Friday, January 6, 2017

Stringing words together

I can make myself write fiction even when nothing particular is sparking, and sometimes things start to flow just because I've taken the time to show up and accept the words in their imperfection. The same isn't true of poetry. When I try to force the issue, I'm invariably unhappy with the result. It's a good idea to hang onto those poems anyway; sometimes a line is worth keeping, or the title gets used for something better. But for me, poems need to grow organically, in a way fiction drafts don't.

I was thinking about that today because the title of a poem leaped into my mind. (Usually I get either the title, or the first line. Sometimes, rarely, both at once.) The title that showed up was "Blood and Chocolate." Not sure yet what it will become. It may take a day or two, or a year, for the rest to make itself known. I'm learning to be okay with that.

But as I gathered up clothes for a load of laundry, I found myself wondering why it was so clearly "Blood and Chocolate," and not "Chocolate and Blood." For the record, I think either would make a good poem, but the latter is not my poem title. I'm not sure why.

That's one of the things I find interesting about writing in general, and poetry in particular. Some things, some sentences or rhythms or combinations of words are just right. And some are just wrong, even if they're grammatically correct. It's a leap of faith, getting from correct to right.

Maybe this is why some people tend to sneer at 'workmanlike' prose or verse. It gets the job done, but avoids taking risks. It conveys the message, but doesn't reach beyond the surface elements of the poem or story.

At least with poetry, there's a tradition of making odd juxtapositions of images, which is a lot of the fun of writing poems. Sometimes I don't take enough risks, because I don't want to create poetry that excludes readers. One of my goals, usually, is to make something that any person can pick up and enjoy at some level, even if some of what I'm doing eludes them. I don't see much value in artistic snobbery; there is beauty in a tumble of stones even before you realize it's the wall of an ancient ruin, decaying in the sun.

Maybe there's no real mystery here. Maybe "Blood and Chocolate" is inevitable, a tidal wash of words beginning on one beach and running to a different stretch of sand. But I can't explain it, not entirely, and I'm not sure it would be wise to try.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Current reading, and 2016 favorites

I just started reading Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism. One of my goals for the future is to read more deeply in politics and philosophy, and her book was recommended by several people. Written shortly after the end of World War II, it focuses on twentieth century totalitarian regimes, particularly Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

In the introduction, Arendt writes, No doubt, the fact that totalitarian government, its open criminality notwithstanding, rests on mass support is very disquieting. It is therefore hardly surprising that scholars as well as statesmen often refuse to recognize it, the former by believing in the magic of propaganda and brainwashing, the latter by simply denying it . . . She goes on to add, However, the point of the matter is that this [knowledge of massacres and abuses] did not in the least weaken the general support of the Hitler regime. It is quite obvious that mass support for totalitarianism comes neither from ignorance nor from brainwashing. (Arendt, vii)

One of the history books I read last year, Martin Kitchener's Speer, challenges Albert Speer's whitewashed account of his years as Hitler's architect and accomplice. Kitchener skewers the apologetics of other historians, and their willingness to accept the way Speer glossed over his role in the Nazi regime. In an age where fake news and post-truth politics seem to be the order of the day, Kitchener's book was a powerful reminder to me of the need to dig deeper and not take any public figure's story at face value.

I'm off to read some more, but I also wanted to mention some of my favorite books of 2016, which I've broken down between fiction and nonfiction. I was . . . not very diligent about posting reviews on Goodreads this past year, but I'm hoping to do a better job going forward.

Ivory Vikings, Nancy Marie Brown
The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks, trs.
Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear, Margee Kerr
The Witches: Salem 1692, Stacy Schiff
Maximum City, Suketu Mehta
Where Nobody Knows Your Name, John Feinstein
The Confidence Game, Maria Konnikova
Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better, Pema Chodron
Stamped from the Beginning, Ibrim X. Kendi
It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History, Jennifer Wright
Grit, Angela Duckworth

Emissary, Melissa McShane
The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, N. K. Jemisin
Broken Harbor, Tana French
Nevernight, Jay Kristoff
The Peripheral, William Gibson
The Raven Boys and subsequent volumes, Maggie Stiefvater
The Tyrant’s Law, Daniel Abraham
Worlds of Ink and Shadow, Lena Coakley
What Is Not Yours, Is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi
A Darker Shade of Magic, V. E. Schwab
The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu
The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, Jeffery Ford
Etched in Bone, Anne Bishop
A Green and Ancient Light, Frederic Durbin

Thursday, December 29, 2016

End of year wrap-up, Part deux

I know I already posted my publications for 2016, but then three more came out in the past week, SO . . .

