Hate has nothing to do with it. Honest!

Okay, I love to write fiction, but, dear lord, I really loath writing about myself. It’s much more fun to chat *together* over a glass of just about anything. Oh, and eat chocolate as I plan escape routes to my new obsession, Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. But that, my friends, is an entirely different topic…

Today’s blog post is about none of those things. It’s all about catching up,in a sweetly and simplistic list format. So here’s what’s happened since we last talked:

1. I started a new day-job in June.

2. My story “Paradigm Shift” came out in Electric Velocipede 26.

3. I started dyeing my hair on a regular basis and learned about the power of restorative hair oil on chemically-damaged hair.

4. My story “The Death of Love Project” came out in Swamp Biscuits and Tea.

5. I tried to create a writing nook at home. It includes a butcher block that doubles as my standing desk, press-on chalkboard squares, and a long red curtains with trailing ends also know as “the cat’s second bed.”

6. My story “Unmaking” was published in Weave Magazine 09.

7. I attended ReaderCon for the very first time and 1) had a blast but 2) did not have that special something called sleep.

8. A cappella Zoo’s Bestiary anthology, which includes my story “Finding Your Way to the Coast,” got a rave review in NewPages.

9. I signed up to a be part of group reading at Food For Thought Books in Amherst, Massachusetts on September 27th (more to come on this one).

10. I fell in love with Grand Manan Island and now I want to marry it, move in together and adopt at least ten dogs. Okay, so not exactly, but I do want to go back–often. I’ve even started reading about the Canadian rules around health care, length of stay and etc. Man, ain’t obsessive love grand..?

11. My story “Paradigm Shift” was reviewed online in Short Story Review.

Done, I say with not a little amazement. Lists make all this “talking about myself” so much easier! Now it’s time to drink a little tea, stand at a tall table, and attempt some more fantastical fictions…

The Next Big Thing! Part One

typewriter girl

My friend, Angela Still, is an insanely talented writer and generous friend, so when she asked to include me in her Next Big Thing post, I was thrilled. Not only would people get to hear about my writing, I’d also get to shout out the brilliance of some lovely writing folk.

Five writers and some Julie stories. Perfect. Sitting down today to write this post, I realized that the only thing that could make it any more perfect is the use of the phrase Typewriter Girls.

Why, you ask?

Well, I like old typewriters. They are like portals to a time that, for the most part, sits unnoticed all around us. Sure that old granite bank sits on the corner of town, repurposed as an Urban Outfitters. The hospital burial ground is now a dog-walking field. Centuries-old, dry stone walls even tumble along the edges of nearby trails, marking the path for all those passing North Face and Merrell hiking boots.

Typewriters, though, are nothing but themselves. Each lettered key and roll of inked ribbon declares and exclaims. You can’t even stack the damn things. Unlike today’s thin-bodied laptops, their shape extrudes into the space around them.

Used to be many women used these engines of word power with some regularity. The result was a tidy stack of someone else’s correspondence. In the main, only the men got to actually imagine the words.

Today’s Typewriter Girls are of an entirely different sort. They may not pound on a die-caste set of keys,but they bend the inked ribbon to their will all the same.  Today, I get to talk about a few of them along with some equally talented men. In honor of this special moment, I’ve decided to wave my magic writing wand and crown all these fabulous writing friends, men and women alike, Typewriter Girls of the most desperate and powerful sort. Trust me. It’s a good thing…

Katie Bickham
Despite some attention-hungry newspaper columnist in search of website hits, poetry is not dead. And Katie Bickham is the kind of poet you’ll never mistake for someone lying in a box. She makes me want to run out and listen to all those poems waiting to be heard. She makes me want to rush down to Shreveport and join that Undead Poets Society of hers.

Katie’s Blurb: The Missouri Review was gracious enough to name ten of my poems from a larger collection as their Editor’s Prize selection in poetry this year. They will be printed in the journal’s Spring 2013 issue, and I will be reading them at the University of Missouri in April at an awards gala.

The poems are part of a series called The Belle Mar. The Belle Mar is a fictional plantation in South Louisiana (loosely based on a real one called The Belle Rive). Each poem in the work takes place in a different room in the house in a different year, though I sometimes bend the definition of the word “room,” as some poems take place in slave barracks, sugarcane fields, staircases, and the like.

All my life I have felt stretched between a deep love of my home and something very near disgust for it. Am I who I am because of Louisiana’s grim history, or in spite of it? These poems try to shrink this question into the manageable microcosm of a house, with the house bearing witness to the ugliness, beauty, the hatred of others, the hatred of self, and the ghosts that haunt its own walls. How have we changed? How have we failed to? If we think of our own hearts as having many chambers, many rooms, which are the ones we keep locked? Which are the ones we, ourselves, are locked inside?

I hope to have the entirety of The Belle Mar completed mid 2013, at which time I may, out of emotional necessity, begin writing romantic comedies, bad porn films, or commercial jingles. Happy reading!

