Feb 8 2016

My inner critic is harassing me

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. The story is focused on the coming of age journey of the main character, dealing with a mess up family, deciding what to do with yourself after high school, and falling in love. But it’s also marked with the constant fear of being made the target of a serial killer (Son of Sam).

What I’m Writing

Words and I did not get along so well last week.

This is in part because the day job has not eased up on me as much as I expected it, too. I will pass this hurdle soon enough, I hope. Oh, how I hope.

This is also because I’ve been trying to write more thorough book reviews for “professional” publication on various websites. When I’m writing reviews for my blog, then the process is no problemo. But as soon as I decide to write a review for submission, my inner critic clamps down and strangles the words out of me. The process of working through the block has been causing me to fall behind on both my writing AND my reading, which it so, so frustrating.

I’ve been trying to think about the book review process differently by imagining the book reviews as being only for myself or my blog in order to shake the inner critic off. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I just give up and post it on my blog, like I did with The Ballad of Black Tom, just to get it done and posted.

However, despite all these frustrations, I managed to send out several submissions of poetry, so at least I felt productive in some way.

Accepted! Yellow Chair Review has accepted my poem, “A Letter from Eve to Barbie,” for their forthcoming Issue #6!

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

“In “Formation,” black women’s bodies are literally choreographed into lines and borders that permit them to physically be both inside and outside of a multitude of vantage points. And what that choreography reveals is the embodiment of a particular kind of 21st Century black feminist freedom in the United States of America; one that is ambitious, spiritual, decisive, sexual, capitalist, loving and communal,” writes Naila Keleta-Mae in her piece GET WHAT’S MINE: “FORMATION” CHANGES THE WAY WE LISTEN TO BEYONCE FOREVER.

Ursula Le Guin Gives Insightful Writing Advice in Her Free Online Workshop.

It’s Women in Horror Month, and Carina Bissett presents some excellent examples of women writing the weird.


Feb 8 2016

Book Review: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom is a fitting tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. It’s a novella that draws up the doom-ridden horror of the elder gods, while also addressing the unsettling prejudice of Lovecraft’s writing. “I grew up worshipping the guy so this issue felt quite personal to me,” explained Victor LaValle. “I wanted to write a story set in the Lovecraftian universe that didn’t gloss over the uglier implications of his worldview.”

The story centers around Tommy Tester, a young black man in 1920s Harlem. In order to avoid the hard life his father led as a laborer, Tommy turns to hustling in order to make his living. He has learned to disguise himself, donning a suit, a guitar case, and a shuffling step to mask himself against the watchful eyes white folks and the cops, who might see him as threatening otherwise. He knows how to put on a bit of theater and draw in a certain subset of clientele. But after he delivers an occult tome (with a page conveniently missing) to a reclusive sorceress in Queens, he earns her wrath, which brings destruction down on him and leads him into awakening powers best left sleeping.

Racism serves as an ever present backdrop, a constant shadow laid across the vivid descriptions of Harlem and other regions of New York that make their appearance. This racism takes several forms, both subtle and overt, from the cops who hassle him and steal his money to the patronizing rich white man who promises “salvation” for the downtrodden. Some of these moments are eerily familiar to current events. This is an intricate part of what makes this story so horrifying. If the world is so hateful, then how can ancient, powerful, and indifferent beings be any worse? Thus, Tom’s descent into darkness is frightening, blood soaked, and to a certain extent understandable.

The Ballad of Black Tom is fast read and a brilliant horror story.


Feb 5 2016

New-to-me movies watched in January 2016

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

The first film I’ve seen in the new year and a good conclusion to the Hunger Games storyline. They handled some of the stranger aspects of the book with aplomb and Jennifer Lawerence continued to bring depth to the character in situations where it could easily be overshadowed by the action.

2. Pontypool (2008)

A three-person team of a small town radio show become more and more horrified as reports come in of what seems to be rioting and death. With its small cast and single location, this movie manages to provide a growing sense of tension. It’s a fantastic take on the zombie apocalypse story with a unique concept for how the infection spreads. Really enjoyable.

3. Blazing Saddles (1974)

A spoof of the western genre. Not as funny as I thought it was going to be based on my experience with other Mel Brookes flicks. While probably “edgy” for the time period, some of the jokes are somewhat cringeworthy in the present day. However, the scenes with Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder are brilliant.


Feb 5 2016

Book Review: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Get in Trouble provides yet further evidence as to why Kelly Link is one of my favorite living short story writers. These tales are raw and human, with interweavings of the speculative, sometimes in subtle ways.

In “The Lesson,” the only hint of magic or the scientifically strange is a stuffed, clawed creature said to be long extinct, despite strange rustlings in the night. Where the magic comes in is how the story unfolds. Two men, awaiting the birth of of an adoptive child through a surrogate mother, take a trip to an isolated island to attend the wedding of a friend they haven’t seen in years. Through the bride’s wonderfully weird version of party celebrations and the discomforts of being disconnected from news from the mainland, it becomes clear that these two men love each other deeply and that that love is being strained by the stress of adoption. It also becomes clear that the decadence of their youth no longer appeals to them. “The Lesson” is a beautiful tale and my favorite in the book.

Other stories reveal a young woman who serves as an uneasy caretaker for the mysterious beings that live up on the hill (“The Summer People”), an aging movie star, formerly known as the demon lover, who seeks out his ex-girlfriend while she’s on a ghost hunting expedition (“I Can See Right Through You”), and a girl attempts to meet an older man she catfished online at a hotel where dentist and superheroes are both having conventions (“Origen Story”).

Another story that lingers with me long after I read it is “The New Boyfriend,”    which explores the complicated mess of teenage friendship and young love in unsettling ways. When her friend received her third animatronic boyfriend, a girl enacts a plan to steal it for herself, convince he can love only her.


Feb 1 2016

All the Birds … and other things

On Saturday, I took a jaunt up to the city to Borderlands Books for a reading and book signing with the amazing Charlie Jane Anders in celebration of her new novel All the Birds in the Sky. It was a packed house, with standing room only as Charlie read from her charming and funny tale about a witch and a mad scientist becoming friends. I laughed out loud several times during the reading and then waited in a rather long line to get my book signed (during which time, I found too more books to purchase that day). It’s was a joy and a delight to have been there, even though I couldn’t stay longer to mingle. I’m just so happy for her and for all of her success.

All the Birds in the Sky description:

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

What I’m Reading

Since I started it first, I’m reading an ARC of Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, which is the story of a young high school student coming of age in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, when the infamous Son of Sam serial killer was shooting young women on the streets. So far it’s interesting.

On the docket: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

What I’m Writing

As expected, the my day job work pretty much stripped my brain of words or any interest in looking at computers last week. So, I honestly can’t remember actually putting any words to the page. I might have done, might have worked on a book review, but I’m not sure. So, yeah.

Anyway, now that the big day job project is done, it’s time to get back to creative things in my off hours.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

Tobias Carroll discusses things left unsaid or unspoken in fiction“Every story that works gets the level of description that it needs. Which isn’t to say that the level of description needed for every successful story is the same; quite the opposite.”

The Five Stages of Confronting Your Own Privilege, as described by Daniel José Older.

Charlie Jane Anders on 5 books that wonderfully combine sci-fi and fantasy.