Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Missing Teeth

My oldest cat, my main man, my ride or die, just had to have A BUNCH of teeth pulled. It has me in that mode. You know the one--part mama bear, part "what could I have done to prevent this?"-style self bullying. That's always a super fun place to be, no?
The good news is that, like all animals do, he's adapting to it just fine. The only thing that he requested was a regular bowl for water rather than the fancy little waterfall one that I have used for them for a long time. With the shape of his mouth changing because of the lack of teeth, he can't quite get a good angle on it like he used to, so there's that.
The academic book comes out in just a bit over two months. I don't mind saying I'm starting to freak out a little bit. I think I'm right, but there are a few things that the book insists on that fly in the face of some fairly conventional wisdom in the field. That's a super academic way of saying "what if they don't like it and they all hate me?" lol.
I was all excited to go on a bit of a road trip with my mother to visit my sister. She and her husband have just purchased a new house. I got the dates of things all screwed up, though, and so it ended up that if we had gone with the original plan, we'd only have been able to visit for two days. I told her that I loved her, but over a thousand miles one way to get in a car and then travel another nine hundred one way only to turn around and do it all over again in the other direction for two days worth of visit was not exactly time-effective. She agreed.
I mean, I know our start back to school day falls on the right day, but it sure doesn't feel like it when you look at the date. I had gone by date, hence the screw up.
The Summer semester ended. I think that's sort of the best thing I can say about it. I think I need to teach Summer every once in a while to remind myself why I never do it. I won't be making this mistake again for a while, that is for sure.
I decided to grease the wheels on the former WIP that had been struggling by starting a new one, as I said. WIP sub 1 did, in fact, come roaring back to life and I'm chipping away at it daily. I hope to have a completed rough draft before school starts back in a few weeks. WIP sub 2, the new book, is also coming along swimmingly. I'm already about 20K words in on it. So, writing is going well.
I also decided to knock on an old friend's door to see if he'd like to work on one of the books that I already had done. He's had a lot going on lately, but he sounded positive. I'm interested to see what he thinks of the book (at least, this draft of it, before we dig in together).
One of the other ones that is done got rejected. That's no big deal, really; rejection is the name of the game when you're a writer. The thing that confused me is that they basically said that they wanted me to move the book into chronological order. The problem is, the whole idea of that book is that it isn't in chronological order, that you spend the time putting the puzzle together. I get that is the reason why there have been rejections for this book up until now, but this one was confusing, I guess--they had this reputation for being an edgy publishing house.
Oh, well.
V E R Y excited for the new Tarantino film. I may even be going to see it today, depending on how my cat is doing.

I know there's a lot of talk these days about him being this or that kind of not good person, and I get it. I am in no way attempting to invalidate anyone's point of view on this. However, I don't judge an artistic work by the...whatever you want to call it...shortcomings? flaws? of the artist in question. I've talked about that before. I wonder how many people who like to boycott (or at least say they are boycotting) films or music or what have you still consume the work in private. Tell me, how many Michael Jackson songs do you have on your phone right now?
As always, thank you for the support for the books. It truly does mean a lot.
Remember that there are lots of awful things happening to people like you and me out there right now. When you can, try to send a buck or volunteer for organizations that are trying to undo the machinations of the horrific bastards that keep finding their way into power like insects in grain.
Stay safe.
See you next month.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Like a rolling Yossarian

I've always preferred the Stones to the Beatles.
I know that saying that means many of you just clicked off of this blog and will never read my again. I'm okay with that.
I bring it up because I'm just really inspired by them, lately. Life has thrown everything it can at that band and yet here they are, still on tour. I'm thinking of going to see them on the current tour. Tickets are more than a bit steep, but if there was ever a band I *would* pay this much for, it's the stones.

Do I wish Bill Wyman was still in the band? Sure. But still, all the other players that I like are still in the band. I like the other eras of the band, sure, but honestly I think Ronnie Wood's sense of humor and his funk-like timing is the perfect foil for Keith Richards. I think that the Stones really became the Stones in 1975. All the songs that I truly love are the ones that come from this incarnation of the band.
So I've been listening to them *A LOT* lately. Revisit some of the newer albums if you get a chance. A Bigger Bang rocks really well, and Blue and Lonesome is brilliant.

