Book Review: Rupetta by Nike Sulway

“History was an art form — the delicate, dangerous art of creating the past.”

Science fiction writers have long used visions of animatronic machines and robots to questions the nature of humanity and god and to explore what constitutes a soul. In this beautiful and strange alternate history, N.A. Sulway performs a similar exploration while also taking into consideration how history is shaped and how the creation of history through carefully selected “facts” or stories shapes a society.

Rupetta is an animatronic object, constructed in the 1600s by a young French woman out of brass gears and cogs and leather fittings to resemble a human being. She shares souls and consciousness with the women who wynd her. As Rupetta recounts her own story, in which she witnesses centuries, from her creation to the formation of a new society with her image at its center, she reveals the ways she has been loved, hated, and used by the women she is bound to, as well as the ways she herself has loved.

Alternating with her own story is Henri’s tale, a young woman living in the “present” day society formed out of the devotion to the Fourfold Rupettan Law — “Life is Death. The Earth is a Grave. The Body is a Machine for Dying. Knowledge is the Path to Imortality.” Henri longs to be a historian of the Penitent order and to give up her human heart for a mechanical one that would extend her life. In her researches on the Salt Lake Witches, she uncovers a hidden secret that could shake the stability of the current societal order.

This was a strange and wonderful read with beautiful language. I loved the varying relationships between each of these women, based on kindness, love, friendship, and trust, as well as pain, betrayal, and anger. At it’s core this is a love story interweaved with the histories that shape society and the intellectual rebellions that threaten to undo it.

The hardback edition is out of print and expensive to purchase, but I recommend picking up a digital copy.

Don’t Forget that I am running a giveaway for The Walls Around Us. Just comment on the post by August 31 to enter.

Clinging to Rockface

“too scared of coming down,
too scared of going up,
too scared of rockface”
— from “Sugar” by Heather Nova

I spent the last week in Anchorage, Alaska, mostly visiting family, as well as spending a bit of time here and there going fishing and hiking. One of my favorite hikes near Anchorage is Flattop, a small (by Alaskan standards) mountain that is exactly as it’s name describes — flat on top. Every time I return to Anchorage, I try to fit in time to climb Flattop and last Tuesday, my mom, sister, and I took part in the hike together.

My sister gazes up at Flattop from the parking lot before the climb.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Anchorage when we set out for the hike. The air was cool, crisp, and fresh. My sister said that when she used to hike Flattop as a kid, she always felt like she had been whisked away to Ireland (a fair comparison.

The trail is steep at moments, with switchbacks and wood staircases that seemed to go on forever. We took it slow, breathing heavy and taking time to pause in order to look out and enjoy the scenery, which grew more and more impressive the higher we climbed.

Continue reading “Clinging to Rockface”

THE WALLS AROUND US book review and giveaway

“We went wild that hot night. We howled, we raged, we screamed. We were girls — some fourteen and fifteen; some sixteen, seventeen — but when the locks came undone, the doors of our cells gaping open and no one to shove us back in, we made the noise of savage animals, of men.”

A few years ago now, I read and fell in love with Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls, an emotionally complicated sister-centered story with a touch of creepy and unsettling magical realism. It’s a story that still haunts me, sneaking from behind the shadows into the foreground of my mind. A book that I treasure in my soul and a level of achievement that I aspire to in my own writing.

Nova Ren’s latest novel, The Walls Around Us, has the same kind of haunting quality, and not just because it’s a ghost story. It’s a tale that lingers long after you’ve put it down.

Three girls are the center of this story — Amber is a young woman convicted of murder who has been locked in prison for years; Violet, a ballet dancer with a dark secret; and Orianna, a girl caught in a tide of misfortune who binds the other two together. Their stories weave together unveiling lies and secrets and the truth behind a murder.

Alternating between Amber and Violet’s points of view, the story unfolds with a feeling of inevitability, a sense that everything has happened before and cannot be stopped from happening again. Neither girl is nice or easy; instead they are both complicated and difficult, having made dangerous decisions that lead to catastrophes that define their lives. Where Nova Ren’s skill is clear is in how she manages to generate a feeling of fascination and sympathy for both of these girls. Violet in particular is an awful human being, and yet I found myself pitying her and how she has cut herself off from feeling for anyone else in the world and a part of me wanted her to make it to Julliard despite all the things she’s done.

Amber is particularly interesting to me in the way she erases herself into the group of her fellow prisoners, rarely using the singular “I” and more often using the plural “we”, as though their stories and her own story were the same, as though they are all one body of girls moving through the prison system. Her own personal story slowly unfolds but never quite condemns or absolves her of any crime. She is both guilty and a victim of society and circumstances, screwed over by the man her mother married and the system. A girl taken for granted, as many in the prison are.

Rich, gorgeous prose brings the world inside this prison for young women and the outside world (for this books seems to divide the world into two realms – inside and outside) to vivid, brutal reality. The supernatural aspects of this tale are subtle, weaved in among grounded real-world details enabling a level of plausibility. The effect — of not just the supernatural elements, but the entire story — is unsettling in all the right ways. Although the end is satisfying, this is a novel without easy answers, one to ponder after finishing, and then to go back and reread and ponder some more.

For a further exploration, here are some great interviews Nova Ren Suma has done regarding the book:

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Giveaway

As it turns out, I ended up with an extra copy of The Walls Around Us and I want to share the love, hence a giveaway! I’ll send the copy of the book to someone in the U.S. or Canada.

How to Enter: Just leave a comment telling me about why you would like to read The Walls Around Us.

Signups end on August 31, at which point I will pick the winner randomly.

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Books completed in July

1. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
2. Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone: Poems by Annelyse Gelman
3. Drink by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma and I’ve started listening to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke on audio book, which is a reread after watching the recently released mini-series.

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books completed in July”

Stand up and speak

I attended and performed in my first poetry slam event on Wednesday night last week. The Berkely Slam is held every  Wednesday at the Starry Plough Pub in (you guessed it) Berkeley, California. The event hosts a small workshop prior to opening sign ups, with readers chosen by lottery. Five random judges are chosen from the audience, which makes the tone very random. It is currently hosted by the amazing Jazz Sufi

The judges — or more specifically one judge — was kind of an ass that night, scoring almost everyone incredibly low, which was annoying. For the most part, however, I laughed along and was astounded by the work of so many amazing poets, Allie Marini among them, and had a fabulous time.

I read “The Things I Own.” I was incredibly nervous to read due to the contest atmosphere and because I knew poets tend to be well rehearsed at slams. But I surprised myself by feeling fairly confident when I performed and I got some nice feedback from the audience. The experience has me thinking that I should work on memorizing some poems and work on getting more confident with performing.

What I’m Reading

Rupetta by Nike Sulway is a fascinating read so far, featuring a robot/android being built in 1600s, who continues to live on over the centuries and ultimately becomes the center of civilization in the twentieth century. Beautiful writing and engaging world.

I’ve watching the mini-series on BBC, I’m rereading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke via audio book, because there is so much that I don’t seem to remember, especially in regards to the fantastic footnotes.

Recently finished the wonderfully unsettling The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma — book review with a giveaway will be posted shortly.

What I’m Writing

Just a little bit of writing got done last week, mostly on Tuesday night with some editing of a review I’ve been working on. I think I needed to take it easy in order to recover from the go-get-em attitude of the week before.

Submitted! A micro chapbook of ten pages to Porkbelly Press, called Sacred Ways.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit a selection of poem(s).

Linky Goodness

Poetry Review: Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone

Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone, by Annelyse Gelman
Write Bloody Publishing, 2014

                                 Hello,
my name is Annelyse, I have
chrystalized myself in the liberal arts
and now emerge, grotesque
insect, able to do nothing
but talk about everything.
— from “Ars Poetica”

I learned about Annelyse Gelman’s work by attending a Writer’s with Drinks reading at which she performed. Although she seemed to not be entirely comfortable with being on stage, she read well and her series of quirky, intelligent poems that had me immediately wanting to buy the book.

After purchasing Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone (and getting it signed by the poet), I quickly read through it and then went back to reread many of the poems over again, revisiting and re-experiencing them because I loved them, I really did. But when it came time time for me to sit down and write a review all I could think to say was, These poems are awesome, without really being able to find the words to explain how or why these poems. So, I spent the last two months, planning to write a review and thinking about the review and going back to read a poem here or there and falling in love all over again without being actually able to write a proper review.

We wanted to show you anything is possible.
Forgive us. We were so in love.
In past lives, we were mothers, and you mourned

when we promised you would outlive us.
— from “Hurricane”

These poems are witty, clever, fun with an undercurrent of vulnerability and introspection. They explore the chaotic realm of everyday life, poking fun at its imperfections and drawing out its underbelly. I don’t really know what else to say, so I’ll just end with, These poems are awesome and you should go read them.

The future has an obscenely happy
ending: one day there you are
then suddenly BANG!
— from “An Illustrated Guide to the Apocalypse”

Loving life and being lazy

My Saturday was spent celebrating my niece’s third birthday with a pool party at my apartment. It was so much fun watching her splash around and leap off the edge into the water — that girl has no fear and I hope it stays that way as she grows up. She’s a giant piece of my heart right now, her and her baby brother both and it give me so much joy to spend time with them.

Of course, it took three hours of scrubbing my house top to bottom, while crying Oh, my gawd, why is my house so filthy, in order to have guests over, only to have to clean all over again after they left. But I have no complaints, every bit of scrubbing was worth it.

Sunday was a big fat slug-fest because I was tired of functioning for the week. I feel no regrets…., okay, I feel some regrets, but only little ones.

What I’m Reading

I’ve just started reading my signed(!) copy of The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. As is no surprise to me, I’m already falling in love with the language and with these complicated girls. There’s a reason Suma is one of my favorite authors.

What I’m Writing

Just a little bit of writing got done last week, mostly on Tuesday night with some editing of a review I’ve been working on. I think I needed to take it easy in order to recover from the go-get-em attitude of the week before.

Accepted! I’m pleased to announce that Nonbinary review has accepted my essay, “Beyond Shahrazad: Feminist Portrayals of Women in The Arabian Nights,” for its 1001 Arabian Nights issue. I’m thrilled to know that all that hard work paid off.

Rejected! Two publishers have rejected my Sincerely Yours chapbook (le sigh), but there are two more out. If they both come back as rejections, too, I’ll have to reassess and resubmit.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit a selection of poem(s).

Linky Goodness

Now I can live again…

Last week my nose was rubbed raw by the grindstone and now I’m still recovering, although I’m feeling good.

Also, some other awesome things happened last week.

What I’m Reading

My reading of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and all reading for that matter has been put on hold, as all my available free time is devoted to researching and writing my 1001 nights essay.

What I’m Writing

The 1001 Nights essay is DONE! It’s done! Bang the drums! Toot the horns! The project consumed most of my free time over the last week and a half, with skimming of the 1001 Nights to note all the representations of women in the stories (a huge project), researching what other critics have had to say, and have been drafting the editing the essay — all of which turned out to be much more work than I thought it would be (which should not have been a surprise). But it’s done and submitted and I hope the editors like it. Regardless, I enjoyed the life consuming process and I’m glad I did it.

Now I just need to learn to channel two-thirds of that same energy into future projects, so that I can continue to get sh!t done.

Published! My poem “The Things I Own” is up at Thank You for Swallowing.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish that other thing that I put on hold while working on the essay.

Linky Goodness

Bits and baubles of joy

It’s been an intense week with most of my free time spent desperately finishing off my in-progress essay, which has been taking fare more time than I would have liked. So, it was so lovely to receive three lovely announcements in the midst of all this hard work.

So, here are the bits and baubles.

* * *

NBR-4-Bulfinch-MythologyI’m thrilled to announce that the editors at NonBinary Review for have nominated my poem “Eve and Pandora” for the Sundress Best of the Net awards. I am so honored, especially because this particular poem has had a long history for me. It was one of the first poem that I completed and felt proud of, as well as one of the first poems that received harsh criticism that made me questions myself as a writer. It took time to trust my original vision of the poem again, which has now been published and nominated. I can’t really describe the full extent of how that makes me feel.

“Eve and Pandora” can be found in the #4 Bulfinch’s Mythology issue of NonBinary Review, which is available for free on the Lithomobilius app (available only on the iPad and iPhone for the moment, but will eventually be made available to other devices).

* * *

In other joyful news, Laura Madeline Wisemen interviewed me for her chapbook series. It was a fun experience and I got to talk about fairy tales and folklore, working from poetry prompts, and the self-published chapbook.

* * *

Last but not least, my poem “The Things I Own” has been published at Thank You for Swallowing. Huzzah!

 

Speaking under the moonlight

I had another lovely Friday night at Glowing with the Moon, which featured Nikki Bonsol (aka Nicole Marietta) and Kilusan Bautista.

Nikki Bonsol played some heartbreakingly gorgeous tunes, a couple of covers and a couple of originals. I don’t really know how to describe her voice, so I’m just going to link to one of her videos so you can have a listen.

Kilusan Bautista presented some powerful poetry, the kind that just takes hold, reaches inside and drags out all your feels. He also performed an excerpt from one of his stage performances, which involved a poet speaking to a mop and was hilarious.

He’ll be performing his one man show, UNiVERSALself, along with some other amazing poets on Friday, July 17th, from 8pm-11pm at at Bindlestiff Studios, San Francisco, CA. At the moment I’m planning to go, assuming I don’t just collapse from all the work I’ll be doing this week.

The night also featured two young performers (about 8 and 10 years old) , who bravely stood up to perform a church song. They then periodically took over the mic and just filled the audience with amused joy at all their bravery and exuberance.

Speaking of bravery, I did something I never do in front of an audience. Normally, I like to read off a page or recite a carefully memorized poem. But at the Glowing with the Moon open mic on Friday, I decided to go unscripted. I’ve been so obsessed with writing my essay on feminism in the 1001 Arabian Nights (still in progress) that I decided to work out some of my ideas on stage by doing an impromptu lecture about what I’ve learned. I though I would be stumbling all over the place, but it actually went really smoothly. It helped me work out the flow some, because as I was speaking I could sense when I was going on to long and was able to cut out sections and go shorter. It was a really interesting experience and had me thinking that I might actually be able to do lectures someday.

What I’m Reading

My reading of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and all reading for that matter has been put on hold, as all my available free time is devoted to researching and writing my 1001 nights essay.

What I’m Writing

The 1001 Nights essay is outlined and mostly researched. I’m thinking I can finish it over the next couple of days (probably) and have it submitted by the end of the week. Here’s putting my nose to the grindstone, because hope alone won’t cut it.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit the 1001 Nights essay!

Submission Bonanza

This too has been put on hold (see above), so I’m calling it quits for not. Although I only submitted a total four pieces or groups of poems, I feel good about it. Not the dramatic bonanza I was hoping for, but it’s prompted me to get a significant amount of work done in terms of collecting and preparing poems and stories. I’ll have to wait a few months and try the Bonanza again.

Linky Goodness

  • How To Be More Like Frida Kahlo, As Told By Frida Kahlo“Uncertain how to approach a challenging situation today? Imagine Kahlo as your life coach sitting opposite you, her furrowed brow staring discerningly. Ask yourself, What Would Frida Do (WWFD)? Who knows, you might just end up becoming a brilliant painter.”

It's a marathon life

It’s been a damn good week. Monday was YA Thrills and Chills, a fabulous panel with Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Saft, and Katie Coyle.

