Sunday, October 30, 2011

Current but Random Literary Tidbits

Credit: Portrait of Leonid Andreyev by Ilya Rapin, from his Wikipedia page

To underscore how all over the place I'm feeling right now, I thought I'd share a few tidbits from the great many books I find myself reading at the moment.  How I got to be at the point where I'm so clearly unfocused and reading so many books at once is another entry entirely.

Think and Grow Rich

Sound strategies so far, despite the extremely unfortunate example offered near the beginning of how great insistence and steadfastness can bring great swaying of men, which can bring great wealth.  It involves a little black girl standing tall in the face of her mother's boss/owner, who also owns a mill, and about how her mother needs fifty cents to get him something; he denies it, tells the girl to tell the mother to go without it, and the girl agrees with an unfortunate but hearty "Yessir!" and still stands there until she belts out that her mother needs the money--despite the owner's threat of lashing her.  When she finally belts it out, he stops what he's doing and gives her the money.  The gist of the example is how the girl dominated him (Hill's words) although he is clearly her superior.  She got her way because of her steadfastness, get it?  Other than that, the principles are sound, and basically involve steadfastness, dedication, Seeing It, Believing It, and so on.  Though I am not in the point in life where I can burn all my other bridges (as Hill recommends; his words), I do admit that I wrote a lot more and did more to succeed (besides lacking the talent I have now) with my writing than I have the time to do now.  Nothing drives you more than the inability to feed yourself and pay your rent.

The Return of the King

Fascinating--though dry; you can either get past it or you can't--series that takes much longer to end than the movies did.  The movies basically lacked two long sections of the books: Tom Bombadil, and Sauroman in the Shire.  Sorry to see it end and yet wanting to finish it at the same time.  Total immersion in another world, solely through description of legends and flora.

Short Story Collection of Zombies, edited by John Skipp

Don't ask.  Saw a Stephen King short story in there I hadn't read before, then couldn't stop reading all the others.  Included is "Lazarus," by Leonid Andreyev, one of the better Russian authors no one's ever heard of, who, as is apparently customary for Russian writers in the early 1900s, went a bit off his deep end after the Revolution, and died destitute and miserable (one often causes the other).  Anyway, the story is of the Biblical character, and the story, like the author, was a well-written and emotional bummer.  Evidently the author was a major figure in his time, and was famous for his ability to capture "what it means to be human" to the extent that he will make you weep openly.  (If you can get the collection, check out "The Emissary" by Ray Bradbury, too.)  "Lazarus" is free online because its copyright expired, so find it here or above and read it.  Comment below and let me know what you think.  It gave me a breakthrough of sorts with one of the many novels and stories and poems I'm writing all at the same time, as well.

But that's another entry.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Library of America--Shiftless Little Loafers

Photo: Susan Orlean from Wikipedia

I thought it might be interesting to write a little bit about the short pieces I get emailed to me from the good people at the Library of America.  For those who don't know, you can sign up to get short stories, articles, essays, etc. emailed to you from the Library, knowing that the pieces are of high quality, regardless as to what you actually think of them.  (Often I find something to be well-written, though I'm not interested in it, so I delete it.)  I'm working backwards from Story #95, because I've let them get backed up and out of control.  And that's a lot of blogger fodder.  (Blogger Fodder should catch on as a term of the Net.  Let it be known that I deserve credit for coining it.)  The story here is a Swiftian essay by New Yorker writer Susan Orlean.

The piece should be checked out.  It's amusing, though not laugh out loud funny like some of Woody Allen's more absurdist pieces can be.  It's Swiftian in tone, kind of, though Orlean does not think we should eat the babies, as Swift said.  Maybe we should put the infants to work, though they are ultimately found to be too lazy and too smart.  (One can be both.)  And when they put on sunglasses, they're lazy and snobby, like Italian directors.  (That's her joke, not mine.)  So that was funny, as was the part where she describes a baby's complete fascination with one of his own toes, and then a blade of grass.  I saw someone today playing absentmindedly with a few strands of her hair upon a table, and this was a teenaged someone.  Then again, I will often absentmindedly rub my upper lip against the tall facial hairs standing at attention from just beneath my lower lip, so who am I to judge?  And I can massage my facial hair with my hands and fingers in a very fakely thoughtful way, as if I were smart and ponderous, or something.  And I can do that for hours.

So, anyway, check it out.  Good writing.  And it's really short, too. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Hide the Weird" to appear in Space and Time Magazine, January 2012!!!

According to Hildy Silverman, publisher of Space and Time Magazine: The Magazine of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction:

"Hiding the Weird is slotted for inclusion in the next issue, #116, which is set for release this winter (January, 2012)."

Very exciting!!!  Write it down, everyone, and buy the January, 2012 issue of Space and Time Magazine to read my story!!!  In fact, buy the current issue of Space and Time, as well.  It's a cool magazine with a fine mix of fantasy, sci-fi and horror.  And I'm not just saying that because they were awesome enough to purchase and publish my story.

It's because my story is technically speculative fiction, which is not specifically fantasy, horror or science fiction.  So it's got a bit of everything in there.  Go take a look: Space and Time Magazine. 

Please spread the word to any and all online writing or discussion groups that you're a member of.  If anyone who reads this is a published author in a print or online magazine, please let me know in a comment or email and I will spread the word for you, as well.

Thanks, everyone!

(And I apologize in advance for the reminder posts that may come in December and/or January.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Father's Awesomeness

Spoke to my better half's mom today, and she mentioned that at her first gathering with my family at my relative's place--where she didn't know anyone else but my better half and myself, and (barely), my father--he bought her a small box of chocolates and wrapped it up, and put her name on it, just so she got at least one thing there from somebody and didn't feel too much like a stranger spending a holiday at someone else's place.  (She and my better half and I had exchanged gifts already at my place.)

