Friday, December 31, 2010

…I have a new story, "Written In Fire" up at 52/250 A Year of Flash and also here under "Words In Print."

…Happy New Year everyone. On the news they reported that "a new study shows the proper way to produce the best possible glass of champagne is to tilt your glass to the side while pouring." Really. It took a study for us to know that? We could have just asked any college students, since it's the same with beer, lest you get too much foam. I remember coming home from college that first, wet year and my mom asking why I was tilting my glass while pouring milk in it. (Habits get established easily.)

…Speaking of habits, I am having a hard time coming up with resolutions for 2011. Essentially I could repeat the ones from 2010 because they were challenging and lofty--write a novel, get an agent, publish 100 stories, run a marathon, etc., but it seems they should be different, although I don't know why. What do you think?

…At year end, every magazine and newspaper does a "Best of" list, so I will try to do mine.

--Best Film: "The Fighter"
--Best Comedic Film: "Due Date"
--Best Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
--Best Actress: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
--Best TV Drama: "Parenthood"
--Best TV Comedy: "Raising Hope"
--Best Album: "Recovery," by Eminem
--Best Single: "Runaway," by Kanye West
--Best Book: "No Country For Old Men," Cormac McCarthy
--Best Chapbook: "He Is Talking To The Fat Lady," by xTx
--Best New Writer I Discovered: tie--Stuart Dybek and Jayne Anne Phillips (Where the hell have I been?)
--Best New Web Writer I Discovered: Parker Tettleton
--Top Ten Online Literary Magazines, not in any order:
Necessary Fiction
Prick of the Spindle
Camroc Press Review
Cricket Online Review
The Smoking Poet
--Best Burger Joint: Five Guys

…Be safe, and watch out for those champagne corks. I once got one in my eye.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

…Things I've learned from reading magazines the last few days…
--70% of men are overweight or obese
--The average waist for a male is size 40
--The average woman is five foot four
--People who brush their teeth three times a day are likely to live three years longer because bacteria easily gets into the blood stream via our gums
--These restaurants are healthier than those:
Subway not Quiznos
Wendy's not Dairy Queen
Macaroni Grill not Olive Garden
Domino's not Papa Johns ("Mens Health")

…(From "Rolling Stone")
--Madonna is opening up a world wide chain of fitness stores
--Eminem and Taylor Swift are vying for top sales album of 2010. Each have 2.5 million of their alumbs sold
--Justin Beiber tweeted: "No lie. A fan just asked me for an autograph, confusing me with the actress who plays a lesbian on 'The L Word.'"

…From "Vanity Fair":
--16 percent of all people say they were bullied in school
--3 percent say there were a bully
--42% of all Americans own a gun
--26% of all Americans think their life is interesting enough to be given their own reality show
--"If something happened to you and your children were left without parents, which couple among the following would you most like to see adopt them?
I'd prefer some nice couple from Iowa 44% 41% 46%
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith 25% 26% 24%
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi 7% 2% 11%
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 6% 6% 5%
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes 3% 4% 3%

Which of the following annoys you most?
Driving slow in the fast lane 33% 38% 28%
Cell-phone conversations in restaurants 25% 25% 25%
Spitting in public 24% 18% 30%
People getting in elevator before others are off 9% 9% 8%
Use of the abbreviation LOL 5% 5% 4%

…From "Esquire Magazine's" What I've Learned Issue
"You know you're in love when you're more yourself than you ever imagine possible." James L. Brooks
"In the end, winning is sleeping better."
"It's a waste of time to think that if you colored a painting red what might have happened if you painted it black." Yoko Ono
"Be brave, but not reckless." Robert DeNiro
"A friend is someone who many years ago offered you his last 300 when you broke your pelvis. A friend is Gene Hackman." Robert Duvall
"You can do more good by being good than any other way." John Wooden
"If I am through learning, I am through." John Wooden

Monday, December 27, 2010

…I have had a streak of seeing excellent films:
"Due Date"
"127 Hours"
"The Fighter"
"True Grit"
"The Black Swan"
"The King's Speech"
"The Black Swan" is by the director of "The Wrestler" and "Requiem For A Dream," the latter being one of the most harrowing films I've ever seen, and unquestionably the hardest last five minutes of a movie I've ever watched. "The Black Swan" stars Natalie Portman and is excellent. She should grab an Oscar for this. The direction, the choreography, the plot, acting, script, dancing (ballet) and score are all spectacular. Go see it, but be warned that it's very emotionally wretching and you will live with this film for a least a few days afterward.
Today was "The King's Speech." Certainly the buzz around Colin Furth is well-earned. He shines in all the right ways, making himself simultaneously steely and vulnerable, all withut coming across as bragadocious, pitiful, cloying, staged or melodramatic. His co-star, Geoffrey Rush, is sensational, reminding me of Sir John Gielgud in "Arthur," but for an updated audience. Rush should win Oscar gold for Best Supporting Actor.

…I read a lot of magazines. I read a lot in general, but magazines--if you subscribe--are the best entertainment (and information) value out there. I like all kinds of mags--writers ones, naturally; music mags; pop culture; hard news; fashion--both male and female; shelter magazines; photograph magazines. You can learn useful knowledge, or even fun, trivial-yet-interesting-bits, such as, did you know there's a Facebook group that has so far pledged $10,000 if the band Weezer will break up? Odd but hysterical. And a pretty big slam to Weezer.

In "Esquire" (I talk about them a lot) this month's issue is themed "What I've Learned" which is always my fave. In it, they do an extended version of the column they have monthly. Basically, they pick interesting people--usually celebrities, but not always--and have them prattle on about what life has taught them from the mundane to the profound.
Here's some of what I liked:
"If you don't have heroes in the beginning, you don't grow." Robert Duvall
"Art is competitive." Robert Duvall
"When I was a kid, nobody told me I was good-looking. I wish they had. I would've had a better time." Robert Redford
"I don't look ahead. I'm right here with you. It's a good way to be." Danny Devito
"To do creativity at the level we do it…five days a week, eight hours a day, it doesn't work. I dedicate more than double the time most people do. Thus, at the same level of talent, I have an advantage." Ferran Adria, world reknown chef
"Nothing's going back to the way it was." James L. Brooks
"There's always something falling to the floor. I'm a juggler in constant 'oops' mode." James L. Brooks

Thursday, December 23, 2010

…I have five new stories up: "Orchid" at Apollo's Lyre, "A Competitive Nature" at Troubadour 21, "Turbulence" at 52/250 A Year of Flash, "Straight" at Cricket Online Review and "The Sky, The Sky, The Wide Open Sky" also at Cricket Online Review. All five are included here under "Words In Print."

…Today I wrote poetry, buckets and pails of words and syllables, consonant, vowels, alliteration and loose intentions. It was fun. I was on a roll and ended with 21 poems. I tried to write half of them from a woman's perspective, in a female's voice, because I found a slew of cool literary sites that cotton only to women's issues. I'm going to send some out as soon as I finish posting.

…I like this: " In writing, every word must earn it's place. The title is the kidnapping element." Vanessa Debbie

…My Dad once said, "If it was easy, everyone would do it." I know he didn't create that expression, but I find myself thinking about that phrase whenever I struggle, like during a marathon or getting a story rejected, trying to find an agent. I like to do things that not many people can do. It probably has to do with conceit and low self-esteem, but it's the challenging stuff I find most fulfilling.

..Two more days until Christmas. I'm ready for it. I wish it would snow. There's something serene and magical about the beauty of a good snowfall.

…Writing gets lonely. I don't mind being alone, but it's more the sense of detachment and distance that is disconcerting. I'd better watch out….
...A writer friend posted this a week ago:

"Writers 'at greater risk of depression', survey finds
US health website lists professions in which people are most likely to be depressed and puts authors in top 10

