Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday's 'Forgotten' Books: The Corinthian

Georgette Heyer should be a household name; that's the only thing that qualifies this as a "forgotten" book. Heyer is still a nonpareil amongst romance readers, but little known beyond that group. I only learned about her because of Stephen Fry; for his 50th birthday he had a short program on his "guilty pleasures" and one of them was Heyer. She came along at just the right time for me,  as her lively cant became incorporated into the ongoing serial that's now been published as The Mangrove Legacy.

Heyer is primarily responsible for making The Regency a genre all itself, though she wrote mysteries and stories set in other periods as well. For readers who rip through Austen's works and then lament there is no more, Heyer is a treasure trove. She doesn't just capture Austen's period; she also shares a great deal of her sense of fun and wit. In short, her books are a delight.

The Corinthian provides an excellent example. The title is slang for a man of fashion, the type who spend an awful lot of time worrying about the state of his cravat. A very drunk Sir Richard Wyndham one night happens upon the runaway Penelope Creed; both are facing a marriage they do not wish to engage upon and the tomboyish Pen convinces Wyndham to chaperone her on a coach trip to her childhood home -- and of course along the way, he sobers up, she reveals herself to be more than the "child" he continues to call her and they get mixed up in various misunderstands and crime. Delightful stuff that will amuse anyone; Heyer's skill at bringing characters to life is superb, her dialogue crackles with good humor. The covers her work appears within, however, seem designed to appeal only to romance readers, alas. Trust me -- and Stephen Fry! -- Heyer is wonderful.

I'm off this morning to the airport: Atlanta and then Memphis where Miss Wendy will whisk me off to Oxford. We're hoping to have a lot of fun ringing in the new year. I'm looking forward to seeing her new home and the land of Faulkner.

A rather Leary sort of poem (or so at least I once passed it off without a murmur of dissent) I wrote has been accepted by the Journal of Asinine Poetry. I'll let you know when it's available. The short humor piece I did for State of Imagination will be up tomorrow I believe. Look for "A Plea on Behalf of the Small Hat League."

It's the little things that matter: in the midst of a very irritating day yesterday, I was cheered by receiving a card in the mail -- a holiday card from Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. Cue fan girl squee. It's hard not to do so, even though having met them -- they're both so nice and easy going -- I can understand the frustration with the public persona created by the media (and pop songs). At least they have a good sense of humor about it: I remember Alan telling a story about walking past a football match on the green in Northampton, when a waggish cabbie stopped to shout, "Say, Alan, do you know the score?" Hee! Yes, that's the "reclusive" writer, who spends an awful lot of his time rambling around the city and talking to people. Never believe the press.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

BitchBuzz: The Quiet Grrl Riot

Today's column:

The Quiet Grrl Riot

By K.A. Laity
The biggest revolution this year may be one you didn't even notice.

The year end reviews seem to be having a nerd-gasm over The Social Network, which I figured out finally—thanks to Edgar Wright's roundup for a 'gentleman's magazine'—is all about "geeks as gangsters" and not the merits of a very uneven film with an often choppy script. I realise any film that allow genteel suburban white guys feel a surge of vicarious toughness will be a hit (hence the career of Guy Ritchie). Bond films are just romances for men and let's not even go to the fantasy world that is Apatown.

Women usually get the statues for dying or hooking, so it seems significant that the most stunning—though seemingly little trumpeted—parts went to young women who were not bravely succumbing to a mortal disease or providing eye candy for a male audience who can revel in their eventual downfall because it's all the women's fault for arousing them. No, they were adolescent but no Lolitas. They were suffering, but not in silence. They were victims, but they were not victimized.

Find out what films I'm talking about here (though I expect you might be able to guess): (ironic photo choice, eh?)

