So, a couple of years ago I wrote my first piece of realistic fiction in a long, long time. Had to flex some muscles other than genre. The first line--"You already know how this will end."--had stuck in my head for a while before I committed to writing the story. "Submitting the Abyss" is recursive and oh-so experimental for me (2nd PPOV, present tense). Three first-readers pretty much told me, among other things, that it would end up dicey if it ever garnered acceptance. A handful of literary rags' form and personal rejections later, and I found the perfect niche market in ThunderDome Press
's Bloody Knuckles
Writing the story gave me a break from genre--I wrote a Southern crime/Dixie mafia piece on the heels of that one--and helped me put novel concerns at the time on loop and whatnot.
There are some good pieces in the TOC, sprinkled with some poetry and nonfiction, too.
If you give it a buy, give it a review.
Nine stories comprise the latest collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, by Laird Barron. His brand of cosmic horror depends largely on several media and movement and mythos, the least of which are Lovecraftian and '70's horror/crimesploitation/grindhouse and noir. The best of the bunch manage to combine all of the above. The least of the bunch, though, still stand on their own as worthies in this collection.
If you've read Barron's The Croning, then you're already familiar with his Old Leech mythos, and perhaps TBTTAUA would situate nicely beside your having read the novel. If you haven't read the novel but end up reading the collection, I suppose the reverse could hold true. Largely, Barron manages to populate his stories with broken characters--I'd even hazard to call them "beautiful losers" of the sort Bob Seger and Stephen King might appreciate and write about themselves--who, if they are male are of the rough-and-tumble sort. The kind who'd just as soon whip your ass as look at you straight. Proactive sorts who do nothing--NOTHING--but hasten their own demise. That's not a spoiler, mind. If you know anything about cosmic horror, you already know where I'm coming from, don't you? If you're new to that territory, then it's *still* not a spoiler. It's a warning. You're going to read train wrecks, son. Inexorable. Ineffable from your brainpain. There will be blood and hair and spit and teeth and viscera. However, if you're also looking for some protagonists of the female persuasion, then "The Redfield Girls" (creepy sisterhood of the traveling educators lake story) and "The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven" (lesbian werewolves, yo, and not nearly as sensational as it might sound) are holy-amazeballs short stories.
But to get you to inhabit even briefly the life of his characters, Barro has this knack for pulling you into their world. I come at his work first for the atmosphere. He is nothing if not a writer of place, and geography *is* madness, of a sort, in these tales of cosmic horror. It's tentacular stuff, I tell you. And I hasten to add that he has this knack for using dreams in Act 1 or Act 2 to lay the groundwork for the waking nightmares of the Act 3 mindfuggery he unleashes on the protags to somehow codify to entire story's logic.
It's kind of hard to go into great detail on short stories without spoiling them outright, and I think there tends to be more margin for what works/doesn't with individual pieces in a TOC as opposed to the four-course meals novels offer, but I digress. The dark horse story--the one I thought "meh" but ended up "frak yeah!" on--is "Hand of Glory." It shows greater brushstrokes of the aforementioned noir and could've been a late 60's horror script trying hard to grow into 70's clothes. Trust me.
As I'm a sucker for hunting stories, "Blackwood's Baby" and "The Men from Porlock" didn't disappoint. The first was more deal-with-the-Devil meets Hemingway on acid. The latter . . . I had to set it aside a few times to decompress from the suspense.
Only "The Siphon" and "Jaws of Saturn" (the lone original piece published in the TOC) didn't win me over or sneak up on me the way the other stories did, but, in the immortal words of Primus: The Can't All Be Zingers. Neither of them were clunkers, either. That said, as cinematic overall as his prose stylings, Barron ever gives me an impression of movies conjuring in my headspace. And I could see both stories as Carpenter-esque films. Maybe early to mid-nineties. Or better yet, the aughties in the case of "The Siphon." But that's just me.