•, Monday 13 December 2010 17.00 GMT
• Article history
Writers suffer ... Virginia Woolf. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images
Writing is one of the top 10 professions in which people are most likely to suffer from depression, with men particularly at risk from the illness, according to US website
The site puts artists and writers among the most vulnerable of professionals, alongside other "at risk" jobs including care workers, teachers, social workers, maintenance staff and salespeople.
Irregular pay and isolation contribute to the propensity for writers to succumb to depression, says the site, with nearly 7% of male artists and writers likely to suffer a major episode of the illness.
Novelist Simon Brett, who has acknowledged his own struggles with depression, agreed with the tenor of the findings, citing writer suicides including Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Sexton and Arthur Koestler.
"You spend long hours sitting on your own," he said. "Writing can be wonderful therapy, but you are digging into yourself, and if you are writing fiction and creating characters, a certain amount of self-examination and self-doubt is inevitable." Many writers are also introverted, quiet people, and find it stressful to have their work assessed publicly, Brett added, saying: "Now there are reviews on Amazon, for example, that happens even more."
And like everyone else, writers are subject to the current economic woes. "It has always been an insecure profession, and now advances are spiralling downwards and a lot of midlist authors have been dropped by their publishers," said Brett.
There are two points in the novel-writing cycle when authors are particularly vulnerable, he believes. "Almost every writer I know goes through the same reaction after a novel is finished – there are 24 hours of euphoria and then all the negative thoughts you have shut out while finishing it come out, and either you get drunk or depressed or get the flu.
"The other point is two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through a novel, when almost all writers get what I call the 'three-quarters sag', when the only thing you like less about what you've written so far is the ideas you have for finishing the book. My books are written quite quickly, so it only lasts a week or two, but for people who spend two years writing, it can take months."
Many writers, including Stephanie Merritt, Gwyneth Lewis and Sally Brampton have articulated their experiences of depression in personal memoirs, with novelist Marian Keyes revealing a serious bout of the illness to fans on her website earlier this year. "The medical department call it 'a major depressive episode', but I've been knocked sideways by a multitude of feelings, not just depression, but agitation, anxiety, terror, panic, grief, desperation, despair and an almost irresistible desire to be dead and it's gone on for a very long time," Keyes wrote. "Every day for six solid months I've had to try really hard to stay alive."
But poet Lewis, who explored the subject in her book Sunbathing In The Rain, said that her research while a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard had suggested different findings.
"I'd argue the opposite, that given that writers do spend a lot of time on their own, and that the worldly rewards for poetry are minuscule, and given that most of the time you don't know whether what you are doing is any good, it's amazing that writers don't suffer more," she said, describing poets as "the SAS of the depression gang", willingly taking themselves into difficult terrain for their work.
But, she said, in some ways, the art itself helps you through the minefield. "There is something in the principles of art that is not depressive, that's so joyful," Lewis said. And she added that the idea that you have to suffer to produce art is nonsense: "You have to be well. If you're properly clinically depressed, you can't think about rhyme."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

...I have two new things: "Back Yard" up at Matchbook Lit and also "Monetary Scar" in audio form as read by Mel Bosworth for Dark Sky Magazine. Both are here under "Words In Print."

...I have just discovered an amazing writer. She is genius. I don't know how she escaped me until now. Jayne Anne Phillips. She shoots volts in every sentence, sometimes lightning and bullets, arrows and saws in a sentence. I'm reading her story collection, "Black Tickets." I'm reading it slowly, much the same way James Franco rationed water in the movie "127 Hours." I don't want it to end. Jayne Anne even has a blurb from my favorite writer ever, Raymond Carver, on the back book jacket. Finding great new writing and great new music are two of my favorite things.

...I have been waking up at 4am the last few days. It's not so bad. Actually, it's kind of nice. At that hour the world is dark and still, everyone ensnared in their REM sleep. It feels like I'm getting a head start on people. This morning at around five-thirty I finished Marcy Dermansky's very fine and quirky novel, "Bad Marie." The entire time I read it I kept hearing the narrator's voice from "Pushing Daisies" in my head for some reason. Next, I'm getting her book, "Twins."

...I have three more books and I'll have again read 100 for the year. Next year I will read a lot but I don't think I'll make it a resolution to hit 100. Too much pressure. I find myself selecting thin books. Besides, I read so much stuff online now, both for pleasure and for my gig at Metazen.

...I need an agent. Can you get me one? I would love you madly and a long time if you could do that for me. Come January, I am going to start actively looking. I have a guide book sitting inches from my right hand. Inside are the names of every book publisher, agent and editor. The thing is a tome, larger than a Stephen King novel. I will get to it soon.

...That last thought leads me to share this (If you're a writer, it'll be interesting, if you're not one, you can probably just click off and I'll find something juicy for you next time.)

...Tina Wexler shares how to get an Agent:
1. Write a really amazing query. Which is to say: take your time, try describing your work multiple ways until you find the best approach, read successful queries online and have as many people as possible read yours so that you’re certain it makes sense and is a shiny apple.

2. Demonstrate knowledge of an agent's list. This doesn’t mean you have to read every book they’ve ever sold—I leave that job to my mom—but by showing them you know a bit about who they represent, you’re telling agents you’ve done your research on who to query.

3. Do your research on who to query. Period.

4. Write a really amazing manuscript. Which is to say: take your time, put your work through multiple revisions, read published works in your genre, and consider joining a critique group or finding a writing partner whom you trust who can help make your manuscript a shiny apple.

5. Be nice. Agents, like most everyone, want to work with people who are personable. This does not, however, mean “Fawn over the agent” or “Send a bushel of apples to the agent.”

6. Don’t ask me, “Why all the talk about apples?” because if you’ve read my client Donna Gephart's How to Survive Middle School, you already know it’s because I'm constantly daydreaming about Bubbe’s Jewish Apple Cake. But do ask other questions you may have. Be a part of the conversation. Agents want critical thinkers who take this getting-published thing seriously.

6 ½. Take this getting-published thing seriously. There’s plenty of fun to be had, but remember, this is a business, not a hobby or a get-rich-quick scheme. Agents want hard workers, writers dedicated to their craft who view getting published as the first step of a long journey, writers whom they will want to be with on that journey.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

…I have a new poem, "AZ" up at Dark Chaos and also here under "Words In Print."

…Sometimes I wonder if I produce too much writing. For me, it's like when someone's water pipes have burst and they're left wading through a maw of floating paper and ink. I have over 550 stories and/or poems written, with only half of that published and at least a hundred pieces just sitting around waiting to be sopped up by a broken water mane. Sure, it's a good problem to have versus writer's block, but it can get a little overwhelming at times.

…The last three days have been good though. I've had nine pieces accepted. It still never gets old. It's like having your kid say, "I love you." They could tell you that a billion times and each one would pluck you right in the heart.

…My daugher and I saw, "The Fighter" yesterday. I give it an A-. Christian Bale is a marvel. He's so thin in this, not quite as emaciated as in "The Machinist," but close. And he's wiry and manic and just brilliant. Mark Walberg is terrific, and cute Amy Adams is just too adorable. The mom and sisters in the film hit a little close to home for me. You should see this film. It will win Oscars. I guarantee it. And at a few different junctures in the movie you'll want to jump out of your seat and cheer. (How often does cinema do that anymore?)

…Here are some random, good bits culled from "Field Guide to Flash Fiction," edited by the fabulous Tara Masih:

…"Hold infinity in the palm of your hand." William Blake
…"Finding a good flash is like sighting a comet, all the more glorious for it being rare." Shappard and Thomas
…"Flash fiction is fiercely condensed, almost like a lyric poem; it explodes itself to a single, overpowering incident; it bears symbolic weight." John Redfern
…"Everybody seems to be writing this sort of yarn, for it appears to be the easiest form of fictional composition….In reality, the short-short is one of the most didfficult forms…because it must embody all the technique and consummate skill required in short-story construction and 'then some'. It requires tremendoujs--and skillful--condensation and repression. It must contain all the inherent drama in short-story forms…But its techinque can be mastered if you understand…its fundamental requirements." Robert Oberfirst
…"Stories condense time." Tara Masih

Thursday, December 16, 2010

…I have a new story, "The Pride" up at 52/250 A Year of Flash. It's also here under "Words In Print." I love 52/250. The idea is you write a story a week, but the piece can be no longer than 250 words. Not one syllable more. Participating in this has really reminded me that when writing, and especially when writing short fiction, every word has to sing, have purpose, and be crucial. Telling an evocative, resonating tale in two-hundred fifty words is very difficult. Try it.

…My daughter and I saw "127 Hours" with James Franco. It was a very well done film by Danny Boyle, who also did "Slumdog Millionaire," (one of my faves) "Millions," (a great little movie) "Sunshine" (a nifty sci-fi story) and "28 Days" (a zombie film I've not seen.) Franco deserves an Oscar nomination. It's amazing how tense this movie is, and stays throughout, given it's basically shot inside a crevice between two rocks. Go see it!

…I'm reading "Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction." I got it a while ago when I first started sending work out but never got around to reading it. Mostly, it's inspirational to me. Here are some great bits that I enjoyed, and you might, too:

…"Every writer has a number of unwritten novels in the form of flash fictions.
--The novel can win by points, the short story has to win by KO.
--Flash fiction can only be resolved by sudden revelation, as wonder. Flash fiction is a fictional truth--an epiphany.
-- We consume time at such velocity that we are probably 20 years ahead of ourselves. Fiction is a time seed, it repudiates the waste of language in a dedundant future.
Flash fiction wanders, I realize now, between waking up and waking down. The fictional, sudden vision occurs when your own soul finally teaches you and brings a fistful of words." -- Julio Ortega

…"Don't wait to be ready. Start before you know what you're saying. Hell, start right now.
No, now.
Put some stuff in the first sentence and carve in a working verb that is slightly out of place and ask it to do something it hasn't done before or been paid to do. It shouldn't exactly fit. By the time you finish, it will fit perfectly, own the place, be the boss…
…Don't us dirty words, such as they are, hoping to jump-start the engine with explosives. It doesn't work. Boom goes the dirty word and then what. Smoke? Not even. Use cozy words that we haven't seen around for a while, some old word with dandruff on its shoulders and ink stain on its shirt pocket." -- Ron Carlson

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

…I feel like ranting a little.

