.

Psychological horror sucks because in narrative art, psychology is tyrannical: take a pill, get some therapy, have a break-through moment with the parent-fiend, and all the monsters fade away or at least settle down. If not, become the monster. However, Antosca eschews conventional emotional entry and exit ramps, preferring instead to dive right into an environment of terror and staying there, pretty much. We don’t really have a coherent sense of Bram’s BIG PROBLEM prior to the start of his dark adventure, and the overwhelming majority of experiences are interpreted within an alternate realm, using that realm’s rules. My own dramatic expectations are provincial, so I resisted Bram’s immediacy at first (some evidence points to the draft having spent time in first person), and I wanted him to do more to earn my attention. But soon I began to appreciate Bram’s facility: he was designed to channel the sadness of the other characters. Their stories, more showy than Bram’s, are focused and startling. Also inevitable. As soon as we meet Marian, for example, we know what’s in store. Suspense about her fate is not the point.

For me, the novel’s most major accomplishment may be one that no one else cares about: Antosca writes about the influence of nightscapes, particularly those of the rust belt and Appalachia, on the lonesome mind. I am no less than rocked by certain details, like the glow of a distant strip mall, the constancy of which is as troubling and spooky as shadows in the woods. The strip mall is a haunted place—well of course it is.

That’s all I want to say right now. I loved the book, and it surprised and pleased me. I have a lot of questions though, probably because I consumed it in one sitting, with my own fussy dogs harassing me as if they knew how the damned thing ended. If you like dogs, dads, and dead kids, this book is for you.

ps--yes I read a copy that was hard to read. Still enjoyed it though. Big time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

revision strategy or superstition?

I rarely do simultaneous submissions. Nothing moral about it, I just can’t keep track. I do send out to a second place if the first place is taking for-fricking-ever to respond, since I can’t recall having something out there for 2/3rds of a year producing an acceptance. Regardless, if I haven’t gotten and answer or I’ve been rejected, I always make some sort of change to the piece before I send it out again. Sometimes this is in response to an editor’s criticism, and the change is substantial. But mostly it’s a little tweak, unnoticeable to anyone but me. For example, in the story I have coming out next, I removed the word “dewy.”

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pull tab to open

seriously, follow the instructions on the envelope, no matter how excited you are about getting your hands on a copy of Nick Antosca's Midnight Picnic. Because then you won't get all those packing boogers everywhere like I did when I just ripped the envelope open.
Can't read it tonight, though. I'm on my own with the dogs.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

oh happy sunday

I just learned that I'll have a piece in the December elimae

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Weapons grade holiday food

Insane amount of work coming my way via email tomorrow (yeah Sunday), so tonight I hope to write. I don’t know what about, but the title I’m playing with is ‘hey. I have something for you.’

But first, it looks like women are supposed to put recipes on their blogs. Here are the only ones I know. I’m sure they are not original. For the meat dishes, roast in 350-475 degree oven for two to nine hours, and for God’s sake, don’t wander off.

for Christmas day: Mom’s beef stew
2 or 3 packages of stew beef (weight watchers can get away with 1. Makes no diff, all you will taste is salt. yummy,yummy salt)
1 can soup each flavor: tomato, cream of mushroom, french onion, beef broth
hunks of onions, carrots & potatoes (2part onion to 1part each other veg, in the proportion that fits in the pot. do not peel the potatoes, you wuss.)
chopped garlic (cook’s choice)
probably some water (a cup or two? ish)
definitely some cheap intense red wine, like Carlo Rossi Paisano, although I have no idea what you can do with the rest of the jug. It’s pretty nasty.
1 small can corn (Warning: do not ruin this stew with peas)

combine everything except corn and cook until the beef is your bitch—oven or stovetop is fine, but watch the liquid. When done, mix in the corn. Serve with rice first day, over French fries all subsequent days.

New Year’s or your Father’s Wake: Pork Roast and Knedliky

The roast is a no brainer, but you need one of those big pork loin roasts with actual fat on it—not a tenderloin. If you are cooking for someone over the age of 38, please remember that he/she grew up when trichinosis was still a concern, and firm, sliceable pork is repulsive. This roast is not done unless the meat explodes and collapses at the touch of a fork. In fact, to be on the safe side, wait until the meat is so defeated that you can eat it with a spoon.
Garlic , Salt. Pepper
Some liquid, to about ¾ inch of the bottom of the pan—I’m a recent enthusiast for Progresso Hearty Tomato, but you may be getting tired of my canned soup promotion, so water will work fine.
Half stick butter
Roast all this forever under a tight lid, but watch it any way. When done, remove roast from pan to platter—this should be extremely difficult if you’ve cooked the thing properly. And the plattered meat will look like a nightmare. But the most important thing is: SAVE THE POT LIQUOR. My grandmother called it some Polish or Czech or maybe even secret nazi term that sounded like vuh-muss-tik. You pour the vuh-muss-tik on the klen-necky. Which I have since learned is actually

6 eggs, sure
one or two boiled mashed potatoes (peels removed this time)
4 to infinity handfuls of flour
teaspoon of baking powder
again with the salt, whatever
milk to work it—1/2 cup?
mix all together and knead until just elastic.
Form into golf-tennis ball size dumplings and boil. They will rise before they are done, so test one before you drain and keep testing until you find a cooked one. These are heavy, chewy dumplings that you cut with a knife and fork. In fact, they will be significantly more authoritative on the plate than the pork roast. I suppose you could serve a veg with this. Dad liked creamed corn. ugh. Next morning cut up the leftover dumplings and fry up with scrambled eggs.

Friday, December 5, 2008

end of semester note to self

course proposal: 'reading and writing weird tales'
targeting sophomores, non majors. reading scads of short, strange prose for the first half of the semester-discussion, quizzes, short essays and reviews. Then writing/modeling original tales second half semester. small group workshops and blackboard discussions.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fiction Weekly

It'll be interesting to see how this venture works out: Fiction Weekly, coming out of Lake Charles, LA. Neat idea, attractive design. I'm still working through the stories to get a sense of things, though.

Plus, this week's story is by Ryan Crider, PhD candidate in English and Creative Writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette--one of the best schools in the world for that sort of thing. Go Ryan!