Thanks to the Fourth of July holiday, I was able to have a three day weekend with my family. Many of us gathered up in Clear Lake and lazed about by the water, watched my niece and nephew and cousins run around like maniacs, laughing and playing, and drank ridiculous amounts of booze. It was wonderful and somehow relaxing and exhausting at the same time.

During the course of my family’s weekend bonanza, my sisters and I managed to convince ourselves that it would be an awesome idea to sign up for a half marathon. That’s 13.5 miles. In September. Only a short two and a half months away. This was not a part of my plan for minimalism this year. (In fact, right now any concept of minimalism on my part feels pretty preposterous.) So, now I will be rising early before work in order to do training and so it won’t conflict with the writing I’m supposed to be doing in the evenings. Yep. That’s a thing. (I’m kinda totally excited.)

What I’m Reading

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, which shifts from being terribly mundane and dull to graphically violent — although the character is always misogynistic, homophobic, and racist, which is unsettling in it’s own right.

What I’m Writing

After much struggling on a writing project that’s been a dagger in my side for weeks, things are starting to click into place. I can see the finish line. I just have to jog down the path to get there.

Research on the 1001 Nights essay is on-going and I’m getting close to a point where I’ll actually be able to launch into writing a draft.

Acceptance! Thank You for Swallowing, a new online lit journal, has agreed to publish my poem, “The Things I Own” latter this month. Huzzah!

Goal(s) for this week: Finish the book review I started and submit it. Complete the first draft of the 1001 Nights essay.

Submission Bonanza

I don’t really want to talk about it. Really. Okay, fine, I’ll confess. No actual submissions this week. Still at 3/20 for the Submission Bonanza, even with my extention through July 15. *sigh*

Linky Goodness

YA Thrills & Chills

On Monday night I attended YA Thrills & Chills at Books Inc. in Palo Alto, where three fabulous women writers — Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Saft, and Katie Coyle — gave wonderful readings of their newly released books and talked about why they write YA and their writing process, and what books they’ve enjoyed lately.

Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us

Book Description (from Goodreads): On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

“I think it’s such a great compliment when people are scared,” Nova Ren said, explaining that she was too close to the process while writing the book to feel fear of what she was writing herself.

I attending this event because of my love for Nova Ren’s past novels, most notable Imaginary Girls, which I still obsess over from time to time. So, I was freaking out a little (read: a lot) to be able to meet her in person and it was fascinating to hear how she approaches the writing process, which she described as part pantsing, part outlining. Nova Ren said the opening was important for her. “I need a way in. To find the right voice.” For the The Walls Around Us, she explained, she spent several months of a writing retreat just working on the right paragraph, trying to find the right voice. Once she found that, act one of the story flowed out fairly quickly. Then, after completing the first 50 pages or so, she would outline the rest of the book heavily in order to work it to completion.

Book Recommendation: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Lauren SaftThose Girls

Book Description (from Goodreads): Some girls will always have your back, and some girls can’t help but stab you in it.

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

One of the fascinating things about Those Girls is that Lauren Saft wanted to step away from the good girls who tend to populate YA novels and instead focused on the party girls, the ones who drink and smoke and have sex and get into trouble, the ones who are most often get painted as the villain in stories. But they have their own stories, Lauren explained, they have their own insecurities and dreams. Although I ran out of funds and, thus, could not buy a copy of Those Girls, it’s gone on my TBR list to read at a future date, because I’m fascinated by those kinds of characters, too.

Lauren Saft said her writing of Those Girls started with the characters. She had a clear understanding of those girls, their voices, their relationships, and she was really clear on who they were. She mentioned that writing has been described as driving down the road in which you can only see so many feet ahead of you. “I didn’t really outline this book. I just sort of put my foot on the gas and drove,” she said, explaining that she was surprised when it all worked out by the end.

Book Recommendation: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Katie CoyleVivian Apple At the End of the World

Book Description (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

“I did what nobody should ever do,” Katie Coyle said about writing Vivian Apple At the End of the World, explaining that she join a writing contest, to which she submitted the first chapter of the book and a detailed synopsis. At which point, she proceeded to do nothing with it, assuming she wouldn’t advance any further. But lo and behold, the contest representatives called up and told her she was a finalist and the completed novel had to be submitted in three weeks — which she did. Another eight months of editing resulted in the novel I now have sitting on my bookshelf. Based on her reading from the first chapter, it’ll be quite good. As a fan of apocalyptic stories, I don’t often see rapture tales, so I’m excited to see where this goes.

Book Recommendations: The Metamorphosis Trilogy by Kate Oliver and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It's all about pacing

Every day last week, I came home from work and did at least a little bit of writing each night. It was great; it was wonderful; it burned me out and by Friday night I couldn’t stand to look at a computer again. So, I watched some old horror movies at my sister’s and spent most of the weekend being profoundly lazy.

Keeping forward momentum is all about maintaining a pace that allows you to complete your goals without crashing and burn up like a rocket ship off kilter during reentry. The point is that I’m still trying to figure out what that pacing is (in regards to my creative writing) considering my work levels at my day job right now.

What I’m Reading

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley is a story about a small town, a thought-to-be-extinct woodpecker, and a missing teenage boy. The main character is a decent kid and the story is multi-layered and emotionally complex, which makes it a good solid read so far.

Still in the process of reviewing Drink, a collection of poems by Laura Madeline Wiseman. In the meantime, you might want to check out this interview with Laura.

What I’m Writing

I was pretty consistent about sitting down to write this week, which mostly involved me banging my head against this one piece of writing that I couldn’t figure out how to approach. It was unpleasant, but I think I finally have it figured out, which is good because I was starting to get a headache.

I’m also finding myself excited about the prospect of writing an essay — something I haven’t done since college — about the roles of women in the 1001 Arabian Nights. I’ve started scanning the three volumes on my book shelf for more info and am scouring the internet for information.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish the book review I started and submit it. Complete the first draft of the 1001 Nights essay.

Submission Bonanza

A lot of prep work, but no actual submissions, so I’m at 3/20 for the Submission Bonanza. I’m extending the deadline to July 15th, since I have a chunk of things I can send out, if I just get my sh!t together.

Linky Goodness

Let's just bask in the moment

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.” – from the ruling

I am ridiculously happy right now.

Dinosaurs and the Apocalypse, or what I watched over the weekend

My weekend was taken up in part by considerable time watching big screen adventures — Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road — both of which were fantastic fun and, as a side note, both using a number of mechanical effects over CGI.

Mad Max-Fury RoadFury Road was my favorite of the two as a long time fan of the Mad Max series. The movie is essentially a single long car chase seen across the apocalyptic wasteland, featuring a spectacular spectacle of mayhem. What hold the movie together are the assortment of badass characters both good and evil, the carefully choreographed stunts and action sequences, and gorgeously haunting cinematography.

Other people have already spoken about how awesome the women are in Fury Road“Mad Max” Is A Feminist Playbook For Surviving Dystopia and Beyond Furiosa: The Unsung Heroines of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ — so, I won’t expand on that.

Instead, I’d like to say that Mad Max is as hard core as he’s ever been. Although he spends the start of the movie as a captive, Tom Hardy portrays a sense of barely contained violence and rage. War Boy (or one of the others) describes him as a feral, and it’s an accurate description. As in previous Mad Max films (Road Warrior and Thunder Dome), Max starts out with a single selfish goal of obtaining only his own survival, perfectly willing to leave others behind to their fate. It’s only after circumstances force him to team up that he eventually begins to fight for a bigger cause.

Jurassic World provided almost the same feeling of wonder and thrill of the first Jurassic Park. The tone and pacing were just what I’d hoped they would be. It didn’t matter that the plot was full of holes or that most of the characters were caricatures. I loved seeing the dinosaurs again (even if they don’t fit the profile according to more modern science) — I loved seeing the ambling brachiosaurus and the stampeding gallimimus and the terrifying intelligence of the velociraptors.

The only thing that really bothered me was was the main chick’s shoes. Her character was already annoying to me anyway, just so clearly arrogant and financially motivated with little time for her nephews, that my friend and I were kind of hoping she’d get chomped on by one of the dinos. On top of that, she decided to go tromping through the jungle and running from giant dinosaurs in ridiculous spiked heels — an act not just impractical but impossible, since the heels would be sinking into the mud the entire time or she would have broken an ankle and died. If she had taken just 30 seconds to switch out for flats, I would have liked her character so much better.

What I’m Reading

Although beautifully written, Atonement by Ian McEwan, is really dragging for me. I suspect that part of my disinterest is due to have seen the movie and having hated the ending. I was told that you have to read the book to understand why it’s a great love story; I’m still skeptical.

I’m also in the process of reading and reviewing Drink, a collection of poems by Laura Madeline Wiseman. In the meantime, you might want to check out this interview with Laura.

What I’m Writing

My social activities took up a lot of my time this week and the rest of my free time was consumed with procrastinating activities (my turn off the screens plan hasn’t quite been implemented yet), so just little fragments of writing happened this week. So, I need to kick into gear this week.

Goal(s) for this week: Write! Edit! Submit!

Submission Bonanza

Nada. I’m still at a grand total of 3/20 for the month’s Submission Bonanza. Can I manage to send out another 17 submissions before the month is over and make my goal? Yes! Sure! Maybe. We’ll see. Eep!

Linky Goodness

I think I’m going to have to set a personal challenge to try to do each of these 8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 A.M.

Also, this lengthy post, Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party, provides an important look at the history and development of how the conservative party works today.

“The enduring Confederate influence on American politics goes far beyond a few rhetorical tropes. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries. 

That worldview is alive and well. During last fall’s government shutdown and threatened debt-ceiling crisis, historian Garry Wills wrote about our present-day Tea Partiers: “The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.” 

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.”

Five Ways to Chill When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

Photo by Alex E. Proimos (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic ).

Sometimes life likes to throw everything at you at once. Sometimes you like to add to the pile by throwing things at yourself. Work, family, life, the universe, and everything adds up into a big knotted ball of overwhelmed — which is pretty much where I’m at right now. Not all of it is bad, in fact a lot of it is many kinds of awesome, but it’s still mentally, emotionally, and physically tiring.

Looking forward into the next year, I know it’s probably not going to lighten up anytime soon — my day job will remain hectic, my creative work will still need to get done, community in the form of family, friends, and social activities will still call for my presence. Life will likely remain packed over the foreseeable future, so I need to have strategies to maintain my physical and mental health.

As with my usual doling of advice, these items are representative of things that I am doing or am going to try to do in order to help myself. Results may vary.

Continue reading “Five Ways to Chill When You're Feeling Overwhelmed”

Friday night was filled with my favorite open mic, music, and spoken word event, Glowing with the Moon, hosted by friends Lorenz Dumuk and Quynh Nguyen (the Q in Q&A). In addition to moving and powerful performances by the two feature artists, Asha Sudra Finkel and Jocelyn Deona (her amazing poem “Rice Dreams” is on soundcloud), the outdoor event provided ways for listeners and speakers to connect and get grounded with an altar and symbolic acts (writing ones hopes in salt to be returned to the sea, letting sand run through ones fingers, playing with bubbles). I always come away from this event feeling centered and peaceful. Glowing with the Moon is held on the second Friday of every month this summer. Upcoming shows will be on July 10, August 14, and September 11.

My delay in posting this week’s update was due to two things — my sister and I are doing an ongoing Fringe binge and I was recently introduced to the new iOS game Fallout Shelter, which wants to suck up all my time (if I let it).

What I’m Reading

I’ve started reading Atonement by Ian McEwan, which has some beautiful writing. I wasn’t liking the characters much at first, but am starting to get to know them some and am finding it interesting. Not loving it, though.

Still working on Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin. I’m at the point where the public is starting to fight back against the chemical plant, ironically right when the plant was starting to clean up its act.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been jumping back and forth between a bunch of poems, stories, and projects in the effort to decide what to include in June’s Submission Bonanza. All this tweaking meant that I didn’t actually finish anything. But I think this week will be better (I hope).

Goal(s) for this week: Write! Edit! Submit!

Submission Bonanza

While I did some work prepping submissions this week, I didn’t actually send any out, which leaves me at a total of 3/20 for the month. So, I’m pretty behind at this point and will have to more and double my submission output this week, which will be difficult as I have a bunch of social events to go to.

Linky Goodness

In Do One Thing Today that Makes You a Better Writer, Christina Preetha says,

“Putting pen to paper won’t make you a writer.  Through many (maybe, even all) of your writing years you’re still learning to be better. There will be some good pieces to show for it, but most will be less than stellar. Write the crap. Write lots of it. But don’t stop there.  Because what you can do really well right now doesn’t just involve writing.”

Poet Spotlight: Laura Madeline Wiseman — Mermaids, Myth, and Community

Hello, lovelies! I’m thrilled to introduce my first poet spotlight, Laura Madeline Wiseman. She is author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry and fiction with a speculative bent. Her work explores myth and folklore, history and pop culture. She has collaborated with artists on projects such as broadsides and calendars and has taught a variety of courses in poetry, creative writing, literature, and women’s and gender studies. Here, Laura shares about her latest collection of poetry and her love of community.

laura madeline wiseman, 2014

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Laura Madeline Wiseman — Mermaids, Myth, and Community”

In which I reveal my weekend book haul

My trip to the Bay Area Book Festival could have been a bit more organized. Okay, it could have been a lot more organized. I did zero planning before hand and I lagged Sunday morning, showing up at the festival late in the afternoon. The festival hosts oodles of panels and talks, but I visited none since most fill up quickly and I didn’t know what what happening when or where anyway.

Lacuna is an art installation, which housed shelves of free books. Though, the shelves were looking fairly empty by the time I got there.

My lack of planning also meant that I missed a chance to visit the Zoetic Press booth, as they had already packed up shop by the time I got there. So no shiny shot glass or other Zoetic goodies for me. I’ll have to catch them next time.

Nevertheless, I had a lovely time, enjoying the sun as I meandered through the booths. I had a few good conversations with writers and publishers. One of my favorite bits was the Poetry Trading Post at the Small Press Distribution booth, where visitors can sit and write out a poem in exchange for a free book off the display. I put out a spontaneous bit of words, which may appear on the SPD website at some point.

Along the way, I managed to swell my bag with a number of books, some half price and some freebies grabs. I picked up:

  • The Oxygen Factory by Renée des Lauriers (the watercolor cover drew me in)
  • Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
  • Slices of Flesh: A Collection of Flash Fiction Tales from the World’s Greatest Horror Writers
  • Bright Turquoise Umbrella, poetry by Hermine Meinhard
  • What Snakes Want, poetry by Kita Shantiris
  • The Best of the Devil’s Dictionary by  Ambrose Bierce
  • Sacred Precinct, poetry by Jacqueline Kudler
  • Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace (for my niece)

In other book haul news. Thanks to the Big Poetry Giveaway, I received two new-to-me poetry books in the mail — God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant from Lissa Clouser and The Cradle Place by Thomas Lux from Steve Lavigne. Thanks to you both! I eagerly look forward to reading.

What I’m Reading

I’ve started in on Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin. It’s horrifying to see the lengths companies like this would (and do) go to in order to ignore the environmental and health ramifications of dumping chemical waste into the ground, rivers, and ocean so that they can make a profit. This is not a happy read, but it’s fascinating.

What I’m Writing

Some painful attempts to start a new piece happened this week. I kept leaping in to the work only to stumble all over my own self doubts and come up short. The key to these kinds of moments is to just keep putting words on the page — any words, any at all. If one idea slips through your fingers, reach for another. If that crumbles, keep going. Eventually, all this stilted painful writing resulted in something that may actually be editable and so everything was okay in the end.