…News today about Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson getting divorced after two years. Same with Michael C. Hall (from Showtime's Dexter) and Jennifer Carpenter who plays his sister on the show (they made it two.two years.) And evidentially Elizabeth Hurley tweeted that she's now separated from her husband. I think Avril Lavine and Deryk Whembly lasted a year and a half after their lavish wedding and photo spread in People magazine. Kate Walsh, from Private Practice, didn't even make it eleven months.
What the?
Is that how it goes? Does everyone cash in their chips as soon as things get a tad rocky in the relationship? Or is it just Hollywood? "We grew apart" is a pretty commonly stated reason. "We fell out of love," is another. Most couple keep their cars longer than they do their spouses. Sure time is going to test you as a wedded pair, and time is going to provide some really tough challenges. The bloom is going to wear off, but you have to grow through that. I like what Rob Bell said: "Love is really just teamwork." Notice the word "work." And the first half of that word: "team." You've got to put some effort into it, elbow grease, some sweat and tears. Any joker can throw in the towel.
Sure, marriage can be a tough gig at times. I know my own has had it's up's and down's, but I can't imagine not being married to my wife.

…I read in the USA Today two weeks ago that 32% of all Americans think marriage is obsolete. 64% of young males think it will become obsolete in their lifetime. Yikes.

…Everyone wants to be happy, but no one is willing to expend any energy to get happy. So we buy a new outfit, new shoes, a slick car, a bigger house, a nice promotion, and yes, we are indeed happy for a month or so, until that rush wears off. Then we need something else.

…Contrary to popular belief, money does not, in fact, buy happiness. This is from The New York Times Review of Books: "Average happiness in the United States has not increased over the past fifty years even though real per capita income has increased greatly. And though most people think they would be happier if they had more money, they typically react to an increase in wealth or income with a tmeporary spike in their reported happiness, but soon adapt and revert to their former level."

…Why do Americans love their happy endings so much? Probably because, anymore, they can only get them in fiction and film.

…Paul McCartney sang, "You think the people would have had enough of silly love songs" while right around that same time Joy Division sang "Love Will Tear Us Apart." You decide.

…I don't know. I don't have any answers. It just seems like, generally speaking, we Americans are getting lazier with each new year. We expect everything to work perfectly and if it doesn't, we toss it or we find a new drug or we sue somebody or we get a boob job, a tummy tuck.

…I know, I'm crabby. Grumpy people should not post their angry prattle on blogs. Too late.

Monday, December 13, 2010

…I have new things up:
"Bullet Proof" @ Bartleby Snopes
"I'll Never Tell" @ Left Hand Waving
"My Mother, Marilyn Monroe" @ Blue Print Review
"Repo," "Rendezvous," and "Bath Time" @ Orion Headless
"Thrum" @ 52/250 A Year of Flash
"Sea Creatures" @ Indigo Rising
All of these are also up here under "Words In Print"

…I am back from having run the Tucson Marathon yesterday. Tucson, as a city, is not my cup of tea. Everything there is mountains and rubble and dirt. It is all beige. The landscape is beige, the homes, the malls. People have dirt lawns. Really. Well, they're beige, pebbled yards. Oh, but there are also cacti to bring some added hue.
I'm not slamming Tucson, just saying it's not my type of place.
If you saw where I live, you'd probably--other than the lake--have a similar distate, but for other reasons. Where I live is very rural and red neck. People post handwritten signs on trees advertising their day care or auto removal businesses. There are delapidated barns. There are cows and sheep and ostriches, lamas, goats and lots of horses. Some yards have rusted vehicles sulking in them. Sometimes it bothers me quite a lot if people are not keeping up their property, but overall, the advantages of living here, to me, outweigh being somewhere else. I've lived in nice, upperscale suburbs. They have some wonderful attributes. But at this point in my life, I prefer the raw, truth of the country.
So, what I'm saying is: we all have different tastes, and thank goodness for that.
I just wrote a very short piece about a man who lives in a tin shanty next to a garbage dump while a rich tourist town flourishes miles below. This man, you think he is jaded until the end when you learn he believes himself--because of the family he has--to be, in fact, rich. (Can you tell that my trip to the garbage dumps in Puerto Vallarta still sort of haunts me?)

…About the marathon--I did horribly. Really. It was my worst performance out of all eight. I'm giving up the marathon. I may do halves, but the marathon has become more than my nemesis. It has become my master. It has owned me and broken me and I am escaping from its bondage.
How do I feel today? Thin. Sore. My bloody toes from yesterday have gone pusy--yoke yellow rimmed with green (don't worry, I'm draining and soaking.) Walking down or up stairs is painful. It feels as if furnace-heated rods have been implanted in each thigh and, with every step, they melt my muscles from the inside out.
But that will all subside in a day or so. I've been there before.

…I finished five books while I was gone. "Bad Marie" by Marcy Dermansky is wonderful--a little naughty and a lot mischevious, but it's an addictive novel. Marcy is some skilled writer.

…I like this: "It's easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren't writers, and very little harm comes to them." -- Julian Barnes, "Flaubert's Parrot"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

…I have a new story, "Talk To Me" up at Ramshackle Review and also here under "Words In Print." There are some of my favorite writers in that particular issue of Ramshackle. Check it out.

…Did I tell you that I'm trying to be a better person? I am. So far it's going okay. If there were one of those fundraising thermometers charting my progress the red mercury (which is really just red felt pen marking) would be at about ten percent. It's hard to be a better person. If you don't believe me, just try it.

…Today was an interesting day--three rejections. I can't remember the last time I had three rejections in one day. I might not ever have. It keeps a person humble, not that I need help on that front.
The upside is I did also have two acceptances, one a story I've always loved, "Sea Creatures" that's had a hard time finding a home.

…I am reading ZXZZYVA. Ever hear of it? It's San Francisco- based and has been around a long time. It is very ecclectic to say the least, with drawings and photos and long fiction and poetry. Some of the longer pieces are so odd that they're boring. Every once in a while, however, there's a good piece. I read one tonight and I'm going to send the author a note.
I'm also reading Tara Masih's "Where the Dog Star Grows." It's excellent.

…Tomorrow I leave for warmer climes. The marathon is Sunday. It's very probable that I won't write anymore on this blog until Monday.

--So I leave you with this gem that I rather like: "Nature is a haunted house--but Art--a house that tries to be haunted." -- Emily Dickinson, letter 459

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

…I have some new things: three poems--"Worry Warts," "The Palm of Your Hand," and "The Photos That No Longer Look Like You" up at Heavy Bear as well as "The Infection" up at 52/250 A Year of Flash. All pieces are also here under "Words In Print."

…Do you ever lose stuff from your computer? It happens to me from time to time. I must delete it accidentally. Or else it occurs when my computer restarts. Windows is constantly upgrading itself (wouldn't it be nice if humans could do that as easily?) and then the file or whatever disappears. In any event, I had a chunk of blog material saved and now it is gone-ah-rhea. It was funny stuff and stats about funny things. If the material ever re-surfaces, I will be sure to share it.

…I continue to be astonished by Facebook, and specifically how (…what? what's the adjective--unwise? foolish?) uncouth people are on it. People have open cat fights. People are beligerant. People sling their political agendas around. And this happens, not once in blue moon, but ALL THE TIME. Truly remarkable.

…I am running a marathon this weekend. I try to be optomistic about most things, but I don't have a lovely sense about this race. You should say a prayer for me. It can be a little one.

…Just before I started writing this blog post I got the disease again. It started with a photo that made me write the line "We sleep on trains, uncoiling our freedom and forging our fear…" and then turned into a dozen poems in a matter of fifty minutes. Bam Bam Bam like a Gatling gun.

…I love this: "Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of temrinal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you beging writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that wound not enrage by its triviality?" -- Annie Dillard

Saturday, December 4, 2010

…Last summer my family and I went on a mission trip to Puerto Vallarta. On the outskirts of this tourist destination lay vast areas of rugged terrain and severe poverty. On a plateau overlooking the valley and ocean sits an entire ramshackle community who live feet from a sprawling garabage dump. These makeshift homes are literally shanty huts, twelve-by-twelve, with tin roofs and no front doors. Children play naked in the dusty and garbage-strewn roads. Bone-thin dogs saunter in the smoldering heat.
We spent three days feeding kids at a school and made a visit to the garbage dump one evening. For years, the dump was an open area where whole families lived, toddlers and babies, too, with no access to clean water, literally mired in disease and filth. In the last few years improvements have been made: no one is allowed to actually live in the dump, a shower has been installed, and walls have been erected around the dump.
If one is lucky and works hard, he or she might be able to make up to $3.00 U.S. The workers are intensly serious and when a new garbage truck trundles up the hill, everyone sprints to it, hoping to be the first to rifle through the discarded contents in search of recycable materials.
All big cities have their unsightly areas, yet it seemed a perverse irony that the dump town exists just a few miles from where cruise ships bigger than mountains sit docked while rich tourists troll shops, looking for ways to spend money.
Like many poor people, those we met in the far hills seemed as happy as anybody. They were immensely well-mannered, humble and gracious, and also quite lively.
I wrote this account, "Canto Del Sol" ("Edge of the Sun") about our trip.

