Thursday, May 31, 2012

Galway Sounds

Snufkin packs her bindle again: I am away with the lovely Maura for a jaunt north; with luck I will be able to share pictures along the way here and there, but for at least part of the weekend I will be -- gasp! -- without WiFi so I will necessarily have to curtail my posting a bit. Doubtless I will get a lot of writing done and maybe some reading, too.

So here are some sounds of Galway. I can't believe it's the end of May. How time has flown in this beautiful place.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked A/V: Abed

My post is actually over at The Girls' Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse -- Abed (The Film):

What would you do to keep your family alive?

Watch the trailer to see if this is something you'd like to check out (i.e. not for the faint-hearted!)

Or just buy Beth's story for 99¢ on Amazon:

And be sure to pop over to Todd's to see the round-up of overlooked sights & sounds. Busy week: news soon! So little time, so much to do...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Kiss Like a Fist

The lovely Monica Vitti for no reason at all
That time again: Six Sentence Sunday. I figured you might like a song-inspired story that isn't inspired by The Fall.

Yes, they do exist.

The song is Florence + The Machine's "Kiss With a Fist" which you'll notice is not quite the same as the title of my story. There has to be a word for it: someone who cannot get a quote right to save their life. Even when they're singing along with the words. Hopeless: maybe that's the word. I gave that characteristic to my character Ro in my novel Owl Stretching [oh and good news -- final edits accepted, so with luck I'll hear something soon about the release date and so forth].

So here's my six from "Kiss Like a Fist" and below it Flo's bouncy celebration of mutual assured destruction. I've bleeped one objectionable word so I don't have to add an adult content warning to the blog; you'll find my crime/noir stories a bit sweary (Chloë would approve). This one also contains gratuitous but minor Shakespeare swipage (you wouldn't even notice if I didn't tell you -- working these things in is just the kind of puzzle that entertains me and matters to no one else. Another habit I need to cure, I'm sure):
She had a mouth that could raise the dead. It had raised me plenty over the years, but I'd never been close enough to Rosaline's orbit to do anything about it.

Until tonight.

I brought her a third martini and her tongue had loosened enough to share some sage advice with me as she leaned back in the little snug. "Never f**k anyone crazier than yourself," she said, sucking an olive between those rose red lips.

I would have done well to listen to that advice, but it was already too late...

Check out the wealth of authors participating in Six Sentence Sunday and find some new gems. This story's been under submission for about two months; checking Duotrope, that doesn't seem to be an unusual length for this publication (alas), so I'll curtail my impatience and keep working on other things. You know me, I get itchy if I don't have a new publication coming out.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books: Lyrics and A Hard Road to Nowhere

A bit of a cheat: a music two-fer. One is old, but the other's new; nonetheless, given the difficulty of finding your audience in the ocean of new publications out there, it deserves a boost to the signal.

The Fall: Lyrics by Mark E. Smith

The lynchpin of my current writing career: what, you think I exaggerate? With stories like "It's a Curse" and "Bill is Dead" and "Mandrake Anthrax" and "Grotesque" and "Just Waiting"? I do occasionally have stories not inspired by Smith's lyrics but they're getting to be in the minority. The Fall's lyrics are like Zen koans mashed up with the ramblings of a mad meth drinker with overstuffed carrier bags.

My garden is made of stone
There's a computer centre over the road
I saw a monster on the roof
Its colours glowed on the roof

All the songs in this collection will forever be coloured by reading the German translations out loud on the tube going back from Kentish Town to Stockwell while giggling madly after that first hypnotic show. Magic.

John Hodgson's A Hard Road to Nowhere: The Blitzkrieg Bop Story captures that story from the other side of the equation; the intoxicating, maddening, frustrating and elating process of forging music in the fluctuating organism that is a band -- or rather a series of bands that finally create a centre of gravity that becomes Blitzkrieg Bop. Obviously blown away by The Ramones at a crucial age, Hodgson and his fellow bandmates find a wellspring of inspiration as the first eruptions of punk arrive in the remote northeast of England. The third person narrative occasionally feels a bit awkward but it provides a way to highlight the pages ripped from Hodgson's journals of the period, which capture the youthful highs and lows with vivid authenticity.