The point: That's how awesome my father was.  He thought of everyone else, and of the little things they may feel.  Who thinks about how the girlfriend's mother will feel at my relative's place?  He did.  And so here are a just a few other things that show my father's awesomeness:

--He visited our tax advisor with boxes and boxes of paper and envelopes, of all sizes.  She makes her living with these things, so they're like gold to her.  When she told me this recently, she couldn't stop crying, explaining how much she'd liked him and how nice he'd been to her.  "Who thinks of his tax advisor?" she cried.

--A guy he bought train parts from spoke to me for maybe half an hour about how nice he was, and about how he'd miss him.

--His landscaper speaks to me constantly about how kind he was to him on several occasions.

--The across-the-street neighbors tell me all the time about how he got their mail, collected their paper from the driveway, and either shoveled their driveway himself or paid the landscaper to do it.  (These neighbors are in their 80s.)

I could give a ton more examples, but you get the picture by now.  My father was awesome.  It can be explained in one word: Kindness.

He was a gentleman.  Rare these days.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman (and maybe Robert B. Parker, too)

I wanted to dislike it because the continuation of someone else's baby by another writer just doesn't sit well with me--and they usually fail, or seem intent to just make money (see: James Bond).  But Brandman does a good job here, keeping most of Parker's Jesse Stone while adding the inevitable small changes.  Most of these changes work.

Jesse talks a little more; he actually sounds a bit more like Spenser.  I thought the original character was too quiet, as Brandman apparently did.  Parker also got hung up too much on Jenn; it was time for her to go, and she has.  The Parker combination of Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall always seemed forced to me; perhaps he felt he had nothing much more to say about her,especially after Helen Hunt turned down the role.  I don't know, but they definitely needed to break up, and they have.  Stone also comes across here as a little more...stoic (sorry), which is odd since he speaks more here.  But he admits directly that he didn't miss Sunny.  In a Stephen King story, he'd be asking Parker directly why he had to date Sunny, anyway.  His direct actions and verbosity work for me, though he also seems too Spenserian when he helps the ex-hood find a job, and when he talked to the female students, the teacher and the principal.  (Note to Brandman: Massachusetts doesn't have homeroom anymore; it's now called advisory.)  Parker's anti-teacher torch is definitely carried on.

So Stone doing his Spenser impersonation didn't work for me, and Stone is certainly not a cat-lover.  I guess Brandman wanted to set up a Stone/Spenser duality; maybe he's taking over Spenser, too.  If so, it was wise for him to turn out a Stone book first, before he tackled the iconic Spenser.

Brandman's book is a little edgier than Parker's would've been, maybe a little more noir.  That's okay with me.  A few things didn't work, but that's to be expected.  And Brandman creates an admirable mixture of a book that's 70% Parker and 30% Brandman.  Perhaps Parker, notoriously productive, already had a large part of the ms. written--notice that the copyright belongs to the Estate of Robert B. Parker, not to Brandman.  Had this been 100% Brandman, I doubt that would be the case.  We'll have to see with future Stone books.

The torch has changed hands, but it hasn't gone out.  Brandman has earned the right here to run with it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Writer's Despair

So I've been writing on envelopes and pads because I can't find my journals and notebooks, which are still in a box somewhere in the garage.  (I just spent a half hour looking for them.)  It's been just over a month, and I haven't finished unpacking my life and my office from the garage.  That's sad.  What's even worse--What made me think that I could go without writing so long that I didn't put my journals and notebooks in an easily accessible place?  Why not walk them up to my office like I did with my computer?  Have I been writing so erratically that I didn't even think about where I was putting them?  Yes, it's been over a month, I now realize, and I haven't written in them.  What the hell was I thinking?  So now I'm writing on a pad that someone gave me, and I'm thinking now of just taking CDs with me to work, and back home, so I can write on those on whatever computer I'm sitting beside.  (This is actually not a bad idea.  Maybe I should have done this anyway!)

I realize that I need to write a little bit throughout the day--wherever and whenever time allows--so that when I get home and need to work a lot more in the office, sitting down and writing won't be that new to me.  I've been having trouble lately just sitting my ass down, and I realize now--with the help of a writing group forum on LinkedIn (and thanks to anyone there who may be reading)--that this is due to the fact that writing is still not a consistent, everyday, blah experience to me, like sitting down to eat, for example.  I don't have to prepare too much for that, and I certainly don't procrastinate about eating, so why can't I also sit down and write?  This from a guy who has been published and paid for his writing (both as a reporter and short story writer) and who has written literally thousands of pages.  Yet writing now in my hectic life is a hassle.

Disheartening.  So I will write on these CDs and pads until I can find my journals and notebooks--and maybe even after I find them.  And I will write a little bit a few times per day so that when I get home to write, it's not such a big deal.  I will increase my output.

I will.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Quick Update

Hello, again.  Sorry I've been away so long.  The job's in gear, and so is the writing!  I'm a bit back on track and very excited about it.  New novel is underway; some drafts of some chapters done; getting a little more square and solid in my head.  The TimberTech deck is done, too--and that's where I've been doing more reading and writing!  Great view and beautiful look, too.  No complaints.  Been a bit useful with the man-toys, too.  Lots of sawing, chainsawing and axe-cutting, as I get lots of wood ready for the fireplace.  (I predict a really cold and snowy winter.)  Actually finishing moving in has stalled, but you can't do it all, right?
How's everyone else?  Drop me a line or leave a comment.  Thanks for reading.