Monday, June 25, 2012

Gone to Croatan -- er, Wordpress

Everything K. A Laity-like can be found now over at the website, I won't be deleting this site; not everything transferred (apparently some of the 5000+ comments gathered over 8 years had problems). But everything can now be found in one easy-to-negotiate place -- without the clever but obscure name. Trying to be more transparent: make it easy to be found.

Change your book marks please! The new era has begun: and doesn't it look good (mostly thanks to S. L. Johnson, I must say). If I've missed things that ought to be on the website, be sure to let me know.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Con-Eire

Thanks, Linda Parsons.
The blog has moved: this is the last post that will be here apart from a housekeeping kind of post tomorrow. Everything's been moved over to the website for your ease and comfort. We'll play over there from now on.

It's Six Sentence Sunday again: they're going to be wrapping things up come January. It's a lot of work to coordinate something that keeps growing in leaps and bounds. I'm grateful for the new readers it brought me.

This week I offer a few sentences from my play Con-Eire which gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the workings of a spec fic convention. Having helped with quite a few of them, I have seen the enormous effort that goes into running them and the often capricious behaviour of 'big names' who have forgotten the fact that the people who run these are not paid and work only for the love of the stories, art, programmes and films that they love.

We catch up with the various members of the Con Com after news that their guest of honour, Very Famous Writer, has threatened to pull out because he discovered that the artist GoH is Very Famous Artist, with whom he has "history" as they say. But the complications multiply: we had a staged reading of this at Trinoc*coN which was a hoot, if I do say so myself. It was helped mightily by a very game cast and a whole lot of giggles.

Well, everything’s very hush hush—which is to say, nobody is too sure—but Minor Writer claimed that Very Famous Artist may be delving into her past for the next romance.
I feel like we need a scorecard.
Artists have to be free!
They always say that, but none of them gets anything done unless somebody else is taking care of the bills.
Well, that’s all I know: Someone from the past...
If you think you might like it, you can pick it up as an ebook at Amazon:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Gig: History Witch

Out of the ivory tower and into the streets!

Or at least the blogosphere. I'm proud to unveil my latest gig, which sprang directly from the interest generated by Rook Chant: I am now the History Witch for the Witches & Pagans site. I'll be bringing the fascinating but often rather challenging information from my studies to an appreciative audience with varying kinds of knowledge and interests.

Witches & Pagans coalesces a variety of publications and readerships, reaching a wide and diverse audience across the world, so I have a potential audience of tens of thousands. Something to put me on my mettle for sure. I expect to have some lively conversations. I join fellow bloggers like my pal Byron Ballard.

I have spoken for some years now about the need to communicate the importance of scholarship in an increasingly (or perhaps returning) anti-intellectual climate, especially in the United States. Many great minds engaged in fascinating pursuits share their discoveries with a too small audience. Many American universities discourage this kind of work and frown on those who engage in it. Colleagues can be dismissive. But it's key to promoting the message that education is not a business. It's a dedication to improving your mind and thinking critically. Most of all, it's important.

In Britain, it's still possible to be considered quite interesting for having a lively intellectual curiosity. The new president of Ireland is a poet. In Italy it's possible to appear in the Paris Review and the bestseller list at the same time. Though all regions have their anti-intellectual forces, it's become particularly virulent in the States because of corporate-funded propaganda like the Murdoch empire.

So this is me stepping out in my own small way, hoping to encourage other folks to do the same and show that academics are not "snobs" or irrelevant, but deeply engaged in understanding the world in which we live from many different angles.

