Monthly Archives: March 2011

Turning in All the Things… And commencing the job hunt. Oh, and Maze is coming!

Whew. Thesis written, formatted, bibliographied.

I am going to go over to the print shop in a few moments to print up the requisite copies of my thesis and arrange the prepaid postal shenanigans necessary to get the both copies of the thesis to both of the two thesis readers, one in San Diego and one in Maine, to physically receive and (I hope) sign off on the thesii to fulfill graduation requirements for my MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program. I didn’t expect it to take this long to go from finishing the writing of the thing to the completed artifact. It was shocking to me how much effort was required over days and weeks to try and format the bloody thing, even with a template. I had to track down all the absurd blips and drabbles of information required for a bibliography of all the things I read in graduate school, and many of the things I read did not come to me with bibliographic information attached. I get so used to having a publisher fill in all those silly gaps and layout concerns for me. And, I have a new appreciation for them. (Once again, self-publishing seems like a terrible idea because I’d have to do all the layout myself! No thanks!)

After this, I have some clerical stuff to attend to, like filling out the form that officially requests graduation from the dean of zombies, or someone… I don’t know. I have lots of forms. Some of the wedding forms are all mixed up in there, too. It’s a pile of paperwork. Lots of paperwork.

Basically, what’s left is flying to Maine to give a power-point presentation about mosaic texts, which will be more fun than anything, because power point is just the sort of silly thing I like, and blathering endlessly about stuff is something that you sort of have to convince me NOT to do.

So, I’m, like, about done. I’m so close to an MFA I almost have to do something crazy and illegal to fail at this point. Never say never, but one needs time to plan shenanigans, and I don’t really have any!

To celebrate, I drank half a bottle of red wine, left a voicemail whilst slightly tipsy on my fiance’s voicemail, and then I cooked up some celebratory artichokes in red wine and garlic, to be turned into a pasta sauce as soon as they cool enough to handle.

So, the job hunt will take up much of my attention, next. I’m more interested in teaching and freelance work than I am in moving boxes of widgets from a store to your automobile, but I do what I must to be the artiste I apparently can’t help but being. I mean, why aren’t I cranking out adventure fantasy with bright-eyed young heroes coming of age over ten long tomes of epic epicness? If I did that, I’d be bathing in cash. Seriously, and not to name names, but I’ve been to the bookshop and perused the shelves and found some positively odious things being sold there that are perfectly fine for other people to read but definitely not for me in the slightest. I simply must be an artiste with a distinctive aesthetic. I just cannot bring myself to rewrite Tolkein or Moorcock. (I would rather rewrite Vonnegut, anyway, if I was in the rewriting game. So it goes.)

Hm. Job hunting. Snipe hunting. Same thing, in this economy, I reckon.

If anyone around these parts is affiliated with a college or university in need of an author of literary fantasy to come be part of your teaching team in some capacity, let me know. For honorariums I could do a flyby lecture. For a monthly fee, I could even teach a whole class of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young writers all the way through a semester!

If one is interested in hiring a freelancer for something, for instance video game writing or editing manuscripts, do drop me a line. I know my way around in either capacity.

Other things I could do, too, but I think those are the big three: teaching, video game writing, and manuscript editing of the developmental variety.

I’m actually doing okay just writing books, so I have the luxury of being picky for at least a few months, still.

In the mean time, I’ve got these books to promote, and these books to write, and a deadline coming soon on the sequel that, (much of which, I just turned in as a thesis)! And, I’ve got a pile of books to read piling up since from when I was going to school full time and working full time and I had little time to spare to dig into the pile.

Also, I’m looking for a programmer of websites with some savvy. I’ve run into a wall in my dreamweaver capabilities on this side project (not my personal website, something game-related) and I need someone who can aid me with the technical side of a cool creative endeavor. So, if you know anybody, drop me a line.

And, I wonder if blogging will pick up around here, since I’m pretty much done with all the urgent, pressing things… Maybe. Who knows? Could there be a book review imminent of Phosphor in Dreamland by Rikki Ducornet? Could I be about to go on endlessly about the awesomeness of Spoon River Anthology and Winesburg, Ohio viewed side-by-side? Could I be about to make some lovely mead with my lovely soon-to-be-wife? Perhaps, my friends, perhaps.

Regardless, I know there will be some mention of one Jesse Bullington who sent me an interesting package the other day, whose books have been languishing far too long in my blob-like TBR pile… I should get to these sooner rather than later, I think.

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Any long silences mean…

…I’m writing stuff. Lots of stuff. So, be cool internets while I try to finish all the things.

If we are lucky and hardworking we will have time to return to the blogs and social stuff from time to time. In drips and drabs.

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CANCELATION! OH NO! Books-A-Million is an ABORT

So, there was supposed to be a signing tomorrow.