I've got a bunch of things to do before I head to Memphis and Miss Wendy tomorrow. So far this morning makes it look like I can expect everything to go awry. Nothing tragic, just irritating -- though it may be that my Paypal account has been broken into (how very irritating). My muses have been playing the coquette, too. Normally, if one's not cooperating, I switch to another, but they're all being maddeningly elusive at present. I did get a query letter sketched out last night, but it's a completely different project than what I ought to be working on. It's frustrating to have such a stubbornly recalcitrant head.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reviews: Harry Nilsson/King's Speech/True Grit

I have no doubt about the finest film I saw last year this past year: hands down, it was Winter's Bone. I've heard people carp about how "accurate" it was, especially people who felt it portrayed their part of the world unflatteringly. I don't know -- there's plenty of areas like that, even here in upstate New York. And if "accuracy" is going to be some kind of gauge for best picture of the year, there's an awful lot of statues to be handed back. All the trailers I saw before True Grit today claimed to be "based on a true story" which always makes me groan. The truth is no basis for a story: too messy. But let me save that rant for another time.

Who is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him) offers an insightful look at the brilliant singer songwriter and his life. The film benefits from the ailing Nilsson's decision to try to record a kind of autobiography, the found tapes proving a real treasure trove of commentary that makes the late singer a very vivid part of the film. It helps too that his family including his third wife, Una, with whom he had six children and seemed to be as happy as he found possible, were also cooperating. The tragedy of course is that someone so talented was also so troubled. Paul Williams' description of Nilsson as a great big bunny with real sharp teeth captures that succinctly. He had many hits, collaborated with the Beatles and the Pythons, but wasn't able to shake the ghosts that haunted him, from the father who abandoned him to the friends near to him who died like Keith Moon and John Lennon. As a bonus there are so many extras, too -- as if they couldn't bear to part with any of the footage shot, including Eric Idle's tribute song. They talk to all kinds of people who worked with him from Richard Perry to Van Dyke Parks and with his wives and kids. Excellent: I highly recommend it.

The King's Speech has already received laurels a-plenty which has a lot to do with its cast: they are indeed splendid, including many fine actors in tiny roles who get a couple of lines each (like Claire Bloom, alas). Like so many films now, the background is left enigmatic (well, you know the history, fill in the details yourself, I guess) and only the central actors received development. That really only means Rush and Firth: Helena Bonham Carter is reduced to appearing with corgis and going "there, there" on occasion (AKA a MWW masquerading as a MW1W). The direction is bizarre at times, especially in the first half hour, with angles that take you out of the narrative wondering where on earth the camera is supposed to be. Worse, in the set-up scene between the Prince-soon-to-be-King and the Aussie therapist, the camera work is so bad as to make it look like they're both gazing off into space rather than talking to each other. What really makes the film fall flat is the overwrought ambiance, from the overplayed music to the mountain-out-of-a-molehill plot. Yes, as someone once crippled by the thought of public speaking and who overcame it, I know what a trial it can be for people, but to have someone who treated men just back from Gallipoli call the pampered royal "the bravest man I've ever known" (as do half the people in the film) is just ridiculous hyperbole. If you love Firth, you'll still enjoy it, I guess.

True Grit is like a truly satisfying meal when you're really really hungry. The Coens have a great team of people (apparently Matt Damon has his own whole team, too, according to the credits) from Carter Burwell's musicians to Roger Deakins' seemingly flawless eye. You know Jeff Bridges is going to be good, and yeah, I'll admit it though it burns me a bit, that Matt Damon can be truly skillful when he wants to be. There's a whole host of grizzled frontiersmen, too: Peg and I were joking after the film that they must have put out a call for the ugliest character actors with the tag, "Must have abundant facial hair."

The real star is Hailie Steinfeld. Like Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, here's a young woman who more than capably carries the film flanked by powerhouse actors who might easily intimidate many a seasoned performer. From the get-go Steinfeld strides into town and into the part with all the certainty of the true believer that she is. You believe her, the grudging respect she wins from the men and when her faith falters, you see that she is a child yet and so very young. It's incredible work. For the Coens, this is a bit different from a lot of their work because there's not that distance that allows ironic humor (we have to be able to laugh at Barton Fink's sufferings because they would be too harrowing; A Serious Man walks that razor's edge with dizzying grace). It's a straight-forward adventure. Don't get me wrong; there's humor, but as in Shakespeare's dramas, it's there to give you a breather from the tension. Well done: go see it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas

I would have put "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" but you can't embed this version.