Taylor Preston
My favorite thing about Taylor? Books. Um, yeah, books. Taylor is this sweet, low-key guy from South Carolina who happens to write hard science fiction with an increasingly dark bent. He likes to do lots of nice everyday-type stuff. He even tailgates. Yeah, you heard me right. The guy does this thing called tailgating with his South Carolina friends. But most of all with Taylor, it’s writing. And books. And not just any books. Taylor has a nose for these off-the-beaten-path writers who seem to fit were his writing is trying to take him. And he has a knack for knowing when they might fit you as well.

Taylor’s Blub: My latest novel The Singularity War, is currently in search of representation. It’s a kickass space opera/spy thriller that’s chock full of AIs, monsters, and exploding spaceships. And really, what’s not to like?

My short story collection, Blood Red Mars, is available on the Kindle. Five adrenaline-charged stories of science fiction and horror. Explore a domed colony plagued by high-tech gang warfare, rogue nanotechnology, and a virtual underworld ruled by the Solar System’s deadliest criminals.

And don’t just take Taylor’s word for it. As Nancy Holder, five-time winner of the Bram Stoker award says, “[Taylor's collection is] inhabited by great, three-dimensional characters, skillfully crafted, and a page-turner. I was riveted, worried, engaged…Well done!”
I’ve read plenty of “Taylor” stories and I agree with Nancy; he’s absolutely worth the read.

Kelly Stuart
I first met Kelly in my M.F.A. program, or, to be more precise, I noticed her. Unlike the rest of us socially stumbling writers, Kelly was usually striding off to some secret musical destination, her cello in tow. She would do as she pleased, was my initial impression, and one that, with time, hasn’t changed. Kelly moved to Alaska in the middle of winter in search of material for her novel. She kayaks along her beloved California coast. She bikes, enjoys a good drink and is just generally badass. And, I hear, she now has short hair. Because, you know, short hair is cool.

As well as her novel, The Ice Walker, Kelly’s stories and environmental essays have been published in Reed and The MacGuffin. She has a bachelor of music in Cello, and recently shared the stage with Paul Elie in his talk about his novel “Reinventing Bach,” playing cello to illustrate parts of his lecture.

Kelly’s Blurb: Set in both Boston and Alaska my novel, The Ice Walker, follows the story of Aviaq Fiennes, a half-Inuit, half-white student from Nome as she tracks down the cause of a professor’s death in the Charles River.  The biracial character of Aviaq straddles both the traditional and modern worlds. As a former music student at UA Anchorage now studying glaciology at Boston University, she hides a disturbing past left behind in Alaska.

Aviaq’s look into a professor’s mysterious death takes her not only on a journey from the halls of academic Boston to the sweeping tundra of her home and back, but also into the dark recesses of her own memory and the shadowy motivations of the people she trusts.

Ashley Johnson
Ashley Johnson is the kind of woman who always seems put together. She’s got that “former ballet dancer” vibe going for her and seems in all ways everything I am not. (Okay,  I admit it. I’d love, just once, for someone to tell me I looked “put together.”)  Really, from the first moment I met her, I thought she was nice, the “let’s be friendly while we both wait in the lunch line” kind of nice. And then I heard her read, and, well, realized I’m not always such a good judge of character. That girl burned the house down and all inside gladly died. Her words were amazing and dark and sexy. Oh, and set in the Paris catacombs.

Ashley’s Blurb: I sat down with my stories a few weeks ago and told them “Look you guys, if you want to keep staying here, you’re going to have to pay rent.” So, I sent them out into the world to see if they could get some work.

The first candidate shows promise—two personal rejections so far. Notable qualities about this story: lots of dead people. Just kidding. Actually, no I’m not—the story takes place in the infamous Body Worlds Exhibit. These people aren’t just dead; they’ve been filleted, turned inside-out, even hung by their blood vessels from the ceiling.

The second candidate also has dead people, dead French people, who reside in the catacombs of Paris. Also, there’s sex. I have high hopes for this one.

Meanwhile, there’s a diva novel and she refuses to go out and get a job until she’s “been revised.” I give her as much attention as I can; she’s even seeing a few of my trusted mentors for additional tweaking. But, don’t tell her, I’ve started working on my next novel and I think he’s going to make a good roommate.

Typewriter Girls

I love how these men and women are driving their writing careers forward. You know what I really, really love, though? That man or woman, they are all, each and every one, Typewriter Girls, forcing the ink to their will.

Up Next Week: Part two of The Next Big Thing, in which I discuss my fifth and final writer and answer some questions about my own stories and my very own self.

Despite an Exploding Stress-brain, It’s Been a Good Week!

gargoyle-gargoile-demon-notre-dame-paris
Work is driving me mad at the moment, non-writing, non-family work. In that I am like ninety-plus percent of the planet. So complaints end here. After all, the writing and the family and, yes, all those people I call friends, add up to one weighty package of awesome. And it really has been a surprisingly good week.

First on the list: accolades! My Paris-gargoyle-suicide story, “Finding Your Way to the Coast” was selected by guest editor, Gina Oschner, for the fifth-anniversary, best-of issue of A cappella Zoo. Totally unexpected. I read the email in a local and crowded coffee shop and immediately yelled out various expletives. And, you know, I have no idea how the people sitting around me reacted.