Cheap as chips: get it now -- and be sure to bookmark Hodgson's Soundcloud page for the music to accompany it. A wide variety of songs, old and new and updated. Good stuff.

See also my review of Val McDermid's The Distant Echo over at A Knife & A Quill.

Not sure if the FFB will be at Patti's or at Todd's -- check both, they're bound to be worth it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Crime Pop and Burning Bridges

I've got a piece over on A Knife & A Quill on pop music with crime (no, not criminally bad pop music, although I do make mention of The Buoys' "Timothy" alas):

I was listening to Skydaddies’ “Murder in the Park”, a fine Beatlesesque — no, really more Rutlesesque! Not because it’s a parody, but because it knows how it’s being Beatlesesque, if you know what I mean — tune about a girl who takes pictures of a murder in a park and it struck me that there’s a good amount of crime music in unexpected places. Not in rap songs about poppin’ caps in someone’s arse or thrash metal about KILLING! but in more unusual places...

And do listen to Skydaddies (kind of a preview of tomorrow's book as well):

SKYDADDIES - Murder In The Park (2012 edit)

I had a guest post over at Fiona's: she's asked the Burning Bridges folks to suggest what they'd like to set fire to -- sort of an impromptu Room 101. Drop by and suggest more things to burn because
I am the god of hellfire and I bring you:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Post Card Fiction Prizes

Making your mark in the world can be a tenuous thing; as long as the good will of others holds up or their indifference doesn't take over, you stand the chances of being forgotten within your lifetime. You may find fame and fortune, but the odds are against it. So don't be depressed by that! Make every day fun. Create something, anything. I made a lovely postcard for a friend this morning with my Tate Mod postcard book (a book of blank postcards of heavy paper stock) with my watercolour pencils and it sort of turned out like I imagined it.

As far as I'm concerned, that's success.

I got paid very well for a very short story: that's success, too. But it can't be the reason for doing it because writing takes so long even for a rather short story. The pleasure of creating, of figuring out the myriad puzzles that go into anything you make, that has to be its own reward -- often it will be the only one you get. Hey, I didn't say stop trying for more mundane success -- keep at it. As the lottery ads in NY say, "Hey, you never know." You stand a better chance at succeeding with your creativity that you do with the lottery anyway.

If you need a laugh, go read my silly poem "On Seeking a Place for a Picnic." If you want something more substantial, go read my reviews and whatnot over at A Knife & A Quill. Or go "like" our Burning Bridges book trailer: it's got a "dislike" -- I suspect our former publisher has found it.

All right, enough delay: let me announce the first annual Postcard Fiction Contest prize winners. First, let me thank everyone who entered. I was well pleased with your cards and stories -- some of you went all out and I have to say the postcards did enter into my deliberations. How could they not?

So I read and re-read and finally narrowed it down to three finalists. Because I promised a cash prize for the top winner, I decided I needed some other kind of prize, so it will be titles.

DICKINSON PRIZE (AKA second runner up)

"alessandra" for 'Amherst's Mad Pastoral' on postcard of Trastevere (I can almost taste the food)

MOORE PRIZE (AKA first runner up)

"mbilokur" for 'Better the devil you know' on postcard of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera & a giant papier maché demon

and the grand prize including cash in the current value of US$25 goes to --

[drum roll]


"shloobee" for 'Don't do it, Salvador!' on postcard of 'Salvador Dalí in jener fiktiven Position, die auf sein Gemälde La gare de perpignan übertragen wurde, assistiert von Dr. Soler-Roig in einem Helikopter' of which the text here follows:

'Don't do it, Salvador!' The lemur sounded more alarmed than she felt. Dalí was always up to some sort of ballbaggery and usually came out of it quite well. A token protest was always welcome to the artist's ears, however, and the lemur liked to please. 'Do not fear, my little one,' said Salvador, 'nothing can go wrong. This world is but an oyster in a jam jar ripe for the taking.' The lemur watched as Salvador pushed himself from the balustrade and swan dived out into the empty space. He hung there for a moment, or so it seemed...and then plummeted to earth. The lemur watched him hit the ground. 'Oh dear,' she said. 'Who does he suppose is going to clean that up?'

Congratulations, all!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked A/V: A Gun for George

A Gun for George offers the new Walter Mitty for a 21st century.