There was supposed to be a bunch of books handy and ready to sign, and etc. Alas, there was an ordering error on the part of the store and the truck that came in today whiffed the order of copies of my book, leaving them back at the warehouse.

Ordering errors happen all the time. Usually the trucks aren’t scheduled to arrive with the orders a day or two before the signing, so people have time to correct the error before the event. Alas, the truck’s arrival last night does not give us time to figure out an alternate way to fix their whiffed ordering invisibly behind the scenes.

SO ABORT BOOKS-A-MILLION! ABORT TOMORROW!

But, here’s what I’m going to do, instead.

Instead of going to Discover Mills Mall, let’s go to a nearby Barnes and Noble, where I know they have a couple copies, at least, and if anyone wants to bring something in for me to sign, I’ll be there. Anyone wants to hang out, I’ll be around.

I won’t be there in any official capacity, just hanging out at the store cafe for folks that want to get stuff signed, meet me, and stuff like that. The store’s website says they have copies of NEVER KNEW ANOTHER in stock, and I’m all for helping them sell out of that stock. I actually really like this particular store because a writer’s group I attend when time permits meets there, and the store has always been very good to the group.

I’ll be going to the Lawrenceville Barnes and Noble at 2205 Pleasant Hill Road, in Duluth GA. I’ll be there all afternoon, in the cafe. According to the Barnes and Noble website, that location does have copies in stock, and if they run out, I might have a few extra… Also, I’ve got stuff I could give away that’s pretty cool stuff. T-Shirts, for instance, from LAST DRAGON’s launch party back on ’08… Extra copies of some litmags where I’m in the magazine… Who knows what will be left by the time you get there?

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When I was writing Dogsland…

Exchanging e-mails with someone about writing process stuff has got me thinking more in-depth about it.

One of the things that I do a lot when I’m building a project in my head is writing scenes, and seeing where they are good and where they are bad. I have whole reams of computer files full of excess scenery and setting and character sketch for Dogsland. 

As much as I love me some spreadsheet world-building this isn’t the first step, really. Or, at least it’s not the only first step. It’s part and parcel of an important thing that we writers must do that’s actually really fun. Open a computer file and try out an idea. Poke and prod at it, and see if it wiggles a little or if it is limp and dead. There was this scene where workmen dug up demon bones when digging canals in early journals, and it was not useful. But, it was useful in that it gave me a sense of space, and the cost of demonology. The scene had no characters at all of note. It was just nameless, faceless workers exposed to demon bones in the poor neighborhood of a city street. This was Dogsland before Dogsland. What did I do with that scene? Well, I shelved it. Hard. But, when I was spreadsheeting out the next book I wanted to write, I popped in a note about demonology, that when people encounter the demon flesh, it makes them violently ill. 
Another sketch fleshes out some characters. It’s not in the book at all. It slips what’s good into the spreadsheet. Lather with whiskey, rinse with coffee, repeat before breakfast every day.
Different processes produce different results. I wrote all of my books and stories differently. I’ve noticed my short fiction is often just a thought or style experiment, to me. I’ve noticed that the process I use reflects that. I just write up the idea without pre-writing or worrying whether it works or not. Much of the more interesting stories I have that you’ve never heard of, fair reader, remain unpublished. (Jamcoi, Eurydice, King Basilisk’s Palace, Death Mask and Eulogy, and many, many more) They aren’t really stories in quite the same way my novels are stories in that the short stories are often written in one or two sittings very deliberately. They read that way, to me.
I guess I’m at that stage in my career where I’ve figured out one process that works, and I’m starting to think more about how process impacts results, and what I can do to change my process in small ways to stay fresh, innovative. I’m working on a story with an outline and  nothing else — no world-building or anything, just a set of story beats to meet — with the understanding that I’ll go back over it and make it good later. I want to write this whole story in a spreadsheet and html. I want to stunt write.
Also, I want to stick with the process that works. I want to journal out scenes. Turn them into a spreadsheet of notes and ideas. Wrap that into a text. Wash over the text with care and caution over and over again, until good.
Also, I want to get back to it.

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on white boards

one day, desiring a larger presence of organization in my life, I walked over to the store and bought the largest white board I could carry home with two hands.

My life spins around it, now. I list progress on projects. I list the household chores I want to accomplish, and important phone numbers and dates. It’s like outsourcing the part of my brain that keeps track of all the proverbial things and putting it up on the wall.

The biggest one you can get is what you need. List out your pending projects, and your progress on them. List out the daily to-do list. Put it all up there. Put the board next to the kitchen where you get your coffee. While the coffee is brewing you can look at it, adjust it, and plan your day.

