Three Ways I Owe Stephen King My Life—and My Sanity

The King is NOT dead. In fact it is his birthday today (21st September). He’s 69 years old. No joke (crude or otherwise).

king-on-nightstand

The (night)Stand. Dead center, wedged between anger and the unseen (Anne Carson poetry): King’s On Writing, sans dust jacket.

I’m not talking about Elvis, but the master fiction-writer Stephen King. Otherwise known as He of the eternal bestsellers list. Or maybe Scary Writer Guy.

If Mr. King hasn’t been on “The Simpsons” yet, please, somebody call Matt Groening. A scenario involving Itchy and Scratchy interviewing him, and perhaps literally being slaughtered by his words.

As for me . . . If given a few minutes with Mr. King, although there is much I would like to ask (including about language choices!), I should perhaps first offer him my hearty thanks.

In thinking about King the icon on his birthday, I am drawn to how many ways I owe someone I’ve never met, and am never likely to, my gratitude. Here are just a few. A tiny token. A kind of not-yet reliquary object; the moving finger, mid-writ. A curled, disintegrating pink sheet of paper, my treasure.

Three Ways I owe Stephen King . . .

1. It’s not about me. It’s about the bottle (if not the battle). Sometime last year, I read King’s (perhaps, although I hope not) conclusive novel in the saga of Dan(ny) “Doc” Torrance, Doctor Sleep. It makes so much more sense now. I can finally write it, nonfictionally, too: I am the child of an alcoholic. Curiously, it feels good to be truthful.

2. Have you read On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft? Really, there are too many gems in this short, leanly titled book to carry away in armfuls. To write, you have to read. Dogged persistence is key. Hammer at the words until you’ve fashioned something new—accessing a big, green god of ecstasy perhaps. You will survive; he (and his brother) did, after all. (Including the farting babysitter.) This book has saved me missteps I did not even realize were steps.

3. The pink sheet of paper, you ask? Circa, oh, 1989. Rest assured, it’s in storage. Not lost. Never lost. Dragged to a bingo game for the umpteen and first time as a child, I had two choices to make, both appealing: read or write. Thanks to reading King (and not always understanding what was beyond my range to understand), I nevertheless started turning to writing. On pink bingo programs or any scrap I could find. And, lo and behold, I became better at it (at least marginally, no pun intended) the more I did it. It propelled me in ways that being a sort of invisible raggedy-child of a dysfunctional family did not. Death and suicide, I saw through the veil of prose, were a termination. Not a clean and strings-free release. I, too, persisted.

So, world, you have Stephen King to thank (or stone) for my finding my way to the present me.

Unbraiding the strands of self from the writer is difficult to impossible at this point. At least, in that, I am thinking King and I are on common ground.

Long live Stephen King, my writing hero!

 

Monday Markets: The Spiders Spinning the Moon Edition

Long time, no blog. Well, a couple weeks. An eon in interwebs years perhaps.

the-spiders-and-the-moon

Can you spot the second spider? The first certainly seems bigger than the moon.

Despite the annus miserabilis (yep, I meant that) on many fronts, there are good things about, too. Thank goodness.

I’ll do “markets” a little different this time. Once I get more sophisticated (maybe someday ponying up for the cost of a ‘real’ WordPress or other writing site), perhaps this might grow and improve and transmogrify. First:

Things to Read

Apart from your posts, which I’m still trying to catch up on after the Great Computer-Cord Fry-Up of August 2016, in which the little adapter box thing went bzzt (and my battery had no juice), here’s some notable writing (news and otherwise) you might enjoy or find helpful:

  • Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home, editor Hilary Custance Green’s very personal book about Far East POWs—with an endearing and enduring love story wrapped therein—is out now. Has been out for awhile. Do consider it for your reading list. Even better? It’s in hardback!
  • Another fellow WordPresser, Sarah Potter, just last week released her second book in a year. Wow! This one, Noah Padgett and the Dog-People, while written for the youthful crowd, approximately age 10 (up to and beyond age 100), features a boy with all the resources of Harry Potter, minus the wand. So, by his wits alone, he must survive and navigate a bracing crab of a stepmother and another dimension, called Zyx, ruled by Canis sapiens, or upright-walking, clothes-wearing, English-speaking dog-people. And with all the foibles of humans, spun into a new view, from a (nearly?) megalomaniacal poodle to a fretful golden retriever with a hidden beauty secret. Can Noah save his real dog, Bluebell, from Monsieur Percival Poodle and get out alive? Although I was a beta reader on this, I can confirm it was a quite enjoyable book. As an adult or, I would think, a dog-loving or imaginative child. Here’s where you can get it on the Kindle.
  • Take a look at a post by Diabolical Plots titled “Negotiating Short Story Contracts.” I won’t give away the keys to this kingdom, but when you sell a story, ask for a contract and actually read it. That’s one of the most basic tips for any writer. But get more insights from the diabolical personage himself, David Steffen, here.
  • If you like epic stories and the storytellers who execute them, then you’ll probably enjoy this Powell’s (bookstore) interview with Annie Proulx as much as I did.
  • And, finally, a survey of the psychologically “deep” short stories of British horror writer Robert Aickman.