So there you have it. My unasked-for sermonette on the Stones.
I just finished grading the midterms for the Summer classes. It sounds insane that it's already midterm for them, but there it is. Summer is flying by. 
I'm taking some advice that I've gotten several times when it comes to the current WIP--I'm going to put it aside and start on something else that I want to write. They say that doing this will eventually grease the wheels on the first one.Whereas the first one is about a deeply disturbing love triangle, the new one will be more about chosen families and the healing that can come from outcasts finding each other. So, we'll call the first one WIP sub 1 and we'll call this new book WIP sub 2. We'll see what happens.
I got official word that the academic book will be out in October. That seems both so close and yet so far away. It's a long wait. I'll share it and links, if you happen to be interested in it, then. Then the little guy will be out in the world and we'll see what people think of him. I hope the world is kind to him.
This month I cut the cable, as people say. It's stupid to say, but it felt like winning a war (and not just because my cable company were really awful about trying shitty little hard sell tricks to get me to stay). I don't watch a lot of television, and it just struck me as utterly ridiculous that I was paying so much for the little I do watch--especially when I did the actual math on it and saw that most of what I like actually comes from just a few channels (I had no idea the CW network owned me so thoroughly...it's a little disturbing, if I'm honest).
Seriously, though?--it's Hulu not Netflix that has made it possible. Where have they been my whole life? They have everything that I want, and I feel a little stupid for it taking this long to catch on. They have every anime...like, all of them. Sure, Netflix has their problematic retranslation of Evangelion, but Hulu has Trigun. Trigun! NO ONE has Trigun. It's been really nice.
I hate to admit it, but it was also Hulu having their original series based on Catch-22 that made me finally read the novel. I wish I had a lot sooner (though, of course, that brings up the ages old question, would I have liked it as much if I was my younger self?). Yossarian and I are going through very similar things in our life right now when it comes to bureaucracy. If you haven't gotten around to either of them yet, I recommend both (though, of course, I recommend reading the novel first).
So, with hope in our hearts, we turn our eyes to July.
Thank you, as always, for the love and support you have shown the books. I appreciate it so much.
See you next month!

Friday, May 31, 2019

On Not "Making"

Almost June. Where on Earth does the time go?
I was looking forward to a summer hanging out with students talking about some great YA books. If you keep up with my Instagram, you saw the stack already, but here is what I had assigned:

Unfortunately, one of the things that happens with college classes is that there is a certain number of students that the class has to have in order to "break even" financially. If the class doesn't get that number, they say the class hasn't "made" (a very odd turn of phrase, to be honest). We're always walking that line between "low student to instructor ratio" which is what people want versus having enough students to pay to keep the lights on.
The YA Lit course didn't "make". I'll be honest, I'm bummed out about it.
Like most people on the planet, I was also bummed out about the Game of Thrones ending. There seem to be a lot of people out there doing Olympic-level contortions to justify the sudden and drastically off-base shifts in character that came about in the last few episodes, but they're wrong. This is what happens when you shift from character-based writing (Martin's) to plot-based writing (the show's writing staff). Just making plot A line up with slot B was never really Martin's point in his writing...it's why the books keep stretching out. It happened with Robert Jordan on the Wheel of Time series, too. I don't read the epic fantasy genre anymore, but I still have a warm place for it in my heart. I'm shocked that no one has already started production on Wheel of Time. I think it has the potential to be just as big as GoT.
I see that they have made a film out of Tartt's The Goldfinch. As you may remember, I have some pretty mixed feelings about that book, but the film looks good. Like the book or not, she is one of the 4 major "Literary" voices we have in American fiction right now.
When it comes to the current WIP rough draft and also the shopping of the two current books I have out there looking for a home, I'm still "grinding." There are a lot of presses that are overwhelmed and have closed to submissions. I get it, but that's a bad situation--the big presses openly don't want anyone's book unless there's an agent attached, and now the small presses are closed up because of how many people have come to them. I can see this turning into a bigger and bigger log jam. Frustrating time to be a writer.
As you know if you're following me over on Goodreads, the book I won't shut up about right now is Elizabeth Kolbert's  The Sixth Extinction

I'm not kidding, folks, GET THIS BOOK. Her style, her voice, her pacing...I'm jealous I didn't write this book (he said, knowing full well he'd never do something like go camping in the Amazon to get research for a chapter). It's the book I eventually decided on for my students to replace Carr's (which I talked about last month). I hope they like it as much as I did.
I was going to recommend a new band I just found called Barrie. Their debut album,