Terry Finch is a frustrated pulp fiction author and eternal loner looking for brutal revenge on the mean streets of East Kent.

This short film offers a fascinating (and funny!) look at a few tropes that are instantly recognisable to any film fan. It has a vintage look, but takes place now(ish), deliberately mashing up past and present to embody those colliding impulses.

Hard-bitten, gritty, pulpy crime narratives: British television used to rule on this front, as Mr B has written about a few times here and there. It's a trend that's exploding again lately: tough, he-man grit, but it's often one that can seemingly only happen in fantasy -- either hedged around with nostalgia or set in an unquestioned past.

The appeal rests on the idea that average men, who once had the unquestioned assumption of male power and privilege, find that has been taken away or at least become complicated. Some blame the usual targets (women and minorities rather than patriarchy and capitalism), but these films and similar books show a world that many long for --  one with uncomplicated interactions where good triumphs over evil even if it has to bend the rules to do so (think Dirty Harry and Charles Bronson films). It's not purely a male fantasy.
However it has often been a genre without women, except as easily-discarded sex partners, dames to be rescued or mirrors for their manliness, and as well as one where the Other can be easily distinguished by visible markers (i.e. race or ethnicity). It's a genre I'm writing in a lot lately, so I'm intrigued by all this backward splashing of nostalgia and modernity. Sometimes it is deliberately set in the past (like my story "Chickens") but other times it's happening right now ("Bill is Dead"). It's about world building in either case: that's what a lot of mimetic fiction writers don't always get -- it's all about world building.* 

[Need I add that most of the writers I've met working in the genre are not like Terry Finch, fine gentlemen and ladies who play nice and prove generally kind and inclusive to everyone? Naah, you know that.]

Let me get back to the film (instead of writing what will probably be my next PCA presentation on gender and nostalgia in noir fiction judging by this >_<).  Yes, the film examines the place of the displaced 70s man of action. It's also hilarious! It's pure Dunning-Kruger in action (oh dear, another paper that wants to be written) because Terry Finch thinks he's really an awesome tough-guy writer and everything we see demonstrates that he is not.

East Kent Grit: what a lovely concept.

Best laugh perhaps comes when a doctor cautions him, "If you must write, do it away from the sick and the vulnerable." And his caravan! HAHAHAHA!

See the site for The Reprisalizer, Terry Fincher's pulp star ("Real Name: Bob Shuter"). While it's a bit neglected of late, it provides dead on, awesomely realistic creations of vintage pulpy goodness. The whole created world of Terry Finch shows such care and attention to detail. Wonderful!

See Todd's blog for the round-up of overlooked gems.

*One of the reasons I have to spend so much time getting my students to visualise the medieval world; without a lot of explanation, my students tend to see history as just now with a hat on (a funny medieval hat in that instance). A lot of mimetic fiction neglects world building and often readers assume they know the world in which a story takes place only to be brought up short when they stumble across something that doesn't fit their own experience.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Postcards, Bridges, a Knife and a Quill

I model the latest SL Johnson design with lighting by Garbo
I have got so far as narrowing down the entries in the First Annual Postcard Fiction Contest to a pool of final contenders (yes, Ale! Your card arrived). Agonizing to make the final choice! I may need a glass of wine for this. Alas, I have none. I suppose that could be remedied, but I have so much to do today.

I will force myself to make a choice by Wednesday and keep rereading them in the meantime. A huge thank you to everyone who entered. I may indeed make this an annual event. It was about this time last year that I got the call saying I was going to Ireland. It has to have been the fastest year on record, whew.

Not that it felt like it when I was packing and clearing out my old flat. The horror, the horror. But wherever I may be, I will stop around this time and think of the adventure about to unfold and feel very happy:
“If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper...”
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited 
 No time to spare for wistful thoughts: much too busy! One of the latest projects: a book trailer for Burning Bridges: A Renegade Anthology. Yes, if you're reading this you likely already know the story -- and that you have no excuse for not getting it! Free on Smashwords, 99¢ on Amazon and all that going to literacy. Don't make me come over there! No, really -- because I'm staying over here. The trailer tells the story of the assembly of our renegade band. Check it out and give it a like and get the book already!