Goal(s) for this week: Write! Edit! Submit!

Submission Bonanza

Three submissions sent out this week for the Submission Bonanza:

I’m a bit behind at this point and will have to double up next week in order to catch up.

Where I’ll Be

This Friday, I’ll be attending (and probably performing) the Glowing with the Moon reading and open mic, held at the School of Arts & Culture @MHP, starting at 6 pm. This event happens every second Friday of the summer months and always has an earthy feel to it. It’s a very loving and supportive space.

Linky Goodness

Jilly Dreadful presents her point of view on loving problematic art over at Rhizomatic Ideas – “All Art is Quite Useless,” or, How I Manage to Enjoy Problematic Work and Problematic Creators in Three Easy Steps – It’s the start of a series of posts that I look forward to closely following.

Video: How Fiction Makes Our Brains Better

In Heroine’s Journey: Learning to Work, Theodora Goss talks about the importance work plays in female centered tales, especially folk tales, noting “Often, in these fairy tales, it is exactly the heroine’s work that leads to her final reward.” The post is part of a series on the Heroine’s Journey, with the most recent being A Temporary Home.

 

Submission Bonanza 2015


Jaclyn Bergamino over at Lightening Droplets announced her plans to once again do Submission Bonanza, a challenge to send out 30 submissions in the 30 days of June.

It’s a fantastic challenge and, since I’m currently trying to stick my neck out more, I’m planning to throw my hat in as well. I’ve been slow about getting around to submitting, mostly because I’ve been slow to get around to editing first drafts. This might just be the kick in the pants that I need to get a move on.

Realistically, I don’t know that I’ll be able to manage a full 30 submissions, but I might be able to stretch myself and send out 20 submissions this month, which would be awesome.

So here I go!

Books completed in May 2015

1. Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugresic
2. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
3. Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
4. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
5. Middlesex (audio book) by Jeffrey Eugenides
6. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
7. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (audio book) by Truman Capote
8. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Books still in progress at the end of the month: The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman, and thanks to the Short Story Month challenge I’m in the middle of Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a massive compilation of James Tiptree, Jr. short stories.

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books completed in May 2015”

New poem published!

It’s been a strange phenomena over the past week or so that I’ve been feeling rather vulnerable. In a way, this feeling could be directly correlated to how much I’ve been putting myself out there lately, submitting more work, trying to participate more with the local writing community, attending open mics and readings, and being more socially active in general. The higher I hold my head, the more I leave my throat exposed, unprotected. It’s an act of trust — someone could come along and sink their teeth in, but I’m trusting that they won’t and that I’ll be strong enough if they do. It’s unsettling, but I also feel it’s a necessary part of my personal growth right now — not to withdraw, not to retreat, at least not all the way and not completely.

What I’m Reading

I’m loving The Hours by Michael Cunningham, which is filled with such pretty writing and is a loving tribute to Virginia Woolf and her book Mrs. Dalloway.

I’m almost finished with Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman, and I’m just trying to think about how I want to review it.

My Short Story Month challenge petered off at Day 21 (and thus 21 stories). I may try to read the final

What I’m Writing

Most of my writing over the past week involved completing a poem that turned out to be much longer than I expected it to be. But I finished it and submitted it and the universe is good.

Published! Two publication announcements this week. My new poem, “Sacred Ways” is up at Then and If, which is a great lit journal with a cool concept — each published poem is written in response to a previous poem. Mine is in response to Helen Losse’s “After a Mid-December Wedding.”

And as previously noted, “Eve and Pandora” has been published by Nonbinary Review.

Rejected! Three of my poems have been rejected by Poetry Magazine, which just means I’ll be resubmitting this week.

Goal(s) for this week: Submit the chapbook to a few more publishers.

Linky Goodness

The Mechanics of Preventing Procrastination shows how thinking in terms of days instead of years helps you stop procrastinating.

New poem up at Nonbinary Review!

I’m thrilled to announce that my poem, “Eve and Pandora,” has been published in Issue 4 of ‪NonBinaryReview‬, Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable. The issue is available for free — you just need to download the Lithomobilus app to your iPhone or iPad (the publisher is currently working on a compatible version for Android users.)

Enjoy!

* * *

In other news, I’m a wee behind on my Short Story Month challenge and a number of other thing, as well. But, hey, it’s my birthday week and my days have been jam packed with activities, from climbing over rocks and getting bruised and battered at the Yuba River to pampering myself with a facial and a new haircut.

Last night also was great, a joyful evening of words and song at Cito.FAME.Us, where Lorenz Dumuk made us feel things with his poetry and Q&A performed some amazing, moving, and beautiful new songs. Always a delight.

#ShortReads Days 20-21

Both stories are by James Tiptree, Jr., published in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, because I can’t seem to get enough.

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In”

Dark and complicated, this story is about a young woman who yearns to touch the beauty of the starlets she worships like gods. So, when a corporation offers her the chance, she agrees to be the mental controller of a waldo, a beautiful puppet-girl who dazzles audiences and sells product. But everything comes at a price.

One of the many fascinating things about this story is the voice of the narrator, a voice I associated at first with the girl, but is clearly separate and slightly omniscient. It’s not clear who this narrator is, nor is it clear who she is speaking to — maybe us, but maybe someone else specific from the past.

“The Man Who Walked Home”

I can’t really talk about this story without giving too much away, but I can say it’s apocalyptic and portrays an array or humanity after the fall. About halfway through the story, I started thinking I wasn’t that into it and then the ending. Oh, my, the ending. And, yeah, it’s just as fantastic as all the rest of the Tiptree stories I’ve read.

#ShortReads Day 19: "12:02 P.M." by Richard A. Lupoff

Published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2011

A man is caught in a time loop, the same hour repeating over and over again which no one else seems to notice. A basic fun adventure, time travel story. 

Tell me your short story suggestions in the comments. 

Amazing poets reading words

I attended two awesome lit events last week. On Wednesday, I visited a friend’s college classroom with Lorenz Dumuk, where we read poetry and listened to the students read poetry. It was awesome to see a younger generation take an interest. 

On Thursday, I attended friend Allie Marini Batts’ chapbook release party. She read from Before Fire: Divorce Poems and Pictures from the Center of the Universe, as well as some new works. It was no surprise to me that she was awesome. 

Joining Allie on the stage, were a handful of other amazing poets — B. Deep, Cassandra Dallett, Daphne Gottlieb, Joshua Merchant, and Jaz Sufi — each one with their own powerful and unique voice. 

 

Allie Marini Batts reading at the Octopus Literary Salon.
 
 
Me and the awesome.
 

What I’m Reading

I’m focusing on Don Quixote (in the midst of my short story reading) and am hoping to finish it by the end of the month. Part II is dragging a lot more than the first half did for me, so it feels like hard work at the moment.

Also still reading Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman.

What I’m Writing

Ummmmm…. yeah… so…

I need to come up with a new routine that involves me going to a coffee shop or library in order to get actual work done, because as soon as I get home after work I slip into relaxation mode. This week’s plan is to bring my laptop to work on Tuesday and Thursday for just that purpose.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish off poem inspired by the Arabian Nights for submission to Nonbinary Review. Submit the chapbook to a few more publishers.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Poets! Hearing poets read, both newbies in the classroom and professionals at the Octopus Literary Salon, had me reaching for my pen, wanting to scribble words onto the page. At one point, I even got so distracted in writing that I missed my metro stop and ended far from where I intended to go.

#ShortReads Day 18: "The Grief Frequency" by Kealan Patrick Burke

Available on Kindle.

This is a knock out of a short story, creepy and sorrowful. After his wife dies, Paul is drawn so deeply into his grief that he begins to see… I won’t tell you what. Burke does a fantastic job with this story, creating deep characters in a short space and invoking the feeling of grief, while also making it all so unsettling. 
Favorite Line(s): I dug deep into the pockets of my overcoat and grabbed fistfuls of patience as I watched them queue for the opportunity to be sorry.”

#ShortReads Days 16-17

“Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch” by Kelly Barnhill
Published in Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2014

The widow Sorensen forms a new, if unconventional, family for herself at the shock of the local town. Though Agnes Sorensen is clearly human she is portrayed as nymph-like with a magical collection to animals and her new paramour. A sweetly romantic and whimsical tale.

Favorite Line(s): “Seeing no one there (except for a family of rabbits that was, en masse, emerging from under the row of box elders), Father Laurence felt a sudden, inexplicable, and unbridled surge of joy — to which he responded with a quick clench of his two fists and a swallowed yes.”

“Sleepwalking Now and Then” by Richard Bowes
Published in Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2014

Art imitates life or, rather, life imitates art in a theatrical play staged in a dilapidated hotel in 2060. I love the idea of a stage play that takes place over multiple days and rooms in which the audience can interact with the actors. I didn’t much connect with the characters or story as a whole, though; the ways theatre sets a stage for violence is a common theme.

Favorite Line(s): “Like many New Yorkers, Jacoby Cass saw the rising waters as a warning of impending doom but, like most of them Cass had bigger worries.”

#ShortReads Days 13-15

“As Good As New” by Charlie Jane Anders
Published in Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2014

A young woman playwright who is the only survivor of the apocalypse. You’d think that would mean the end of all things, but it turns out the apocalypse has some surprises left. The story is charming and funny and has a lot of dialog about theater and stage writing. So much fun.

Favorite Line(s): “When Marisol let herself think about all the people she could never talk to again, she got so choked up she wanted to punch someone in the eye until they were blinded for life.”

“The End of the End of Everything” by Dale Bailey
Published in Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2014

A considerably darker and more fatalistic story than what I generally like, in which a bleak ruin is slowly consuming the world and the rich spend the end of days in lavish parties with some picking themselves off periodically in suicide. It dragged a bit for me, but the characters were lost and real, and the ending brought it around to a powerful and moving conclusion.

Favorite Line(s): “Words were but paltry things, frail hedges against the night. Ruin would consume them.”

Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar
Published at Strange Horizons

A young woman deals with the aftermath of her mother’s departure. I don’t really want to say anything more than that, because this is a sad and moving tale, one I recommend you should go read right now.

After you read the story, check out this fabulous analysis of what’s not said by Anaea Lay.

Favorite Line(s): “I hate selkie stories. They’re always about how you went up to the attic to look for a book, and you found a disgusting old coat and brought it downstairs between finger and thumb and said “What’s this?”, and you never saw your mom again.”

Friday Flash: The Dead Among the Dead

Behind a gate on a hill, the house skulks with the weight of its memories. It’s gardens bear rotting fruit. Vines crawl up its siding and peel back it’s wooden skin. It’s windows are cracked and broken, shutters clinging to rusted hinges, peeling away like a woman’s fake eyelashes at the end of an alcohol soaked night. The roof gapes up at the sky, open mouthed, drinking in sunlight, rain, and snow indiscriminately.

The house is home to specters, fragments of broken hearts and shards of regrets, drifting lonely and angry over the termite infested floors, nestling under the mildewed drapery, curled up in soggy chairs. They roam the many tilted floors, drift through peeling walls scattering mice, and wander into spiderwebbed rooms tasting the lingering once-was that paints a sheen over slow destruction.

When the front door falls off its hinges and the interlopers wend their way through the entry, taking up and altering space, the specters wail a distant keening easily mistaken for wind whistling in the eves. The interlopers offer up their own low moans, and for a moment their two lost nations take up a song of esurience.

Accustomed to percieving the ancient house as draped in its historic glory, as vibrant and fresh as when they were alive, the specters do not recognize the interlopers for what they are. They do not notice the flesh peeling in strips from bone, do not smell the too sweet stench of decay, do not comprehend the hollowed out emptiness of the interlopers that shamble without apparent purpose through the dim rooms.

The specters respond as they always do to invasion — slamming shutters, knocking wrinkled books off shelves, casting dark flitting shadows — expecting the screaming flight such actions traditionally evoke. But the just-bodies of the interlopers give no response other than to amble jerkily in the direction of each new sound. Confounded, the specters use up their electrostatic strength in games of fright that have no effect.

One interloper, in shuffling toward the sound of a portrait crashing, collapses through a wood rotted floor and smashes like an overripe melon on the stone basement floor. Specters huddle around it, waiting for one more to rise up and join their numbers. But the husk remains a husk with nothing to offer, not even its own ravenous hunger.

The specters learn. Unable to terrorize the interlopers into fleeing, they draw them with their howling, herd them with their bumping and knocking, guiding them to the hole to fall and smash and shatter and grow still. One unravels wire bit by steely bit until the chandelier, dusty and laced with cobwebs, crashes into a clutch of shambles, driving them through the cracking stairs into the rooms below.

One by one, the specters steer the interlopers to destruction until at last their home returns to its own quiet ruination, allowing the specters to slip back into their rumination and drift cloud-like through the fading chaos of memory.

* * *

Chuck Wendig invited writers this week to play the sun genre boogie this week. My random drawing pulled “haunted house” and “zombies” — which is utterly perfect for me.

#ShortReads Day 11 & 12: "There Will Come Soft Rains" and "Tuning Philomel’s Steely Strings in the Wasteland’s Dark Matter"

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury
Published in The Martian Chronicles.

This is one of my favorite short stories of all time, which haunts me every time I think about it, so of course I had to reread it for this Short Story Month challenge. 

I got chills all over again. Bradbury makes this tragic smart house come alive, breathing with its own mechanical needs and passions and fears in the absence of humanity. 

A reading by Leonard Nimoy of “There Will Come Soft Rains” can be found on YouTube.

Favorite Line(s): “And one voice, with sublime disregard for the situation, read poetry aloud in the fiery study, until all the film spools burned, until all the wires withered and the circuits cracked.” (Hard to choose a favorite line, since each word in this story sings.

Tuning Philomel’s Steely Strings in the Wasteland’s Dark Matter” by Carina Bissett
Published in Nonbinary Review.

This lyrical retelling of the myth of Philomela and her sister Procne poetically unveils a story of brutality and revenge. Two women reclaim their own sense of power following terrible and brutal abuse.

Favorite Line(s): “Through the centuries our story twists and turns, contorting to fit into new molds, yet the rumors persist as rumors will. They tear apart truths to meet their needs, finding new ways to silence our protesting screams. Only we know the truth.”

Any story suggestions?

Artist Spotlight: Jill Allyn Stafford

Jill Allyn StaffordJill and I have been friends for a number of years and her work has delighted and inspired me from the start. Using a combination of magazine clippings, tissue paper, newsprint, and photographic transfers along with modeling paste extender, pumice gel medium, and other mediums, Jill Allyn Stafford creates richly textured mixed-media art the expresses conflict, love, humor, and loss. Her style and techniques have evolved and grown over the years and am excited to announce that her work featured in her first solo show.

In addition to making art, Jill is a mother and a legal assistant in a small health-law law firm. She actively works to fund raise and increase awareness for children’s literacy and for breast cancer research. She donates art to multiple non-profits and charities and attempts to coax other artists into sharing their work with the public. Jill also helped form the nonprofit arts group Vox Sacramento, and is a current board member of 916 INK.

* * *

What got you interested in creating art? What draws you to mixed-media art?

I stopped making art when I was in the 6th grade. I became so disillusioned with my inability to draw anything realistically, and so threw in the towel and labelled my self as “not creative.” Fast forward to my 30s when I felt this urge to create. I still couldn’t draw, but I could cut up magazines and put the images together. It just fell together that way. And that’s also why I enjoy mixed media art — you can have no drawing or painting skills, but if you have an eye for putting things together, you can!