I started doing this while I had a day job and it was an immediate and dramatic improvement to my writing life. Now that I’m just freelancing it is an indispensable tool. It’s more than just having a to-do list, because it integrates into your entire list of obligations and projects. It keeps it all out in one spot where you can easily visually digest everything.

If I had J.K. rowling money, I’d line all the walls of the house with whiteboard material, and litter all the walls with magnetic pens. Who decided that our walls were to be wooden and incapable of being writ-upon except in permanence? I don’t recall anyone asking me what kind of wall we should make everyone have. If we all had whiteboard walls, we could draw on them. Our kids could draw on them. We could leave notes for each other, and ourselves. We could make lists everywhere. We could throw our confusion onto the walls of our home, so we don’t have to carry it with us anymore, in our heads. We can unload it upon a space and review it at the appropriate times to keep the rest of our life on track.

Build me a house out of whiteboard.

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I thought I was done writing these things…

I’ve fallen down the well of a much larger story cycle. I thought I was done writing the damn things, too. I was certain I was done with them months ago.
Then, I start writing them again in January. I can’t seem to think of a short story outside of this mode. I can’t even wrap my head around an idea that doesn’t involve the women and monsters of Greek mythology.
Here’s part of one that tumbled out of my head when I was supposed to doing tedious formatting of all the things for graduate school.
If you’re a publisher of things, and you want to see more, drop me a line. I’ve got a whole collection of these things growing day by bay by day, and I thought I was done.
No, not done. 
Fuck.

[quote]

Deianira
    
Jealous woman, they say she bathed her husband’s shirt in the poisoned blood of a centaur. Maybe she poisoned him on purpose. Maybe she didn’t know it was poison. Maybe she didn’t care what it was, as long as it hurt the man that hurt her so much.
By our new house, at the edge of the city, there’s a park with a long, paved trail that cuts into the forest like a concrete river. From off the side of it there’s a strange concrete marker along a river. It’s narrow as a pipe, but square. It isn’t shaped like a tombstone, exactly. Written top to bottom, in plain block letters, is TESCOROW. I don’t know what it means, or what it’s for. My husband, Alcaeous, says it’s something to do with oil or gas companies, marking their lines for future workmen. He’s an oil man, and knows about these things. He says its nothing.
I don’t know, though. I’ve seen the plates he puts on roads and access ports. There’s nothing familiar about the TESCOROW marker. That it is by the side of the road, near a river, along the paved trail makes me wonder how workmen would ever reach this place, before the trail was laid down through the scrub grass and trees. I’ve seen bobcats on this trail, and coiled copperheads the size of bike tires. The snakes love the heat on the concrete. They crawl up from the river to rest upon the artificial stones. I’ve seen dogs off leashes running ahead, gregarious and wild. This isn’t a place of the oil and gas men. This is a place the animals hold down against the press of the city, and maybe the green trail will keep the developers from cutting down the all trees along the river.
That no one knew the meaning of the marker in the woods along the river, I loved. Let there be mystery in the world. Let there be shadows in the trees, and shambling mounds of fallen leaves that might be shamble men.
Of all the mysteries of the world, the one I like the least was where my husband went when he flew around the world to tour his pipelines and wells. He called me from hotel lobbies, never hotel rooms. He called me from airports. He rarely called me when he was alone in a room, lonely in the dark. He says he just read reports, watched TV, or slept. If he got really bored he’d go to the gym, or the bar to watch sports. He never mentioned the possibility of a woman in his room. Alcaeous was the son of oil barons, shipping magnates, and the topless fashion models that clung to the deck of their ships. Of course he was cheating on me. Why wouldn’t he be cheating on me? I had a house in the suburbs big enough to fit three or four large houses inside of it. I could take a car in to the city whenever I liked to shop at expensive stores. I could drink fine wine alone on the large balcony overlooking the woods at sunset while my husband traveled the world, touring his pipelines and refineries. This is the way things worked. Marriage was a contract, like a business arrangement. And, at least when he was home, he was only with me.
When he was home.
     I saw children on the trail, with paper sailboats leaning out over the water, placing their vessels into the gentle current, and then running along the sides to watch them go. The winner was the one whose ship went that farthest. I raced behind them a while, jogging to keep up with their boats. I wanted to see whose ship would sail the farthest. A fallen tree caught one of them in its branches. The boy whose ship that was, for a moment, thought of crawling out along the log, and releasing his boat. He came to his senses when the log shifted. It was a seamonster in the shape of a log. I saw it, and he did, too. Its branches where the heads of a small hydra. It opened one of its eyes and looked back at the boy, and at me.
     The boy screamed and ran away to his friend, and the other ship.
     I didn’t run. I stopped and stared. It had an ancient eye, and some of its branches were tentacles. It was camouflaged as a fallen tree, but it was something older than a tree.
     “Hello,” I said.
     It blinked at me.
     “Are you Tescorow?”
     It looked away from me, closed its single eye, and pulled all its branches together into a single trunk, like an alligator’s tail. It slipped under the water. The black moss along its back made it look like a chunk of river stones.
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pumelo

