Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ghost Stories

I've been writing very short ghost stories lately. I have about four in the 200-300 word range, and I am really loving the experience as well as the product. Not re-inventing the wheel here, I'm just recognizing that the reason I love scary stories most of all has less to do with event sequence than it does with the raw material. I'm afraid of/disturbed by objects, not circumstance: toys, old paper, storage buildings, small Ohio towns, overheard questions.

Vsf seems ideal for me to showcase that sort of thing, and showcase is possibly an apt term. If I'm fortunate enough to produce a collection, it'll be like a little curio cabinet of American bother.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

xTx's "Nobody Trusts a Black Magician"

I’ve just finished reading xTx’s chapbook “Nobody Trusts a Black Magician”--a jarring experience because “Nobody” is quite edgy, and I’ve just begun a project that feels very antique in comparison. There are no pieces in the xTx book about which I am ambivalent: half the book is hysterical, the other half disturbing. My faves: “Argentina Sunday,” “Saving the Meat,” “Scrambled Egg House,” “Christmas Eve,” “Black Friend,” “Wiffle Ball,” and “And You Can Wear Your Mirrored Sunglasses When You Are Scared.” I know xTx's fiction is known for its raw management of sex and desperate intimacy, but after reading this collection I’m most impressed by those stories that talk about 1) white anxiety or 2) long range partnerships.  I know, I'm old. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

giggle, snort

Just found out that one of my students has had a piece accepted at Dogzplot. No details yet, but I hope it was a flash. (update: yeah a flash, a durned good one)

Mel Bosworth says I'm "super nice" for having him talk about chickens at the vsf blog. I'd rather be super fine, but I'll take what I can get. Related to being ordained super-nice, my friend Danny forced me to choose a super power, so I'm going with "indifference to fragility and rarity of antique objects."

Finally, Tara Laskowski, Scott Garson, and I are newsletter famous together as we hog up 1/3 of the Fall 2009 "Between the Lines" Mason MFA alumni thingie with blather about how very short fiction is coming to your house to break your heart. I don't know if it goes online, but if I find it I'll post a link. You know how to find us, but did you also know that Tara is one of the hungry minds behind The Recipe Resolution?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wrist pain

I just wrote the best story I've ever written, and it was accepted for publication at my absolute favorite fiction venue. My wrist became inflamed as soon as I read the message. Perhaps I'm done then.

Luckily, Erin Fitzgerald was available for IM based diagnosis. You can cram your public option, I got lit editors on call.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

the lost story

Years ago I got it into my head that I wanted to write a Thurberesque story about a man who accidentally and unknowingly appeared in the DC-based stock footage of a free speech PSA that appeared at the beginning of pornographic videos along with the trailers for other productions. My idea was that he would arouse fear, lust, shame, happiness, etc, among many of the folks he encountered in his daily, routine life, and no one really understood why.

I tried that story dozens of times and never got beyond page 1 before it got too oogy. Finally I was able to incorporate it into a novel draft (as the deep, dark secret of the quirky neighbor), but the next draft won't have room for it. Or patience.

So I release it to the world. If you can write the story, have at it with my blessing. I'd like to see it, in fact.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

shirts vs skins

Just posted Ravi Mangla's note, and after I post Barry Graham's entry to the vsf blog this weekend, I think the count will be 11 1/2 men to 6 women (counting joe young as 1 and 1/2 given his double appearance so far). This is meaningless, but I'm trying to goad those women whom I've already invited into action.

I'm more interested in the difference between the invitees who have made a priority of tending to their lives vs. those who are all too happy to drop everything to write for my blog.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Seriously, I thought this was a hoax when I first heard about it

But MSNBC actually interviewed David Erlewine, Robert Swartwood, and J.S. Graustein about the shortest of short fictions.

Of course this is wonderful for all of us in the vsf biz, and I have complete faith in Swartwood and Graustein to represent the form, but Erlewine may go power mad if we don't watch him closely.

Also, Nanoism is running a neato contest that has my brain smoking.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

mess with me, very short fiction update

I had to go to Ohio for family business this past week. I hadn't been back for 12 years. Someone who has known me my whole life said he'd been reading my stories, that they were pretty good, but "kinda familiar." After which he said, "write what you know, huh?" I can't for the life of me figure out what he meant.

new, exciting stuff on the VIPs on vsf blog from Jason Jordan and Andrew Roe.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

country life

First, I want to repeat the obvious: as soon as you think of fiction as a commodity, that's when the writing and innovation will slow down. That's when you will get scared.

Thinking of this as I read and re-read the 20 fictions given to me by Joseph Young and Kathy Fish for the vsf blog. These are two writers who have no fear that they will run out of stories, so it's no big deal to donate content to my teaching experiment. A writer who loves writing won't run out of stories. Or how about this? Maybe we've only got one story, and we just keep telling it over and over. Either way, there's nothing to protect. That said, as I prepare agent queries for my novels, I feel that fear. Big time. I would love to be brave enough to look into alternative models, but I'm not ready yet.

Not sure how this is related, but last week as I counted the sixth dead fox on the way back from our cabin in WV to our house in VA, I remembered last Autumn when we got caught in a long line of traffic outside Middleburg. Leaf peepers moving like molasses through horse country, and even though no one was going more than 15 mph, some jackass managed to hit a deer right in front of a farm mansion or winery. A man in LL Bean "work" clothes and a tweed cap was standing over it, disgusted. Just as we drove by, he pulled out a handgun and shot the deer in the head. Everybody was a phony that day, and then for one second we weren't.