Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jane Quiet at Coilhouse

Drop over to to see Elizabeth S.'s write up on Jane Quiet; I love the serendipity of the internet! It's what brought this about. Please, leave a comment to let Elizabeth and Coilhouse know you stopped by; this is how we measure success on the 'net.

Back from my travels: Friday I went down to Connecticut for Miss Wendy's birthday and had fun with the whole gang. How gorgeous that giant wolf moon looked hanging over the harbour! If only it hadn't been subzero temps, we could have enjoyed the veranda of the Alumni House a bit more. Fabulous food and lots of laughs: only Perilous Cheryl could have made a remark like that about the centerpieces ;-) It was a distinct pleasure to blast Lady Gaga at the Coast Guard Academy.

All right, yes -- it's true: I accidentally stuck my fingers in the birthday cake while moving it. I was a spaz all night (yes, to beat you to the punch, why should that night be any different than any other?).

Stayed up late watching bad movies, woke up far too early with a sore throat. Just too cold and dry. After a relaxing start to the day -- leftover cheese and cake! -- I headed out because I had another birthday party last night. Didn't Angela look fabulous with her spanking new haircut? Much merriment and fabulous food -- mmm, BBQ. I was feeling a bit poorly though, so I came home for tea and the last episode of North and South. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend the miniseries; you can't go far wrong with Elizabeth Gaskell as your source (though Wives and Daughters remains my fave).

I've got a two volume Faustus book to review, so I better get cracking. I slept until nearly eleven, but I'm still feeling poorly. Sinuses and chest -- no fun. Considering the speed with which this cold has moved, maybe it'll be gone by tomorrow. I can hope.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Miss Wendy -- may your day be happy and bright. See you soon! Happy Birthday, Angela -- you superstar (yeah, the wishes are a bit early)! Happy Birthday, Beex -- may West Ham prove triumphant!*

*Psst, Brad, I didn't really say that; Arsenal all the way!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BitchBuzz: No Girls Allowed

Yeah, you may have already guessed -- or seen -- my BitchBuzz column for this week. It's up early, in fact I shot it off to my editor while I was [cough] not attending the faculty meeting. Hey, I had pressing news to cover! Considering the quick hits it got, I'm glad I did.

Hat tips to pals Brad Brooks, who told me about the Start Trek connection, and to Dan Shea, who gave me an awesome quote to steal on Facebook (hey, maybe it can go in your tenure file):

I'm sure they did a lot of testing, but I just can't believe there was no woman on the team or at least one in an important enough position to say, "No, no, hell no!" when it came to naming it the iPad.

Read the rest, as always, at BBHQ. I have meetings in the morning, so maybe I'll post this now. Having got my column done early, I did a little reading tonight. I have Chris Anderson's Free out from the library, recommended to me by several folks. I find myself nodding a lot at what he says. We're undergoing a fundamental shift in our culture -- our culture in the global sense. At times I get a glimpse of the answers about where it's going, but it's just out of the corner of my eye. Exciting times we live in -- difficult, confusing and changing at an incredible pace, but exciting all the same.

New Media and My Life

The big announcement today was Apple's new tablet computer. I suspect there were no women on the design team, or else it wouldn't have ended up with the name iPad (on a related note, a trending topic on Twitter: iTampon). I was teaching at the time of the announcement and joked with my students about how hard it was not to just pop open a window on the computer to see how the press conference was going. So one of them came up and the end and showed me the news story on his iPhone. Gotta love it.

I'm teaching the Writing for New Media course. We do a lot of our assignments on line, so if you want to follow along, bookmark our blog. I'm hoping to learn a lot from them about their interactions with new media. My focus has been on what they actually do and not on what they think they ought to do when in class. For example, one student asked about using Wikipedia. I have colleagues who ban any reference to Wikipedia, but let's be realistic: students are going to use it. Why not teach them how to use it thoughtfully? For example, examine the results at different times to see whether -- and how -- the entry changes, determine what sort of sources have been used to establish the information, and whether there are controversies made explicit in the entry.

In the end, it's not about the information: it's about having the intellectual tools to critically examine it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Good Reads and Bad Food

I finally joined up with Goodreads. In addition to Library Thing, it's one more place to help spread the word about my books and connect to readers and other writers. Do let me know if you have an account on either site.

Last Monday I had lunch with Robert at the West Taghkanic Diner. He had passed it many times while it was closed, so he had never been there, but was curious to try.

It was not the most propitious day, perhaps, to visit: they were really scrambling to keep up with the holiday crowd. There seemed to be only the one server and she was running back and forth constantly. So it was a long while before one of the busboys -- clearly unaccustomed to serving -- finally brought our drinks (ice tea and coffee).