Continue reading “Artist Spotlight: Jill Allyn Stafford”

#ShortReads Days 9 & 10

The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
Reprinted at iO9.

Such a bittersweet tale of magical realism, in which folded paper animals live. It shows the pain of internalized racism and the loss it can cause. Beautiful and so moving.

Favorite Line(s): “She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.”

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu

Published at Clarksworld Magazine.

This is a reread for me and it is as astounding experience now as it was the first time around. A group of wasps enact a form of colonization on a nearby hive of bees, though that’s only a small fraction of the story. It is beautifully told with vibrant language, relating an alien view of life in very relatable terms.

Favorite Line(s): “… it was discovered that the wasp nests of Yiwei, dipped in hot water, unfurled into beautifully accurate maps of provinces near and far, inked in vegetable pigments and labeled in careful Mandarin that could be distinguished beneath a microscope.”

Friday Flash: The Shadows Among Us

(Note: This is in the horror realm, so wary readers be warned.)

“Look, I don’t think you understand — we open those doors, we let them in.” My dad’s voice is a growl. His eye is puffy and turning black, where I struck with my book and his face is red with rage, but in his eyes I see only terror. The same terror that had kept my family and I huddled in the locked basement, shivering in the dark for the past week.

“You don’t understand. We need water. Food,” I said, my own voice thick with fear and anger and guilt. I’m halfway up the basement stairs. The book — hard bound, sharp edged, thick as a brick — still hangs heavy as a dead weight in my hand. I suck in a stale breath. “We’re going to starve to death, if we don’t get food.”

“You’ll let them in—,” he snarls, shifting forward aggressively.

Continue reading “Friday Flash: The Shadows Among Us”

#ShortReads Day 7: "The Screwfly Solution" by James Tiptree, Jr.

Published in the collection, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

Sometimes you read a story that impacts you with the same intensity of a novel. This is one of those stories. I’m still floored, just sitting her thinking about it.

Alan is an scientist in South America studying ways to decrease the productivity of parasitic caneflies. Meanwhile, his wife in Ann Arbor is writing with increasingly disturbing news about a Sons of Adam cult and a spreading violence against women.

“The Screwfly Solution” is incredibly unsettling and absolutely brilliant. One of the best stories I’ve read in a long time and I’m considering retreading it right now, even though I should really go to bed.

Favorite Line(s): N/A, I’m having a hard time picking just one when I pretty much adore this entire story from beginning to end.

What short stories have you read and loved lately? I would love some recommendations.

We have winners!

bigpoetrygiveaway2015

Using a random number generator, I’ve determined the winners for my little corner of the Big Poetry Giveaway.

Robin A. Sams has won a copy of Cedar Toothpick: The Tomboy Diaries.

Shawnte has won a copy of The 2013 Rhysling Anthology.

Congrats to you both!

Note: Oh, dear, I drafted this days ago and forgot to press publish. Anywho, here it is now!

#ShortReads Day 5 & 6

Missed a day yesterday. (Eep.) So, here are two story reads today, both published by Tor.com.

Ambiguity Machines: An Examination” by Vandana Singh

This tale is presented in the form of an engineering exam offered by the Ministry of Abstract Engineering, in which three investigations involving “reports, rumors, folktales, and intimations of machines that do not and cannot exist” are offered. Each of the accounts presents different people from different parts of the world. They are a beautifully written tales with common themes of longing, sadness, and loneliness, although each seems to find ways to overcome this either through the machine or in avoidance of it. A gorgeous story.

Favorite Line(s): “So into his design he put the smoothness of her cheek, and the light-flash of her intelligence, and the fiercely tender gaze of her eyes. He put in the swirl of her hair in the wind, and the way her anger would sometimes dissolve into laughter, and sometimes into tears. He worked at it, refining, improving, delaying as much as he dared.”

The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt” by Alex Bledsoe

Bronwyn Hyatt is Tufa (a kind of fairy creature) who is marrying her love, a human. In preparing for her wedding day, she’s torn on what to wear for a dress, wanting to honor her people, while also not wanting to be bound by tradition. While pondering her problem, she meets a Yunwi Tsunsdi (another kind of fair, known as little people) who presents a solution to her problem as long as Bronwyn makes a deal. This was a fun, light-hearted story, in part due to the mundane way these events and fantastical creatures are described.

Favorite Line(s): The woman reached into a bush beside the trail and produced a miniature fiddle. She tucked it under her chin and played a high, mournful note. “It is a beautiful day for thinking. What are you pondering?”

It’s Short Story Month! What shorts have you read and loved lately?

#ShortReads Day 4: "Baba Makosh" by M.K. Hobson 

Published in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, November/December 2013.

What happened when communist revolutionaries travel to hell and encounter old gods? I really enjoyed this one and its connection to mythology. Baba Makosh is a kindly old grandma figure who takes in three soldiers with offers of sympathy and food. Though the narrator remembers old ways and knows better than to accept the food of the gods. He survives the encounter in part due to his respect for old ways and for his skill in music. I always like seeing folklore and mythology done well and this is certainly that. Recommended for those who like Russian folklore.

It’s Short Story Month! What great stories have you read lately? Any I should be reading?

Saw Avengers: Age of Ultron over the weekend. My little geek girl heart was mostly pleased. The movie had a lot going on with a multitude of new characters in addition to a multitude of old ones, which made things a bit messy. But this in no way took away from the fun for me and it was good to see the characters I love back again. 

I have mixed feeling’s about how Black Widow is portrayed in Age of Ultron. One the one hand I agree with some that it’s nice to see some humanity brought to her character and on the other I agree with others who feel it could have been handled better

At any rate, though it wasn’t my favorite Marvel movie, but I had a good time.

What I’m Reading

I’m a little wary to be starting in on Patrick Ness’ final installment of the Chaos Walking trilogy, Monsters of Men, because I’m not sure I’m ready to have my feels put through a meat grinder, but here I go.

Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman get more witty and fun and interesting with every poem I read.

More slow and steady progress on Don Quixote.

What I’m Writing

Ummmmm…. yeah… so…

I need to come up with a new routine that involves me going to a coffee shop or library in order to get actual work done, because as soon as I get home after work I slip into relaxation mode. This week’s plan is to bring my laptop to work on Tuesday and Thursday for just that purpose.

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

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

I’m trying to meditate in the evening before I go to bed. Just 5-10 minutes of quiet breathing. I’m finding that after the few times I’ve done it, I sleep better and wake up more refreshed. So, it’s a good thing for me to keep up.

#ShortReads Day 3: "Sing, Pilgrim!" by James Patrick Kelly

Published in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, November/December 2013.

When a seemingly ordinary chair appears in the middle of a sidewalk, it sparks a new religion and hope of transcendence. A very short and simple story that paints a picture of what the world would be like if there existed a religious relic that actually did something. Not a story with any deep emotion or insight and not the type to linger after being read, but a decent read.

Favorite Line(s): “It has been said that every age gets the chair it deserves, and the history of chair culture is checkered at best.”

It’s Short Story Month! What short stories have you read and loved lately?

#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? 

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.”

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.

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 “Books completed in April 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.

 

Chapbook Review: wingless, scorched & beautiful by Allie Marini Batts

battscover

wingless, scorched & beautiful by Allie Marini Batts (on FB and Goodreads)
Publisher: Imaginary Friends Press
Date Published: March 2015

“if, in April,
the seeds planted in your scapulas
fail to bloom into wings

at least learn to love falling—
— from “Boneseeds”

The ten poems in wingless, scorched and beautiful delve into the dark corridors of women’s lives and bodies. These are women who have made mistakes, crawled through the muck, endured, and returned scarred but with renewed strength.

At first glance, a reader might perceive these poems as gloomy, but here death and rebirth dance with each other in cyclical pirouettes and hope comes back around eventually. For example, in the opening poem “Boneseeds,” the act of crashing down transitions through catastrophe into flight, while “breeding, trumpet flowers out of the dead ash” reveals how life — both plant vines and oneself — can labor to come back from destruction.

In “Her Intentions Are,” the “you” of the poem is a woman broken down by abuse, her shame and devastation revealed public on a city street corner. Her “every clinging breath is futility” and her “tears are scented and boiling with the stink of desperation”. The imagery, such as wolves and women in battle armor, evokes a feeling of folklore that reflects the inner forests in which she struggles. Though no happily ever afters are on the horizon, the poem culminates in the ability to rise up and continue living.

Female sexuality and how it is twisted and commodified is discussed in the poems “Pussy Pass” and “high art”. The first expresses rage at the entitlement of men, who expect their advances to be granted with ready sex — “every man who thinks sex is a gumball that’s owed to them / after putting two nice-guy coins into the girl-machine”. Meanwhile, the second explores the nature of art, noting “soft filters / don’t make disenfranchised body parts / any less than pornographic.” For me, “high art” suggests that art is a mirror, reflecting both truth and lies that are determined by consensus of the beholders.

Each of the poems collected here is powerful, revealing its own mixture of beauty, strength, and pain. Multiple readings of these poems unveil new layers of meaning and I suggest downloading the collection, which is available free online, and spending time with each one.

“…poor things, they
can’t see that I am
dead inside, numb to their
ether, the drug they smell on me is
freedom, they want to taste it like
ginger, a sweet and hot burn.”

— from “Vampire Boys” (note: not original formatting)

If wingless, scorched & beautiful proves to not be enough for you, never fear. Batts has released two other collections this year — another chapbook, Pictures From The Center Of The Universe (Paper Nautilus, March 2015), and a full length collection, Before Fire: Divorce Poems (ELJ Publications, 2015). Based on the strength of wingless, scorched & beautiful, I would recommend either of these collections as a good way to spend your money in support of the poet.

Five More Poems and Poets for National Poetry Month

As with my previous list, here five poems (with a few teaser first lines) I’ve read and enjoyed in honor of National Poetry Month.

1. Local Monsters, by Laura Madeline Wiseman, published by Nonbinary Review

“I see them sometimes, monsters—monsters running down
the upstairs hall, monsters stepping into shadows of the
darker room, monsters peeking around corners, their
colorful eyes blinking….”

2. After a Mid-December Wedding, by Helen Losse, published by Then and If

“Snow glitters on the edge of the pond
in a scene that could be but isn’t
from a Victorian Christmas Card.
Soft light falls from an early moon.
Recorded carols play
from a lean-to crèche,
where the Holy Family shivers….”

3. Two Poems by Daniel Reinhold, published in H_NGM_N

“What if I carried the moon in my back pocket?
Could I dance in my sleep?
Swallow your soul whole?”

4. Moving by Sara Backer, published in Pedestal Magazine

“We confront accumulation. No room
is exempt from the purge; no cupboard
can be left for later….”

5. Art History Kirun Kapur, published in Jam Tarts Magazine

“I’d even smoke the angels,
that’s what he liked to say,
…”

* * *

And a quick reminder, I’m hosting a Poetry Giveaway on my blog, which any poetry lovers here are welcome to take part in.

So far, only one person has commented, so your chances of winning are rather good.

Hey, it's Monday!

Another lovely weekend as the Bay Area warms up into summer (though kinda wish we had a few more stormy weekends before we totally dry out).

Saturday was spent in a crazy cocoon of baby love, as my mom and I babysat my niece and nephew. We got to take them to the park, push them on the swings, and see them laugh in delight at just running around and playing.

Sunday I met up with friends Lise and Allie at the Village House of Books in Los Gatos, where S.G. Browne was holding a meet and greet. I came away with a signed copy of Less Than Hero, which I can’t wait to read.

Afterward I was delighted to walk around with my buddies and introduce them to my favorite indulgence, Icing on the Cake — just about the best bakery in the world. We sat out on the curb, enjoying our cupcake treats and watching the passersby. Such joy.

What I’m Reading

The Ask and the Answer, the second book in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series, is kicking me right in the feels. I can’t really talk about it without spoiling The Knife of Never Letting Go. I’m almost to the end and have ordered the third book, Monsters of Men, from the library already, since I’m expecting another cliffhanger here.

I’m also in the middle of wingless, scorched & beautiful, a poetry chapbook by Allie Marini Batts, which I’m hoping to post a review of later this week.

I stalled out a bit on Don Quixote but have started up again.

What I’m Writing

I’ve pulled one of the poems from the chapbook (maybe). I keep going back and forth on it, since I’m not sure it’s ready (so pulling it is probably the best option — maybe).

In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of publishers to send my chapbook out to (thanks to some advice from Allie). I’ll be sending it out just as soon as I bring myself to finalize the collection.

Goal(s) for this week: Submit chapbook. Gather together poem drafts I’ve written from internet and the universe and organize them in my computer.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

I’ve started in on a modified version of Whole 30 today, which is to say that I’m trying to stick to veggies and proteins with some fruits. So, primarily no added sugar, no dairy, no grains, no legumes (although I’m still eating premade salads that do not follow the rules for lunches, because it’s what I’m capable of right now and I have a couple of cookies I plan to eat this week instead of throw out). This modified version may lead to me trying the strict version, though we’ll see.

I’m finding this inspiring, because for a long while I stopped cooking other than throwing some frozen food item into an oven. This making me think differently and more creatively about the foods I eat and reminding me of yummie things I’ve forgotten about — like avocados and asparagus and brussel sprouts and other foods I haven’t been eating because I haven’t been cooking.

This process has me thinking about how I can find new ways to approach my writing life.

Linky Goodness

In Living Out Loud, Lise Quintana presents great reasons as to why writers should participate in reading their work out loud at events. Solid reasons all.

Book Love: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Description from Goodreads: “Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.”

I have a secret affinity for Westerns or, more accurately, I love the idea of Westerns — although I don’t often read or watch them.

My interest is closely connected with my love for folklore and mythology and the ways modern storytellers break it apart and shape it anew. There is a myth of the American Wild West, often based almost on the image of lonely, noble white cowboys standing up against the dangers of a lawless land. I can understand the appeal of figures like Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok and the characters portrayed by John Wayne. Although, I’m more partial to the female versions, seen in Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley. I love cowgirls and will be immediately drawn to any story that has women facing the Wild West on their own terms, even not-great movies, like Bad Girls.

I come to this interest in Westerns with the full knowledge that this mythology is deeply problematic, erasing and villainizing the image of POC, particularly Native Americans. It’s a mythology to be tangled with carefully, with room for dismantling, and approached with reservation, oodles of research, and a sense of inclusion.

One of the things that drew me to Under the Painted Sky was not only the diversity of the main characters — Sammy is Chinese and Andy is black — but the fact that they disguise themselves as boys to make their road safer. I loved both of these girls, how they faced their fears and strove for their own freedom. They both have skills and knowledge of their own and learn a lot from each other. Their bond of friendship is powerful, as strong as sisterhood by the end, and I loved the mutual respect they had for each other.

“You miss being a girl? I ask her.

Not as much as I thought I would. Just feels like when I’m being a boy, I can cut a wider path.”

The trope Under the Painted Sky most clearly breaks from is the image of the lone noble cowboy image/hero image. Instead of solitude, the story presents the strength of community and the power of being backed by the family you choose. On the road, Sammy and Andy meet three young cowboys — two from Texans and one Mexican — who join them on their journey to California and teach them some cattle wrangling skills. The interactions between the five characters are often hilarious, and the author does a great job of showing how their friendship blossoms into complete trust.