Second on the list: the Small Beer podcast #16 is up. It’s me reading Kij Johnson’s short story, “The Empress Jingu Fishes.” I love reading out loud and this was a terrific story. I also love that I get to select what I’m able to record, within limits. I’m still working out the audio quality details of the podcast, but those near and dear swear it’s just my perfectionist streak showing up to ruin the party. I can spend a day, easily, in post-production. Instead, I’ve decided that more podcasts is better than perfect podcasts, so, for now at least, I’ve stopped fussing so much.

Third on the list: Yay! Running. Okay. Those two words do not go together, at least in my brain. My spouse and partner, Tom, he adores running. He counts the foxes and the wild turkeys and the bears he meets in the woods. He rescues turtles from the middle of the road. Once, he even rescued a blooming daffodil bulb from a construction site, running home with the bulb cupped upright in his palm. That bulb still flowers each spring in our front yard.

Anyway, two of my friends, Adam Mills and Adam Gallardo, announced they were doing the “Couch to 5K” training program, and, being ridiculous me, I decided to join them.

I just finished week two out of the eight week program. The last time I really trained was about a decade ago. Along with my hatred of the actual activity, I don’t have a runner’s body. I didn’t when I trained for that half-marathon either, but I still remember it being fun. I actually managed to reach my goal of running the Hartford Half. This time the goal is more modest. And Tom is busily tracking down a new pair of running shoes for me (mine are so old my right big toe can been seen sticking through). Though I’m not so sure I agree with his latest shoe suggestion

 

Publications, The Next Big Thing, and Podcasts

The Colored Lens: Winter 2013I don’t blog nearly as much as I text, FB and tweet. Speaking in person is also one of my frequent activities.  I try though. I really do. I want to communicate. Why else would I choose to be a fiction writer? But when my day job compresses one hemisphere of my brain and my WIP eats up two months of dream time, my poor blog slips below the waves without a sound. Now that draft one of the novella is done and the holidays have passed, it seems a little resuscitation is in order.

My Latest News in Brief (Aka things I really should have blogged about):

This morning I discovered a second story of mine is out in the world! (Three more are forthcoming.) The Colored Lens, an emag, published “China Island.” I wrote it before I started my M.F.A. program. In fact it’s one of the things that got me in. Anyway…It’s set on a Maine island in winter. Creepy, melancholy and worrisome are all good descriptors. The ending is likely as close as I get to the classic happy ending. (Warning: it’s not terribly close.) If you’re interested in a read, you can find it at Amazon.com. It’s even free for Amazon Prime subscribers.

In other under-reported news, my younger child and I recorded a special introduction to Episode #15 of the Small Beer podcast. In my family, we read a lot of YA novels together, but Lydia Millet’s Dissenters series is one of the few both of my children love equally. The Younger Child did a terrific job. He even gave me editorial suggestions for our two minute clip…

My writing friend and comrade-in-arms, Angela Still, included me in her Next Big Thing post! Angela and I share our weekly writing goals each week, and even better, make sure the pressure isn’t getting either of us down. Plus the woman has the best tattoo I have ever seen: a single peacock feather than runs diagonally across her back.

Finally, I’ve just finished another podcast. God, I hate to make promises, but I will and I do. I will blog about it once it goes live. And, I swear on the stars and the heavens and the heads of my crazy addled cats, I will actually get my own Next Big Thing post up soon.  Well, it is the internet. I can always edit those last few sentences if it turns out they aren’t entirely true…

 

Interviewing Jennifer Stevenson and My First Publication

I don’t want to calculate how long it took from recording the actual interview to broadcasting it in episode #13 of the Small Beer Press podcast, but I can’t help myself. My brain is wired for math: four months and two weeks. In between, I graduated from the Stonecoast M.F.A. program, watch my youngest child walk into school with the rest of his kindergarten class and published my first short story, “Finding Your Way to the Coast.” (now available in the fall 2012 issue of A cappella Zoo.) It was the first story I wrote for the Stonecoast M.F.A. program and I’m jazzed to finally have it out in print.

Jennifer Stevenson is the author of Trash Sex Magic and yet another Small Beer author I’ve gotten to meet as part of this podcasting adventure. If you want to listen to all the things we ended up talking about on the podcast, including, of course, sex, gender politics and taking notes on real-life events for fictional use, you can find it on the Small Beer site or iTunes.
Oh, and in a bit of creative mayhem, I have a couple of short stories in the Art & Words show Art on the Boulevard in Fort Worth Texas on October 6th. I really wish I could be there. It was pure jet-fueled  excitement to create stories in collaboration with other people’s artwork. Guest readers will be reading pieces as part of the show. If you’re in the Fort Worth area, consider stopping by, then let me know how it went!
Despite our 24/7 culture, it feels like the wrong season for blogging. Autumn is for settling inward. It’s for home and long moments staring out at the rain. It’s for finding ways to work from home whenever possible. I wonder, am I the only one who feels tied to the seasons in this electronic age? Perhaps seasonally-affected blogging will be the next classified “disorder”?