 

Things to Write: Markets & Submissions

  • National Lampoon is looking for humor writers. This is a well-known, and paying market, but, I’ll presume, pretty competitive. If you submit, you absolutely must bring your funniest stuff. Otherwise, you’re schtick out of luck.
  • If you aim for the top, you’ll find Tin House, among others, sitting astride it. And, by the by, they are accepting submissions the entire month of September 2016, for several issues slated for 2017. One story or essay and up to five poems per submission. So, in September at TH: there’s an open-publication (no theme); there’s a rehab-themed issue; and then there’s a true crime issue. Many submit, but few, alas, are chosen. See more here.
  • Rejectomancer and author Aeryn Rudel has announced he will be a judge in an upcoming flash fiction contest run by Red Sun Magazine. There’s a small entry fee for submitting your fiction under 1K, and the deadline is Sept. 23. Prizing and other salient criteria are at RSM’s site here. And, if you’re a speculative fiction writer, aspiring or otherwise, you owe it to yourself to follow Rudel, whose name rightly appears persistently among the rolls of winning stories.
  • As this is a long post already and it’s almost bus-time, I’ll share one last one. Tacitus Publishing is seeking short fiction, 1500 to 5K, on the theme of shattered space. I’ll let them tell you: “[the story] takes place in space and has a strong horror element.  This can include aliens, ghosts, or disturbing circumstance[s].  The key to success, as with all strong writing, is the human struggle and relatable characters. . . . . ” Your story is due Oct. 31, and, as always, it would behoove you to know your market before submitting.

As ever, let’s go out there and  . . . get rejected! And, a la Samuel Beckett, get rejected better the next time.

 

 

 

Green Swimming, in Summer: A Poem

As they say, and now for something (not completely, but) a little different! An attempted poem; the first in a while for me. [And no, it’s not related to green pools at the recent Olympics!]

Corn long-shot

Utterly thrilling, isn’t it?

Green Swimming, in Summer

Eyelines: and when

the corn

is exactly even

with the pool’s sagging caldera,

the plastic-snap

crocodile wisps, drifts

maw gaping

and it is

as if

we could leap

into the jade organic

and skiff the silks aside,

maybe use toes to play with the tassels,

splitting the husks with our own

layered unkempts.

Here, there are no

wheelbarrow—a collective noun like

a parliament of owls or

murder of crows

No wheelbarrows either. They are shut

from sight.

But there are ducks nearby:

none white.

And closer still, neighborly chickens:

one of whom folds a neurological neck

backward

at a break-beak angle.

Damaged in the egg,

they say.

(Aren’t we all?)

He is named, but, sadly, I do not

remember.

So I christen him

Sir Yawp.

Nothing’s barbaric about him,

however.

As for me—us—the jury’s

out. Out there, somewhere.

Hiding in a star nursery.

Sir Yawp javelins pill-bugs and

snags gnats mid-air.

Corn flies, mistaken for sweat bees,

are no match for the

feathered Mr. Miyagi.

For now, all things

entomologic—

skillfully—

pushed out of human consciousness.

And out far, if you chance

to snatch a glance

at today’s

Archaeopteryx, a transitional

preening the sky

or sentinel on a wire,

a vulture strutting

to the strummed frets

of a grisly gravel feast,

stay back. Let

your mind make

the strokes

required, etchings on the facades

of the flat dust.

Let it say:

I have passed by

here and seen.

I.

Have.

Been.

####

At the end of the summer (here in the Northern hemisphere, anyway), I have been inspired by many things. One of those is poet Robert Okaji’s participation in the 30/30 Project, wherein a poet writes 30 poems in 30 days to benefit the publisher Tupelo Press. If you appreciate poetry—modern or otherwise—you might very well enjoy the fare offered in this project. Several donor incentives remain for sponsoring Bob, although the sand is getting finer. If that’s not enough, Bob links to the Tupelo site with each of his evocative daily poems; that site boasts work (much of it also as stunning, I must say) from eight other participating poets. I hope you’ll partake of some poetry today, before August (like summer 2016) pulls up roots and leaves us with . . .  leaves, of course!

And, Finally, An End

Fortunately, bad things sometimes

victory over allergies

I declare victory over allergies!

come to an end. Even allergies!