"The home of home cooking": I had a spicy mesquite chicken club which lacked anything resembling spicyness (or moisture for that matter). Robert had fish and chips that at first glance looked like eels, but were some kind of fish and seemed all right. The beer battered onion rings were good, though a dipping sauce would have been nice.

They had the usual sort of advertisements for fascinating local businesses. And we saw Colin Farrell. Well, I think it was Colin Farrell. He appeared to have gained a lot of weight for a Scorsese movie, I think. Or perhaps it was not he...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More Moore

I received confirmation that I will be giving my presentation on Alan Moore at the conference on his work at the University of Northampton at the end of May. My topic is:

Rite Here: Ritual, Performance and the Magick of Place

From his first public working, The Birth Caul, Alan Moore has always had a strong attachment to location as a specific aspect of his magickal work. The performance was originally intended as a “unique event” which sought “to draw the audience along the spiral of a winding, umbilical text, into successive pre-pubertal, pre-verbal and finally pre-natal states of being” in the specific location of Newcastle's nineteenth century Old County Court. Similarly, Moore unpacked the layers of geography of his home city of Northampton in the pages of Voice of the Fire, while the London locations of The Highbury Working and Angel Passage, his conjuration of William Blake, provided an anchor for those performances which tied the ethereal to a geographic reality. What happens when the ritual becomes unmoored from the place of its birth, when the “one time” performance repeats across the world, distributed on CDs and comics? Does ritual transform into mere performance, or can the intent survive the commercial process? If so, what does the ritual without location or the original conjurer produce?

With luck I will have a chance to meet up with a lot of interesting folk, including my pal, Pádraig Ó Méalóid.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

BitchBuzz: The Triumph of the Carpet Beetle

Pop on over to BitchBuzz to read my latest column, a mass of absurdity that squeaks a little bit of commentary under the edges:

We all react to adversity in different ways: some stick out their chins and trudge on, heads held high; some fall into penitence and scourging and prayer; some turn to works of kindness for the very least among us.

Most of us, however, whinge and moan and complain to anyone who will listen. Things didn't used to be like this, we're sure, everything is so much harder now, I can't believe there's not WiFi here!

Read the rest of my paean to the carpet beetle (with a gratuitous mention of Robyn Hitchcock, fellow insect lover) over at BBHQ as always.

Another Facebook phenomenon sparked this. Everything around me can become fodder for my writing, you know, any chance remark or unfortunate event. Be grateful that I usually have to change them; real life seldom makes a good story unless you select and rearrange. This is why you should approach all memoirs with skepticism. Memory is a very unreliable tool.

My dad joined Facebook: I suddenly feel as if my friends and I should all be sitting down with our hands folded. But that won't last long; I'm too accustomed to being myself.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

WLoADed: Elena Steier

Drop on by the Women's League of Ale Drinkers to see our latest featured artist, friend of the blog Elena Steier. My Jane Quiet co-conspirator talks a bit about her influences and working habits. Above see some of the art that she's been experimenting with for the newly re-tooled Jane.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reboot: Pelzmantel

Just about the time I was saying to myself that I really couldn't bear to hear the word "reboot" used yet again, uh, well -- I find myself needing to use it. Yes, the big news I have to share is that my novel Pelzmantel: A Medieval Tale is going to get a kickass new edition from Immanion Press. Many of you probably know Immanion as the home of magical fantasy writer, Storm Constantine. I've been a fan of her books for years and met her a couple of times and have always found her delightful. It was quite gratifying to have her say such kind things about my little book.

What's new: it will have a new essay on medieval magic, where I will explain some of the genuine charms and practices that I employed in writing this novel. Some of you may recall that I penned this while writing my dissertation; it sounds insane, but it provided a welcome break from the painstakingly detailed work of that project. I will also be able to include some short stories. I'm looking at uncollected ones -- though maybe including one from Unikirja if possible (synergy!) -- but I'd like to hear recommendations from folks about which stories they'd like to see included. I definitely think "Walpurgisnacht" would be a good companion. Others? My first thought was to focus on stories set in the past, but what about something like "The Willimantic Frogs"? What do you think?

It will also have a brand new introduction from the fabulous Liz Hand! I'm so excited. I can't wait to see what she writes.

Of course it should have a really attractive cover, too: they have some terrific cover artists at Immanion. I'm particularly partial to the ones for Storm's Grigori trilogy and the Wreatthu books.