I begin with a little piece about Anglo-Saxon magic. Drop by and say hello.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

FREE for International Short Story Day

Yes, the longest day of the year is devoted to the shortest of stories. Happy summer solstice -- how are you spending the longest day of the year? I'm sharing some of my short stories that are available on the net for your reading pleasure, which ought to keep you busy a while:

“Homework.” Flash fiction. Necon E-Books. June 2012. Honourable mention, May Flash Contest.
“Twitter Wedding.” Poem. Asinine Poetry (Summer 2012).
“Just Waiting.” Short story. Near to the Knuckle, 5 June 2012.
“On seeking a place for a picnic.” Poem. Short Humour, 22 May 2012.
“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.
“Yuletide Feast.” Short story. Short-Story.Me: 21 Jan 2012.
“Mandrake Anthrax.” Short story. A Twist of Noir, 14 Dec 2011.
“A Charming Situation.” Short story. Written for the Sherlocking fan site: Scribd (Nov 2010).
“Touched by an Angel.” Short story. Kalkion (Jun 2010).
 “Wixey.” Flash fiction. Wild Violet 8.1 (2009).
“Fluorescence.” Short story. The Harrow (Jul 1008).
“Palakainen.” Short story. New World Finn 7.2 (Apr-Jun 2007): 4-6. Reprinted: Mythic Passages (Feb 2009).
“Sinikka Journeys North.” The Beltane Papers 25 (2001): 14-19. Reprinted: Mythic Passages (Feb/Mar 2004). Collected in Unikirja.

 ~and the one that started everything off
“Revelation.” The Official Clive Barker Page, Winner, MGM/United Artists/Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions Short Story Contest, November 1995.


☼ The big news is the cover art for UNQUIET DREAMS, my forthcoming story collection from Tirgearr Publishing. I love the spooky gal in the hennin and the magpie OF COURSE! Judging by the reaction when I posted it on Facebook, folks dig it. I am quite bowled over by Mike (FREAKIN'!) Mignola saying, "Wow - great cover!" I tell you, Kem is floating on air with that praise. And the always generous Steve Bissette has given me a sweet pull quote (thanks!):

“Kate Laity’s Unquiet Dreams  is the long, deep plunge in the coldest quarry in the woods; the lingering look under the rotting wood at all the writhing life there; the stare into the abyss until one realizes something is staring back.”

☼ The lovely Maura trundled me out on a little jaunt to Kinvarra, Yeats' Tower and Coole Park, which was simply glorious. You can see the pictures beginning here. It was a magical day! Fitting as I took "unquiet dreams" from Yeats, I owed him a visit.

☼ A new poem up at the Short Humour Site: "Kingsley Amis in the Afterlife" -- be sure to check out Chloë's poems, too!

☼ My post "How to Write More" over at A Knife and A Quill seems to have hit a nerve, and I have an hilarious interview with Mr B where we do our best Morecambe and Wiseing. I have another writing gig to announce soon, the direct effect of ROOK CHANT. I don't want to jinx it, but everything's coming up Milhouse lately: I hope it lasts.

☼ I'm planning to migrate the blog over to the website, where you may notice I've been tinkering with the layout and the look. It would be advantageous to have everything in one place, though it's a bit of a wrench to shift from here where I've been for EIGHT years. I experimented by migrating the serial over to Kit's page and all seems well, though of course there are about ten times as many posts here. Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Rook Chant

All right, it's Sunday again -- and Father's Day! Happy Father's Day all -- so here's my six. A little change of pace: not fiction, but non-fiction. A little taste from my latest publication, Rook Chant, which offers a compendium of essays, translations and reviews on one of my favourite topics: magic. I write about it from many different angles, often bringing fairly obscure things to a general audience. My way of saying, "look at this cool stuff I found!"

Here's my six from a presentation I gave at the Harry Potter Symposium in Salem, MA. What a fun event that was! Charles de Lint and MaryAnn Harris were there (and singing!) and many other luminaries. My presentation tried to give the basics of Anglo-Saxon magic to an audience that included all ages. This  will give you a taste of the charms:

By the time these charms are being written down, England is a mostly Germanic-speaking land with a healthy population of Celtic folks, fighting off Vikings and often one another. The one constant was magic. The charms of Anglo-Saxon England  consisted of words, herbs and actions. The Anglo-Saxons believed that words had a magic of their own especially when spoken aloud, but that the application of the right herbs would help the healing processes along, too. Sometimes other actions were required to create the right atmosphere or to move bad luck along to someone else. Used in conjunction the result was simply magic.

I've already got a lovely review and several requests for review copies. I also will be announcing another exciting piece of news soon that's a direct result of Rook Chant. It just goes to show, the real magic is making your dreams manifest. Audaces fortuna iuvat!