Canto Del Sol

The days are made of dust here.
To keep it from blinding us, we learn to squint and shield our eyes. To keep from choking to death, we learn to breathe in shallow swallows.
Overhead, the sun seethes like a yellow scab. All around, ochre rubble simmers in the smoldering heat. Rails of trash line the roads, following us as far as we go, even up these remote hills. Our driver watches my eyes, then shakes his head and says in Spanglish, “This whole place has made of filth.”
We suck down dust. Dust stings our eyes. Dust crystals move in our hair, across our scalps like spiders. Dust drips muddy down our skins and shirts.
“Is that it?” a girl asks as our vehicle approaches the final incline.
I nod.
The dump is a domed volcano, walled in with dirt.
“What are those?” someone asks, pointing.
Vultures rim the mouth of the mountain. A hundred of them stand side by side, black hodlums, bigger than toddlers. They eye us accusatorily, as if contemplating an ambush. Their plumage bleeds oil and they cock their crooked necks the closer we get.
“Look,” someone says. In the sky, hundreds more soar.
The guide tells us how last week a little boy beat one of the birds off with a stick, fighting it for half a sandwich he’d found in the dump. The guide laughs, as if he’s told us a joke.
He tells us it’s too hot to work the garbage. “At night we go,” he says.
The school is minutes away. We unload supplies and watch the kids stride out single-file, in uniform. Their hands are tiny mitts, but clean, taking the bread and rolls, the pale rice water in plastic cups.
“Thank you, mister.” “Thank you, lady,” each one says.
To them, my son is an American Godzilla, a perfect freak of nature: long-limbed, blonde, six three but just having turned fourteen. After they’ve eaten, the children attack him, hoards of gangly boys and giggling girls.
At another station my daughter translates while their group strings beaded bracelets and rings. Next door my wife leads jump rope and swirls a hula hoop around her waist, up over her neck, through both arms, down around one ankle.
We sweat and laugh, and for several hours this is life.
At dusk, we drive downwind of the dump where the reek of ripe rot boils the night air. Our lungs fill and burn.
Inside the gate, patrons move about the waste and ruin in haste. They scavenge for sheets of metal, cardboard, plastic, glass, anything that can be recycled. A triumphant ten hours might, on rare occasion, bring as much as $3.00 U.S.
They wear miner helmets with flashlight beams that cut arcs across the heaps where beaver-sized rats scurry back and forth. They sort through puddings of moist, black muck and shake maggot off their gloves and move onto the next mound.
A few stray dogs lay around, curled into themselves like the arms of a bathrobe. When I whistle at one, it is too weak to raise anything but its eyes, the mongrel just a coat, ribs and skull.
As the van door opens, a line forms and I hate myself for thinking “prisoners.”
We hand out sandwiches and rolls and rice milk. Their faces are coffee bean-brown, the whites of their eyes glowing radioactive. They smile and nod and shuffle away to let the next one in. It goes all night, as long as the food lasts.
“Si, gracias.”
“De nada.”
“Si? Este?”
“No importa.”
But the truth is everything is important—tin or glass, the discarded and ruined.
A sour milk jug has meaning.
We shake hands and lock up. We take flash photos.
On the ride back down the hill my son works it over in his head, how we will leave tomorrow but the vultures will stay, how the children and the workers and the dump will all still be here.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he says. “It doesn’t seem fair.”
“I know.”
“What good did we do coming here?” he asks. “We didn’t make a difference.”
I remember the way those kids swarmed him, pulling at his waist. I remember the songs and giggling.
“Yes, we did.”
I want to say, It was something. I want to say, Maybe the difference will take root in you.
But I don’t. I don’t say anything. Instead, I put my arm around him and squeeze.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

…I've been in a bit of a tailspin lately. Or maybe I've been floating. Whatever it is, I haven't been making much progress. I did, however, write three pretty good poems in the bathtub yesterday. It's where I get most of my best work done. Something about the rumble of the jets and the suds (good suds are really hard to come by, you wouldn't think so but it's true) and reading while sipping cabernet gets my mind working. I wrote a poem with this opening line-- "I dream of the snow storm again, that we die when we run out of footprints." I borrowed the second half of the line from Billy Collins. I had no idea where this poem would go, but as can be expected with me, it took a very sharp, tragic turn at the end.
…Speaking of Billy Collins. Some of his poems are good, but many are just sort of blah. Yet he's a poet laureate. Go figure. I'm almost done with the second of two collections by him, so I think I can have an opinion.

…My son asked me what a nomad is today. Yesterday at McDonald's we debated what is worse for a person--cigarettes or marijuanna. Not that either are good. I said ganja is worse, because a person can smoke a cig and drive the same but on pot you can become unnerved and dangerous and do stupid things. Last night he and I watched "Arrested Development" and it was a pleasure to hear him talk about how brilliant the show is/was.
…It's fun to watch my son growing and learning. It's the definition of joy.

…I no longer have good hair days. I had one in, like, somewhere around the second week of November. But that was it. Something has happened to my hair. It looks like the top of a bamboo tree hut after a windstorm. And product doesn't seem to help either.

…I want to see the film, "Little Furniture." You should go see it if you can. Go tonight or tomorrow. Take a date and friends and talk it up, put your fab reviews on Facebook and tweet about it.
…What would we do without Indie films? It seems the 3-D big budget Avatar types are pushing out the little guys the way Barnes and Noble and now the Kindle are crushing mom-and-pop book stores.

…The new Kanye West disc is really good, but not 5 Stars good, as Rolling Stone would have you believe. The new Kid Cudi is growing on me. It's pretty different for a rapper. Today I listened to all of a Keane album while on the treadmill. Florence and the Machine takes lots of repeated listens. She's a cross between Annie Lenox, Chrissie Hind and the girl that sings Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, or whatever that song I'm thinking of was called.

…I sent a submission to Litsnack recently. They have published me before. I like them a lot. I like this a lot as well (It's printed in their submission guidelines):

4 Comment(s)

• Great poems explode like fireworks
• Great stories explore change--specifically in people, places, or ideas. There must be transformation!
• In great language, syntax is lean, word choice economical
• Use specific nouns and strong verbs
• Kill adjectives and adverbs
• Great stories use all of the traditional plot points (exposition, inciting moment, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion)
• Or, if not, they at least answer all of their own questions (that's Chekhov, baby!)
• In poems, create emotion through imagery, figurative language, and specific, evocative details
• Same for stories, except add strong characters and vivid setting
• Do the above, and theme takes care of itself
• In short, good literature doesn't have to be long
• Our motto at LITSNACK: "Easy in. Easy out. Nobody gets hurt."
See ya at the watering hole.


Monday, November 29, 2010

…There are days when I really comprehend the oft-repeated statement that, "Writing is a lonely endeavor." There are days when I feel the jagged spurs of that phrase all the way down to my black-nailed runner toes.
In fact, today is one of those days.
It's Monday. I am in my office. Christmas music plays downstairs, instrumental music, nothing too moody, jaunty keys and woodwinds. It is gray outside, but I have in front of me a lake with water fowl bobbing on the kerned waves. In back of me stacked thick and tight on every shelf are many, many books that I love. I have had three stories accepted in the last two days. I write full time. I have a wife who loves me and kids who love me. I have physical and cyber friends and yet
Today I feel lonely even though I have no excuse for such an emotion.
But don't cry for me Argentina, I will break out of it.
Here's what I will do:
I will change the music to something fun and upbeat, like Drake or OAR, and I will have another cup of thick, smolder java, and I will surf some of my favorite writers blogs and I will read great writing and that will center me in a contented happy place. Then I will get to work.
Until then, read this funny thing from Dave Eggers encouraging all the NaNoWriMo writers…

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,
Is procrastination a problem for you? Really? You think you have a problem?
Here's procrastination: The organizers of NaNoWriMo asked me three months ago to write this pep talk, and I'm only writing it now, after blowing three deadlines, after avoiding ten reminders. I was asked to write a pep talk for NaNoWriMo, and I'm actually writing it after the month started. So whatever procrastination problems you have, I probably have you beat. I'm the worst, and I'm getting worse every day.
It's a very strange thing, because we all think writing should be fun. That is, when I was temping through most of my twenties, wondering what it would be like to write for a living, hoping for such a life, I thought it might be pretty sweet. I thought if I ever got to write for a living, I would feel pretty lucky, and that I would be so appreciative that I would bound out of bed every day and, like a goddamned adult, I would write as much as I could every day, and get work done in a reasonable amount of time. Again, like an adult.
Instead, I need, on average, 8 hours sitting on my writing couch to get one hour of work done. It's a pathetic ratio. I stall, avoid, put off and generally act like someone's making me do some terrible job I never wanted to do. I blow pretty much every deadline I'm given.
Just like I blew the one for NaNoWriMo.
But then, when things are late, and I'm feeling like an idiot, and I feel like I'm letting down someone (like the people at NaNoWriMo, and you), I finally dig in and get started. And then I write, and I write in a fury, and I even, sometimes, enjoy writing.
And that's why I love NaNoWriMo. It gets you started. It gives you the impetus to finally start, and/or finally finish. Knowing there are thousands of others out there trying to do the same, who are using this ridiculous deadline as cattle-prod and shame deterrent, means goddamnit, you better do it now because you know how to write, and you have fingers, and you have this one life, and during this one life, you should put your words down, and make your voice heard, and then let others hear your voice. And the only way any of that's going to happen is if you actually do it. People can't read the thoughts in your head. They can only read the thoughts you put down, carefully and with great love, on the page. So you have to do it, goddamnit. You have to do it, and you can step back and be happy. You can step back and relax. You can step back and feel something like pride.
Then of course you'll have to revise it ten or twenty times, but let's not talk about that yet.
Write your goddamned book now. The world awaits.
Dave Eggers is the author of Zeitoun and What is the What. You can learn more about his work here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

…I had a good day yesterday--that story I told you I work specifically for "Negative Suck" got accepted. I ran 22 miles, a mile less that I was supposed to, but hey, at least I got the long distance in. And with that run, I've officially passed 2,000 miles for the year, something I've never done.