Under the Painted Sky is sometimes thrilling, sometimes touching, and often funny. It had me staying up way to late so that I could finish it. A fantastic debut and a wonderful read from Stacey Lee. I’ll be looking out for more work by her.

In which I feel as though I haven't done thing…

My weekend whispered away, it seems. The days melting into each other with the TV chattering in the background — a large part of that chatter involving a full day marathon of all the Star Wars movies at my sister’s house.

And yet, somehow my laundry is done and my bed is made and my life doesn’t seem to have dissolved into chaos, so I guess I’ve been productive, too.

What I’m Reading

I have a great love for cowgirl stories (even though I don’t read them often), so Under the Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is perfect for me. I’m loving this so far, with two strong girls (one of Chinese decent accused of murder and one a runaway slave) running out into the empty wild west, dressed as boys.

Still working on Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It’s slow reading, but fun. Sometimes I guffaw outloud at the antics of these characters.

What I’m Writing

Putting together a collection is a strange process, something I don’t have much experience with and, in the past, it has not felt natural to group my poetry together. Since this present collection is made up primarily of letter-poems, they all at least fit around a single concept. Over the past week, I’ve read through all of the poems, made selections of those to include and performed edits (substantial in some cases) to each, as well as spreading them out across my living room floor to decide on an order.

I’m feeling good about where I’m at with chapbook — better than any previous time I’ve tried to put a collection together. At the moment, I’m trying to just let things sit for a bit in order to be sure of a few final edits to a couple of the poems, then I think I’ll be ready to send it out. (Eeeeee!)

Goal(s) for this week: Submit chapbook. Gather together poem drafts I’ve written from internet and the universe and organize them in my computer.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Reading poetry this month, because beautiful words get me thinking about words and then wanting to write them, too.

Linky Goodness

E. Jade Lomax imagined what the Harry Potter stories would have been like, if Petunia Dursley had opened her home and heart to Harry instead of rejecting him and the result is so beautiful, it made me cry.

Five Poems and Poets for National Poetry Month

I’m trying to actively read more poetry and lit journals from around the web in honor of National Poetry Month. Here are five that I’ve particularly enjoyed this week.

1. A series of six poems inspired by classic works of literature, including “Wuthering Heights 2” and “Fahrenheit 451 (3)” by Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton, published in Coconut Magazine 19

2. Two poems from Big Brown Bag by Marisa Crawford, published in So and So, No. 8

3. The Unicorn of Renée d’Orléans-Longueville by Janna Layton, published in Goblin Fruit, Fall 2014

4. Next Time Ask More Questions by Naomi Shihab Nye, published at Poets.org (which has a Poem-a-Day newsletter)

5. A series of poems, called CATCHING THE BUS, by Margie Shaheed, published in Linden Avenue, Issue 35

* * *

And a quick reminder, I’m hosting a Poetry Giveaway on my blog, which any poetry lovers here are welcome to take part in.

So far, only one person has commented, so your chances of winning are rather good.

Q&A rock the mic

I mentioned last week that I had participated  Cito.FAME.Us Women’s History Month open mic, in which the amazing folk duo Q&A, performed some gorgeous originals.

I made a video of one of their songs and have posted it with their permission. So, here are Quynh and Alice, are being quintessentially awesome.

* * *

And don’t forget to comment here to win a free poetry book!

In Recovery

Last week was a bit rough. I got sick with a sore throat and a fever, which floored me for most of the week. I had to take time off work and from functioning in general in order to recover, so I wasn’t very productive.

I started to feel better by the time the weekend rolled around, however, so at least I was able to hang out with the family, play with my niece and nephew, and decorate easter eggs with them. It was a good, fun, relaxing weekend, which was exactly what I needed to help get me back to normal.

What I’m Reading

I’ve started reading Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool, which is about a young girl who has been left in the care of a family friend during the 1930s depression.

Still working on Blue by George Elliott Clarke and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

What I’m Writing

I meant to make some edits to my chapbook submission, reworking and cleaning up a few poems, but that didn’t happen. I needed rest more than I needed words last week.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit chapbook. Or, at least finish editing the poems for said chapbook.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Good health. It’s amazing how important it is to just be able to function well.

Linky Goodness

Here is a complete list of poets giving away free poetry books this month as part of the Big Poetry Giveaway!

I may have missed my chance to be added to the list, but am also giving away two books of poetry here.

Looking to read some great poetry, check out Nonbinary Reviews latest issue.

Big Poetry Giveaway 2015

bigpoetrygiveaway2015

In honor of Natinal Poetry Month, Kelli Rusell Agodon hosts the Great Poetry Giveaway every year over on her blog, where you can find links to others who are taking part in giving away poetry books. Every participant is required to give away two books of poetry, one of their own and one by a favorite poet.

To participate in my giveaway here, just post a comment with your name and email address included. Please also let me know your first choice, if you win.

Book One: Cedar Toothpick: The Tomboy Diaries

Cedar Toothpick“Cedar Toothpick is a book of nutshell poetry, written by Stefan Lorenzutti (that’s me) and illustrated by Laurent Le Deunff. I tell the story of backwoods gamine Tomboy, one thimble-sized poem at a time,” wrote Lorenzutti during his kickstarter campaign.

“Each poem is a description of a diorama, such as one finds in ethnographic or natural history museums—bell-jar spaces in which wolves, frozen in time, thread soundlessly through twilit forest; and wigwam inhabitants, cross-legged and ringed round their storyteller, shiver as the wind outside rattles frame of shelter.

The poems in Cedar Toothpick describe 27 diorama scenes through which Tomboy passes over the course of a witching hour and the following day.

There are two important sounds overlapping in Cedar Toothpick: the whisper of Tomboy’s moccasin footfall on pine needle; and the squeak of ancient parquet, as the reader meanders up and down the labyrinthine hallways of this nonexistent ethnographic museum, pressing his or her nose up to the glass of each Tomboy poem.”

This is a lovely little collection of poetry with beautiful illustrations, which I wrote more about in a previous post. I’m really happy to be able to share this with another poetry lover.

Book Two: The 2013 Rhysling Anthology

Edited by John C. Mannone.

“In January 1978, Suzette Haden Elgin founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association, along with its two visible cornerposts: the association’s newsletter, Star*Line, and the Rhysling Awards. Nominees for the 2013 Rhysling Award are selected by the membership of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Each member is allowed to nominate one work in each of two categories: ‘Best Long Poem’ and ‘Best Short Poem.’ All nominated works must have been published during 2012. The anthology allows the membership to easily review and consider all nominated works without the necessity of obtaining the diverse number of publications in which the nominated works first appeared and serves as a showcase of the best science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry of 2012. The Rhysling Anthology is available to anyone with an interest in this unique compilation of verse from some of the finest poets in the field of science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry.” (Description from Goodreads.)

This collection features poems by amazing poets, such as Catherynne M. Valente, Jane Yolen, Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, Sandra Kasturi, Amal El-Mohtar, Theodora Goss, Rose Lemberg, and oodles more.

It also, I must humbly add, includes my short poem, “Red Riding Hood Remembers.”

* * *

The giveaway ends on April 30th at midnight, at which point I will use a random number generator to select the winners.

You can find others who are giving away poetry listed here.

Good luck! And Happy National Poetry Month!

 

New-to-me movies watched in March

March was an interesting movie watching month, since I participated in a challenge on Letterboxd, called March Around the World – 30 Films from 30 Countries. I only made it to ten films because of how packed the month was for me, but it was a great experience stretching the horizons of what I normally watch.

Challenge Movies:
1. Violeta Went to Heaven / Violeta se fue a los cielos (2011, Chile)
2. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec / Les aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010, France)
3. English Vinglish (2012, India)
4. Circumstance (2011, Iran)
5. Cure (1997, Japan)
6.
Caramel (2007, Lebanon)
7. The Red Chapel / Kim Jong-Il’s Comedy Club (2009, documentary, North Korea/Denmark)
8. Wadjda (2012, Saudi Arabia)
9. Tsotsi (2005, South Africa)
10. The Devil’s Backbone /El espinazo del diablo (2001, Spain)

Non-Challenge Movies:
11. Oculus (2013)

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “New-to-me movies watched in March”

Books Finished in March

1. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
2. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
3. Paladin of Souls (audio book) by Lois McMaster Bujold
4. The White Darkness (audio book) by Geraldine McCaughrean
5. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
6. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
7. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
8. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month:
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and Blue, poetry by George Elliott Clarke

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books Finished in March”

Nights of Words and Discourse

Meant to post this on Monday, but I got sick this week, which knocked me flat for several days. Since I’m starting to feel better, I’m posting it now.

* * * 

Last Thursday night I attended the fantastic Cito.FAME.Us Women’s History Month open mic, which featured the amazing folk duo Q&A and yours truly. I’ve been a fan of Q&A ever since I first heard them and so it was a great honor to have been paired with them for my first feature performance. I made a video of one of their new songs and hopefully I’ll be able to upload and share it soon.

Q&A includes Quynh and Alice

  

I also attended the Her Story to Call Her Own open mic, which was a wonderful grounding experience, full of many beautiful women singing or speaking many beautiful words.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick, which was beautiful and not at all what I expected. 

 
Blue by George Elliott Clarke, which is a powerful collection of poetry. 

 Still enjoying my slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

What I’m Writing

I made it halfway through a chapbook submission, which I’m starting to feel fairly solid about. I’ve got some more work to do on it, some cleaning up of some of the poems and than I should be able to send it out.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit chapbook.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Amazing women and artists who live in this South Bay community and who open up their voices to share.

Linky Goodness

I think I’ll just leave you with From Tank Girl to Mad Max: The 10 Most Stylish Apocalypse Movies.

Feeling the Beautiful

My sister and I rocked the She is Beautiful 10K, both of us running the entire course for the first time.

I ran the She is Beautiful 5K last year, which was an amazing and moving experience. I just loved being surrounded by so many different women, of all shapes and sizes and abilities and ages — and all beautiful.

This year I decided to up my game and challenged myself by signing up for the 10K. Life has been hectic this month, so I haven’t been properly training over these last few weeks as I originally intended. I didn’t think I’d be able to run the entire event, but was joyful to just be there.

Mile One: The morning was misty, but not overly cold. My sister and I danced through the starting line and started into a stable, steady pace as we weaved through the crowds of walkers.

Mile Two: We smiled at our fellow runners. I felt strong, moving with this massive wave of women through the streets of Santa Cruz. My sister moves out ahead and I urge her on to run at her own faster pace.

Mile Three: The crowds thin out as the 5K runners and walkers head back to the finish line, leaving the rest of us to continue the journey. I wipe sweat and mist from my forehead and smile.

Mile Four: The tiredness started to set in and my pace slowed. But I pumped my arms and cheered as I past the mile four marker. I made it that far; might as well keep going.

Mile Five: As I rounded a corner and started into the only downhill section of the run, my legs got wibbly wobbly and my knees started to ache sharply. It’s important to respect signals from your body, so I slowed down to a walk. As soon as the ground flattened out again, I pushed back into a run and chugged up a long uphill stretch before the final mile.

Mile Six: Slow, so slow. Exhaustion sat my chest, urging me to stop. My legs felt numb. My hips ached. I churned my body forward at a tortoise-paced jog, watching the grey rolling ocean and the horizon beyond. I put one foot after another. One foot. Another.

Finish Line: I wore a mad smiled and shifted into a higher gear, finishing the race with every ounce of run I had left, with my sister cheering and joy in every fiber of my aching body. My sister and I were so proud of each other, both having run a 10K in its entirety for the first time.

What I’m Reading

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, which is intriguing and thrilling. A group of colonists living on another planet (I think) were infected with a disease that killed all the women and has made it so everyone can hear everyone’s thoughts in a constant stream of Noise. I’m finding it to be a page turner.

I’ve also started a slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The story is quite funny at some points with a surprising amount of toilet humor. Since a lot of the humor is based on the book’s satire of courtly romances featuring errant knights and damsels and other such things, it helps that I’ve done some reading of the classic Arthurian tales, which provides good context.

What I’m Writing

Half of my week was taken up with traveling to Orlando for a work conference, so I didn’t get around to actually putting words on the page.

However, I spent several hours this weekend beginning the process of organizing my writing life. The system I developed should work — mostly. Paper drafts of all my poetry is problematic, since it would be ridiculous to have an individual file for each poem, so I’m still trying to work that out (and likely it will be best to keep poetry primarily on my laptop rather than in print). Works great for fiction, scripts, and nonfiction, though. I’m planning to post about the system sometime this week.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish organization. Edit and prep poetry for reading on Thursday. Prep poetry chapbook for submission.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Accomplishing my goal of running six miles on Sunday was amazing and has me feeling that I can accomplish all sorts of things at the moment. I’m hoping that feeling will linger.

Where I’ll Be

March 26: I’ll be a featured performer at Cito.FAME.us at Iguanas in San Jose. The open mic begins at 9 pm and I’ll be opening, so come early, if you want to see me perform.

Linky Goodness

21 Ways to Break Out of a Slump provides a list of simple measures to switch things up, like heading out to the farmers market or do a cell phone detox. I particularly liked its link to a 30 Day Spring Cleaning Challenge, which would be a challenge indeed, but represents an awesome approach to something I’ve been meaning to do.

The 2014 Best of the Net Anthology has been released for those looking for some good fiction, poetry, and nonfiction reading.

Book Love: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Description “On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.”

I love this book. There are so many layers of world building and character and language that make this fantastic. Beyond the creativity of the world, the just storyline is a straightforward and tense revenge tale and I often found myself unable to put this book down.

The ruling human culture and government is the Radch. The language has no distinction between genders in their culture, so the main character uses “she” for all characters. This is set up and made clear early on, as Breq’s story begins on a world with distinct genders, so that while. Breq uses “she” in all cases, another character might use “he” pointing out the language distinction. Breq also has to be careful to not mis-gender characters in order to avoid confrontation. It might be confusing, except that it’s handled exceptionally well. It was fascinated to note my own assumptions while reading and how they shifted when I learned that a particular character was “male” according to a more binary society.

In addition to the Radch, which is a complex society with rules of power and politeness and a sort of interplanetary manifest destiny, every world had its own societal rules that felt complete and natural to that world.

I also really loved Breq and the idea of a character as being one part of larger being. As Justice of Toren, she was the ship and all of the human-esque counterparts, known as ancillaries, all sharing the same mind. This was another area, where Leckie’s skill is proven as she was able to portray that sense of being a single being existing many place at once in a clear and compelling way without it being overwhelming to the reader. It also created a unique and fascinating layering to Breq’s character, who is the single unit cut off from her former self.

In fact, each of the characters was fascinating to me and those I initially hated turned out to have depth and histories that revealed them to not be bad guys, at least not from their own point of view.

I don’t really know what else to say. I love, love, loved this book and I can’t wait to read the a sequel, Ancillary Sword.

Huzzah! and things

Thing One: The printer works! It actually works! Honestly and for real! Huzzah!

Thing Two: Last nights Cito.FAME.us open mic was mellow and lovely. Performers had to rock without the mic, so a lot of fantastic acapella. Khaliah shinned with joy as she shared her Dance of Peace and Ang Whee read and sang some beautiful words. Everyone was wonderful.

Since there were only a few people signed up, so I was able to read a number of poems, rather than just one — a nice warm up for March 26th, when I’ll be featuring.

Thing Three: I’m off on a work trip to Orlando tomorrow, where I’ll be through Wednesday. Therefore, there will likely be little to no blog posting next week, unless I get a gumption.