"Last Call at the Hypothetical Tavern" in Liminality #10


"Fimbulheart" in Helios Quarterly, Volume 1 Issue 2


"Across a Storm-Dark Sky" in The Pedestal #79.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 Publications

“Between Dog and Wolf” (poem) in Star*Line 39.1, Winter 2016

“Fox Children” (poem) in Dreams & Nightmares #104, September 2016

“God’s Bones” (short story) in Not One of Us #56

Apocalypse Reunion” (poem) in Eye to the Telescope 

Death and Taxes” (poem) in Topology 

Love, and the Merciless Sea” (poem) in Mythic Delirium 2.3  

Saint Nothing” (poem) in Through the Gate 

Automaton” (poem) in Liquid Imagination 

The Book of Forgetting” (poem) in Uncanny 

Fallen to Witches” (poem) in Mithila Review 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Guest Blog: A Nontraditional Foodie Christmas

Please welcome Diamante Lavendar, my guest blogger for the Giftmas Blog Tour!

Food during the holidays. Hmmm. What do I write about?

Well, the holidays have been sort of a rough time for me for a while. And this year, they got rougher. I lost two children before Thanksgiving: one in 1990 and one this year. Food? Well, I can't help to think about the meal we ate after each funeral.

Food has a way of lending some comfort to pain. In 1990 my food choices were different. Now, I think the most comforting thing I've eaten since my daughter passed was a hash brown casserole. Comfort food. You know, the warm kind the settles in your belly and whispers to your blood, “You can calm down. Everything's okay for the moment.” I realize this may seem macabre, but honestly, the holidays aren't all glitter and glamour for some of us. So….if you're one of the many who is hurting this holiday season, try this casserole on for size:

1 pkg. Hash browns
1 green pepper
½ c. mushrooms
1 onion
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
6 eggs, scrambled ( I leave these out because I'm a vegetarian)
3 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the green pepper, onion and mushrooms. Fry with the hashbrowns in 3 T. olive oil. (You may add more if you need to, to prevent veggies from sticking to your pan). In a separate pan, scramble your eggs. When the veggies are cooked and browned, put the eggs on top and cover with the shredded cheddar cheese. Allow the cheese to melt completely. Salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe is easy and quick. It's perfect comfort food that is still healthy. And it helps to ease the pain of the holidays for those of us who are suffering. I know it's not traditional Christmas fare, but when it comes to tough situations, that really doesn't matter. What matters is it tastes good and takes little to no time to make.

In remembrance of those who are needful this season, please consider contributing to the food bank below. Giving to others always makes the world a better place. Merry Christmas. Please make it a good one.

To help out the Edmonton Food Bank, follow this link.

Diamante Lavendar has been in love with reading since she was a child. She spent many hours listening to her mother read to her when she was young. As she grew older, she enjoyed reading novels of all genres: horror, fantasy and some romance to name a few.
She began writing in college and published some poetry in anthologies over the years. After her kids were older, she wrote as a form of self expression and decided she wanted to share her stories with others.
Most of her writing is very personal and stems from her own experiences and those of her family and friends. She writes to encourage hope and possibility to those who read her stories.
Diamante believes that everyone should try to leave their own positive mark in the world, to make it a better place for all. Writing is the way that she is attempting to leave her mark—one story at a time.
You can find Diamante's blog here.
Her book Breaking the Silence can be found at Amazon. Her chapbook Poetry and Ponderings will be published soon. There's more information here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Blog tour--I'm away today!

Over at Beth Cato's blog, I've told about one of my favorite memories of Christmases past. You can read all about it here.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Attention everyone!

Join us for the 2016 Giftmas Blog Tour! We're raising money for the Edmonton Food Bank, and there's a chance for you to win a prize, too.