One more important bit of news: I'm writing reviews over at A Knife and A Quill, a site for dark fiction, as you might guess from the name. Lots of horror and crime fiction covered over there. So if you have an interest, drop by and read some reviews, interviews and features. If you're an author think about submitting something for review by the team. Yes, this is in addition to writing for The Girl's Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse and the occasional piece for Un:Bound. Why do you think I'm so busy? My quill is always scratching away.

Writers, who can resist a quill? I remember comparing quill tattoos with Sarah Pinborough at P-Con. Writing: it's in the blood, it's in the flesh.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Grotesque

Another Sunday has rolled around, giving you the opportunity to spot new writers you might like with the Six Sentence Sunday crew. A great, simple concept that seems to be very effective. My six this week come from a short that's been under submission for a bit now; I've become so good at the "submit & forget" that until a chance bump to the memory regurgitated it, I had forgotten the story existed and also where I had sent it, so I had to dig around to find it. Some detective work, eh? All I knew: it was named after a Fall reference.

Yeah, that narrows it down.

So here's a bit from "Grotesque" which is out there trying its luck (and now I know where). I picked a few lines describing the pub where most of the story takes place. Loosely based on a pub I know, but made much much worse, naturally; that's what fiction's all about. The scene begins with an explanation why no women have ever crossed its threshold:

Perhaps that could be blamed on the décor, which ranged from brown to more brown. Or the ambience that derived from unwashed and mostly middle aged men just off shift. The young lads all went to the shiny new sports pubs with their cacophonous screens and drinks with asinine names that they swilled back like candy. 

We had two kinds of lager here and one of ale, with Guinness on the side for the old men from the isle. In the summer you could also get cans of Budweiser to take out into the 'beer garden': a picnic table on a concrete square between the rubbish tip and the gray wall of the car park. The chief appeal seemed to be you were allowed to spit out there.

I'll let you know if/when something comes of it. I'm sure it will eventually.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books: Jean Craighead George

I was saddened to hear of the death of Jean Craighead George yesterday. I think Liz Hand first published a link on Facebook, but loads of others shared the news with the same feeling of loss for her absence and joy for her vivid adventures of the outdoors. One of my former students said she gives a copy of My Side of the Mountain to all the children she knows on their eleventh birthday. What a wonderful habit!

It's no hyperbole to say that book changed my life. A born pagan, I spent months afterward trying to live in the wilds of our back yard (>_<), constructing a "home" in the grapevines dividing my grandparents' house from the Tabors' next door, forming ambitious plans for the giant maple at the corner of our yard in the elbow of the L-shaped fields belonging to St. Gerard's, and attempting to mash acorns into some kind of pancakes -- producing bitter results, which I think Bertie can attest to as well (what are brothers for, but to experiment upon?).

I still long for a falcon.

She has an immense list of publications, which she admits to find intimidating:
This alphabetical list of books is enough to scare off even me. Some of the books listed below are no longer available in print. If you're interested, you probably can find them in the library. The list is not really long when you consider that there are almost 250 million beautiful plants and animals on this earth that I could have written about. 

Generous with herself she posted her email for people to write to her and gave children advice on how to write:
Most of us need a prod to get ideas swirling in our heads. Once that happens it is easy to write. Here are a few prods for writing a story. Perhaps you can use them, perhaps you will say "ugh" and come up with your own original way to write a book. No matter which - write - and write out of the love of words.
Drop by and see some videos with this lovely author and celebrate her life.

See the roundup of FFBs over at Todd's this week.

✍ And a proper announcement later, but check out the new dark fiction site, A Knife and a Quill, for whom I'll be writing reviews; they've kicked off with an interview with me. ☠

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shhhh, reading!

In case you missed it yesterday, I have some lovely postcards to read in order to choose a winner. Looking forward to that.

And hey! My photo of the Howff appeared in the Dundee Evening Telegraph last night. Thanks for taking a picture of my picture, sweetie :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Flash!

Because everything's more exciting with an exclamation mark at the end (sledgehammer! verrucas! antidisestablishmentarianism!), yes -- it's National Flash Fiction Day! All right, so only in the UK, officially -- but since I live in Ireland I don't have to listen to what the Queen says anyway, so she can't tell me not to write about flash fiction.

Jubilee, my arse!

