29 November 2007

Where's My War Face?

A couple of folks in the crit group have tried to tell me about the need to let a story cool sometimes. I'm almost afraid to allow that. I've gotten to a point where my first drafts are coming at the sort of clip I'd like, thanks to my Inner Drill Sergeant. The truth is I'm frustrated that my editing hasn't reached that point yet. I've got two pieces on the burner right now. I know I have all the parts I need; I just need to make them fit better. And I wanted it done yesterday!

"I will motivate you!"

I might as well give them a rest though--a little one--while I try to unfuck myself, lest my Inner Drill Sergeant unscrews my head and shits down my neck. I've been hitting my head against brick walls anyway, so why not? I didn't go idle today, though. I shot a piece off to 6S, so we'll see what happens with that.

25 November 2007

Story Log

From the week of 11/12/07-11/18/07. Two weeks ago, sure. I'd spent that week reading more prose poetry from Great American Prose Poetry and Simic's The World Doesn't End, but I still managed to sneak in...I'll put up last week's tomorrow, or something.


Lit Shuffle: "Contaminant" by Ryan Boudinot

23 November 2007

"I guess you're just what I needed"

Still with the family for the holiday. Before the trip though, the wife and I swore we wouldn't go near the Half-Price Books this time around. We just got home about an hour or so ago, and I'm not ashamed to say I'm fucking glad I went, because finding this made the whole 6-hour drive worthwhile...

I was, no joke, going to order this earlier today, hoping it would arrive shortly after we returned home. I had absolutely no logical reason to think I would find this at any bookstore, but here it was! Oh, and I found the last issue of Conjunctions too, along with a couple of other books.

19 November 2007

Story Log

You're probably thinking to yourself, "What, hasn't he been reading? All that shit he adds to his goodreads list; what's he doing, slacking?"

Slacking on blogging, that's for sure (and engaging in general human contact, household chores, and stuff). Been busy, but to make it up to you like an absentee parent who disappears for weeks at a time, then bombards you with gifts, here are three weeks worth of lists of stuff I've read...

  • Mary Robison, "Seizing Control"
  • Veronica Schanoes, "Rats"
    (Comments here)
  • Jessica Hagedorn, "Tenement Lover: no palm trees/in new york city"
  • Caroline Cheng, "Consolation"
  • Amy Hempel, "Daylight Come"
  • Amy Hempel, "The Harvest"
  • Jan Lars Jensen, "Happier Days"
  • Jane Avrich, "The Life of Cards"
  • Aimee Bender, "Lemonade"
  • Kate Bernheimer, "Whitework"
  • Judy Budnitz, "Abroad"
  • Barry Hannah, "A Creature in the Bay of St. Louis"
  • Mikal Trimm, "Climbing Redemption Mountain"

Tough Love

I submitted my last piece to group for the year. I'm not going to let any more unedited pieces pile up. I'm gonna finish them and spend the beginning of 2008 getting things back out into circulation.

In the meantime, here's what they had to say about the latest thing, "Before Me Was a Pale Horse"...

The Good
  • One person said the characters "leap off the page."
  • The same person noted that while she wasn't at the last session to hear the first half of the story (though she heard my quick summation), she didn't feel lost going through the second half.
  • Dialogue was realistic, i.e. "what people would say."
  • One person liked how the narrator/protagonist was likeable, despite his obvious flaws.
  • Folks felt they got a clear picture of each character with a minimum of description (e.g. one character who "waddled over in his khakied, polo-shirted Sunday best..." was all the description they needed)
  • The story was paced well.
The Bad
  • A certain unclear passage regarding one character's spacial distance to another.
  • The ending is too hitched to religion.
    (Which means I screwed up trying--if it was even possible to begin with--to use as many religious references as possible while minimizing religious themes.)
  • Again, I mashed two stories into one (possibly three, depending on how one reads the ending).
  • Some folks wondered if the protagonist paid too high a price for his flaws at the end. (Though one person didn't necessarily see anything wrong with that.)
The Ugly
No ugly from the others; just from myself.
  • For one, I had the unfortunate experience of re-reading a short story by pure happenstance, one that I first read about four years ago, with the same fucking conceit. I about tore up the MS. I didn't, because by any measure, I know my story's different. But if some schmendrick comes up to me and goes, "Gee, isn't your story just a blatant rip-off of _____?" I think I'd have to give that a response without automatically smacking the person upside the head.
  • The reason there were "two stories" was that as I wrote, I spotted a particular chink in my protag's armor that was just too tempting to pass up...
  • ...but instead of jamming the knife in and twisting at the end, I got squeamish. I copped out and "implied" the ending.
So, basically this leaves me trying to figure out how to have my cake and eat it, too. I got some good suggestions from the group. I just gotta be careful not to allow them to "write it for me," so to speak. None of them want that, either.