Or if you need something cheerier:

Or even --

But I have to add:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books: Puckoon

Spike Milligan's Puckoon

Once again this is a "forgotten" book only in the States; Spike Milligan is an icon for many in Britain and Ireland (not to mention the rest of the world). My Penguin copy actually has a note on the back cover, "For copyright reasons this edition is not for sale in the U.S.A." I bought it in Skoob some time ago (ah, Skoob, where I have whiled away many an hour).

I'm not going to write an entire review as there is a superb one by Jim Murdoch available. Rather I want to focus on why it's such a funny book and I love it. "This damn book nearly drove me mad," Milligan writes in the foreward, "I started it in 1958 and doodled with it for 4 years. I don't think I could go through it all again, therefore...this will be my first and last novel." Fortunately, that didn't prove to be true.

I love mad chaotic humor like Milligan created for the Goons (and yes, of course Peter Cook, source of my endless fascination with world domination). Milligan could be rather erratic as his personal histories attest, but when he was on, there was an elegant madness that makes you marvel as well as laugh. Long before it became a staple of post-modern literature, Milligan made himself a character as well as The Author, leading to exchanges between the two of them like this:

...He rolled his trousers kneewards revealing the like of two thin white hairy affairs of the leg variety. He eyed them with obvious dissatisfaction, After examining them he spoke aloud. 'Holy God! Wot are dese den? Eh?' He looked around for an answer. 'Wot are dey?' he repeated angrily.
   'Legs? LEGS? Whose legs?'
   'Mine? And who are you?'
   'The Author.'
   'Author? Author? Did you write these legs?'
   'Well, I don't like dem. I don't like 'em at all at all. I could ha' writted better legs meself. Did you write your legs?'
   "Ahhh. Sooo! You got some one else to write your legs, some one who's a good leg writer and den you write dis pair of crappy old legs fer me, well mister, it's not good enough.'
   'I'll try and develop them with the plot.'

Delightful, eh? This is the kind of writing I aspire to do. It reads as if pouring from the brain spigot but of course, as Milligan's foreword makes plain, it's very hard work to achieve even if the prose reads effortlessly. Always the case.

If curious about the 2002 film version, here's the trailer. I'm not encouraged. For more Forgotten books, check out Patti Abbot's blog every Friday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

BitchBuzz: World Domination (and bonus fez)

For my latest column, I channel EL Wisty:

A Simple Guide to World Domination

By K.A. Laity
Some people use the holidays to give gifts, bond with families and eat too much. These people will never control the globe.

Lots of people have a good string of days off this time of year when they are free of the mundane tasks required to make a living scraping by in a moderately successful job. Most will spend their time imbibing festive drinks and exchanging gifts. The more ambitious, however, will put this freedom to better use by formulating a plan to dominate the world.

While reading Manisha Thakor's piece on how women seldom ask for raises, instead hoping their hard work will be noticed and rewarded (it won't), I was struck again by the failure of so many women to risk not being seen as nice. 'Nice' will not conquer worlds: look at Dick Cheney. I'm sure Alexander did not remember his co-worker's birthdays. And if Stalin ever brought cookies to the office, they were probably poisoned. If you want to rule the world, keep a few of these things in mind...

Read the rest of the guide:

I'm off to Robert's tomorrow for Xmas gatherings. Can I be away from the internet for that long? Well, I will have to adjust. I may actually do some reading if I am not (as usual) put to work peeling potatoes (apparently my only culinary skill).

I'm pleased with the latest installment of Kit Marlowe's serial, Airships & Alchemy. It's the beginning of chapter two and we're with the Italian alchemist now -- and his Venetian lion, Eduardo. And as I observed yesterday to a friend, I have a theory that adding a fez improves almost anything. That reminds me: Marko sent a picture of the birthday gift I gave him. Looks good on his car!  :-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Ink

I realise I posted this on Facebook and Twitter but not here (multiple media streams is the key to success for writers, they tell me [insert rolling eyes]). So here it is and here's a bit about the image of Akka. I bought the brooch at the National Museum in Helsinki. It's just above the bruising on my ankle that's still there from the torn ligaments. Yeah, still there. Got a new piercing, too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Yule, Jane Quiet, Elena & Providence

The solstice is upon us and it pays to remember that the longest night also means it's time for the return of the light. Here's my perennial offering on Anglo-Saxon Yule that ended up online without my putting it there. At least they credited me as author.

