May 2 2015

#ShortReads Day 2: “The Last Flight of Doctor Ain” by James Tiptree, Jr.

Published in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.

This is the first Tiptree I’ve read and it’s excellent. The short story is told omnisciently giving little bits and pieces of what happened based on the comments of people who happened to notice him on his journey. Though dark and fatalistic, it’s brilliantly executed. 

Favorite Line(s): “The woman seemed stronger here. She was panting in the sea wind, her large eyes fixed on Ain.”

It’s Short Story Month! What short stories have you read recently? 


May 1 2015

Friday Flash: Resident Ghost

A soft padding of feet comes from above, my cat Jaspar stalking across the attic floor. How he manages to get up there is a mystery, one I’ve long ago given up on solving. His slow prodding bursts into the rapid thumping of running, then silence. Scuffling sounds. A loud crash follows as something falls over.

He’s playing with the ghost again.

I sigh and climb out of bed, grumbling at having been woken up before 5 a.m. My limbs are heavy with sleep as I pull down the steep steps to the attic and ascend to discover what sort of mess they’ve made. The air in the attic is always chill and little goosebumps crawl up my arms.

When I bought the house four years ago, I didn’t know it came with a resident. We didn’t get along at first. My presence offended the ghost. I was an interloper, changing their home into something unrecognizable. I tore up the ugly carpets and replaced them with wood, remodeled the kitchen and the bathrooms. I repainted everything and arranged furniture. The ghost responded with loud thumping in the middle of the night, startling me from sleep, my heart pounding. Pictures would fall off the walls and shatter. Objects would move from one location to another, making me hunt for a pencil or my toothbrush or any other small thing when I needed it. Fruits and veggies went rotten in hours if left out on the counters. The electricity flickered and went out. It wasn’t I made a deal, promising to leave the attic alone and unchanged that the ghost left me mostly in peace.

Mostly. It still plays tricks sometimes.

I scan the attic with a flashlight. Jaspar blinks at me in the beam of the light, his pupils flashing green.

“What have you been up to,” I ask.

He yawns innocently and pads over to me, weaves in and out between my legs, purring loud as revved engine. I push him gently aside with my feet, afraid to step on him, but he just resumes his rubbing of my ankles.

The crate Jasper — or the ghost — knocked over lays on its side, its contents and packing grass spilling out onto the floor. I trip over Jasper on my way across the room, quietly cursing him and start stuffing picture frames and old knick knacks back into the crate. Every time I lift an item back into the crate it feels as though I’m touching a secret. I’ve never looked through any or the boxes or chests up here. Maybe because I associate them as belonging to the ghost, though they could belong to some family that left them long before or long after they arrived.

I pause to glance at the old black and white family photos, as I put them away. Turn-of-the-century photos always seem creepy, the pasty faces, the too white whites of their eyes, the blank expressions —presumably happy people at one time and all that’s left is this unsettling imagery.

A draft whispers along my neck. Something knocks against the attic floor. My heart races and the hairs on my arms stand on end.

“Alright, alright,” I say to sooth myself as much as the ghost. “I’ll get on with it, then.”

Jasper scampers down the ladder before him. I step down onto the first step and flick off my flashlight. “Have a good day.”

A bubbling sound like laughter comes back to me out of the darkness, unsettling, but not hostile. It’s a strange coexistence. But I’ve had worse housemates in my lifetime.

Jasper yowls downstairs for his breakfast. And that’s one of them, I think as I climb down and close up the attic behind me.

* * *

Footnote: Hmmm. I have to admit that this feels like a piece of a story rather than a complete story in itself, but it’s what I could manage today. I’ve always wanted to write a story where the owner of a house chooses to coexist with a ghost rather than try to remove it. Will have to see about expanding this someday.

* * *

In related news I’ve just learned that May is Short Story Month. Yes!

I’ve also learned that Sara Zarr has started a challenge in which she will be reading a short story a day in May and tweeting about it with the tag #ShortReads. I plan to do the same, posting short reviews on my blog here as well as on twitter.

And since I always need more reasons to write, I’m also planning to post a Friday Flash every week this month (maybe, we’ll see how it goes).

My first read:

Among the Sighs of the Violoncellos” by Daniel Ausema, published at Strange Horizons — The story is a poetic vision of a Eden-esque garden with fairy tale trees, wish granting lizard tales, and a single glinting white swan. It’s told from the point of view of the tenders, the ones invisibly keeping paradise tended and beautiful. Wonderful.