I ate half of one. I spent the rest of the afternoon in a haze, as if I had ingested fistfuls of orchids drenched in perfume, all this pouring out of my skin with the haze of such a thing, and the madness of it. I was dazed by it. I watched the ceiling fan, fascinated by the way it spun. I existed, with the soft, warm glow of the perfume radiating from my stomach, and my brain. 
I had never had one before. 
Angie was energized. She talked loudly, excitedly. We peeled off the skin and drenched them in liquors, hiding our infusions in the back of a cabinet to discover the wonder of the peppery oils in the skin of the flower.

With a gentle breath, like cutting open a shell, the pumelo cracked. The pith had the consistency of the paper that wraps around tea. The flesh, as if the petals of a flower had fattened up on almond oil and honey. 
Huge things, we bought the smallest in the store, amazed at the size. It was heavy, firm, and a clear golden color. 
Have you ever eaten one? Did it hit you like a drug? Angie and I were hit as if by a drug from it. We spent the afternoon in a haze, trapped in a moment we could not escape, and incapable of complex thoughts. We watched Anime. We got the munchies. It was sublime. Have you ever eaten one? Did it hit you like a drug?
Because, we can’t find anything on the internet to suggest what happened to us with our first pumelo. 
I’m addicted, now. I want more.

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Upcoming Events in Lawrenceville and North Carolina!

On March 26, I’ll be in Lawrenceville, GA, at the Books-A-Million, at 1:00 PM, to give away all the chocolate, and sign books! Come by and say hello, Lawrenceville!

[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Books+A+Million+near+Lawrenceville,+GA&aq=1&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=37.410045,86.572266&ie=UTF8&hq=Books+A+Million&hnear=Lawrenceville,+Gwinnett,+Georgia&ll=33.981913,-84.081482&spn=0.146023,0.338173&z=12&iwloc=A&cid=15616604128279146411&output=embed” width=”425″>
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I will be traveling up to Raleigh, North Carolina next month, in April, to go sign some books at Quail Ridge Books to join the BullSpec Crew, Crossed Genres, David Halperin and more at 7:00 PM-10:00 PM. I hope everyone in the area comes by for books and fine company!

Hooray for booksignings!

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Maze is coming…

(Audio Recorded at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Frogs and Quails. Mostly Frogs.)
(Art by Katja Faith and Angela Giles)

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Salon Futura, Grasping for the Wind…

People seem to be liking NEVER KNEW ANOTHER.

From John Ottinger’s Grasping for the Wind Blog:

[quote]

Richly dark, Never Knew Another by J. M. McDermott is a perfect melding of fantasy tropes with an unusual presentation, captivating prose, and fascinating characters. This entrancing dark fantasy is reminiscent of the best aspects of Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur or The City & The City by China Miéville.
The story is twofold. First there is a metanarrative. In this metanarrative, a pair of mated werewolves come across a skull in the woods. Being skilled demon-hunters, they quickly ascertain that this skull belongs to Jona, a former city guard with a demonic heritage. Through the integration of his memories into the mind of the female werewolf, the intrepid hunters then ferret out other half-human/half-demons hiding in the city limits of the place they call “Dogsland”. The metanarrative peaks into the core story at points, giving the reader background information on the whole demon situation and its horrendous effects on the lives it touches.
[/quote]
Also, here’s Cheryl Morgan from Salon futura:
[quote]
There are times when you think this may all be a metaphor for gays or some other ostracized group, but the demon children really are dangerous. Their bodily fluids are acidic and infectious; even accidental contact with them can cause people to sicken and die. When one is discovered, the contagion has to be burned out, even if that means destroying an entire city block.
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A quick response to the notion that this is not really about gays or some other ostracized group: GLBT-themes definitely inspired this book. I made them literally harmful, in part, to show how, even if there was some real danger, (which there obviously isn’t), but so some people in the world there is supposedly some boogie-man-like-danger to the gay… Well, even then, the person is a person and just a person trying to live their life, and society treating someone or some group like a monster is a short road to actually creating one.
Also, if I wrote explicitly about a GLBT character, many individuals who would probably benefit from a message of tolerance would probably misinterpret the book as “not for them”, because the book is about “teh gay”. One could hand my book to someone who is homophobic, and it would sneak past their mental defenses against such things as the proverbial gay.
Also, CHINA MOUNTAIN ZHANG by Maureen McHugh should be required reading in high school. Just throwing that out there. (Or, maybe, MISSION CHILD? Maybe both?)

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