And that's another thing to bear in mind if you're new coming to Barron's writing. The man knows just how close to edge to pull you into a scene. You know there's a Big Reveal(tm). There won't be a single cheap parlor trick. He is no charlatan of the written word; Barron will misdirect with a sound or a character's stray thought. He pulls away before the protags can summon the courage to look, but he's already tricked the imagination into gear. It's the good stuff, Maynard.
Now, the real odd ducks are "More Dark," a meta-commentary on horror and the horror scene with plenty of wink-winks and nudge-nudges to writers and editors in the field but that I could only appreciate from a distance. What I did get tickled hell outta me (see what I did there?).
But the outlier of the bunch stands in "Vastation," a kind of diary-of-a-madman meets quantum horror. Yes, quantum horror. "Hand of Glory" = 1. "Vastation" = 2. Then the rest of the stories.
This collection was worth the money I plunked down and the time I spent reading it. While I haven't read his other collections (yet), I've read The Croning and The Light Is the Darkness and short work here and there. The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All fires on all cylinders.
So, year in review brag roll (but not). This year has been a most interesting one in terms of writing. I logged more poetry than usual. Only a few short stories. The rest below...
Up front: For each acceptance or advance forward with the writing career, I'd say I averaged four rejections of some sort or another. Not necessarily on par with a two-steps-forward-three-steps-back analogy, but it's relative to the frequency with which I *didn't* submit in 2013. In fact, '13 will go down (har!) as a year that saw me submitting *less* by brunt of how much work I poured into novel-ing.
Here goes in no particular order . . .
* poems published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature
* submitted more poetry than prose
* a realistic short fiction piece, "Submitting the Abyss," accepted for an MMA fighting anthology called Bloody Knuckles
* saw "The Jisei of Mark VIII" reprinted in Clarkesworld: Year 3
* fantasy short story, "Rhyme in Seven Parts," accepted for an issue of Kaleidotrope
* three poems recently accepted for publication in Avatar Review
* publication of the mini-collection, Old Souls and the Grammar of Their Wanderings, through Papaveria Press
* micro-fiction piece accepted for a Yolanda relief anthology
* pulled together a collection of short stories
* dusted off V3 of Footpaths of Small Town Gods
* finished zero draft of Untitled Southern Arthurian novel
* joined the stable of authors represented by Kris O'Higgins at Scribe Agency
There are too many people to thank lest I omit someone/s, so this is just to say that you know who you are, and I am grateful for your friendship, encouragement, and support. Especially thankful to editors open-minded about my work and readers whose eyeballs are on the page/screen and an agent who totally gets me and my work.
Been too long, but the holidays have me catching up on sleep/rest and family time along with reading and writing time. So, I finally began reading As I Lay Dying and am steadily re-admiring Faulkner's use of rolling POV's. After that, I've got Absalom, Abasalom! on deck and am awaiting some light/fun fare in John Ringo's Under a Graveyard Sky.
Although the writing is up and down as I tool around on the novels and short stories and poetry, I'm still *writing*. And it's been nice the people who've supported the dropping of Old Souls and the Grammar of Their Wanderings. While I'm waiting for suggested revisions/edits from my agent re: the Southern Arthuriana novel, the building of the character-centric playlists began in earnest a few days ago. Fun stuff for getting my head and heart back in those gears. Still got some decisions to make on major cuts and major re-introductions of issues/characters in Footpaths of Small Town Gods, the other Fogle County novel, but that's what the darling-killing is for anyhow.
The short story, "Let Baser Things Devise," swings back in an earlier direction in terms of its being a love story, but now between the uplifted chimp protag and . . . a robot. Just go with it.
From the lurking I've been doing on LJ lately, things seem quieter as the halls of this social media site grow thinner, but virtually everyone here I follow on FB anyhow although every now and then I find some gems of information or reviews of X, Y, or Z here.
Hope your Thanksgiving was anywhere between okay to better than average.
There, that much is done!
Been too long in these quiet halls of LiveJournal.