Check out the other Six Sentence Sunday entries and find yourself a few new authors!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review: Dotter of her Father's Eyes

I've talked about this book so much, I assumed I had already reviewed it somewhere, but no. Bloomsday seems the right day to do so at last. I considered spending Bloomsday in Dublin -- being in Ireland after all -- but when I thought about the six hours I'd have to spend traveling back and forth, I thought Galway's the perfect place to spend the day writing. I will go on my own wander about town later.

Mary and Bryan Talbot's Dotter of her Father's Eyes offers the very finest graphic storytelling: a compelling and complex narrative that relies on the magic interplay of words and pictures. It's a book full of visual delights: the design shows such attention to detail, from the end papers to the three intertwining narratives rendered in different but complementary styles. If you've read other works by Bryan, that's precisely what you've come to expect.

I was going to say I hadn't been familiar with Mary's writing before this, but of course it turns out I had, as she's written quite a lot on gender, language and consumer culture. I just hadn't connected the Talbot names! This is Mary's story of her childhood, of remembering her childhood and how she's sees it through the prism of Lucia Joyce's life because her father, James Atherton, was a prominent Joycean.

Lucia's life is a heartbreaking one; there are parallels between their lives -- headstrong daughters butting heads with their famous (and equally willful) fathers. But the contrasts are perhaps more important and show why Talbot achieves success and happiness while Lucia ends so tragically. Part of the difference is time: women's lives have improved despite the continuing madness of retrograde morons. Part too is due to finding a true partner: the book itself shows the beauty of that relationship, but the story brings it to life. Ultimately, the power of creation -- and the horrifying effects of having that human need crushed -- offers the most powerful beacon.

Exquisite art: there's such beauty here, but the most harrowing images seared my brain: Robin's birth and Lucia's "dance" in the sanatorium. It's an incredibly moving story with a lot of sorrow, but ultimately reaffirming. You'll treasure it.

Buy it by clicking the picture below. Visit Mary's site and Bryan's too.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Drabble: Goin' to the Chapel

Patti Abbott has made another challenge to her pals: a drabble -- a story of exactly one hundred words --  inspired by one of three pictures. Succinct, yeah? Here's mine.

"Goin' to the chapel..."

The parson looked nervous. Bart smiled to reassure him, then nudged him along with the Berretta. Now it was his wedding day, he didn't want to wait.

"Dearly beloved..." he paused.

"What now?"

"We need witnesses." The man swallowed.

Bart shook his head. "God is my witness. Ain't that right, Bonnie?"

The parson went on, his voice shaking. "Do you--"

"Bartholomew Jenkins Evans."

"Take this woman--"

"Bonnie Louise Ormond." He gave her a squeeze.

Happiest day: a few more words, "You may kiss the bride."

He lifted her limp head by the bruised neck. Bliss.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Out Now: Rook Chant

Few things make a writer happier than a gorgeous book cover and this one's a beaut, thanks to the ever talented Queen of Everything, S. L. Johnson. You may recognise the image from a photo I took: how rare for a writer to have a hand in the book cover! Rook Chant brings together a wide variety of publications that have appeared in various places.  I've had people asking me to send them pieces that are no longer available or available only in academic journals or otherwise hard to obtain. Everything from Anglo-Saxon witches to Alan Moore, Finnish magic and charms.

Blurb: Collected Writings on Paganism & Witchcraft by award winning author, K. A. Laity. This collection represents a wide range of pieces touching on the breadth of her interests in paganism and witchcraft. It includes everything from short pieces for pagan/spirituality journals like The Seeker Journal, The Beltane Papers, Circle and New Witch, papers delivered at academic conferences or published in academic journals as well as a few reviews and translations of old magical texts.