The best thing is that I know so much more about PR and networking now than I did when this was first published. I know it's a good book and I hope this time around I'm able to generate a lot more interest and get it to the readers who will enjoy it. Having fabulous women like Liz and Storm associated with it will help, too.

UPDATE: June! Once get a clearer idea of the time line for this, I will let you all know. In the meantime, wheee!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Laurie & Lou

I hate those days where I have to choose between wonderful options: so many days have nothing much to do but work. Last night I had a choice between a terrific artist I enjoy, a fabulous drumming concert and a party at a friend's. Tipping me over to the artist was finding out that my friend Michael would be there and bringing his new girlfriend, Lisa. I haven't been able to see Michael in at least a couple years or more, and due to mobility issues, he doesn't get around that much, so Laurie Anderson at MassMOCA it was. Sorry Kim and Ubaka -- I hope you understand!

It's been ages since I'd been to MassMOCA; always a fun time. I had enough time to check out the Guy Ben-Ner's exhibit "Thursday the 12th" which was amusing, especially the "Stealing Beauty" film.

I didn't find Michael and Lisa ahead of showtime, so joined the long line for the general admission seats. I was finally almost up to the door when some people had to cut through the line. It was Laurie Anderson -- so tiny! You see people on stage all the time and never realise how tiny they can be in real life. I felt like super Amazon and I'm not that tall. She had this great black and white flannel shirt with a hood and was accompanied by a friend, and then someone with her dog, oh and then -- and why hadn't it occurred to me? -- her husband and a couple more friends. Lou in leather, limping a little, it looked like. I was grinning like an idiot just seeing the two of them as they brushed past.

I chose a seat and -- of course -- squeed to friends via email and Twitter. Lou and his friend came in and sat down in the first row to watch. Laurie came out with MassMOCA director (and very tall man) Joseph C. Thompson and they chatted about many things, starting off with her forthcoming performance "Delusion" and its creation. She wrote a lot of it on the road, which she didn't recommend, but entertained the audience with stories of traveling with rock musicians, jazz musicians and the Tuvan throat singers, who had a very different approach to life on the road, being nomads.

Anderson often hopped up to demonstrate what she was talking about, playing a snippet form the performance that featured the throat singing, having some of the projected backgrounds play to show the usefulness of crinkled butcher paper. After a couple of mentions of donkeys, she said maybe she should have named the show that, but delusions sounded better. While working on the Moby Dick project, someone had given her Melville's bible. He had written copious notes in pencil in the margins, but his wife had gone back and erased them, so Anderson ended up poring over the pages with a magnifying glass.

She summed up her approach that way, being interested in the details. Lisa said over dinner that nonetheless she manages to make profound connections. I said I thought it was like Blake, seeing the world in a grain of sand.

The surprises were fun; Thompson asking about bible stories and Anderson recalling the first stories she learned in Sunday school, stories told with those felt board figures, "and there was a talking snake in the garden." She said that's when she realised adults were mad. "And I'm going to be one," her child self thought delightedly. My favourite moment was when she imitated an erhu, but the best story was when someone asked about her trip to the Himalayas where she nearly died, but carried back down from the mountains on a donkey's back (again a donkey, she said wonderingly) after days of a 105° temperature, finding herself okay with dying, a little voice in her ear kept pulling her back. It was the trekker who kept up a continuous chatter of meaningless things, lists as random as colors and his second grade class members, that finally brought her back from the land of ringing bells. Quite wonderful.

Friday, January 15, 2010

In Anticipation of Women's Month

Last year's celebration of women during Women's History Month went so well, I'd like to invite participants to be guest bloggers for this March. All you need to do is pick a day and send me (in advance, please) a blog post. Please feel free to link to your own work or sites that are important to you. This is a chance to celebrate fabulous women, so set aside those culturally ingrained notions of humility and carpe bloggem (feel free to correct my Latin, Crisipinus). You don't have to talk about yourself. As long as your post celebrates women and/or women's history, I will be cheered. I already have a few people on the calendar, because I mentioned this on Twitter, so choose your day soon even if you don't know what you're going to write yet (but do try to have your post ready at least two weeks before the live date).

If you've thought about maybe blogging, here's chance to dip your toe in the water safely. If you blog regularly (no, doesn't have to be a personal site, Cranky) build your network further and share here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Steamy Reading & Hot News

As many of you know, I have a bunch of pals who write romance, so my latest column for BitchBuzz celebrates their success, which has been in the news a bit lately. Here's a snippet:

While you may still have in your head a picture of the old-fashioned bodice ripper of decades ago, one of the true advantages of modern romance is the wealth of types available for every taste. Not only are they not all about "alpha males" but there are romances specifically designed for older women, for gay and lesbian readers, for sex-shy Christians and for the kinkiest of BDSM folks. In short, they run the gamut.