Normally, I'd do this on this neglected blog, but because SaltyMissJill asked so nice ("Hey! I tagged yo ass!") on this blog, I'll play along here--at least as far as I'd usually play along.
Here are the rules for the meme:
1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
4. Tag seven random [?] people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.
Sorry, but I just don't do the last two. Nothing personal--just sheer laziness.

I can hum along, note for note, with the horn lines of every Chicago song (with horns), from the Chicago Transit Authority album to their latest, Chicago XXX.

I have successfully gone black and gone back--not once, not twice, but three times.

I worship Cassandra Wilson.

The one food I'd be willing to subsist on: Chinese restaurant fried chicken wings.

The first concert I ever went to: Depeche-fucking-Mode.

I've played the trumpet, off and on, for almost half my life.

I know kung fu.

12 November 2007

Out of the Woodwork

Seems my friends list on goodreads blew up today. Three folks added me, and I went ahead and added one myself, someone whose writing I always enjoy whenever I come across it.

Why not come on over and check it out? I'll add anyone, especially anyone who reads the sort of books I read. C'mon...you've tried Facebook and MySpace and last.fm. One more social network won't kill you.

10 November 2007

Where the Hell

...is my copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral?

Or, do I even have one? I could've sworn I bought it some time ago, but I've looked through every place in the apartment that I've ever set a book and I can't find it.

Now, I'm actually starting to doubt if I ever had it. But, I put it on my goodreads list, so what the fuck?

EDIT: Now, where the hell is my copy of Chicago X?? I know I bought this one! See, this isn't funny anymore.


Lit Shuffle: "Rats" by Veronica Schanoes

05 November 2007

Tough Love

I wrote a sort of Halloween story to have something ready for group yesterday. I wasn't going to read, for a second meeting in a row. I'd decided to spend the rest of the year editing my latest long piece, "Masked," aka the thirty-page beast. But I just had to do something, otherwise I would've felt like mooching. So I came up with something called, "Before Me Was a Pale Horse."

The Good
  • Good build up--one person noted a pattern in which she's never sure what my stories are exactly about until last moment.
  • Smooth writing ("As usual," they say)
  • One person talked about the details I left out of settings, character descriptions, etc. and the fact that she still had a more or less complete picture of the characters and situations involved. (Looks like all that Hempel I've been reading has paid off.)
  • Good dialogue, used to fill in those details I left out, and to sneak in some expository information.
The Bad
  • Some of the readers in the group didn't like the fact that they didn't get all of the little Biblical references I snuck into the story. (Come to think of it, no one commented one way or the other on the title.) There were places I did it "right," which is to say that I set the reference inside a sufficient context to make sense without any knowledge of Bible trivia.
  • (On a related point, people even read things into certain passages, thinking they must have been Biblically related when they weren't.
  • A couple of folks wanted to know more about the protagonist sooner. (It's a constant faux pas I make whenever I write something in first person, now that I think of it.)
  • Due to some plain ol' bad writing on my part (a fact I couldn't explain because of our group's crit rules), I wrote a line that could easily be construed as a sexist dig at my protagonist's wife, rather than the protagonist himself as I'd intended.
The Ugly
No real ugly. There never is, come to think of it. It makes me nervous, really. Not that I want to hear, "Jesus, your writing sucks."

Actually, I do know what makes me nervous, but I'm probably not going to go into it here. At least not now.

03 November 2007

Get This Now!

Drop what you're doing and buy this now! Now, I tell you!

Why should you, you ask? Let me, as the kids say, break it down for you. Stories by, among others, Aimee Bender, Rikki Ducornet, Shelley Jackson, Miranda July, and Kelly Link. To say nothing about the poetry and the fact that the "Special Advisory Editor" is Rick Moody.

Believe me, I've read the first set of poems and the first three stories. I wanted to dry my tears with my torn-up manuscripts, caught between feelings of jumping for joy and jumping into a gorge because of the subconscious fear that I'll never, ever write anything that good.

Now, go on, get it. I'll be fine. Just go ;).