It's a new week and I need some sleep…

After some additional challenges with installation, the printer saga is at an end not fixed after all. *sigh*

 I’m also still tired after FOGconm, in a good way.

What I’m Reading

Ancillary Justice by Ann Lecky, which is due back at the library today. I’m only a few chapters in, though, so fines be damned. The storyline and worldbuilding are fascinating and I love the use of “she” as the primary pronoun for everyone.

What I’m Writing

Nada last week, because of prepping for FOGcon and other life things to do, like honoring the day of birth of the most, wonderful, beautiful, and wise lady who brought me into this world. I love her, I do. 


Goal(s) for this week: Write a chapter of the novel in poems. Submit something.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

I’m not feeling very inspired at the moment, but I will be once I get my room smooshed back into a state of order, allowing me to breathe again.

Where I’ll Be

March 26: I’ll be a featured performer at Cito.FAME.us. I’ll share the link, when I have more info. 

 I’m planning to also attend this Thursday’s Cito.FAME.us open mic, which is also the two and a half year anniversary of the event.

Linky Goodness

Theodora Goss wrote on teaching writing and what’s she’s learned as a teacher in response to this post. Her thoughts are awesome and I 100% agree.

FOGcon Recap

My weekend was filled with FOGcon and I’m pleasantly exhausted. It’s always a blast to go, reconnect with friends, and talk about speculative fiction and movies and other geekery. This year I also did karaoke for the first time and despite my pounding heart had quite a lot of fun.

Catherynne M. Valente and Kim Stanley Robinson were the Honored Guests, and they both were wonderful speakers, providing some great insights on the panels.

Panels

I enjoyed just about every panel I went to, but here are a few of my personal favorites.

Stories within Stories within Stories within Stories…, including panelists Elwin Cotman, Catherynne Valente, Phyllis Holliday, and Andrés Santiago Perez-Bergquist, with Sunil Patel as moderator. The panel discuses a number of topics relating to nested stories.

One especially interesting thought, for me, was the idea that nested stories reflect how life works, in that we are the center of our own stories and our lives are filled with interjections and asides, from the gossip we tell a friend to the stories we relate about ourselves to the wikipedia article we pause to look up in the middle of a conversation. We are constantly stopped by interjecting narrative and it was even suggested that we are the frame narrative for every book we read.

For writers, it was noted that nested stories can sometimes be an engaging way to slip in exposition, reveal layers to the world, or characterization. However, the story needs to be just as compelling as the main (frame) narrative. Since it is interrupting the narrative flow, the first line of the interjected story had better be better than what came before it so that it doesn’t turn readers away. It was also noted that some nested stories work better as fragments instead of complete tales.

Notable book recommendations:
The French Lieutenants Woman, by John Fowles
Was, by Geoff Ryman
Order of the Stick, comic by Rich Burlew

Continue reading “FOGcon Recap”

Book Love: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

“And the Bastard grant us… in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain’s peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word.”

I LOVE THIS BOOK! Let me count the ways!

1. It’s so refreshing to have a female main character who is middle aged. At 40 years old, Rowena Ista dy Chalion is free of her past madness and tucked away into a safe, little town away from the demands of the central government. She is coddled and patronized and treated like a child. She’s hard on herself and bitter about her past mistakes. Ista longs only to escape the bounds of her past and of her claustrophobic present life, and so enacts a plan to venture forth on pilgrimage, even though she doesn’t feel slightly pious. Along the way, she curses the gods for the burdens they once placed on her and her failure to carry those burdens. Despite all her hard edges, she’s compassionate toward most people, hoping to do as little harm as possible as she seeks her own freedom.

2. Challion is a well imagined high fantasy setting. The back of the book described it as medieval, but I would more visualize it as similar to 16th century Italy or France. Without overwhelming the reader with details, Bujold presents the society along with its government and religions in a way that rather specific to this world.

3. I love that there clear magical rules and limitations with power sourced either from the gods or demons. The rule provide just enough leeway for mystery to still be possible, although it’s clear that while these rules can be bent, they cannot be outright broken.

3. The fifth god in Challion’s religion is The Bastard, who is less holy than the other gods, enjoys playing tricks, and has a delightfully crude sense of humor.

5. Liss is a courier, who becomes Ista’s lady in waiting on the road. She’s a rough and straightforward girl from a common family, who unabashedly rides faster than any man on the field. I love her.

6. Illvin makes me swoon.

7. The writing is wonderfully vivid, drawing me in so that I can hear the buzzing of green flies or the see the glint of a man’s armor.

8. Though it’s the second book in the series, it stands on its own feeling complete in and of itself. This book is just about perfect for me and my tastes, so much so that I almost don’t want to read the first or third books and risk marring the experience (though I’m sure I’ll read them eventually after some of the shine wears off in my memory).

FogCon Homework: Reading Red Mars and Six-Gun Snow White

I’m stoked to be attending FogCon this weekend, where Kim Stanley Robinson and Catherynne M. Valente will be honored guests. In preparation for the excitement, I’ve been doing some homework to mentally prepare by reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson and Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente. Joanna Russ will be the Honored Ghost, so I am currently rereading The Female Man.

I’ve also semi-recently read and reviewed Valente’s Palimpsest and Robinson’s 2312.

While both authors write very different kinds of books, they each present richly detailed universes.

Continue reading “FogCon Homework: Reading Red Mars and Six-Gun Snow White”

New-to-me movies in February

1. Le Gouffre (short film, 2015)
2. Amer (2009)
3. Pariah (2011)
4. Carrie (2014)
5. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
6. Belle (2014)
7. Birdman (2014)
8. Boyhood (2014)
9. The Theory of Everything (2014)
10. The Imitation Game (2014)
11. American Sniper (2014)
12. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
13. Near Dark (1987)
14. Kiss of the Damned (2012)

Being a part of a community on Letterboxed really increased my movie watching this month and will likely do so again in March as I take part in the March Around the World – 30 Movies and 30 Countries challenge (not that I have anywhere close to enough time to watch that many movies this month).

FEBRUARY REVIEWS:

Continue reading “New-to-me movies in February”

The Printer Saga

The installation of my new printer has become a sort of saga, marked with bouts of passive procrastination. It all began nigh a month ago, when I realized I needed to buy an electrical strip in order to plug in the printer, TV, and Xbox simultaneously.

Thus, I journeyed forth to Office Max and purchased the required electrical strip — only to discover that the electrical outlet is a two-prong outlet and will not accept my three-pronged plug of my strip. *le sigh*

Verily, I adventured into Home Depot and discovered an adapter that would allow me to use my three-pronged electrical strip in my two-pronged outlet. After a struggle to shove the three-pronged plug into the adapter, which resulted in a war wound in the form of a bruise on my thumb, the printer worked!

And one would think my story would be done, but no!

During set up, I came to realize the printer did not come equipped with a USB cable, as the wireless setting was standard… I do not have wireless… Hey, don’t look at me like that.

Thus and verily, I hath ventured into the wilds once more and have obtained a USB cable of my very own.

I will learn tonight whether this saga is finally at an end.

What I’m Reading

Six-Gun Snow White by  Catherynne M. Valente, which like most of her writing is lush and complex. I love how she keeps the fairtale tone, while mixing in the old penny western tone. Neato.

What I’m Writing

Let’s just pretend I was productive this week. Agreed? Agreed.

Goal(s) for this week: Enjoy my time at FogCon. If I manage to get something written, then awesome. If not, well I have an excuse.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Honestly, I don’t know. For some reason, I’m finding it a challenge to list something here each and every week, as I tend to find inspiration in random insignificant things of everyday life and can never remember them when I need to write these posts.

Where I’ll Be

March 6-9: Floating around FogCon, talking about books and writing and generally having a good time.

March 26: I’ll be a featured performer at Cito.FAME.us. I’ll share the link, when I have more info.

Linky Goodness

Heather Web writes on The Science of Creating Authentic Characters.

Books Finished in February 2015

1. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
2. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon
3. Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
4. The Orphan Master’s Son (audio book) by Adam Johnson
5. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Still in progress at the end of the month: Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson and Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente.

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books Finished in February 2015”

Organizing the Writing Life

My poems, stories, novel, and script drafts exist in various stacks, clumps, and file folders of uncertain date or destination, making it a difficult task to track down the latest version of anything. I have been thinking about how I might be able to better organize this mess, pulling both the physical paperwork and digital drafts together into a system that works on both sides.

After a little internet searching I found a system online shared by Sarah Selecky that might work, at least digitally. The system breaks things down into five file folders: Fresh Ingredients (notes, thoughts, ideas, etc.), Cooking (drafts in progress), Ready (finished pieces ready to be submitted), Published, and Leftovers (pieces that are not actively being worked on but you don’t want to throw out).

I’m trying to figure out how to work collections into the mix, such as chapbooks that are still “Cooking” but would include “Ready” poems. One of the things I’m hoping this system will do is to help me get rid of confusing duplicate drafts of some of my pieces.

The system also won’t help with filing hard copies of paper, but I’m trying to think of how I can use better organization on my laptop to reduce the amount of paper I have on hand. One thought is that I should type up all the notes and snippets I have in journals and on scraps of paper, and then I can toss the scraps or store the notebooks out of the way.

I also have print outs of poetry and fiction in various stages of drafts (some with reader notes and some without) that I need to organize in my filing cabinet. Another thought I had was to have a file for drafts with handwritten notes, which would then be moved into a “changes made” file once they had been entered into the computer.

I’m still toying with it all, and I would love to hear recommendations on how others manage their drafts so that they can find them easily.

A Perfect Sunday

Sunlight dappled through the trees as I walked with my family down the trail towards the town of Los Gatos. The day was crisp, warming in the direct sunlight and chilly in the shade, as if it couldn’t decide whether to give up its imitation of winter and just jump ahead to spring.

We talked, the conversation running through the current family dramas into other more cheerful territories. My nephew’s blue eyes competed with the sky as he peered out from the child carrier on his mom’s chest. Once free of the stroller, my niece ran around screeching, laughing with maniacal joy as I let her chase me around the trunks of redwood trees and, then, as she loped over the grass chasing birds.

We stopped at Icing on the Cake on our way home and bought a few perfectly decadent cupcakes to have with lunch. When we finally arrived home several hours later, we all collapsed with a happily exhausted sigh into the chairs of the living room, ready for a late lunch and perhaps a nap.

What a luxurious Sunday. I didn’t care that I didn’t get any writing done.

What I’m Reading

I didn’t expect to be enjoying Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson as much as I currently am. Though it contains a lot of technical speak, it’s character focused and that’s  really helping to anchor me in the story.

What I’m Writing

Writing last week was a bit of a bust, although I got barely a stanza down on the novel in poems that’s taking an eternity to write.

Most of my efforts were not so much on writing, but on getting my new printer set up — the one that I’ve had for weeks and still have not tried even once to see if it works. I’ve run into a number of challenges trying to figure this set up out. The main problem at the moment is that the electrical outlet I need to plug the printer into is a two prong outlet, while both the printer cord and power strip I have require a three prong outlet. I don’t really have anywhere else to set up the printer, so I’m hoping I can buy some sort of adapter at a hardware store.

Goal(s) for this week: Buy an electrical adapter, so I finally get this printer working. Finish chapter three. Put a submission packet together.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Even though I’m longing for rain (which we so desperately need), I’m find the longer, sunnier days soothing. Perhaps what I’m personally needing right now is a little more light in my life.

Linky Goodness

Jane Friedman posts 5 Digital Media Resources for Every Writer’s Toolbox, which has some great programs and tips that I’m definitely going to try out.

Five Writers to Check Out for Women in Horror Month

As a fan of horror (and someone who hopes to write it), I’m stoked that Women in Horror Month exists to promote women in the genre, from filmmakers to artists to novelists. In that vein, here are a five women writers of horror or horror influenced fiction, whose work I’ve loved.

Shirley Jackson

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within.” – from The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House is one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. The way the characters bond together and simultaneously become hostile to one another in the face of the horrors of the house is quite compelling. The story is creepy and weird and nothing is every quite resolved.

She’s also well known for the short story, “The Lottery,” which is often taught in high school English classes and for good reason. It’s frightening in a dystopian sort of way. I need to get around to reading more of her short stories sometime.

Mira Grant

“Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot — in this case, my brother, Shaun — deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens.”— from Feed

Mira Grant is the dark alias of fantasy writer, Seanan McGuire. As Grant, her novels delve into the scientific thrillers with lots of death and mayhem, causing them to overlap with horror.

Her Newsflesh trilogy explores a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies, in which humanity has clutched a fragile foothold of society. Overlapping the constant threat of being chewed up by or turning into the infected, are dark governmental conspiracies.

I’ve also read Parasite, the start of her Parasitology series, which is thus far proving to be fantastic as well.

Caitlin R. Kiernan

“Hauntings are memes, especially pernicious thought contagions, social contagions that need no viral or bacterial host and are transmitted in a thousand different ways. A book, a poem, a song, a bedtime story, a grandmother’s suicide, the choreography of a dance, a few frames of film, a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a deadly tumble from a horse, a faded photograph, or a story you tell your daughter.” ― from The Drowning Girl

The Drowning Girl tends toward psychological horror, explorations of the psyche more than physical danger. That is certainly the case with The Drowning Girl, in which is told from the point of view of a schizophrenic young woman named India. I almost wouldn’t consider this horror, although there are hauntings and werewolves and mermaids that play their parts and some of the elements are deeply unsettling. The Drowning Girl was a favorite read for me.

Kiernan’s work has been listed on several horror lists and her novels certainly play with the genre.

Gemma Files

“The rustling peaked, became a chitinous clicking, and Morrow fought hard to stay still while the whole wheel-scarred road suddenly swarmed with insects — not locusts, but ants the size of bull-mice, their jaws yawning open. Neatly avoiding both Chess and Rook’s boots, they broke in a denuding wave over the corpses, paring them boneward in a mere matter of moments.” – from A Book of Tongues

I was introduced to Files’ writing with the Hexslinger series, a re-imagining of the Wild West in which a violent and dangerous preacher turned sorcerer and some of his fellow outlaws is drawn into a deadly game with the gods. These novels take you uncomfortable and visceral places. Not just gore (though if you like that, there’s plenty), but also in terms of sex, psychology, and emotion.

Writing this reminds me that I still need to buy and read A Tree of Bones. Also, I was excited to learn that her new short story collection, We Will All Go Down Together, was recently be released in late 2014.

Kelly Link

“You have to salvage what you can, even if you’re the one who buried it in the first place.” – from “The Wrong Grave”

“The Wrong Grave,” featured in Link’s Pretty Monsters: Stories is wonderfully creepy and strange, involving a boy who goes grave robbing in order to recover the drafts of poetry he left in the casket of a friend — only the discover it’s wrong grave and the dead girl inside is rather annoyed to be disturbed.

While many of the stories in Pretty Monsters are more fantasy than horror (and this collection is more YA), she definitely has a knack for darker fantasy as well. Her collection of adult stories, Get in Trouble, is also supposed to have some horror stories.

* * *

Here are a couple more lists that I’ve found:

Who are your favorite female horror writers?

_________

For Joy!

It’s been a lovely week all around, with plenty of time hanging out with family and friends, talking and being silly and ridiculous.

I attended the Cito.FAME.us Love is in the Air open mic and Valentines Day party, which was amazing. I love these artists and seeing what they can do and how they open up and grow.