…I did not write anything today. I always feel incomplete on days when I don't write, as if my equilibrium is off, as if I have vertigo or sea sickness, as if my vision is spotty like just before a migraine. Tomorrow I will write and I will feel better. Yes, tomorrow.

…This article is on Phillip Glass from Esquire's "What I've Learned." I don't know a lot about Mr. Glass, but I like what he has to say and hope you will as well.

I always knew what I wanted to do and I did it.

A very interesting thing happens as you age. At a certain point you become older than your parents were when they died. My father died at sixty-five. I am now seventy-one. He would have lived longer — it was a mishap, a tragic accident, hit by a car. At this point, I am six years older than my father was when he passed away. I now look at my father as a younger man. It is he who is the young Mr. Glass.

When you become a parent, you begin to become sympathetic to your own parents. We begin to understand how much we owe to them, how much we're shaped by their vision of the world.

I work every morning without fail.

You practice and you get better. It's very simple.

I was not always the brightest bulb in the tree. I was a hardworking guy, but in my opinion I was not one of the most talented people at Juilliard. I didn't have that brilliance that some people really have, but I had a tremendous appetite for the work.

Motivation will make up for a lot of failings.

When I left the University of Chicago, I was nineteen. I went back to Baltimore and announced to my parents I was going to go to music school at Juilliard. They weren't thrilled with that. So I went to Bethlehem Steel and got a job at the steel mill for nine months and made enough money to go to New York and live for a year and work and study music. I didn't think of it as an act of courage; it may have been more of an act of desperation than anything.

When I struck out in my own music language, I took a step out of the world of serious music, according to most of my teachers. But I didn't care. I could row the boat by myself, you know? I didn't need to be on the big liner with everybody else.
Self-esteem comes from your parents. Somebody tells you that you can do whatever you want, and you believe them.

The question is: What's the mill? Not: What's the grist?

Collaboration is the source of inspiration for me.

When I was a kid working at the steel mills, when you stood in front of the furnace, the heat that came off was amazing. And I feel that in many ways New York was, for me, the furnace — the cultural furnace. Just standing in that heat warms you up.

When you hear for the first time the music you have composed, there is that astonishing moment when the idea that you carried in your heart and your mind comes back to you in the hands of a musician. People always ask, "Is it what you thought it would be?" And that's a very interesting question, because once you hear it in the air, so to speak, it's almost impossible to remember what it was you imagined. The reality of the sound eclipses your experience. The solitary dreamer is wondering: Will the horns sound good here? Will this flute sound good there? But then when you actually hear it, you're certainly in a different place. The experience of that is my god.

When you're really working, really playing tennis, lifting weights, playing basketball, or whatever it is — it happens in sports, it happens in music, it happens in everything — when you're fully consumed with the act, the witness just disappears. And for that reason, when someone asks, "What was it like?" you can't remember, because the person inside of you who does the remembering was otherwise occupied.

What I've noticed is that people who love what they do, regardless of what that might be, tend to live longer.

Friday, November 26, 2010

…I had a rocky time writing today, but I did come up with something I really like about a boy who sees his mother making out with a bear, or a man in a bear costume. The story is called, "The Costume Party" and of course it is tragic. I sent it off to Negative Suck. I was looking at their sight and the submission guidelines said, "I want writing that makes me feel like I've just been punched," so for whatever reason, this line came into my head, "The man kissing my mother wears a bear costume," and there it went.

…Tomorrow is a 23 mile run (well, 22 running, one walking at the end if I'm not too crippled.) I never sleep well the night before long runs.

…On the treadmill this morning I listened to Blue October. Do you know them? They have both the single most violent song ("Dirt Room") I've ever heard (way more than Em) and also the happiest song ("Jump Rope") I've ever head. I also listened to old Tonic and Third Eye Blind (there's not a bad song on that first album). I have new Kanye, Kid Cudi and Mumford and Sons, but haven't listened to it. Neon Trees is quite good, as is (don't be a hater because I love her) the new Taylor Swift. She reminds me of a Collie, all blonde and fluffy.

…As I've said, I'm not going to be a finished in the NaNoWriMo contest. Still I get the ocassional pep talk email. This one, from Lemony Snicket, is pure gold. Read on if you don't believe me:

Dear Cohort,
Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it's nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.
For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies - what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.
Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.
Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one's entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient - the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.
Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours - not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they'd never understand it. Perhaps it's not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you'll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.
Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor's waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.
In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.
--Lemony Snicket
Lemony Snicket is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. You can learn more about his work here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

…I have a new story, "Postage" up at 52/250 A Year of Flash, and also two new poems, "Black Quench" at The New Verse News and "Listening Device" at GwI. All are also here under "Words In Print." People seemed to like "Listening Device" a lot. I do, too. It's funny though, how sometimes I'll send out a cluster of poems and the one I think is weakest will be selected and the one I feel is strongest gets passed over. Just shows how subjective this can be.

…I run long distances. I am thin. I probably obsess too much about being thin. But I ate a small mountain range today and the thing is sort of sitting like and upside down bath tub in my stomach now.

…I like having writer friends. Writer friends on the internet are really fun because you can swap thoughts and comments on each others stories and it feels safe because you know them but you don't really "really" know them.

…I got xTx's chapbook, "He Is Talking To The Fat Lady" and it was just as good as I expected. She's got mad skills. I also got Sam Pink's novel, "Person." So far so good. I wonder if Sam Pink is made up moniker. I'm thinking it is.

…I like this quote from Chuck Palahnuik: "No matter how careful you are, there's going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn't experience it all."

…My wife finished reading my novel. She said she liked it a lot and I think she meant it. I need to do some edits and then start querying agents. I sent the first 20 pages to two agents I met at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. That was back in late July, and I still haen't heard anything, so I'm taking that as a bad sign.

…This is from Writer's Digest

Ultimate Blog Series on Novel Queries (#1)
Posted by Jane

This is my definitive No Rules series on novel queries. It's meant particularly for writers who are new to the query process. (A series on nonfiction book queries will come later.)

Every query should include these 5 elements (but not necessarily delivered in this order):
• Personalization (where you customize the letter for the recipient)
• What you're selling (genre/category, word count, title/subtitle)
• Hook (100-150 words is ideal)
• Bio (sometimes optional for uncredited fiction writers)
• Thank you & closing (plus any important notes)

What's in the very first paragraph of the query?
This varies from writer to writer, from project to project. You put your best foot forward—or you lead with your strongest selling point. This might involve:
• A referral from an existing client
• Met at a conference or pitch event (your material may or may not have been requested, but if your material WAS requested, you're not really writing a query any more; you're writing a cover letter)
• Compelling hook that matches what an agent recently expressed interest in
• Personalized intro that smartly and genuinely identifies why your work is a good match for this particular agent or editor
• Excellent credentials or awards (e.g., MFA from a school that an agent is known to recruit clients from, first prize in a national competition with thousands of entrants, impressive publication credits with prestigious journal or New York publisher)
Many writers don't have referrals or conference meetings to fall back on, so usually the hook becomes the lead for the query letter.

Other writers start simple and direct, which is fine: "My [title] is an 80,000 supernatural romance."

Does personalization really make a difference?
Yes, if it's done well. If you're vague in your personalization (faking it), then you'll appear insincere or lazy.

Remember, your query is a sales tool, and good salespeople develop a rapport with the people they want to sell, and show that they understand their needs. Show that you've done your homework, show that you care, and show that you're not blasting indiscriminately.

In a January interview with Guide to Literary Agents, you praised The Thirteenth Tale and indicated an interest in “literary fiction with a genre plot.” My paranormal romance MOONLIGHT DANCER (85,000 words) blends a literary style with the romance tradition.


I read about you in the July/August Poets & Writers magazine and found your comments encouraging, savvy, and full of brass tacks optimism that moved me. I hope you will consider representing my 82,000-word novel, BACK IN THE WORLD.


My YA paranormal romance, I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY, is complete at 95,000 words. I follow your blog and know you are currently looking for paranormal romances—without vampires or werewolves—and want to offer my novel for your consideration.

I’m seeking representation for my YA novel, SEND. Complete at 76,000 words, it’s a story about Daniel Clements, a former cyberbully trying to live with the consequences of his actions.