"Laity is a very remarkable sorceress indeed."
          ~ Elizabeth Hand, author of Waking the Moon

"ROOK CHANT is a delicious in-gathering, a magpie's nest of shiny new things about subjects old, gnarled and powerful. Sit with it, relish it and be bound likewise into a breathing tradition that puts Potter et al to shame. It is a charm well-sung and a talisman."
          ~ H. Byron Ballard, Asheville's Village Witch and author of Staubs and Ditchwater: a Friendly and Useful Introduction to Hillfolks' Hoodoo

Buy it on Amazon -- and of course any help you can give on getting the word out, clicking "like" on Amazon or agreeing with the tags, would be most appreciated. The biggest hurdle writers face these days is to be heard in the cacophony. Thanks! Click the picture for Amazon US:

Or get it at Amazon UK, Amazon De, Amazon Fr, or Amazon It (anyone I missed?).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked A/V: Down with Love

I always want this to be a better movie than it is. A loving tribute to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films of the 50s but with the latitude of a modern film. Down with Love *should* work, yet it doesn't quite. Nonetheless, it's a fun frothy little romp and for once, Renée Zellweger doesn't annoy too much as her squinty cherubi doll-like face fits the hyper hip fashions and the bouncy feel of it. Ewan MacGregor plays the Lothario part note perfect and with great glee. Sarah Paulson does great as Vikki Hiller, the would be tough editor who can't quite stand up to the old men and really just wants to get married, and of course, the always delightful David Hyde Pierce shows why he should be inundated with roles in the Tony Randall vein. So funny! And yes, terrific to have Randall show up in a cameo, too.

The costumes, the sets -- all perfect. Peyton Reed's direction for the most part maintains that light touch needed for the story, but the script churns to a halt when switching gears. Like a lot of nostalgia production these days, it tries to have it both ways: reveling in the old times and the hilarity of women's lives sucking (-_-) but also 'updating' for a modern audience. And it's the latter part that doesn't quite work. In the end the script is not clever enough to overcome that challenge. It's a difficult thing to do, but I can't help wishing they'd worked harder to do so.

But it has ample charms and it would make a great double feature with Pillow Talk, so give it a whirl. And then drop by Todd's to see other recommendations.


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Fairy Child

The Fairy Child

by Lord Dunsany

From the low white walls and the church's steeple,
From our little fields under grass or grain,
I'm gone away to the fairy people.
I shall not come to the town again.
You may see a girl with my face and tresses,
You may see one come to my mother's door
Who may speak my words and may wear my dresses,
She will not be I, for I come no more.
I am gone, gone far with the fairies roaming.
You may ask of me where the herons are
In the open marsh where the snipe are homing,
Or when no moon lights nor a single star,
On stormy nights when the streams are foaming
And a hint may come of my haunts afar,
With the reeds my floor and my roof the gloaming,
But I come no more into Ballynar.
Ask Father Ryan to read no verses
To call me back, for I am this day
From blessings far, and beyond curses.
No heaven shines where we ride away.
At speed unthought of in all your stables,
With the gods of old and the sons of Finn,
With the queens that reigned in olden fables
And kings that won what a sword can win.
You may hear us streaming above your gables
On nights as still as a planet's spin;
But never stir from your chairs and tables
To call my name. I shall come not in.
For I am gone to the fairy people,
Make the most of that other child
Who prays with you by the village steeple.
I am gone away to the woods and wild.
I am gone away to the open spaces,
And wither riding no man may tell;
But I shall look upon all your faces
No more in Heaven or Earth or Hell.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Just Waiting

Happy birthday, QoE! :-)

Another Sunday rolls around, another chance to sample new writers from a wee snippet of prose. Here's my six and yes it is inspired by a Fall song, so just deal with that, all right. Not everything comes from the words of Mark E. Smith: this week I wrote a story based on a song by one of the Rat Pack, just for a change of pace. The whole of this story is up at Near to the Knuckle, so if you like it you can read the whole thing and not just this snippet. They found just the right picture for this story, too -- love it!

He was just waiting, standing in the park, staring up at the window he knew so well and waiting–for what?  A light, her face, a sign from the heavens? Everybody’s waiting for something: chips and pie, pie in the sky, a windfall from their uncle dying, a lottery win, fame and fortune and oh, honey, if you just put your head out the window and saw me standing here, you would know I’m the one.

But she never looked even though he stood here too many nights and someone was bound to report him as a perv or potential kiddie fiddler, but her presence drew him here like a junkie to his fix. He just needed a sign.