And more people all the time are admitting that reading about attraction can be fun. Laura Clawson came out in the Daily Kos as an unashamed reader of romances. Busting up many of the myths about romances, Clawson throws down the casual contempt widely held for the genre. It's an easy target because in this supposedly advanced and futuristic century the one group of people you can get away with disparaging without any fear of repercussion is women.

Oh, and bankers...

As always, read the rest at BBHQ. Best of luck to my pal Saranna in the Dorchester Best-Cellar textnovel contest; I stole her name for my latest publication because it's so pretty - and she's such a hoot!

UPDATE: Saranna won!!

I have some exciting news to share soon, but I can't quite let it out of the bag yet. It sure put a spring in my step today!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Publication: A Case of Dead Faces

I'm usually quick to post links to my publications -- after all selling books is part of the game. But I've been dragging my feet on this one, because I have to admit that I don't like the cover at all. The anthology was edited by Kerry Morgan over at Pagan Imagination. I haven't had a chance to read through it, but I'm sure the content is good. I just can't quite find it in my heart to like the cover.

My story -- which I think I've mentioned here -- is the jazz argot-tarot-Buddha story. Yeah, that's right; yet another chance to avoid that carefully constructed notion of "branding" which all good writers who wish to be successful are supposed to do. I think I should steal my "brand" from the wonderful Lynda Barry's Cruddy, a truly genius work of disturbing brilliance:

No matter what: expect the unexpected. And whenever possible BE the unexpected.

Yeah, that's a good marketing plan, right? Sigh. I should probably not quit my day job, eh? Well, I have a few other things up my sleeves; maybe this eclecticism will pay off some day...

The theme of the collection is the full moon: my story takes place in London and even drops by Treadwell's. FYI, the 59 bus is the one that runs from the Tavistock Hotel (my usual hotel) in Bloomsbury to the Southbank. I love slang and jargon, and found a good site for jazz age slang. This was a lot of fun to write and poured out fairly quickly. Sometimes inspiration is a twig and sometimes it's more of a yule log.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ring Ring Goes the Bell

Classes begin tomorrow; as usual, I face that fact with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Just like the students, I prefer to be on holiday. Every new semester makes me wonder if I know what I'm doing.

Birthday boy Robert (Happy Birthday, again!) says the same thing he always says, "Make them stand on their desks and tear pages out of their books," because apparently Dead Poets Society is the only thing teaching means to him (yes, he does work at Bard).

As usual, I regret not making a better use of my time off. I figure there's got to be some way of getting around the whole need for sleep thing; I did find that drinking tea all day while I wrote did lead to not sleeping, but it was not a very productive not sleeping. Some sleep is required.

I have a course release for heading up Women's and Gender Studies; that "free time" will likely be eaten up by preparation for our conference in March. I'm teaching the Medieval Texts on Film class and also our brand new, never-before-taught Writing for New Media class. Another experiment; why do I do this to myself?

Yes, there's a new episode of The Mangrove Legacy: Alice learns the exciting history of the ghost, Miss Wychwood. Drop by and read for yourself. It's a fun Sunday ritual to dive back into the strangely Gothic adventures. I hope you continue to enjoy it (yes, Cranky -- looking in your direction).

Wish me luck -- we all need it on the first day of classes!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

How Kipper Spends his Day

Yes, he's staring at the radiator because that's where evil lives, apparently. It's disconcerting. Yes, I know it makes odd sounds when the heat comes on, but why does he sit *right* behind my chair and stare at the very same spot always. Is it because all of the other radiators throughout this place are putting out heat, but that spot -- and only that one spot -- radiates evil?

Yes, this must be so.

Or maybe writing about Memoirs of a Master Forger and all its demons is making me see things too... or hear them.

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Sucker for Writer Docos

I saw this one last summer: it's not available on DVD, but it is in pieces on YouTube. Fascinating clan, the Waughs. I'd hate to be a female in the family. I suppose neglect might be better than active hatred and scorn, but I'm not sure.

Must look for a doco on Charlotte Brontë. In the meantime, back to deadlines...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

BitchBuzz: Keeping Your Resolutions with Film

My latest column for BitchBuzz addressed that unsurprising problem that crops up mid-January after making those excellent resolutions:

For the first week of January you are virtuous and strong. You go to the gym every day. You wave off those who offer to share a ciggie. You even say no to that very tempting chocolate cake your co-worker slides under your nose.

But then there's week two.