82 DAYS is a novel about a young man discovering that the Hollywood version of the Army differs from the reality of service.

The enclosed sample of my commercial fiction, THE SPIRIT OF ST. CHARLES (73,000 words) tells the story of a young woman overcoming personal tragedy to rebuild her community, ruined by a catastrophic hurricane. This story shows how a natural disaster changes a young woman from living like a victim to a person with determination and emotional strength. It is 73,000 words in length.

[I recommend cutting this descriptive line because it is repetitive, and delays getting to the real hook.]

Vampires are everywhere. They are in our books, on our televisions, at the movies, even on our breakfast cereals. We no longer fear them as the monsters we used to know. They are sex symbols and objects of envy and adoration. What if this is all according to plan? My novel, GRAVE SHIFT, is a 90,000-word dark urban fantasy.

[When it comes to selling fiction, don't talk about trends. Sell the story.]

“Wow! You guys have got to write a book!” is the hilarious outburst individuals have and continue to give to my sisters and me on a daily basis as we relate the adventures of being IDENTICAL TRIPLETS.

[Your query should never mention that your friends & family absolutely love your work–or told you to write a book. Never.]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

…It's been snowing here. Things are white and plush, except the lake, which is that grape-purple color, bordering on black. Because it's early, everything is still and beautiful in an odd yet serene way. I have my fireplace on. I wish you could see what I'm seeing. You'd like it.

…Social networking is a strange thing. You can have lots of viral friends, but not any real ones. And people spout off online. It's difficult to sit back and let them be crass or idiotic, and then some other nit-wit will come along and agree with them. I guess things like Facebook allow us the chance to come face to face with humanity more often and more personally, even if it's all just words and images.

…I am enjoying this book by Miranda July called, "Learning to Love You More." In it, she's asked people to perform certain tasks, so to speak, like take a photo of an outfit you wore on some momentous day and describe what happened, or make an encouraging banner, post it in a public place and take a photo of it, take a photo of your mom and dad kissing, write your life story in one day, etc. It's very creative and fun and people make themselves very vulnerable. Oh yes, and one other I really like--drawn a constellation from the freckles on someone's skin.

…I've read Miranda July's short story collection, "No One Belong Here More Than You" a long time ago. It's good. She's clever and creative. I think she has a lot of groupies. She should, if she doesn't. Below are some terrific and witty things from her:

--"What a terrible mistake to let go of something wonderful for something real."
--"I laughed and said, Life is easy. What I meant was, Life is easy with you here, and when you leave, it will be hard again."
--"Some people need a red carpet rolled out in front of them in order to walk forward into friendship. They can't see the tiny outstretched hands all around them, everywhere, like leaves on trees."
--"Inelegantly, and without my consent, time passed."
--"But, like ivy, we grow where ther is room for us."
--"People tend to stick to their own size group because it's easier on the neck. Unless they are romantically involved, in which case the size difference is sexy. It means: I am willing to go the distance for you."
--"Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person's face as you pass on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself,and the ground under the street, and the ball of fire underneath the ground; all these things are for you. They are as much for you as they are for other people. Remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing."
--"That day I carried the dream around like a full glass of water, moving gracefully so I would not lose any of it."
--"If there were a map of the solar system, but instead of stars it showed people and their degrees of separation, my star would be the one you had to travel the most light-years from to get to his. You would die getting to him."
--"You always feel like you are the only one in the world, like everyone else is crazy for each other, but it's not true. Generally, people don't like each other very much. And that goes for friends, too."
--"I looked at other couples and wondered how they could be calm about it. They held hands as if they weren't even holding hands. When Steve and I held hands, I had to keep looking down to marvel at it. There was my hand, the same hand I've alwys had- oh but look! What is it holding? It's holding Steve's hand! Who is Steve? My three-dimensional boyfriend. Each day I wondered what would happen next. WHat happens when yhou stop wanting, when you are happy. I supposed I would go on being happy forever. I knew I would not mess things up by growing bored. I had done that once before."
--"He seemed to be waiting for me to move foreward. Weren't we all."
--"I cried in English, I cried in French. I cried in all the languages, because tears are the same all around the world."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

…I have a new poem, "Bulimia" up at Clutching At Straws and a new story, "Lips, Mouth, Heart" at 52/250 A Year of Flash. Both are also here under "Words In Print."

…I wish I was more witty. Do you ever do that, wish you were something you're not, or sort of crave a quality you consider yourself void of?

As a writer, I should be a lot more clever and funny, edgy and illustrative. At least it seems that way, or I feel that way. (This is me being raw and insecure now.) I get jealous and envious. I do. I never wish any other writer ill, but I can--and often do--wish I had some of their mojo or sensibility when it comes to off-the-cuff commentary.

There are writers I admire for sheer talent, and then there are writers who have mad story writing skills but can also blog as if they've spent their whole day coaxing out the words, pruning and such, when it's obvious they've just vomitted all that cleverness out in the time it takes the rest of us to blow our nose.

xTx is a great example. Okay, so I don't get some of her subject matter, such as a recent and rambling obsession with boil lancing (yep), but overall she's something of a--what? genius? no, not that. artiste? no, that's too gentrified in a francoise sort of way. relevant, hip pulse-point for modern day? yes, that. she's a pulse point. what she says matters, or even if it doesn't, it's always worthwhile reading, and it leaves you in a better (creative) place. and she does it with relative ease. i envy her. i do. (if, in fact, she is a her, which i'm pretty sure she it.)

There's also Roxane Gay. I love her blog. She just lets it all pour out and she makes herself vulnerable. A writer, stepping out of the shower stall naked on purpose is a very rare thing in (writer's) cyber world where tooting your horn is the norm. (I should tell Roxane that I admire her. The tricky thing is, people only know you cyberally, and so, if you give them a simple yet random compliment like a real (physical friend) would do, here (online) they might worry that you're some stalker nutjob.)

I think Meg Pokrass is very clever and funny and quirky in so many ways. Her posts are always risky, but they work (i.e., the photo of her leg with flea bites all over it) plus she has a legion of fans, of which one is me.

Anyway, enough self-therapy… I guess I'll be myself and see what happens. After all, it's not like I have a lot of other options.

…Here are some great quotes I like (I hate that word "quotes." I should say, Here are some great philosophies I like.)

--"Find a subject you care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style." Kurt Vonnegut

--"Successful writing inspires the writer to do better, to attempt the scaling of greater heights."
--"It is an intriguing fact that in order to make readers care about a character, however bad, however depraved, it is only necessary to make hi love somone or even something. A dog will do, even a hamster." Ruth Rendell

--"At the most basic level, I appreciate writers who have something to say." Daniel Alarcon

--"To be a good writer, read until your eyes swell, and take your time and follow your weird, even if it means being lost for intolerable stretches--your weird will guide you, it will deliver you to a place that will be worth all th suffering and disorientation." Junot Diaz

--"Before you can become a writer you must make it new and the only way to do that is to run a harrowing, fearless, rughtless self-audit. You have to take an emotional, moral inventory." James Robinson

--"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." Thomas Mann

Thursday, November 18, 2010

…I've been writing a lot of poetry lately. Reading Bukowski does that to me. Like all my favorite authors, he makes me want to write. I come up with most of my best poems in the bathtub. Actually it's a jakuzi. Whoever invented the jakuzi should win a Nobel Prize. It's even fun to say the word jakuzi. Try it.
Anyway, I am a tub guy. I love it. Suds, a book, and a glass of wine is the perfect set up for me. Since I have been stuck in poetry mode, I've lost traction on my new novel. They (people from NaNoWriMo) still send daily updates, encouragments and inspirations. Some are effective and impressive. Like this one from John Green. (I was pretty surprised it was "thee" John Green. He's sort of big time, a very successful teen and Y.A. novelist, having written one of my favorite books, "An Abundance of Katherines" which someone should hurry up and make a movie of.)
Here's John…

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

Way down deep in the dark archives of my hard drive, I have a folder called Follies, which contains an impressive collection of abandoned stories: There's the zombie apocalypse novel about corn genetics, the sequel, the one about the Kuwaiti American bowling prodigy, the desert island novel, and many more. These stories have only one thing in common: They're all about 25,000 words.
Why do I quit halfway in? I get tired. It's not fun anymore. The story kind of sucks, and it's hard to sit down every day and spend several hours eating from a giant bowl of suck. And most of all, like the kid who spends hours preparing plastic armies for war, I enjoy setting things up more than I enjoy the battle itself. To finish something is to be disappointed. By definition, abandoned novels are more promising than completed ones.
You have likely reached the moment in this insane endeavor when you need a rock-solid answer to the question of why, precisely, you are trying to write a novel in a month. You have likely realized that your novel is not very good, at least not yet, and that finishing it will be a hell of a lot less fun than starting it was.
So quit. Quit now, or if you're among the many of us who've already quit, stay quit. Look, we are all going to die. The whole species will cease to exist at some point, and there will be no one left to remember that any of us ever did anything: Our creations, all of them, will crumble, and the entire experiment of human consciousness will be filed away, unread, in the Follies folder of the great interstellar hard drive. So why write another word?
Sorry. I reached the halfway point of this pep talk and tumbled, as one does, into inconsolable despair.
Here's my answer to the very real existential crisis that grips me midway through everything I've ever tried to do: I think stories help us fight the nihilistic urges that constantly threaten to consume us.
At this point, you've probably realized that it's nearly impossible to write a good book in a month. I've been at this a while and have yet to write a book in less than three years. All of us harbor secret hopes that a magnificent novel will tumble out of the sky and appear on our screens, but almost universally, writing is hard, slow, and totally unglamorous. So why finish what you've started? Because in two weeks, when you are done, you will be grateful for the experience. Also, you will have learned a lot about writing and humanness and the inestimable value of tilting at windmills.
Something else about my Follies folder: It contains the final drafts of my novels Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns. They are follies, too—finished ones. Whether you're reading or writing, there is nothing magical about how you get from the middle of a book to the end of one. As Robert Frost put it, “The only way out is through.”
So here's the pep part of my pep talk: Go spit in the face of our inevitable obsolescence and finish your @#$&ng novel.
Best wishes,
John Green
John Green is the New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns.