I’ve taken some more organizational steps, switching over my 2014 files to 2015 and getting stuff laid out to do my taxes. While taking a look at my files, I noticed that what really needs organizational work is my creative files — my poetry, fiction, notes, etc. I need to figure out to have each poem and story right where I want it when I need to put together a submission packet. I also need to keep more accurate record of drafts, making it clear the most recent versions in both print and on my computer. I would love to hear suggestions in this regard.

What I’m Reading

Almost finished with The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. I’m not normally into military stories, but this is compulsively compelling and a fast read with really interesting ideas.

Next up will be Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I previously read Robinson’s 2312, which was good but was highly focused on the technical aspects of each world visited and I didn’t quite connect with it. I’m guessing that Red Mars will be similar, but since it will be focused on a single world instead of many, I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it more. It’s also research, as Robinson will be a guest speaker at FogCon 2015, which I will be attending in March.

What I’m Writing

Chapter/poem two of the novel is poems has been completed! Progress has been far slower than I’d like it to be, in part because I need to re-prioritize my time. But still, progress, huzzah!

I completed one other poem last week, a Valentines Day poem, which I read at the fantastically fun Love is in the Air party last week.

Accepted! Nonbinary Review has accepted my poem “Eve and Pandora” for their upcoming issue #4, focused on Bulfinch’s Mythology. Eeeeeee!

Goal(s) for this week: Get my printer set up. Finish chapter three. Put a submission packet together.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

I’m having a hard time naming something specific this week. I feel a general sense of momentum, of engagement, partly because I’m working to submit work on a regular basis and partly because I’m actively connecting with artist and writer community in person and online.

My main feeling at this moment is to not let hesitation or fear herd me into poor use of time. It’s all well and good to watch TV/movies and play video games, but it needs to come after making myself and my creative work a priority.

Linky Goodness

My friend, Laura Ayer, pointed out Bullet Journal, which is a method using the traditional paper and pen method to plan and manage one’s monthly tasks (I recommend watching the introductory video). I love the idea of this, but don’t know if it’s for me. I’m kind of all over the place when it comes to paper, though having a clear method would like this could be a good solution.

If any one has done the Bullet Journal method or something similar, I would love to hear about your experience.

Love in the air – poetry, music, laughter, and joy

Cito.FAME.Us celebrated it’s first Valentines Day party last night, with pink and red paper hearts and little chocolates for all — not to mention an amazing crew of artists, including poets, musicians, and some smooth moved dancers. Love of many forms was expressed and shared.

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Chris Quality handed out his Lyrical Fitness album at the event.

Our Hella Famous host, Lindsey Leong, shared a moving, deeply felt poem. It always amazes me how she can hold such a safe space for everyone who comes to her events. She’s an amazing poet and such a wonderful soul.

Chris Quality is a fantastic hip hop artist. He helped plan the event along with Lindsey, and is another generous soul. Each time I’ve seen him, he’s just been one of the happiest people I’ve met. He handed flowers out to all the ladies (and some gentlemen) with the help of Mohamed X, who also rocked the mic last night.

A stunning song came from the lips of the beautiful Miachalah, who I hope I will get to see perform more in the future.

Mc Tate performed a series of amazing spoken work pieces, that had my head spinning trying to cling to some of his wicked phrases and metaphors. I hope he publishes a collection soon, so I can have those words on my shelf, where I can look at them anytime I want.

The always delightful Q&A performed several sweet folksy songs. They get better and better every time I hear them, which was especially impressive since Quinn was feeling sick last night.

Melissa Baxter was taking photographs of the performers all night long and also belted out a best friends song from the Wicked musical.

I also want to send love to Lorenz Dumuk, who didn’t perform last night, but helped to set up the fantastic back drops and sets for the show. Hugs to you, friend.

Amid all these fantastic artists and wonderful people, it was an honor to be able to share one of my poems, a piece I wrote especially for the event, called “As a Single Lady Alone on Valentines Day” (which I’ll be submitting for publication as soon as I make some edits). I was grateful for the positive feedback to be able to just be there and share in the experience.

PS. I want to be able to help promote the performers with this post, so itf there is anyone who performed who I forgot to add here, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add you to the list.

Slavery by Another Name

“Only by acknowledging the full extent of slavery’s full grip on U.S. Society — its intimate connections to present day wealth and power, the depth of its injury to black Americans, the shocking nearness in time of its true end — can we reconcile the paradoxes of current American life.”
– Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name

When I was in high school, in regard to black history, I remember learning about the slavery and Civil War, and then jumping ahead to the civil rights movement, with only a brief mention of sharecropping. The impression left from these lessons was that although racism still abounded after Emancipation, African Americans in the South were at least free, able to farm and build a life for themselves.

It turns out this was mostly a myth.

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon reveals through meticulous research how southern whites by-passed the Emancipation Proclamation and constitutional amendments to continue slavery in the form of convict forced labor. “In the first decades [after Emancipation], the intensity of southern whites’ need to reestablish hegemony over blacks rivaled the most visceral patriotism of the wartime Confederacy,” writes Blackmon. So, they found their way around emancipation by criminalizing black life by writing laws targeted specifically at African Americans, one such law making it illegal for someone to leave their current employment without their employer’s permission.

Continue reading “Slavery by Another Name”

Happy February! Love is in the air!

It’s crunch time at my day job, which leaves me little headspace for anything else.

A beautiful, windy storm blew in with violently shaking trees and spats of pouring rain. I love sitting in my house listening to a storm — though I am very grateful it didn’t knock out the power in my area.

What I’m Reading

Just started in Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg. I loved the movie and the book is proving to be quite good as well.

I’ve finished  Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon, which is fantastic and has me thinking lots of thoughts that I’ll pool together later this week.

What I’m Writing

I’ve made it halfway through the second chapter/poem of the novel in verse. The chapter was proving more elusive than I expected, but it’s falling into shape now. A sample from the chapter:

the Queen stitched
with numb but steady fingers
the image of her mother’s gardens,
trees jeweled with tangerines and persimmon,
walls cloaked with jasmine and wisteria,
her mother poised like a fae
about to pluck a crimson rose
from its branch, embroidering the mantle
she would gift to her child

Several other poems drafts have also begun to take shape, one of which I’m planning to read at an open mic this week.

Submitted: Four poems were sent off to Poetry Magazine. Woo!

Goal(s) for this week: Finish chapter two. Put another submission packed together.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Community. I love seeing my fellow poets and artists and musicians rock the mic or post some amazing work online. I love seeing their efforts recognized. It’s inspiring and joyful. It’s also wonderful when these fabulous artists share feedback on my work, guiding me in the right direction. The people at Cito.FAME.us are wonderful, as are my lovely friends in my Writing Gang who I met with on Skype last week. I love speaking about words. I love living words.

Where I’ll Be

I will definitely be attending the Cito.FAME.Us Valentine’s Day Party, which will also have a limited amount of open mic readings.

Linky Goodness

Therese Walsh’s post, “Monotasking: The Forgotten Skill You (and I) Need to Re-Claim, ASAP,” fits in nicely with this year’s (for me) theme of minimalism and focus:

“I’d heard that multitasking is a fallacy — that when we think we’re doing two things at once, we’re usually only doing one and not as well as we might believe.”

Books Finished in January

1. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
2. Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
3. Links: A Collection of Short Stories by Kaylia M. Metcalfe
4. Ancient, Ancient: Short Fiction by Kiini Ibura Salaam

Total for the year: 4

Favorite Read:
Palimpsest was complex and lyrical and wonderful.

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month:
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. I thought I’d be done by now, but it’s fascinating and fact heavy, which is why it’s taking me so long to read.

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books Finished in January”

Feeling That Community Soul

I almost talked myself out of going to the Cito.FAME.us open mic tonight. It’s easy to do, since the mic goes late and my morning starts early tomorrow. But one of my goals is to attend an open mic at least once a month and I finished a poem today just in time to perform it.

I’m so glad I went, because the event turned out to be hella mellow, a small group of regulars, all showing love for each other.

The feature performer was Lyneisha, who has an amazing soulful voice. She performed several covers and shared some of her own words. She’s amazing.

And really every one was amazing, sharing their words and songs and beats. The atmosphere was loving and supportive and just perfect.

Thank you to Lindsey Leong, Scorpiana, Chris Quality, X-Ray (ChrisCross0411 on YouTube), and everyone for being fabulous tonight. I wish you all success and joy.

(PS. Prior to the event, I spent some time at a coffee shop writing and made a fraction of progress on my novel in verse. Just the beginning of one poem, but any progress is good progress and it felt good.)

New TV on My Radar

I’m terrible at keeping up with TV shows, especially those that require a chronological viewing in order to understand ongoing events. One of my favorite shows is The Walking Dead, but I’m a whole season and a half behind, so I haven’t been keeping up with new episodes.

This is usually why I end up watching things like The Big Bang Theory , because I can find them while channel flipping and they don’t require the same level of commitment.

Nevertheless, I’ve managed to tune into a three new shows this season and have done a relatively good job of keeping up with them. (We’ll see if I stick to it or not.)

Continue reading “New TV on My Radar”

Movie Review: Selma

selma movieReleased: 2014

Directed by Ava DuVernay

Description (from Letterboxd):

Martin Luther King, Lyndon Baines Johnson and the civil rights marches that changed America.

“Selma,” as in Alabama, the place where segregation in the South was at its worst, leading to a march that ended in violence, forcing a famous statement by President Lyndon B. Johnson that ultimately led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

It astounds me that Selma was not nominated for more than two Oscars. Ava DuVernay has put together an excellent biopic, subtly fitting in many layers of history, including disagreements between different aspects of the civil rights movement (such as the SNCC) and the planning and focus required to steer events to a particular outcome. It was a smart move for the movie to focus on a single issue of the movement — the work to secure voting rights — as it give the audience a clear sense of the conflict at hand and something to rally for. I also liked the decision to overlay events with typewritten messages from the FBI’s monitoring of King and the movement, which was an unsettling and brilliant addition to the film.

David Oyelowo is fantastic as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., revealing his uncertainties in facing the enormity of the task before him. He really embodies the man and brings humanity to the character, even as he gives iconic speeches.

selma movie still

If there is one thing that bothered me, it was that sometimes it was hard to keep track of timelines. I’m not really clear on how much time passed, from when King first appeared in Selma to the final march from Selma to Montgomery. I’m assuming months, or at least weeks, but I’m not sure. It was a minor problem anyway, as I enjoyed and was moved by the movie.

My sister and I had a great conversation following the movie, talking about the history of racism and how it applies to today’s current events. Isn’t generating discussion what a movie like this is for?

selma-bridge movie still

Forward motion is forward motion

I spent Saturday night in San Francisco with my friend An Xiao Mina, who happens to write a tech blog about meme culture and many other interesting things. We spent the afternoon eating sushi, getting lost in the city, and watching a fiction reading in a little cafe.

Sunday was primarily consumed with my minimalism efforts, as I trolled through stacks of old magazines deciding what was worthy to stay. It was a long, boring process, but it feels good to have most of that out of my house.

What I’m reading

I’m still working on Ancient, Ancient, by Kiini Ibura Salaam, and  Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon.

Both I have been slowly enjoying and both I’ll be finishing this week.

What I’m Writing

I’ve worked on poetry in some form or another everyday this week, but did not finish anything.

I’m okay with that. Forward motion is forward motion.

Goal(s) for this week: Type up one to two novel poems. Finish and send out a submission of four poems to Poetry Magazine.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

The crisp cold days, full of blue skies and a plethora of imaginatively shaped clouds.

Opportunity of the Week

The Emerald Tablet is looking for original work that in some way reflects an influence of your choice as part of an ongoing reading series (so you would need to be able to perform at an upcoming event. The submission requires that poets and writers include an original fragment of fiction or poem that shows how their own works were influenced. I rather like how poems can be in conversation with one another, so this appeals to me.

Linky Goodness

Dissolving barriers between the real world, the digital world, and the creative world, a look at the 365 Project as a Creative Process, by Marisa Goudy.

“Certainly, a year of photos taught me to see my life from countless new angles. Early in 2014, my newborn and I were trapped inside by the polar vortex, tested by a four-year-old who was stuck in the Frozen vortex. With one creative outlet to depend upon every day – my 365 project – I kept the walls from closing in on me. Later in the year, as I rediscovered my public self, I was able to look at my world with new wonder and discernment, knowing I had to capture at least one moment of each day.”

I tend to be terribly inconsistent with daily goals, but I love the idea of them.

Need to turn off the procrastination station

I planned to see Selma over the weekend in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but a lot happened this weekend and it didn’t work out. I will see it this week, however.

Among the many things that happened, I took a couple of hours to sit down with a friend’s daughter, who just graduated from college and is considering what she wants to do with writing or editing. It was interesting to look at her situation and see how it related to my situation before I finally landed my day job. Trying to get a job fresh out of college and feeling like you’re caught in a experience needed catch-22 was so familiar to me.

Perseverance and a willingness to explore unexpected avenues of writing and editing employment can open up amazing opportunities. I never expected to be working at a technical trade magazine, but it’s been a fantastic experience so far.

What I’m reading

I’ve just started reading Ancient, Ancient, a collection of beautifully written, sensual tales by Kiini Ibura Salaam.

I’m still working through Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. It’s full of fact, which my overloaded brain will only accept in small increments at the moment. It’s fascinating though and disheartening to know that human being allows such horrible things to continue to be done to fellow human beings after the Civil War.

What I’m Writing

Progress was slow this week, which is to say, I can’t quite remember what I accomplished — which is to say, probably not much at all. Not where I want to be.

I partially blame Letterboxd for the bulk of my procrastination. It’s a social website for tracking movies watched, posting and reading reviews, and (my favorite part) creating lists of favorite movies and other such goodness. It’s bright and shiny distraction, so I’ve been having a bit of difficulty trying to shake it. (My LB profile is here, for anyone who wishes to procrastinate with me.)

Part of the distraction has been that thinking about movies has me thinking about writing movies. Ideas, oh so many ideas.

However, as I mentioned at the beginning of the year, spiraling off into a new BIG project would be just another distraction. It’s important for me to refocus this week on the BIG project I’ve already started.

Goal(s) for this week: Type up one to two novel poems. Send out a submission of four poems to Poetry Magazine.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Cleaning out and decluttering my room. I’m going (sort of) systematically, section by section through all of my things to see what I can release. I’ve already filled three paper bags full of clothes and shoes I know I’ll never wear and I’m working toward an ultimate sense of open space.

The open space makes me fell more mentally clear and relaxed, which helps me have better head space for writing.

Opportunity of the Week

Submissions are open for Dreams from the Witch House, an anthology of Lovecraftian fiction written by women. Payment for accepted stories will be 5 cents per word up to 5k words, then 3 cents per word over 5k up to 10K words. Deadline is January 31.

Linky Goodness

Upworthy currator, Rajiv Narayan, posted “This Doesn’t Sound Like The MLK I Learned About In School,” which looks at and quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 “The Other America” speech.

Best Picture Nominees Announced (and some itty bitty initial thoughts)

The Oscar nominees are out. I have only seen one of the movies nominated this year, The Grand Budapest Hotel and I find it interesting that it has been sweeping the awards as much as it has, since I remember enjoying, but not loving the movie.

I’m also surprised to see that Selma isn’t receiving nearly as many accolades, with no nods for Best Actors or Actresses, nor a Best Director Nomination. Hrm. (“2015 Oscar nominations show lack of diversity in a year when films didn’t,” Washington Post.)

Anywho, here are the Best Picture Nominees, along with a few initial and superficial thoughts.