“Well, what have we got here?”

If you want more, head over to Near to the Knuckle and check out the many fine stories they have there. Enjoy your Sunday, hope it's relaxing.

Drop by Six Sentence Sunday.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Unquiet Dreams & other things

I am so happy to announce that I just signed a contract with Tirgearr Publishing for a collection of short fiction to be called Unquiet Dreams. Stories old and new will be gathered up in this dark bouquet. I'm so excited! Some of these stories have not been available for a long time and people are always asking me about them, so I finally stirred myself to put together what I had. Wow, it's quite a lot! The title comes from Yeats' poem "The Stolen Child" so it's fitting that this comes about in Ireland and with an Irish publisher.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

So this is me whispering in your ears with my unsettling stories, little trouts. More news as we get further along in the process.

I have also agreed to edit an anthology for the brand-spanking-new press Fox Spirit Books called Weird Noir. Here's the skinny on it:

On the gritty backstreets of a crumbling city, tough dames and dangerous men trade barbs, witticisms and a few gunshots. But there's a new twist where urban decay meets the eldritch borders of another world: WEIRD NOIR. Featuring thugs who sprout claws and fangs, gangsters with tentacles and the occasional succubus siren. The ambience is pure noir but the characters aren't just your average molls and mugs—the vamps might just be vamps. It's Patricia Highsmith meets Shirley Jackson or Dashiell Hammett filtered through H. P. Lovecraft. Mad, bad and truly dangerous to know, but irresistible all the same.

This will be fun; it will be coming out later this year. I should also have a story in their anthology Tales of the Nun and Dragon (assuming I get it done soon!). Isn't that cover the best?!

Last but far from least and hot off the presses, it's "My Twitter Wedding" over at Asinine Poetry. If you weren't so interested in this week's other publication, my gritty little crime story "Just Waiting" this might be more to your taste. Pure silliness dedicated to my sweetie. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Writer Wednesday: News

The pressing news is that ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol. 1 can be obtained for FREE today and tomorrow. This slamming collection offers jam-packed thrills from me, Mr B, editor Matt Hilton, Absolutely Kate, Col Bury, Richard Godwin, Graham Smith, David Barber and many many more. Highly recommended! Not just because I'm in it (though I'm quite fond of "Chickens" which gave me a chance to revisit Los Angeles) but because it's a lot old school non-stop action. As Crimesquad said in its review:

"This book should not be purchased by asthmatics or heavy smokers as it leaves a fit person breathless with excitement."

I had a wonderful trip with the lovely Maura and we both managed to write a lot between enjoying ourselves immensely. A proper write up tomorrow but I have oodles to catch up on with emails and whatnot, so you can get a sneak peak at some of the photos here, beginning with a lovely one out the window of Maura's folks' house.

It's always nice to return home to another new publication. My short "Just Waiting" (yes, it is named after a Fall song >_<) appears over at Near to the Knuckle. Drop by and give it a read, comment and feel free to share -- let me know what you think.

Over at A Knife & A Quill I am Staff Member of the Month :-) Luca gave me a great write up. I have some new reviews going up this week. Unlike some big name reviewers, we don't sneer at writers because of assumptions about genres (and don't get me started on the superannuated NYTimes and their growing idiocy).

Busy busy. Maura and I managed to get a good amount of writing done after attending 2D, so it wasn't all idling on the beach. More to report soon -- get a sneak peak over at the new publisher Fox Spirit!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Biscuits

A little treat for this round of Six Sentence Sunday, the weekly banquet of words to help you sample new writers or savour old favourites. Here's the beginning of my postcard-sized story "Biscuits" which you can read in its entirety over at Postcard Fiction.

"You should have been nicer to me," Carlotta said as she stood over me with the tire iron.

"I see that now." I tried to get up, but my leg kept making that crunching sound. "It's not too late. I could mend my ways."

A feeble attempt; one she wasn't buying.

"I'm taking the cash..."

You can also read it over at Short Humour, which has another little bon mot from moi especially for British people in hot weather and anyone with an interest in geography. Enjoy! And be sure to check out the other Sunday Six folks.

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.