Monday, November 15, 2010

…I have a new poem, "I Can't Get the Smell of You Out of My Skin" up at Calliope Nerve and here under "Words In Print."

…It's raining slogs of gunmetal gray walls. The sound of it, like a million tapping toes, is rhythmic and soothing. If I'm not careful, I very well could fall into a trance, slap my head down on the keyboard and get the upraised letters (my keyboard is ergnomic) g h t y b imprinted on my forehead and face, and then relatives and strangers would wonder what message I was trying to impart with my weird tattoo. It could happen.
The deluge is picking up even as I write this. There's a sense of urgency to it. "Get out of my way.." Stiff arm to the face. "I'm in a hurry." All that frantic pitter patter code is trying to tell me something, or not. If you follow a certain swath of rainfall you'll see that it has a fog shadow behind it, a wispy sheet of cold air, flapping like laundry on a windy day.

…Sometimes I get sidetracked when I look out my window. Especially if it's raining. But then, you knew that.

…I'm out of the running for the NaNoWriMo competition. No way I'll get to 50,000 words in a month. Instead, I'm shooting for 75,000 in two months. I'll call my competition LoNoDeWriMoze or Local November-December Writing Months. I'll be the only one who knows about it. I kind of like the sound of that moniker -- LoNo-DeWriMoze. Not sure what language it resembles, but it's fun to say and would likely be even more enjoyable to say if one was a little sloshed.

…I don't know why, but I try to do too much sometimes. I like pressure because it makes me perform, but it can lead one to defeat and a sad sense of failure.
Here, I'll share some of my 2010 Resolutions with you:
1.) Write and complete an edited novel (Check. I'm actually 20% through the second novel.)
2.) Get 100th story published by year end (Check. I'm at 224 stories/poems accepted through yesterday.)
3.) Run a marathon (Check. I ran Cleveland in May and now I'm doing another, Tuscon, next month.)
4.) Read 100 books (I'm at 80 with five almost finished.)
Do you see a pattern? I set what's a pretty lofty goal, meet it, and then tack on an even loftier goal. I'm just never satisfied. That must be some kind of disorder.
Unaccomplished 2010 resolutions are these:
1.) Get an agent for my novel .
2.) Run a marathon with a time fast enough to qualif for Boston
(I was going to add "Learn guitar" again, but I suck and it's just another time-sucker.)
It's nice to be busy, but maybe it's better to achieve all of one's goals. I don't know--what do you think?

…I just ordered xTx's chapbook, "He Is Talking To The Fat Lady." That's a good title. She is good with titles. I wish I was. Her last chapbook was called, "Nobody Trusts A Black Magician." Clever, huh? xTx is one of my favorite writers. You can find her here under "Writers To Watch."

…I like these:
"It was on my fifth birthday that Papa put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Remember, my son, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm." -- Sam Levinson
"Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles" -- Frank Lloyd Wright

Friday, November 12, 2010

…I have a new story, "Bad Connection" up at 52/250 A Year of Flash, and also a poem, "Bukowski and Carver" at Calliope Nerve. Both are also here under "Words in Print."

…I've said how much I like Charles Bukowski. I'm currently reading his collection, "Love is a Dog From Hell" how's that for a title?) It's kind of a coincidence to be reading him and have a poem I wrote about him published in the same day. If he were alive, I doubt he'd be impressed.

Anyway, here's a poem of his--excerpted because it's long and also profane--that I really like. Enjoy:

"how to become a writer"

…if you have the ability to love
love yourself first
but always be aware of the possibility of
total defeat
whether the reason for that defeat
seems right or wrong--

an early taste of death is not necessarily
a bad thing…

get a large typewriter
and as the footsteps go up and down
outside your window

hit that thing
hit it hard

make it a heavyweight fight

make it the bull when he first charges in

and remember the old dogs who fought so well:
Hemingway, Celine, Dostoevsky, Hamsun.

if you think they didn't go crazy
in tiny rooms
just lik you're doing now

without women
without food
without hope

then you're not ready.

drink more beer.
there's time.
and if there's not
that's all right

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

…I have two pretty creepy stories, "Quilting" and "The Cost of Quitting" up at MicroHorror and also here under "Words in Print." My very first two stories were published by MicroHorror back in May of 2009. The publishing of these two stories brings my total since then to 218.

…About the two stories... People who've read them, people who know me physically and not just virutally, have said that not only do the stories scare them but me having written the pieces scares them. People don't say that to Stephen King, do they? I doubt it. Where do the stories we write come from? Who knows. Or maybe; it's different for each writer. Yes, sure, it has to be different. Sometimes a word or phrase or picture, a smell or sound or memory fragment will trigger something that makes me need to put it in print. It doesn't necessarily mean I've lived that experience or want to. If all serial killer novels were only written by actual serial killers, the planet would be one big slaughter house.

I admit that it's easier for me to write dark things. Do I have dark places? Of course. More than most people? Maybe, probably, but if you pry my jaws wide and are brave enough to look down my throat past my gullet to my soul, it wouldn't be complete blackness. There'd be patches of light, some of it sunny, walk-in-the-park radiance, even, not all, but some. Lots. About the same as in you.

My new novel is happy and funny (or so I think.) There isn't much darkness in it. Well, a little. This is the thing I'm writing for NaNoWriMo i.e., "Write a 50,000 page novel in the Month of November." I am massively behind as it requires an average of 1,700 words a day to keep pace. I will attempt to catch up as soon as I sign off from here, and then all day tomorrow. Already, however, it reminds me of those times when I've been in a (literal) marathon and start slipping off my race pace a few seconds on mile 12, then mile 13, etc., to the point I can't ever get it back. The good news, though, is even if I don't catch up to my word count, I'll still just about have the novel finished, which is better than if I'd not done NaNoWriMo in the first place.

…I no longer have a full-time job. I read about people like Matt Bell and CL Bledsoe and Roxane Gay who all teach, yet blog and do readings and run literary magazines, write reviews, read reviews, share reviews, write oodles of flash fiction or poetry and read every book and still write novels and I admire them immensly, but I am also jealous and envious. I have no excuse. I have other things I do that eat up my time, but I do not have that one big elephant called a career.

…Switching gears without the clutch…In the mail today, from my favorite place on the planet, I received the following
Florence and the Machine
Of Montreal
The Cinematic Orchestra
and books:
"Miracle Boy," by Pinckney Benedict
and "Lean on Pete," by Willy Vlautin

I love Willy Vlautin. His "Motel Life" is one of my favorite books. Read it, and it will be yours as well.

…I like these two quotes:
"Every story is a war." Richard Bausch
"Every book ever written started out as a flawed first draft." (Can't remember where I read that.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

…I have a new story, "Birthmark" up at 52/250 A Year of Flash and a poem, "Illustrated" at The Camel Saloon. Both are also here under "Words in Print.

…I am sore. My bones are sore, my skin is sore. Even my hair hurts. I ran 19 miles in the rain. I rather enjoy running I the rain but the problem on wet long runs is it's easy to chafe, because your soaked clothes drag across you like a rag wiping the counter, one rough swipe for each stride. I don't know how many steps there are in a mile let alone 19 miles, but let's just say I now look like I have leprosy and it was painful to take a shower--the water felt like steel wool. Yowzah. Why do I do it--run such long distances? What am I running from? Heck, if I know.

..I sure like Charles Bukowski. He looked like a cuss, a mangy old buzzard, but I love his poetry. He was incredibly prolific. Some of his pieces are stunning while others should never have been put in print. He likes to write about prostitutes and booze and betting the horses. I wish I knew him when he was alive.

...I found this article on tips for pitching an agent. I went to pitching sessions in July a the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. This would have helped, had I seen it ahead of time. Enjoy:

...Miriam Kriss is an agent with the Irene Goodman Literary Agency representing commercial fiction and she represents everything from hardcover historical mysteries to all subgenres of romance, from young adult fiction to kick ass urban fantasies, and everything in between.