Sorry, channeling Jim Royle for a moment (how apropos!). I like writing flash: when a long project gets stuck, often the best way to get unstuck is to write something short but complete. Clears the brain.

So here's my flash fiction you can read on line right now, hastily copied and pasted from the bibliography. All are a thousand words or less, so plenty of time to read one even in your busy schedule. How else would you celebrate? If you feel so moved, why not write a flash story in the comments or paste a link to one you've got up somewhere. Share the wealth -- even if it's only a bite. Some also come in easy listening audio form and some are -- gasp -- poetry. Others may contain language unsafe for gentle ears. You have been warned:

“Biscuits.” Flash fiction. Short Humour, May 2012. Also available at Postcard Shorts, May 2012.

“Bill is Dead.” Flash fiction. Pulp Metal Magazine, Spring 2012.

“Words.” Flash fiction/podcast. Dogcast 5: March 2012.

“Mandrake Anthrax.” Short story. A Twist of Noir, 14 Dec 2011.

“Soap Opera Digest.” Humour. Dragnet Magazine 2 (Jul 2011): 40-42.

“There was a Professor of English.” Poem. Asinine Poetry (Apr 2011). Also an AudioBoo.

“A Charming Situation.” Short story. Written for the Sherlocking fan site: now free on Scribd (Nov 2010).

 “The Last Ant.” Humour. Wild Violet 9.2 (2010).

“Rothko Red.” Audio version available at Soundcloud, also included in Dogcast 12.

“Wixey.” Flash fiction. Wild Violet 8.1 (2009).

“The Princess and Her Pig.” Poem. New Fairy Tales 1 (Oct 2008): 18-19. Soundcloud.

“Diva Soup." Soundcloud. 2008.

 “Corrections to the Rules of Fimble Fowl (for 3 players or 4).” Humor. Wild Violet 6.2 (2007).

When Little Joe the Krampus Met. Chapbook with The Joey Zone (Dec 2003). Soundcloud.

“The Eleventh Commandment.” Rictus 9 (Apr 1997).

And of course my very first publication, the one Clive Barker called, "full of fluent style and poetic dialogue" (swoon):

“Revelation.” The Official Clive Barker Page, Winner, MGM/United Artists/Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions Short Story Contest, November 1995.

Now I have some postcards to read!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked A/V: The Third Man

Phone pics off the screen

Hold on there, cookie! The Third Man, that classic Orson Welles film -- overlooked?! Well, yeah, I dare to say it. I say it on the basis of so many people who are not film geeks who've either never heard of it though they might recognise the title or those who maybe know Welles from advertisements only or are geeks and have been meaning to see it for years (o_O) hmmm?

This time around I saw it differently, too, because it marked the first time I consciously watched it as noir (and for the cats). So many things I have in the back of my head about noir, it's good to make a conscious effort to consider the building of scenes and the building of the story in Greene's script (I have to read the novella!). Cotton's stumbling 'pulp' writer [in scare quotes because Todd will tell me he's not pulp at all but I don't know exactly what is textbook pulp and what is not because it seems a handy designation for a vast range of writers who wrote for cheap paperbacks in the early 20C and if it only turns out to be people who wrote for specific publishers who printed on PULP™brand paper during the odd months of the year 1935, I'll never remember that, so -- scare quotes] gradually uncovers a mystery when he thought he was just coming to a funeral and then things get weird as he finds out his good friend is nothing like the man he thought him to be.

(Somehow this relates today's thoughts on Dunning-Kruger, too -- not sure how).

This film has such amazing and utterly gorgeous shots, not as distinct frames like so many current films that scream "Look at this shot!" but as an organic whole that tells a story. A compelling story: how to deal with competing views of a man you've trusted? How to deal with a woman you love who's still in love with your best friend? And a very Greenean quandary about making moral choices when the options are not the black and white ones you were taught to distinguish between.

I ended up paying much more attention to the look of the film but the narrative kept pulling me back in. It remains a classic not just because it is a superbly directed film, but also because it tells a compelling story. And while it makes you despise the smug Harry Lime (whether or not he was right about cuckoo clocks and Borgias), you can see how he represents a very common type -- the ones who looted their way through half the economies of the world with every belief in their right to do so.

Could you walk away from such temptation?

See the round-up of overlooked A/V over at Sweet Freedom.