Week two is when the little voices start, the ones that say things like, "You've been good every day; why not skip just this once?" or "You've denied yourself everything; a little taste can't hurt." These are the voices that take you from a momentary hesitation to the sort of decision-making that leads to green-lighting ideas like New Coke or Heaven's Gate...

As always, read the rest over at BBHQ where you'll find entertaining posts on fashion, food and tech.

I just saw Miss Pettigrew for the first time over the break (I say as if it's over, sob -- a few more days, although they're all work). I think it was Miss Wendy who recommended it, or at least said she enjoyed it when I mentioned maybe getting it from the library. I really enjoyed it -- it was exactly the kind of trifle I was hungry for. Amy Adams is just adorable, Ciarán Hinds is wonderful, and I love Frances McDormand, though I really would have loved to see any number of British actresses in the role (Brenda Blethyn anyone?!). There's almost always a kind of tightness when an American actor (even a good one, like McDormand) takes up a fake accent [exception: the best living thespian, Meryl Streep] that restricts the performance, though in this case not enough to dampen the delight of the story.

Better yet, it inspired me to get Winifred Watson's original novel, which was a HOOT! I recommend it highly. It even inspired me to write a story in the same era. If it comes to anything, you'll be sure to hear about it here.

So, have you made resolutions? How are they going so far?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The 11th Carnival of Feminists

Drop by the 11th Carnival of Feminists and see me there as one of the revelers writing about BitchBuzz, blogging and gender! Read all the entries and leave comments so folks know they have been heard. Thanks!

Working on my syllabuses today: revising one, creating the other out of whole cloth. Now where are all those links I thought I had saved? I finished a 10K story last night, so a fleeting sense of accomplishment that will be drowned out no doubt by the complexity of figuring out the semester's schedule. Could be worse: could be snowing...

It's not, right?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Jane Quiet: 2.0

We have relaunched the story of your favourite occult investigator! Visit the new Jane Quiet site to see what's going on! New art work from Elena! The script from the original comic! And yes, a new story beginning soon!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

More Serial (No Filler)

Yes, it's Sunday night, so another chapter of The Mangrove Legacy is up. We're back to Alice and her adventures in the eerily abandoned villa where the mysterious Gilet de Sauvinage has secreted her, while Lizzie still travels with the agreeable Mr Tilney, still recovering from his gunshot wound from the duelists.

I have reached 90K words in this little story in increments of about 500 words once a week. This is the painless way to write a novel. On the plus side, well -- it was painless. In fact, it's been a great deal of fun. On the minus side, it's beginning to get too long to submit as a novel. Most historical romances (which this might be considered) seldom go beyond 70K. A few publishers take MSS up to 90K. As I haven't wrapped this up, I suppose it's going to be a bit longer than that. What to do? I hardly know.

Of course, some publishing houses won't take this because it's appeared on-line already. Some won't take it because Gothics aren't supposed to be funny. I suppose there are myriad reasons publishers won't take it (it's a rather loopy story after all). Perhaps I'll just let it unspool at its current pace and slap it together for a Lulu book with some suitably Gothic illos from some very talented artist that I know.

The web is making possible all kinds of publishing ventures; I was saying earlier today the that word of 2010 for me (and probably many other folk) is "collaboration"; I suspect it may well be the word of this century. Multiple formats is another good one; did you know you can get stories of mine through Anthology Builder, where you can put together custom collections of short stories? You can get other stories of mine over at Feedbooks. Of course, you can also purchase real live print books at Amazon, too.

Trying to be a dandelion; suggestions welcome.

Friday, January 01, 2010

BitchBuzz: Keeping Your Heart Light

Yes, in contrast with my earlier rant, here's something more uplifting (maybe I've been taken over by the spirit of Robert Mitchum), AKA my latest column from BitchBuzz. Yes, vagaries of the holiday schedules have given you a kind of "blue moon" from me (I'm mooning you?!). I tried to keep it from getting too maudlin:

It's a time of manifold anxieties: the end of the year, the end of a decade—and not just any decade, but the first of a new millennium.

For most feeling human beings, it's a time of wistfully reviewing the past and assessing successes and failures. In a year plagued by economic downturn and unemployment, there may well a great number of you who see your year as a dark column in your personal ledger.

If we look around us, the news doesn't seem to be all that good either: war, starvation, terrorism, murder, politicians. Around the world an inordinate amount of poverty and suffering lies on the shoulders of women and children. We have so polluted the planet that the very water than rains down upon us may be poisoning us in return...

But then it gets cheerier! See for yourself at BBHQ.

Happy Hogmanay, Happy New Year!