I go to a lot of writers’ conferences and the highlight of many of them for both myself and the aspiring authors who attend them is the agent pitch sessions. The format of these appointments varies from conference to conference. Sometimes they’re five- to ten-minute meetings between an agent and an aspiring writer, other times they’re speed dating style mini encounters. Still other conferences go with a group pitch model where a group of writers sit down all at once with an agent.

Whatever the format these are opportunities for writers to not only convey their excitement about their project to an industry professional but to also get some sense of who the agent is and if they would like to work with them. Often attendees put a great deal of pressure on themselves for these meetings and feel the whole of their future careers depend on this short encounter. I wanted to give some tips about what agents look for in a pitch to let you feel more prepared the next time you sit down across from your dream agent.

1. Know Thy Genre (or Sub-Genre)

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat down to with someone and asked them what they write, only to be faced with confusion. Knowing where your book would live in the bookstore is crucial to making sure the agent can evaluate it properly. Even if you’re writing something that has elements from several genres, it’s important to understand it can only be shelved in one place when in the bookstore, so you need to determine who your audience is and make that clear from the beginning of your pitch.

2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

This isn’t the moment to go into every intricate plot point. Rather, think of your pitch in terms of cover copy. What’s your log line? A logline, or one sentence pitch, is a phrase borrowed from Hollywood, where as Mamet’s character Charlie Fox said in Speed the Plow, “You can't tell it to me in one sentence, they can't put it in TV Guide." This is the intrinsic hook that will make people want to pick up your book. A common mistake I see is for people to try to use that one sentence to sum up every aspect of their story and then get frustrated when it doesn’t. This isn’t meant to be a synopsis of your plot, rather it’s bait to make people want to read it. Likewise, the body of your pitch should be more like back cover copy than a synopsis, meant to give the high points of the story, not a blow by blow account. Overall, remember, you know this story inside and out, after all you wrote it, so don’t be afraid to just talk about it, rather than feeling you have to keep to a scripted pitch.

3. Seize the Pitch Session

This is your moment. You paid for it and it’s yours. So after you’ve pitched and the agent has decided whether they want you to send them something or not, if your appointment time isn’t up you should feel free to ask questions about the market, the industry or the specific agency. Think of it as a one on one agent panel. Bringing a short list of questions in with you in case you have time to ask them can be helpful. And in a group pitch remember, if you have that question, odds are someone else in the group was wondering the same thing.

4. Follow Through

If the agent gives you specific instructions on how he or she want to get your material be scrupulous in following them. This is hard to do if you’ve completely forgotten what they were. I recommend that people write down what the agent wants and how he or she wants it because it’s easy in the excitement of the request to think you’ll remember, and then forget a small detail of it when you get home and sit down to send it out.

5. Breathe

People often come into these meetings very nervous, and I want to assure you really don’t need to be. This one meeting will not make or break your career, promise. It’s an opportunity to not only pitch your book but also get honest feed back from an industry professional. Keep in mind that agents come into a pitch session wanting to hear something fabulous and we’re looking to fall in love. Hopefully it will be with your story, but whether it is or isn’t, how you pitch will never be as important as what you put on the page.

And remember: If you're looking for a professional manuscript critique for a good cause, go to for more details.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

…I am struggling with NanoWriMo i.e., write a novel in a month. I'm behind. I need to keep my behind in a chair. I need to write. Fiendishly. Today, to catch up, I need to crank out 6,100 words. I think I can do that. I will do it. I will listen to Nike.

…I am reading Ned Vizzin's first YA/teen book, "Be More Chill." Ned is funny and clever. In this book, he writes about sex quite a bit. It seems like a cheap trick to use sex to keep an audience interested, but I like Ned nevertheless.

…More rules for men from Esquire magazine, in no particular order:
--Rule # 750 - The fist bump only if you're about to spar.
--Rule # 751 - The high five only if you just scored. In sports
--Rule # 752 - If somone looks as though he might be on steroids, he's on steroids.
--Rule # 753 - Skinny jeans only if you're skinny.
--Rule # 754 - The larger the beard, the gentler the man.
--Rule # 757 - A blazer with no shirt is never appropriate. Unless you're involved in some sort of exotic magic act.
--Rule # 758 - In which case the blazer should be sequined.
--Rule # 759 - No Magic
--Rule # 864 - A message delivered in person is 3.4 times more effective than an email.
--Rule # 868 - Rarely postpone a meeting.
--Rule # 869 - Never cancel.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

...I have a new story, "A Man and His Train" up at Troubadour 21 and here under "Words in Print." The story is a fable. Fables are often hard sells with editors, but I like them if they're smart and twisty. I think we can learn a lot from well written fables and parables.

...I just started reading, "Be More Chill" by Ned Vizzini. It's a Y.A. and teen novel by the guy that wrote, "It's Kind of a Funny Story." I also got Tara Masih's collection, "Where the Dog Star Never Glows" and Matt Bell's new collection.

...I started the new novel yesterday. I did not get very far. I am behind the game already, quite far behind. I'm not worried, though. After writing my other novel this year, a small 50,000 word book isn't quite as intimidating. Of course, that may change once we slide into week two.

...The new bruno mars cd is so catchy. close to cheesy, but catchy.

...I run. I run a lot. I have a marathon next month. I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from long distance running. There are all kinds of parallels between marathoning and most tests of diligence, including noveling. Here's an excerpt from "Runner's World" about marathon racing specifically as it relates to those god-awful, final six-point-two miles. It's quite good:
"Why go through it all again? Because what lies between mile 20 and the finish line is the answer to that question asked by nonmarathoning spouses and friends: 'If it hurts so much, why do you do it?' I've never found the answer, so I keep running that final stretch with my eyes on the ground looking for it.
What I have found is that the last six miles separate distance runners from those who are merely obsessive or have a high tolerance for boredom. They are the crucible from which come molten, freshly recast marathoners, and each one of those miles is a distinct trial to conquer, and reason to train, and reason to boast, and as such, in truth, I love them, because though you'll never know exactly why you do them, it's over those last six miles that you finally find out if you can.
I'll tell you something, though: the last .2 miles is a killer." -- Peter Sagal

"The final third of most runs and workouts count the most. The first two-thirds gets you tired so you can work harder from there." -- Brett Gotcher, marathon racer

Sunday, October 31, 2010

...I finished "Shiver," a hit teen or Y.A. novel. It was not very good. It was actually pretty crappy. I don't know how authors get away with such lazy writing. What was the editor doing? Anyway, the book's not worth the rant. I also finished Howie Good's chapbook "Rumble Strip" which was vintage Howie and quite excellent. ("The man in the window insists that truth is a moving target." How great is that?) Also, as I said in an earlier post, Mel Bosworth's little ditty, "Grease Stains, Kismet and Maternal Wisdom" is really a charming read.

...I am a bath person. I am a bath person and I am not afraid to admit it. (I also like pink, so there.) I favor bubble baths, though evidentally they don't sell bubble bath anymore. I like long soaks with a book and a glass of vino and a pen and paper handy in case inspiration strikes. If it's been awhile since you last took a bath, you should try it. You'll like it. If not, I'll gladly refund your money.

...I'm going to go turn on the tub water right now.

Here are two quotes I rather like, none having much to do with the other:

"Every story is a war." -- Richard Bausch

"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." -- Marilyn Monroe

Saturday, October 30, 2010

…I have two new stories up, "Castaways" at 52/250 A Year of Flash and "Vampire Weekend" at Loch Raven Review. Somehow "Vampire Weekend" got published without me getting a final notification, so I just found out it's been there since summer. I also have a poem, "Repeats" in The New Verse News, which is a literary mag focused on current events and/or politics.

…I ran 17 miles this morning in cold rain. I'm still cold, even after a hot shower, and despite the fact that I'm wearing thick, comfy slippers.

…Two more days until "Write a novel in a month" starts. I'm nervous. Probably won't be many stories or poetry coming out of me that month, but I will still blog.

…These are fun. A friend shared them, and now I'm sharing them with you:

1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The
ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.

2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve
you, but don't start anything."

3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

4. A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and
says: A beer please, and one for the road."

6. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does
this taste funny to you?"

7. "Doc, I can't stop singing 'The Green, Green Grass of Home.'"
That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome." "Is it common?" Well, ! "It's Not Unusual."

8. Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to
Dolly, I was artificially inseminated this morning." "I don't believe you,"
says Dolly. "It's true, no bull!" exclaims Daisy.

9. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing
to look at either.

10. Deja Moo: The feeling that you've heard this bull before.

11. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I
couldn't find any.

12. A man woke up in a hospital after a serious accident. He
shouted, Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!" The doctor replied, "I know
you can't - I've cut off your arms!"

13. I went to a seafood disco last week...and pulled a mussel.

14. What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.

15. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other
and says Dam!".

16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire
in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have
your kayak and heat it too.

17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse.
"But why," they asked, as they moved off. "Because", he said, "I can't
stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer." !

18. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them
goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in
Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to
his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she
wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, They're
twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

19. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time,
which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very
little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from
bad breath. This made him ..(Oh, man, this is so bad, it's good)..... A
super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

20. And finally, there was the person who sent twenty different puns
to his friends, with the hope that! at least ten of the puns would make them
laugh. No pun in ten did