Have some news to share: August 27, the mini-collection, Old Souls and the Grammar of Their Wanderings
, goes live from Papaveria Press
. You'll get two poems, a short story, and a novelette with this paperback.
And Southern Arthuriana at its . . . well, I don't know about finest, but you certainly can decide.
Fatboy gotta eat!
The writing recently has planed off in good ways, but the challenges remain.
The Short Story Collection: The TOC of Down These Secret Paths
stands tighter with a more reasonable flow for the stories, at least as group-things.
Untitled Southern Arthuriana Novel: Pretty much have the act-to-act plot holes nailed down. Not nearly as much to add as I thought going through the zero-draft, but much of that's still open, too. Just so many jigsaw pieces that will fit, but they still have some factory burrs on 'em.Footpaths of Small Town Gods
: Oh, this one gets some heretofore unseen mo' Lovecraftian treatment. Also, domestic drama of this sort for the protagonist: You're not a bastard, but your dad sure is. Yeah, that. (ETA: wendigomountain
, Yes, indeedy-do, Feeling will find out his dad's identity, and it makes another throughline/subplot make more sense.) A major chunk of that novel's Act 3 material becomes Act 1 stuffery of a cosmically horrific sort. Sorry, FoSTG Act 2, you get *nothing* for the time being.
I thought back to an old post where bogwitch64
was curious about my writing process for the Southern Arthuriana novel. Now that zero-draft is done (and that's so loose a term it's pathetic: done for a rough-rough draft), it's time for sifting through legal pads and files. See, I'm a marginalia type guy. Got notes for the notes for the notes. Probably would've made a great monk except for that whole celibacy thing, but that's another issue entirely. Or non-issue. GET IT?!
Anyhow, I write in chunks. This novel came in bouts of threes--three acts and three sections per act (yes, there's some funky numerology at work, just go with it). While I didn't avoid the muddle in the middle per se, that damage spread out among the three acts. However, I'm a firm believer in happy accidents and trusting my gut when I write; anytime I have *ever* gone with my red flags or hunches, it's paid off ("The Girl in the Green Sequined Dress" and both Model Mark robots stories come immediately to mind). Here, though, whatever infodumping might have wound up in the novel comes in the form of interstitial bits: news clippings, obits, letters, even episodic chapters from the POV of a POV character who shapeshifts into a crow. In each act, there are around three to four addenda that need filling in to the bubbles left behind in the narrative. I can't even say entire chapters at this point because there come little scenes, too, what require attention. Tidbits and such. In fact, based on how I set up a horse named Tater in the final chapters of Act 1 along with Tater's ghost in the rest of the book--there are a good many ghosts in this story and two of them being critters--it's a matter of going back and writing a smallish scene with a very young version of the protag and the horse.
In my mind's eye, it's always been a question of "Where's this act ending? What's it setting up?" And then writing to those points. Definitely helped me with characters' motivations through and through.
What's it all really mean?
Lots of grunt work, still. I sat down last week and identified those aforementioned bubbles. In many respects, with the damage done to them--and I put them through the mill--what's on deck seems like so much pouring salt in their physical and psychic wounds. Even spiritual. But them's the breaks, folks (and characters). What's already in the text and needs excising? It's not concerning me much because, in many respects, leaving those narrative bubbles in play allow latitude; never once did I feel I'd written myself into a corner, but during the climactic chapters, I had to be quite careful.
So, just a bit about process is all.
- Mood:surly, actually
Zero-draft done, this 17th day of February, 2013. Maybe in the loosest since, there's a novel there. A family saga. A contemporary retelling of part and parcel of Arthurian legend.
It is a hot mess with a double-handful of bubbles to fill, but the throughlines are there. The narrative arcs set up in the first chapters wrapped.
Now comes the merging of the acts into the master file and the filthy-dirty-naughty revisions.
But for now, I'm going to rest a bit.
- Mood:wiped out
- Music:"The Ecstasy of Gold"