I've got another piece up at Polite Company Magazine: a humorous account of a medieval saint.

Waking up at Elena's can be an interesting experience. I am glad not to have been in the room with the evil clown lately. Instead I get the knitted giraffe...

And of course, pin-up boy, Gunnar Hansen...

As well as the Spider-man bedding and if lucky, a puppy. Shaq certainly enjoyed the Spider-man comforter (or perhaps just the belly rubs). The three pups are a lot of fun and of course, as Elena always says, "I'm a mom!" so visitors are very well taken care of. It's nice. Thanks so much for all the food and fun!

Yesterday, once we could tear ourselves away from the pups, we headed off to Providence and the John Hay Library. We needed some visual references for Jane Quiet and to fill in some of her back story. I'm excited that Elena is ready to work on it again -- the story we have in mind is a knock-out! Here's Hay himself with a jaunty holiday bow. Seems that students rub him on the nose for good luck on exams, which makes it shiny. There was a terrific exhibit on Hispaniola in the gallery. We chatted with a librarian who was very helpful and gave me the card for the librarian who's the primary curator for the occult and magic collections -- a good resource. We'll be going back soon with specific volumes to look through (maybe that Danse Macabre bound in human skin!) Elena snapped some photos for reference. They had a copy of the Audubon book on display. Huge!

Next to the library is the little memorial for H. P. Lovecraft, a Providence legend and influential horror writer. I always refer to the "Lovecraft effect" in that city, which seems to mean it's impossible not to get lost. We had GPS and we still got lost (turns out there's two different Prospect Streets in Providence).

So we had a great Indian lunch and snooped around the bookstore (though a drama section that has neither Beckett nor Stoppard doesn't speak highly of their selection process). Re-energized by the trip and all the ideas we bounced around on the drive, we decided to work on storyboarding the new adventure we'd plotted out. So here's Elena sketching away while I was writing dialogue. She's a wonder -- I so admire her skill and how she can capture emotions. I'm so excited about this story -- all I can tell you is Egypt...

Home again to a crying cat, good things in the mail and a boatload of email to wade through. So little time, so much to do!

Monday, December 20, 2010

At Elena's

Pictures to come but I've only got the iPod with me. Puppies! Elena cooking! Appletinis! Providence today: Lovecraft and Jane Quiet and hopefully catching up with some friends.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Birthday / Your Present

I don't have a scanner so this will have to do for now. A photo of a photo on a camera with no view finder. I think this must be the house on Clark Road just after it was finished, because my grandparents house next door (where we had been living) has an alcove by the front door. I'm not yet two according to the Kodacolor date on the back.

So, yes, it's my birthday and a rather intimidating number of them have added up so I will not think about that and instead I'm going to give away a copy of The Mangrove Legacy to someone at random who comments on this post.

Surely someone will want to wish me a happy birthday, right? Well, I shall be off gallivanting. I hope to check in now and then. The definite plans include lunch with Bertie and drinkies with the gang at The Point at the traditional cocktail hour -- there are rumours of cake and the possibility of a ritual from last year being repeated. We shall see.

I must choose the right hat...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

BitchBuzz and a Contest

Yes, up to my usual anti-social behavior in my column this week:

No Ho-Ho Holiday Films!

By K.A. Laity
When you've seen too many cheery reindeer, children singing and hearts growing three sizes, it's time to strike back.

I know there are many who can't wait to pull out that pile of Christmas DVDs every year and spend days laughing and crying with Charlie Brown and Lucy or Rudolph and Hermie or find out what Bedford Falls would have been like without George Bailey.