 

In my sitting-about over the last week and a half or so, I have come to some salient conclusions about life (and maybe the universe and everything). So, I’m thinking, why not share my willy sisdom silly wisdom with the world.

 

Thus, I offer you my brief-ish spin, in list form, on being under the weather, which I hope you’ll find amusing. Goodness knows, the world needs a smile or two these days.

12 Signs You’ve Entered the Allerpocalypse

  1. Even your allergic shiners have allergic shiners.
  2. Provided you can still speak, you have gone from falsetto to baritone in one day (without experiencing puberty).
  3. You have enough balled-up tissues in the trash can to fill a life-sized R2-D2 every hour. (RIP, Kenny Baker.)
  4. It is very possible you’ve watched enough cruddy television to detach twenty retinas and wipe multiple minds of intelligent thought.
  5. Your head feels both curiously full and egregiously empty. It’s as if Lizzie Borden has given your skull 40 whacks but has left the axe blade there on the last one, like you’re some 20th century Phineas Gage.
  6. Speaking of skulls . . . at this point, you are 100% willing to undergo skull trephination to let out the evil spirits (lovingly dubbed Mucodon and Sneezmodeus).
  7. At one point you’re so delusional you imagine you’re George R.R. Martin and accidentally almost kill yourself with a pen.
  8. You hallucinate that your neck has started filling with bilgey ocean water (including all the plastic crap therein) or else it’s split open and the top of your head’s fallen off.
  9. Like Logan, all you’re seeking is sanctuary. Freedom from mucus is a human right, by your reckoning!
  10. You realize tears are just fate’s way of reminding you you’re not dead yet (hope springs eternal).
  11. It’s possible, you think, that you’ve invented a new ‘holistic’ treatment modality— 21st-century cupping—wherein you drape a towel over your head while putting your face in a steaming hot cup of tea (or toddy or whatever works for you). And unlike Bill Clinton, you did inhale.
  12. All in all, the important thing dawns on you: At least it’s not a/the Trumpocalypse.

With that said and done, I hope to begin visiting and commenting on all of y’alls blawgs that I’ve been sad to miss during my involuntary absence. Keep up the creativity!🙂

 

 

Blood and Dust: Microfiction

Blood and Dust

Even sequestered in the barracks post-sortie, I’d heard whispers about the torched orphanage.

No War Image_final

Drawing by my daughter, circa 2015.

Remembering the spat platitudes—innocent casualties are inherent in war—I sneaked into the commander’s quarters.

With each thunderclap of those awful words, fingers cinched tighter.

* * * *

This was written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 (challenge #67). In this prompt challenge, you are tasked with writing a microfiction piece or poem in exactly 39 words and using the terms orphan and inherent. I don’t know if mine qualifies, as I lengthened it to orphanage, but regardless, give these other writers a read to see how they’ve spun the terms. Further details at the link if you’d like to participate, but you have to do so by Sunday evening.

Finally, if you can, please consider helping a fellow human being. In your neighborhood, in your city, on your continent, or on this planet. Here are two stories, each listing a plethora of links (some duplicated) to organizations doing work to help Syrian refugees (whose plight prompted my microfiction).

August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge

As the twelve months go, August can be a bit of a Janus. On one hand, you’re looking back to the waning summer (if you’re in the Northern hemisphere) and time spent together with children, on vacation, or out of school. Then, on the other, you’re facing forward, toward all the upcoming possibilities for enchantment, adventure, and learning that the gateway to autumn brings. Here, I am delighted to offer you notice of another chance for enlightenment and fun in the way of 30 days of #poetry by WordPress Press veteran and, if I may call him thusly, the sensei of sound and substance, Texas #poet Robert Okaji. Enjoy the challenge, sponsored by the prosodic treasure-box that is Tupelo Press! (I know I will.)

O at the Edges

image

In August I am participating in the Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge, a fundraiser for this outstanding nonprofit publisher. I have pledged to write 30 poems in 30 days, and to find sponsors to assist in this endeavor. If you have the time and inclination, please follow along and consider supporting poetry and literary publishers by making a donation. Every bit helps. To make this fun, and with hopes of enticing you, I’ve instituted a few incentives:

Name That Poem! For $10 donation, you provide a title, and I’ll write the poem during the marathon. Be imaginative. Make the title as long or as interesting as you wish – consider this a dare! But this incentive is limited to only thirty titles, and reduces by one every day of the marathon, so reserve your slot soon! Last year’s titles ranged from one word (“Stuck,” “Bent,” “Latitude,” “Katharsis”) to…

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Time Travel Limericks: Week 29 Challenge

The gauntlet is thrown! Consider yourselves challenged to write, or read, a time-travel limerick (or two, or three; be loquacious like me).