Favorite Line(s): “In the back of the garden is a tree that bears orphan farmboy fruits. If you pluck one at just the right time, it will become a hero. A moment too soon, and the unripe hero fails in his quest. A moment too late, and he lives out his life bitter over missed opportunity, brooding on the injustices of life.”


May 1 2015

New-to-me movies watched in April 2015

1. Gone Girl (2014)

Fantastic execution of the story line and phenomenal acting. The combination of music and cinematography creates tension even during the flashbacks of the good times. Great twists and turns (even though some had been previously spoiled for me). None of the characters are likable, but that works for the plot. They all deserve each other.

2. The Babadook (2014)

As psychological horror, The Babadook wasn’t scary so much as creepy. The story of mother dealing and her troubled son being plagued by monster in the closet had a fairy tale feel, which I liked.

Although I get why other reviewers have described the kid and other characters in this movie being annoying. Didn’t bother me too much, though, as it fit the storyline.

I liked the music and cinematography, which worked well with slow building of tension that lead to an “interesting” ending. The cutout pop up book style imagery of the monster were cool and creepy and fit with the fairytale feel.

Although I didn’t love the movie, per se, it was a good enough that I’ll be looking out for more from director Jennifer Kent.

3. How to Steal a Million (1966)

Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole are adorable. The story, involving the theft of a million dollar statue from a museum in order to keep an old forger out of prison, was silly and illogical but fun.


Apr 30 2015

Books completed in April 2015

1. A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
2. Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
3. Blue, poems by George Elliott Clarke
4. Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
5. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
6. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, illus. by Matt Phelan
7. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude (audio book) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
9. wingless, scorched & beautiful (chapbook) by Allie Marini Batts
10. how i live now (audio book) by Meg Rosoff

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month:
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić, Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman, and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

REVIEWS:

Continue reading


Apr 27 2015

Up, up, and away!

My weekend involved a recovery period, hanging out with friends, eating good healthy food (mostly), and resting when needed. The resting bit involved sleeping for twelve hours Saturday night. Astounding since I haven’t slept past 10 a.m. since high school. I guess my body needed the rest.

I’m feeling more energized going into this week…. We’ll see if it lasts.

What I’m Reading

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić is not what I was expecting, not that I really knew what to expect. But being based on folklore, I guess I was looking for something a little more of that kind of feel rather than the this-is-real-life tone I’ve gotten so far. It’s still interesting, though, in how it looks at older women and how society perceives them.

I’ve started reading Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman. I saw her read at Writers with Drinks one night and the poems are just as fun and witty as her performance.

More slow and steady progress on Don Quixote.

What I’m Writing

Up, up, and away! I knuckled under and sent out a chapbook of poems to Paper Nautilus last night, biting my knuckles the whole time and pretending I wasn’t nervous, not at all.

(eeeeeeeeeeee!)

No. Not really. No.

Goal(s) for this week: Submit the chapbook to a few more publishers. Gather together poem drafts and submit to lit journals.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Last week I mentioned starting a new eating plan and so far it’s been going great. I’m not torn apart from cravings and am actually feeling drawn to fresh veggies. I feel cleaner. I don’t know how else to describe it. Since my sister has dropped out of the plan, I’m easing up on my restrictions a hair by letting myself have a splash of milk in my coffee, because mmmmm, coffeeeeee.

As I’ve cut out the added sugar and grains, I’m looking into what I can cut out in other areas to be more focused on the things I want to accomplish. Two of the main things that come to mind are TV and my iPad video games — both of which either need to go entirely or limited to an hour or so. Cutting out the TV is the hardest, since my roommate likes to have it on as background noise; that’s fine, I just need to put headphones on and listen to music while I write or retreat into my bedroom for quiet time.

Linky Goodness

In Fallacy: The Primer for Surprise, Lancelot Schaubert talks about how mystery and any writers are able to surprise their readers, noting that it comes not from withholding information, but forcing the reader to the wrong conclusions. A very interesting concept that has me thinking about how I approach my own storytelling.

Also:

If someone tells you singular ‘they’ is wrong, please do tell them to get stuffed,  by Tom Chivers, who writes, “Actually, “their” has commonly been used as a singular possessive for rather longer than either Allan or I have been alive.”

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write — an interesting and we-are-awesome post for writers.