The rest of us need a break from all the sappy sentiment and I will warn you if you dare get out Love Actually it will come to fisticuffs. So if like me you spend the holidays dreading the next turn of that roulette wheel in the DVD player, here are some films you can suggest that meet the criteria of "holiday" themes but aren't the same old schmaltz...
I'm not really a Grinch: I just get overloaded on schmaltz like everyone, considering some places start playing Xmas music in October. My pal Karen has come up with a list of sf/fantasy recommendations for holiday films: check out her blog.

Contest: Yesterday on Facebook, Kit Marlowe gave away a copy of her novel The Mangrove Legacy. I've decided I'm going to give one away here for my birthday :-) Come back tomorrow and comment on the post to have a chance to win. I'll choose a winner at random from among the commenters. I do have the hope that some of these freebies will result in reviews, too [she adds with a hopeful look].

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Mangrove Legacy ON SALE NOW!

Kit Marlowe's novel The Mangrove Legacy is out!

For sale now at All Romance eBooks -- just $5.99.

Two English girls, pirates, kidnappers, orphans, disguises, a ghost, interesting facts about insects, cheese, the King of Naples and at least one improving book:

This ain't your mama's Gothic!

Yes, very pleased to have this out. Thanks for everyone who was there for the rather prolonged composition process. Give yourselves a pat on the back for helping me. Cheers!

You can win a copy over at Kit's Facebook page.

UPDATE: I'm also the featured Wednesday writer over at UnBound. Thanks, Adele. Join me to talk about zombies!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bits and Bobs

Over at Patti Abbott's blog, you can read the final installment of La Ronde, the round robin story in which I took part. The fun of these things is that they take a lot of unexpected twists and that's certainly the case here. Vastly entertaining.

Perhaps the strangest news story regarding wombats ever...

It's possible Amelia Erhart has been found.

Tomorrow, of course, The Mangrove Legacy comes out. You can win a copy over at Kit Marlowe's Facebook page.Don't forget to take a look at the trailer. I'll put up a buy link tomorrow assuming all goes as it should (given the loopiness of anything computer-based lately, I am always adding caveats). Have you been reading the new serial? How do you think it's going?

I get the final papers of my one course tomorrow. I hope to finish grading quickly so I can enjoy my birthday without thought of work waiting. I have more reviews to post, too, but we'll see how the week goes. So little time, so much to do!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Tamara Drewe

How can you go wrong with Posy Simmonds as your source (and Thomas Hardy as hers), a script by Moira Buffini and a stellar cast guided by Stephen Frears? Well, you can't go far wrong at all, it turns out.  Tamara Drewe is great fun, lots of laughs and a few tear-worthy moments. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for any film about writers and writing, but this one's quite enjoyable.

The story begins in what seems to be the idyllic writers retreat "far from the madding crowd" in Dorset. Tamsin Grieg (made to look much older than she is) and Roger Allam own the farm; she's the careful tender of the animals and writers, he's the successful mystery writer who's a little too full of himself. It's not giving anything away to say he's also a philandering jerk, too -- almost from the start of the film we know this and much of the story revolves around this, and not a small amount of the humor. The writers in residence provide a lot of the humor, too: "The hat is on!" one vehemently tells another, indicating that no one should speak to him. Central to the narrative is the American writer Glen (Bill Camp, who looks like Warren Zevon's nebbishy brother), the unexpected lynchpin as the blocked academic trying to write about Hardy.

What breaks everything apart is the arrival -- or rather, return -- of the native daughter, Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton). Her former love, the golden handyman, Andy (Luke Evans) still longs for her but her eye's been drawn to seriously sexy boy band drummer Ben (Dominic Cooper :-), whose arrival draws the attention of two bored village teens, Jody and Casey, who are die hard fans of Ben's band.

Even if you know your Hardy, there are plenty of twists and modernisations to keep you guessing. I love the way the story captures the aimless boredom of the teens' life in an "idyllic" country village, which for them means there's nothing to do. There's extra fun for writers and readers, of course, but I think all kinds of folks will have a good time with Tamara.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books: Kleinzeit

I find it amazing that Russell Hoban's singular book Kleinzeit seems to be out of print in the US. Amazon lists the version on the left as the most recent one (2002) but he doesn't seem to have the same popularity here as he does in Britain (where the Pennsylvania-born writer lives, no surprise). Most of you probably know the Frances books and I've certainly gone on at length about my love for Riddley Walker on various occasions, but I hadn't read Kleinzeit until recently.