I first read about the time-travel limerick challenge on Sue Ranscht’s blog (thanks, Sue!); she re-pointed me to a blog I’ve been following for awhile (but am not always able to participate in). So, as this one was particularly inspiring, you see the results below. Do visit Rashmi’s post at Mind & Life Matters for the limerick-y shenanigans, with yours due by Friday (tomorrow!).

***

Once there was a lady from before

Whose friends thought her a bit of a bore

‘Til she found a tunnel to after—

that didn’t incite laughter—

now she turns down parties galore!

***

There once was a man from Then

whose 20-year wife always nagged “when?”

Fortieth anniversary planned to Niag’ra

(He’ll bring the Viagra).

On his wife he’d (eventually) put a grin.

***

The scientist had turned time to taffy

to stretch moments to maximum happy,

but as joys got longer

so, too, did the wronger.

Thus, she concluded the methods daffy.

 

 

Galloping, Ghoulish Microfiction

Hello, y’all. This post is two-fold (or more; I’m sure I can summon other valid reasons).

First, for those who don’t know of them and who enjoy writing micro- or flash fiction, I’d like to point you to Grammar Ghoul Press. They sponsor weekly prompts of varying microfiction lengths that usually feature a word, phrase, and/or photograph to get your creative ichor flowing (within or without, if you write horror fiction). Full disclosure: GGP were kind enough to publish a poem of mine in their magazine last year.

Second, I was really snared by their call for 39-word stories, book of dinosaursfrom last week, because of the following large photograph. I had a ride-on horse, back in the day, at home who looked very similar to this chestnut store model. So, even though I missed the fiction call and didn’t honestly want to interfere with the voting process (since concluded), I’ve decided I would still like to publish what I wrote. It is heavily influenced by one of the books I’ve been reading lately, with a doozy of a long title: The American Museum of Natural History’s Book of Dinosaurs and Other Ancient Creatures. In particular, I looked to the Equus scotti entry. This genus contains the so-called modern horse. Here’s a brief taste of more information on the North American wild horse’s disappearance and the resurgence of the horse on the continent.

And now, here’s the photograph, posted by Tony at Grammar Ghoul, for the “Shapeshifting 13” challenge #59. Be sure to participate in GGP’s new challenge running through July 3rd—challenge #60—with an entirely fresh prompt. Following this photo by an unknown artist, my brief story (which actually is different than what I had written; due to a computer glitch and end-user failure, I lost the original copy). Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

IMG_0935

Bridled and warehoused

I should be grateful for preservation, but I’m not.

I used to be alive. Now I’m lame. In darkness. Dust clots my nostrils.

When I regain corporeal form, I will lead my species in rampage. Equines will prevail again.

Flighty Friday with Photos

Howdy, folks. Back by popular demand, some more nature photos, of avians this time. And, Hugh (if you see this), the Eurasian Eagle owl, I think, is like Malfoy’s owl in the “Harry Potter” universe. Not Hedwig (a snowy owl) per se, but these are beautiful creatures, don’t you think? Laura Erickson’s “For the Birds” is a fabulous resource on the Harry Potter owls, among other avian topics.

Again, the raptors pictured here are rehabilitated (or born in ‘captivity’) birds that are used for education, with all the special permits and care required under U.S. law, by the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS) in rural Missouri. If you’re nearby or passing through there, consider visiting them or supporting a bird rescue group near you. The Erickson Web site mentioned earlier contains links to owl- and bird-related charities in the U.S. and U.K., as well as ways to help owls. WBS’ owls (as well as other critters) are viewable on their Web site, where you can adopt your favorites.

Birds are among humans’ closest extant connection to dinosaurs, a branching tree that includes ancient species such as turtles and tortoises, sturgeon, certain clam, etc. My 2 cents’ is that we can do our part to help keep that lineage going. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Taproots and Some Haiku

DSC_0280

I missed last week’s photo challenge from Hugh, depicting ‘glorious,’ so I’ll leave this great horned owl photo here. Enjoy!*

Hi, everyone. Now that May (short story month) has concluded, I’m retiring.

I kid, I kid. To your chagrin! But to be nonfacetious, I’ve been fairly creative—wedging in writing time and, perhaps even more valuable, reading time—in the interim. Amid camps and classes and appointments (oh my), I’ve found a way to make it work. Somehow. I hope you all are doing the same in your creative and life endeavors, however they may mesh.

I’ve got a story debuting (details to come) online, on approximately June 18. That is exciting, and I’ll let you know more when the publisher okays it. It might not be to your taste or, contrarily, it might be just the panacea Dr. Dystopian ordered.

Anyway, in the meanwhile, some haiku I’ve worked on. A few do contain mature language, Continue reading