Continue reading “Best Picture Nominees Announced (and some itty bitty initial thoughts)”

Book Review: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

“Things that are unsightly: birthmarks, infidelity, strangers in one’s kitchen. Too much sunlight. Stitches. Missing teeth. Overlong guests.”

Palimpsest is the story of a city that exists between dreaming and waking, full of living trains, mechanical bees, houses grown from trees, rivers made of coats, and other beautiful, ugly, wonderful, and dangerous imaginings. One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is that access to the city is achieved through sex, as four characters — a woman who loves trains, a man who loves locks and keys, a woman who tends bees, and a man longing for his lost wife — living in different parts of the world discover after chance encounters. As each one longs more desperately to reach the City of Palimpsest, they find they have to put them in increasingly compromising situations with a multitude of complications and consequences.

“Do not ask, he thinks, and tried to clench his throat around it. But the question is a lock and it seeks the key of her and he cannot stop himself, even though the taste of it is like the Volkhov, muddy and reedy and cold.”

The language in Palimpsest is often beautiful, poetic, rich and thick as honey. It’s perfect for the surreal other city of Palimpsest, though for the “real” world it can have feel of distancing, the focus more on the labyrinth of the words than on the characters. At the beginning, when we are just getting to know the characters, I think it creates a distancing effect, making them hard to relate to, their quirks feeling exotic and strange rather than relatable. So, I had a hard time with the novel at first, as it felt more like a complex poem that I couldn’t quite penetrate.

“Every morning she pulled a delicate cup from its brass hook and filled it, hoping that it would be dark and deep and secret as a forest, and each morning it cooled too fast, had too much milk, stained the cup, made her nervous.”

After a certain point, though, when the threads of the characters’ stories began to come together, twisting through the labyrinth of Palimpsest toward the conclusion, I began to really enjoy the novel. I varied between needing to compulsively read and needing to take a break to absorb one or another beautiful phrase. While the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I would have liked, this was still a great journey and one I will reread in the future.

Words Inspiring Words

What I’m reading

Finished Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, which was wonderful and I am hoping to have a review for tomorrow.

I’ve started Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. This will prove to be a slow read, but is so relevant right now.

What I’m Writing

Novel in poems progresses. I’ve typed out the first poem and have it “finished”. It came out entirely different than I first imagined it would, as my writing sometimes does. Usually this surprise is for the best, and I feel like this is the case here.

Many more notes and starts of poems were handwritten out.

Goal(s) for this week: Type up two more novel poems. If this is accomplished send out a submission of existing work.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

The act of writing itself, words inspiring words. It feels good.

Opportunity of the Week

WEIRD SISTER is a new literary, feminist, and pop culture blog that my friend Marisa Crawford is editing along with Becca Klaver. The site is looking for “feminist literary and cultural commentary that’s critical, creative, incisive, and playful, sometimes all at once.”

Linky Goodness

In “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” Mandy Len Catron describes an experiment in which psychologist Arthur Aron succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. She then describes going on a date and going through the same list of questions used by Aron, with fascinating results.

How have you been this week?

Favorite New-to-me Movies of 2014

top movies seen in 2014It’s been a weird year for movies for me, as I didn’t go to the theaters much like I normally do. In fact I’ve only seen a few 2014 movies. This may also be a contributing factor as to why our of the 49 movies I’ve seen this year, I outright hated nine of them (high for me), just wasn’t into a dozen more, and liked but didn’t love many others — so, I had a hard time coming up with a top ten and, in the process, of trying to form my list, I realized there were only five that I really loved this year.

The Top Five

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – It’s the group of antagonists become friends become chosen family trope that really gets me here. Plus fun action space story and oodles of fantastic music.

2. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) – I love subtly speculative indie films and this one hit all the right notes of heart and humor.

3. The Host / Gwoemul (2006) – Intense, funny, and hiding tons of social commentary, this was a fantastic movie.

4. Planet of the Apes (1968) – While the special effects and movie makeup don’t hold up to modern standards, the story is still powerful, complex, and compelling.

5. Her (2013) — I thought the concept of this movie was strange when I first heard about it, and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did and I appreciated it even more after seeing it a second time around.

Continue reading “Favorite New-to-me Movies of 2014”

Favorite Reads of 2014!

Favorite reads of 2014

The Top Ten

1. The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
2. Among Others by Jo Walton
3. Red Shirts by Jihn Scalzi
4. The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
5. Contact by Carl Sagan
6. The City & The City by China Mielville
7. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
9. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
10. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Continue reading “Favorite Reads of 2014!”

First Update of 2015

Oh, the joys of winter colds. I’ve spent the past three days curled up in blankets, watching TV and trying not to hack up my own lung. I can’t really remember much of my week beyond that.

What I’m reading

I recently finished A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Mystery novels are not my cup o’ tea, but I enjoyed reading about Watson’s first impressions of the great detective and the murder mystery has some interesting elements to it. A fun and fairly easy read.

Now, I’ve started in on Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, which has some beautiful wonderful writing and fascinating moments, but hasn’t fully captured me yet.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been working on my novel in poems, handwriting a new opening poem and editing what will replace the existing chapter one. I’m torn on the idea of whether to call the poems “chapters” or not. At this point, I’m thinking not, simply because coming up with an individual title, rather than a chapter title, helps me to think of each poem as needing to be complete in and of itself.

I poured out a freewrite that should come together as a completed poem and I’ve been creating some blackout poetry, which I’ve posted up at Tumblr.

Goal(s) for this week: Type up and finish two opening chapters of the novel in poems.

Where I’ll Be

If I’m feeling healthy again by Thursday, then I’m planning to attend the the Cito.FAME.Us open mic, starring Q&A on Thursday at Iguanas in San Jose. I’ll be listing to the creepy-sweet tunes of Q&A and will probably bring something to read, too.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

While my feelings on Palimpsest as a whole are mixed, the visual poetic language is triggering my inner poet and has me wanting to play with words. It’s a book I can only read in short spurts, because it has me thinking about language as I read. I find myself reading a page or two only to begin reaching for my own notebook, leading me into my own labyrinth of words and corridors of phrases.

Opportunity of the Week

Far Orbit: Apogee is an anthology of science fiction adventure stories created in the “Grand Tradtion” to be edited by Bascomb James. The covers for past anthologies are gorgeous and though I haven’t read past anthologies by this publisher, they look cool. Payment is one cent per word and the deadline to submit is March 15th.

Linky Goodness

i09 published a list of 67 Science Fiction And Fantasy Movies To Watch Out For In 2015, which has me drooling. Many of these look great, though I’m particularly excited about Avengers: Age of Ultron and the new Mad Max and Star Wars flicks. The list also includes a bunch of indy flicks that look rather interesting, too.

New-to-me movies in December

Not a great month for movie watching….

1. The Giver (2014)

The Giver is about a young boy who is assigned to work with an older man, who houses all the memories of society. Somehow the humanity’s memories have been stored away, leaving everyone empty of extreme emotions and happy in their assigned roles within a community in which everyone is equal. Or something.

I think what this movie suffers from most is the current trend in YA dystopian stories, such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, in which a young character rebels against the system. It carries too much of that sleek pop-culture flavor and even mimics certain scenes (most clearly the visual aspects of the ceremony at the beginning of Divergent). What might have been unique about the original storyline has been obliterated by the need to fit in with these other popular dystopian stories, which was unfortunate. The result is a boring movie that doesn’t make much sense.

I have not read the book. I’m sure that where movie is obtuse and incomprehensible, the book is logical. Or at least I hope it is. The movie’s ending was so illogical that I was ranting at my family members, who kept telling me I was over thinking it. I guess I just need to read the book.

2. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Technically, I watched this in November while captive on a plane flight. It was a terrible decision really. Zero entertainment. Zero joy. Even the action was snooze worthy. Not even really worth writing a review about. It was just… so, so, so bad.

Books finished in December

1. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
2. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume 3
3. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
4. Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob by Jenny Jaeckel
5. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Hepperman
6. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
7. Audacious (a novel in verse) by Gabrielle S. Prendergast
8. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books finished in December”

Seeking Minimalism and Creative Focus in 2015

For the last few of years, I’ve posted massive lists of goals for the year (such as in 2014), making note of ALL THE THINGS I want to do an accomplish. While I’ve always had fun creating this lists, I’ve noticed that I’ve only ever been able to accomplish a tiny corner of them, if that.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve read several articles and posts about eliminating and approaching minimalism in order to be better focused on achieving one’s goals. “It’s not enough to have great ideas. Lots of people have great ideas. The problem is that too many great ideas cancel each other out,” explains Olivere Emberton, noting that trying to focus on too many separate ideas will get you nowhere. He adds, “Monomaniacal focus on a single goal is perhaps the ultimate success stratagem. It’s a pattern found in everyone from Edison to Einstein. When you’re able to focus on a single goal, constantly, your achievements reach their theoretical limit.”

Continue reading “Seeking Minimalism and Creative Focus in 2015”

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by

Fairy tales neatly blend together with the lives of teenage girls in this darkly funny collection of poems for teens. Definitely from a girl’s perspective, these poems explore unfortunate boyfriends, friendships, girl-on-girl cruelty, and other teenage nightmares using the fantastical and strange. As the Hepperman explains, these poems show how a teenage girl walking down the street can feel as though she’s trapped in her own personal tower. Many of these poems are simple, narrative poems told from the point of view of a villain or an innocent, if you believe one is any different from the other. The book is also illustrated with fantastical and surreal black-and-white photography, often evoking fairytale imagery.

A lot of these poems focus on body image, weight issues, anorexia, and so on. It was by far the most common theme among the poems. And for the most part Hepperman explores these issues artfully, though at times it seemed as though there was too much focus on this subject, the impact dulled by overuse and the ultimate message eventually feeling somewhat trite. However, some of these body image poems were also my favorite in the collection, as with “The Wicked Queen’s Legacy”, which shows how easy it is to become obsessed with self-image.

It used to be just the one,
but now all mirrors chatter.

In fact every reflective surface has opinions
on the shape of my nose, the size

of my chest, the hair I wash and brush
until it’s so shiny I can see myself

scribbling notes as each strand
recommends improvements.

— from “The Wicked Queen’s Legacy”

One of the things I really enjoyed about this collection was how darkly funny many of the poems were. For example, the poem “Big Bad Spa Treatment” describes how you can get sumptuously treated with “deep-tissue Massage Mallets, / leaving you loose / and gristle free” and a “honey barbecue facial mask”. And the evil queen doesn’t stop at Snow White in “Assassin,” but laboriously works to take out Sleeping Beauty, Gretel, Bo Peep, Goldilocks and others in her need to be the fairest.

While I can’t say this was the best collection of poetry I have every read (I think there is more mature work out there), it was certainly enjoyable and I would recommend it for just about any teenage girl. I think it would resonate with that age group quite a lot. I would have been obsessed with this collection as a teenager, reading it dogeared and copying quotes down in my journals. I remember facing my own self loathing around my body in high school and the awkwardness I felt around my peers, and I’m sure this book would resonated. It might have even made me feel stronger, as though I could face the world with courage and awesome.

My Top Five Christmas Movies

There are a zillion lists of favorite/top Christmas movies out there, so creating my own is probably just adding to the chatter (and it’s even possible I’ve done this before). Yet, here I am adding my own personal list, and it is just that — personal. These are movies that I either grew up with or have a connection to, that I get eager to watch every year, and that (along with friends and family and decorations) make it feel as thought the season is really here, as I cuddle up with my sisters in big fluffy blankets to watch.

My list focuses on movies about Christmas, instead of movies about other events that just happen to be set at Christmas time, such as Die Hard, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Home Alone.

So, here are my favorite Christmas movies, in no particular order.

The-Muppet-Christmas-Carol

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Numerous as the “best of” Christmas movie lists are the adaptations of Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, but the muppets version is by far my favorite, gently incorporating the zany antics of the muppets characters, while also holding true to the sentiment of the original story.

Gonzo makes for a surprisingly great Charles Dickens and Michael Cain is fantastic as scrooge. Each of the ghosts hit the perfect notes: The Ghost of Christmas Past is ethereal and wispy, the Ghost of Christmas Present is joyful and solid, and the Ghost of Christmas Future is a kid=friendly level of grim and frightening.

Elf

Elf (2003)

A orphan crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and ends up being raised by an elf at the North Pole. It’s not until he’s an awkward, ginormous adult that he figures out he’s not really an elf and goes in search of his father, a Scrooge-like character who has been on the naughty list for years. His reunion with his long lost father does not go smoothly.

One of the things that makes this movie fantastic is Will Ferrel’s ability to pull off a level of childlike innocence and glee that reminds me of the shrill, ridiculous joy of being young at Christmas. Just seeing him scream “SANTA!” at the top of his lungs makes me think, Oh, yeah, I remember that feeling.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (1983)

All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a a Red Ryder B.B. gun, but all any adult, — from teachers to his parents and even Santa Claus — has to say on the matter is “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

I know people who hate this movie (my sister is one), but I can’t go through the Christmas season without watching it at least once. The dark humor appeals to me. Also, the adventures of this family struggling through Christmas — the kids dealing with bullies, over-sized snow suits, and horrible gifts, the parents trying to offer as much joy as they can while strapped for cash — resonates with me. It reminds me on a small level of the chaos that surrounded my own family around the holidays, my parents doing the best they could with what they had. Somehow it all came together into a fabulous holiday event in the end.

the-santa-clause

The Santa Claus (1994)

When advertising executive Scott Calvin accidentally kills Santa Claus by causing him to fall off the roof, he finds himself whisked off to the North Pole with his son, where he learns he has to take Santa’s place as the deliverer of presents and joy to the children of the world. Though he tries to deny it, his transformation into Santa begins to take place regardless.

I’m not really a fan of Tim Allen, but I love this movie. It’s funny and sweet and magical, and I will sit and watch it anytime it comes on.

the-nightmare-before-christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Feeling depressed and disenchanted with his work as the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington wanders away from Halloween Town and discovers a doorway into the North Pole with snow and elves and joyful feelings. So enamored is he with the discovery of Christmas that he takes over the holiday, taking on the role of Santa Clause.

While I feel this is almost as much of a Halloween movie as a Christmas movie, I love this animated tale, which puts a creepy spin on the genre. It fills the dark little heart of my goth/horror-loving shadow self.

Honorable Mention: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

And the rest of the ’60s Christmas cartoons, really. Each of these movies, especially Rudolph holds a special place in my heart. Rudolph as the outcastand, all of the misfit toys, and the abominable snowman — I love them all.

What are your favorite holiday movies?

Thoughts on The Arabian Nights, Vol. 3

Arabian NightsI have officially finished all three volumes of The Arabian Nights, a 2,715 page journey!

Volume 3 comprises nights 719 to 1001, as well as the “Aladdin, or the Magic Lamp” standalone story. This third volume has proven to be my favorite, as there is less repetition (same kind of story followed by same kind of story) than in the previous books and some stories that begin on well trodden themes actually branch of in surprising directions. Adventures, romances, and comedy tales mix together with morality tales in a broad spectrum of stories, many of which I found rather fun and interesting.

Shahrazad’s Tale Comes to an End

As I mentioned, in my review of volume 2, we can see Shahrazad’s story and dramatic progression through the tales she tells, guiding King Shahriyar to a different perspective on women. By volume 3, I get the sense that Shahrazad has relaxed, which allows her to explore a greater variety of tales. She probably senses him coming around and so can use the tales more as entertainment than for moral and philosophical lessons.

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