While reading it in November, I decided to recommend it to everyone who was doing NaNoWriMo as the perfect inspiration for the difficult task of writing, especially for the first time. It mashes up a sort of Pynchon-esque mystery of coincidences and misheard words with a delightful surrealism: the titular character ends up in the hospital for trouble with his hypotenuse. His troubles begin on the most mundane sort of day when he begins to experience a sudden pain. But then something else happens:

Kleinzeit got out of the train, poured into the morning rush in the corridor. Among the feet he saw a sheet of yellow paper, A4 size, on the floor, unstepped-on. He picked it up. Clean on both sides. He put it in his attaché case. He rode up on the escalator, looking up the skirt of the girl nine steps above him. Bottom of the morning, he said to himself.

Little does he know that yellow sheet of A4 will take over his life: he loses his job, he's admitted to the hospital, he takes up the glockenspiel and he takes up with Sister (nurses in Britain are still referred to as "sister"), he meets a red-bearded man who lives in the Underground. And everything seems conspired either to kill him or turn him into a writer. It's not surprising that Hoban has said that this novel is where he found his voice.

One of my favourite passages comes when Kleinziet reads from Thucydides' The Pelopennesian War as he contemplates Athenians and the blank page of yellow A4:

I promise, said Kleinzeit to his dead mother, I'll be, I'll make, I'll do. You'll be proud of me.

Suppose [the Athenians] fail in some undertaking; they make good the loss immediately by setting their hopes in some other direction. Of them alone it may be said that they possess a thing almost as soon as they have begun to desire it, so quickly with them does action follow upon decision. And so they go on working away in hardship and danger all the days of their lives, seldom enjoying their possessions because they are always adding to them. Their view of a holiday is to do what needs doing; they prefer hardship and activity to peace and quiet. In a word, they are by nature incapable of either living a quiet life themselves or of allowing anyone else to do so.

Right, said Kleinzeit. Enough, He opened the door of the yellow paper's cage, and it sprang upon him, Over and over they rolled together, bloody and roaring, Doesn't matter what the title is to start with, he said, anything will do. HERO, I'll call it. Chapter I. He wrote the first line while the yellow paper clawed his guts, the pain was blinding. It'll kill me, said Kleinzeit, there's no surviving this. He wrote the second line, the third, completed the first paragraph. The roaring and the blood stopped, the yellow paper rubbed purring against his leg, the first paragraph danced and sang, leaped and played on the green grass in the dawn.

Up the Athenians, said Kleinzeit, and went to sleep.

It delights me to no end that Hoban fans go around on February 4th leaving sheets of yellow A4 in the tube and other public places with quotes from the author. I can't imagine a more wonderful tradition to have connected with one's books. This novel is quite wonderful and I recommend it highly -- and then go get Riddley Walker and the rest of his books! I love Hoban because his stories all make their own singular way, ignoring genres and rules and convention. What better way to write?

See more "forgotten" books at Patti Abbot's blog where you'll doubtless find friends like Todd.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

BitchBuzz: How to Ruin the Holidays + Mangrove Trailer

First, my column for the week: if you're mild-hearted and love the holidays, you may want to skip it. I am particularly proud of finding that picture of Katy Perry:

How to Ruin the Holidays

By K.A. Laity
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, Solstice or Yule, you have an equal opportunity this year to destroy all hopes for any beautiful memories from social gatherings by following a few simple rules.

People get too stressed trying to make the holidays perfect: cooking, cleaning, buying, singing, organizing and spend, spend, spending. They put up trees, light menorahs, bake cookies, mull wine and in the process, gain weight, lose hair and empty their bank accounts.

Ruining the holidays can be accomplished with very little effort and almost no spending or preparation. You do not need to make elaborate plans (although a well-thought out scheme can have a spectacular pay-off) and cooking is completely optional, as are fuzzy jumpers with appliqués.

How can you ruin the holidays? To find the answers:

While book trailers have been said to be a waste of time, I can't seem to help wanting to make them. So to amuse myself, here's one for Kit Marlowe's The Mangrove Legacy coming Dec 15th (in case you forgot ;-)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


I started out the day purposefully: I got a needed oil change, ran to the store and then came to campus. There things began to bog down a bit, not only because there was a lot of email to get to and a call from the Dean but then there was the printer not working. I haven't bought new ink for my printer at home, so I've generally relied on the printer here on campus. When we got new printers and a whole new print admin system, I was the only one who never had a problem printing. Everyone else was screaming for blood because of course they decided to change the system at the beginning of the semester. So I've taken advantage of the one colleague in the building to have him print a couple of emergency things and will hope the Mac guy gets around to me soon.

Yes, we have one person in IT who's competent in Macs. We have (last I knew) over 200 Macs on campus. And you wonder why our last Mac person quit to go to Skidmore where she has fewer headaches and more pay... oh, that's right. No wonder at all.

You can catch up with the latest episode in La Ronde, the round robin story started by Patti Abbot. Today's installment (#10 already!) is "It's Raining Down in Texas" by Graham Powell. Amazing turns this narrative has taken: now in Texas.

Kit Marlowe's The Mangrove Legacy will be available from All Romance Ebooks on December 15th! You can get The Big Splash there now (as well as at Noble Romance and Amazon).

21st Century Gothic will be printed on my birthday :-) though it won't be available until 2011.

I just got word that my presentation "Bringing a Medieval Woman to Life" (about writing a play on the life of Christina of Markyate) got accepted for the Great Writing Conference in London next June. Looking forward to that. I'm also considering a conference in Akureyri, Iceland as well. We shall see. Yeah, don't remind me of that note which says "Just say no!" I am (on the whole) doing less. Well, less of some things. Combining things, too, seems helpful (work that does double duty). But yeah, it remains the case that there is so little time, and so much to do!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Happy St. Nick's Day

Or did you get the Krampus instead? Well, my lovely Krampus chapbook designed by The joey Zone is out of print, but you can hear me read it as a podcast. I hope to scan it and get an electronic version available soon, but things are just so hectic (when is that not true?).

I had a lovely lovely time in Connecticut with all the crew. It was great fun that didn't last nearly long enough because I had to come home. Thanks so much to the Queen of Everything for being such a fabulous hostess, my birthday twin Marko and everybody who came. Thanks too to Elena for giving me lunch the next day and -- whoohoo -- knocking out an idea for a new Jane Quiet story! Fingers crossed she gets time to start drawing this week: an Egyptian theme -- how's that sound?

I got my author copy of the collection Exposure from Cinnamon Press that has my short story "Rothko Red" in it. Quite a lovely little volume. I also got notice that I have three items in the new issue of Femspec, reviews of King Kong Theory, Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy and Women and the Divine. Yes, it had been so long since they were submitted that I had completely forgotten about them. Guess I better remind myself to add them to the CV. This is why I need minions!

All right: back to grading. The end is near! I should have all my grading done and submitted before my birthday -- whoohoo!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Whirlwind Travel

NYC on Thursday to see Lynda Barry and Maira Kalman and today I'm off to Connecticut for the final party at the Aloha Alcohula. So, in haste with the hope of more later:

My route: drive down to Poughkeepsie, Metro North to Grand Central, arriving after everyone's already stopped waltzing. Then off to the Met Museum. Many things to see there: the Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand exhibit, especially Stieglitz's photographs of Georgia O'Keefe (even bought the postcard set), loved Katrin Sigurdardottir's installations, and of course, I'm always a sucker for Rothko:

Afterward I had a lovely sushi dinner and then headed over to the 92nd St Y for the talk: Lynda Barry is just so utterly amazing. She said she was really nervous and so what was best was to do something really frightening (though she said it would be even better to eat a hotdog, but --) so she sang a song to the tune of "Coal Miner's Daughter" that explained her family (Norwegian and Filipino) and her difficulties growing up. I can't capture her madcap and inventive conversation. She talked about everything from trying to find tears for great art and instead finding them when she met Jeff Keane of Family Circus, because that comic had given her such hope as a child, a way to imagine a happy family through that little circle. Or her Filipino grandmother who told the most horrifying descriptions of the woman who was really a vampire who took her legs off and crawled across your ceiling and used her long tongue to suck your blood because you leave your clothes on the floor! Her new book Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book is a companion piece to her incredibly inspiring What it is, but aimed at drawing rather than writing. She describes it as like Highlights but for any age and so if you were stuck in JiffyLube waiting for your car, you could pick it up and be less tense and really enjoy yourself. For her, the power of drawing is plain: after working on Cruddy for ten years on a computer, she was overwhelmed by the awesome power of the Delete Key. Once she started using a brush to write the letters, she finished it in nine months.

Maira Kalman is quite amazing too: though more reserved than Barry, she was equally inspiring and surprising. Her work shows the power of just keeping your eyes and mind open (what Russell Hoban calls "being a friend with your head"). Everything from a hilarious letter from Proust, a dead Swiss writer in the snow on a newspaper wrapping a parcel, the three hole punch at the Pentagon that puts holes in the paper on which top secret documents written: all of it can blend together in your head and come out interesting art. She even played the clip from WC Fields in The Man in the Flying Trapeze where they make fun of a pseudo-Gertrude Stein-ish piece.

Glad I made the trip down; fortunately Robert was able to give me a refuge halfway home from the train station as I got into Poughkeepsie about midnight. Of course he made me sleep on this:

Off to Connecticut today for my joint birthday party with Marko: it will apparently be the last party at the Aloha Alcohula before its make-over. Should be fun! I had my own make-over already:
It's actually purple not blue (note how washed out my eye color is), but nice and bright :-) Might wear my purple tiara, too.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

BitchBuzz: Why are People So Desperate to be Writers?

My column (in haste: NYC bound!):

Why are People so Desperate to be a Writers?

Everybody's a writer or wants to be. At least that's what the internet tells me. There are all kinds of ways to help writers or writer wannabes.
For example there is the persistent Twitter spam telling you that writers are needed very badly. There are ways to get paid for this, our urgent friend tells us. As Victoria Strauss writes at the Writer Beware® blog, the link included in that spam tweet leads to a service where you can pay to be told about jobs that will pay you for writing. Gosh!

Never mind that there are plenty of free sites offering the same thing: RealWritingJobs wants to help you out of the goodness of their hearts to find real writing jobs for about $50 a month. What a bargain! If that's not good enough for you, because you're an artist who's already written a magnum opus, why not pay PublishAmerica to enter one of Amazon's fine publishing contests? Wait—what's that? You can enter for free on your own? But what about the fine imprimatur that PublishAmerica gives you? You don't want to do without that, do you? And wait—that script writing contest for Amazon's new crowd-sourced film empire: did you know that they get to hold onto your script's rights for a year and a half even if you don't win anything?

Read the rest:

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot to include one of the things that sparked this story -- James Frey's Fiction Factory. Unbelievable.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World AIDS Day

There's a campaign on to have an AIDS-free generation born by 2015. A lot of work to be done first. It can be done. Commemorate World AIDS Day with something meaningful. These cool Dia de los Muertos t-shirts already sold out but there are many other ways to help raise awareness and help research.

I'm unbelievably busy this week, so let me just pass along some assorted news tidbits: Over at Patti Abbott's blog, you can read the latest installment of La Ronde by Kassandra Kelly. I have a new piece on ritual up over at the Jane Quiet blog. I sent off the revised essay on Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls; will let you know the details about the collection once I know them. I wouldn't expect it before next autumn, maybe even 2012. Still no word on the latest novel that's waiting for review by my publisher. That's how it goes in the print publishing world. I did get the line edits for Kit Marlowe's The Mangrove Legacy, so I will be busy with those today in hopes of getting it back to my editor to make it for the December 15th release of the e-book. Yay! That's why I love electronic publications.

Off to NYC tomorrow to see Lynda Barry; if the weather's like this again, I think I'll spend the rest of the day at MoMA.

UPDATE: apparently this anthology that includes my flash fiction "Rothko Red" has come out and is available for sale.