"Happy to Be Here" is really fantastic. However, a few days ago, they announced that they were breaking up into several smaller bands. That seems bizarre to me, but this one record is really lovely summery jangly dream pop that I *do* recommend, even if the band no longer exists.
So, what I'll recommend instead is another brand new album by Hayden Thorpe  called "diviner"

Not at all breezy and summery, but instead darkly quiet and intense. It reminds me a lot of the direction that Bowie was headed in his last days. It's kind of forming the new soundtrack to the current WIP rough draft.
Remember that small presses are out there when you're getting your Summer reading. Stop by some and grab something. Even picking up just one novel from a small press can help not only them, but keeps them afloat so other writers can get their work out there.
Thanks again for all the support, and we'll see you next month (when I should have some major news regarding the academic book!). 


Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Long Knives

...and so March turns to April and then May...and so it goes...
This past month has been interesting. I took the LGBTQ suspense book back and worked on it and now I'm shopping it around. There was a nibble from the recent #DVpit event and a few other places, so fingers crossed. There's a very promising nibble for the urban fantasy book from a company that I very much would like to be associated with. I am, in the modern parlance of the kids, grinding. It'd be nice to have an agent to do all this work for me, but then these days I'm not exactly filled with trust that others have my best interest at heart.
I wish I had better news about the current book. See, the problem is that, when I started it, I had a very clear vision of the path it could take, then, before the rough draft was even done, I saw a very big flaw at the center of it. Fixing that flaw was relatively easy, but once that was done, the vision of the book shifted so drastically that...well...and now the path for the book is unclear, as well. I know other authors who have talked about just abandoning a 40k word book or two along the way, but after losing everything from the hard drive back in '11, I'm not in a hurry to just walk away from any project.
No matter how often it happens, I'm always so surprised by the drastically shifting moods of students in a class. Last semester, I introduced Carr's book for the first time. The students wouldn't be quiet about it. They were interested and dialed in and debating each other about it. This semester, though? Same book, same instructor, same curriculum, but the students not only hate the book, their quiz scores over it are terrible, so they aren't reading it. Class periods where we talk about this book are mostly just me asking questions and them staring off into space wishing they weren't there. Night and day. Frustrating. I'm thinking about switching it up, but finding a new book is also a pain.
It looks like one of my summer classes will have enough students to not be cancelled out from under me, though, so that'll be good. Things could be worse than to spend 8 weeks talking about YA books with a group of dialed in students.
One of the books I chose was a blind selection. I hadn't read it first, I just went off of the recommendations and the number of awards it won. It's The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The book is phenomenal. Even more so because it's a novel told in the poems of the narrator. That's a genre I'm not a huge fan of, to be honest. This one knocks it out of the park, though. I highly recommend it.
Bret Easton Ellis has a new one out.

As soon as I finish Blackfish City I'll jump into it. Already, though, the critics have come out of the woodwork, long knives sharpened. I don't know that I could ever achieve that same level of fame/notoriety, but I think maybe it's a blessing to not have it. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have a book come out and before they'd even read it, people were already writing terrible reviews.
I was thinking about this last night when I watched "The Darkest Minds." I was waiting for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to come on and I found myself actually somewhat engaged by the narrative. Then I went online to find out more about the film, as you do. The critics were fairly savage. That's no surprise--when the source material is YA, this is fairly common. However, a lot of the reviews just kept repeating that they didn't like the film because it did all the things you predicted it would do. That's really terrible to me...to know people can attack a work simply because it does what they expected it to. Surprise is the main component on which we judge a work? What would you say if someone saw the Pietà and said, "nope, I've seen someone lying on someone else's lap before"? Look, I'm not saying "The Darkest Minds" was a masterpiece, and I don't know if Ellis' new novel is any good, but I am saying that I think maybe our culture of critique/comment has gotten more than a little ridiculous. More than a little, really.
Even as I say that, though, it'd be nice to have more people give a review to some of my books. I say that because that's how people make the decision about books when they are shopping online. I love the world of small press publishing, but there are difficulties associated with it (as there are with any form of publishing). Discovery is one of the main ones: how can you get your book in front of people to make it a possibility that they might buy it?
I've been listening to the remix album they made as part of the David Bowie box set project:

I love the idea that someone came in and took some of Bowie's least liked tracks ever from those mid to late 80s albums and made them into something this good. This new version of "Tumble and Twirl" in particular is really something. "Don't Look Down" is a standout, as well. If you're in the market for something new and don't mind remixes, have a listen.
Alright, so that's all from me this month. Fingers crossed for me that these books will find a home, eh? As always, thank you for your support of the books! See you next month. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Second Chances

This past week and a half I had thought I was suffering through allergies, but now that I'm on the tail end of it, it's very clear I had a sinus infection or something along those lines. This is one of the main problems of having grown up poor (and, though not in the South, having Southern parents)--the only time we feel justified in going to the doctor is when some part of our body is about to fall off. Why would I waste the doctor's time with something as silly as allergies? the brain asks. Cut to me hacking and wheezing in class just to get through a lecture on Kerouac. I *think* I'm finally on the winning side of it, though. The infection, not the near-crippling ideology, that is.
Star Trek has meant the world to me my whole life. The ideology, yes, but also the costumes and everything in between. As I've discussed before, when it was apparent that the Viacom split had taken Star Trek from Paramount (where it was almost all but dead, to be honest) and put it in the hands of CBS (who were chomping at the bit to create new Star Trek to get that revenue stream flowing to their all-but-dead company), I was thrilled. Then we were delivered Star Trek: Discovery. It didn't start out great, but then no Star Trek series ever has...except for the Original Series. There is the famous joke about how The Next Generation doesn't get good until Riker grows in his beard (which is true). Cut to the 2000s and poor Enterprise was only just starting to really find its footing when it was cancelled. All of that is by way of saying that I keep saying to myself "Discovery is only two seasons old, you can't really judge it yet." But I do have to say that what astonishes me is this: great set design, great costuming, a cast that is full of heavy hitters...and the show can't seem to become more than the sum of its parts. I'm ignoring all the thumbing of the nose back and forth between fans and the creative staff, mind you. I'm just looking at the episodes that we have seen. The show just can't seem to make me care about the characters or the situations. But I do put a hearty "yet" on that. As I said, no Star Trek has ever been good in its first two seasons.
I'm thinking about all of this because I secretly would love to be in that writer's room. Hello, Hollywood? Yes, I'm a forty-five year old English professor and I would like to be your newest Writer's Assistant (a job people normally get while they're finishing up college). smh.
Midterm grading was lengthy, as usual, but it went off without a hitch. Once more, we swing around into the bottom half of the semester. I wonder if I'll ever get to the point that it doesn't feel like an event, anymore.

 Insane to think that we're just about five weeks from the end of semester and graduation.
No real updates on the writing front. I took the book that was supposed to be next up in the queue over at Lethe back. I'm doing some work on it, and then I'll shop it around again. The academic book has been edited and returned so it's still on target for release late this year. I can't wait for you guys to see it. The urban fantasy novel is still being shopped around (I'm hopeful on that front--there was a nibble during the recent #pitmad event, so we'll see if they'd like to have a look at the whole manuscript).
The book I was reading in the last entry turned out to be not very good. That's a shame really; the older I get, though, the more I find I don't finish books. So, I decided to pull back out a SF novel that I read almost 8 years ago and didn't like to see if I like it better now.

Oddly enough, I do. It's unusual enough to mention because I *never* give a book a second chance.
So that's March, it seems...it was a month of second chances...revisiting old things and seeing what they're like in their new forms, I guess.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Waiting Redux

I think one of the most frustrating things in the world is to have to wait for other people's schedules. It's a part of all of our daily experiences no matter what we do for a living or what social circle we live in. Still, there is a part of me that is always chomping at the bit, as they say. I sympathize with Prince. Remember that one part of his big breakup with Warner Brothers back in the day was that they wanted him to slow down producing music and he wanted to release albums as soon as he finished them...which was quickly. There were a lot of other things going on, but that was one part of the break up and I get it. Publishing is like this. I want so much for you guys to read the things I've already got done. I can't wait to see your reactions to them. And I get it--publishers are inundated with stuff constantly, and the schedule of get the book to an editor, get the book back from an editor, get the book to the author, then give the book one more onceover...that takes real time. Waiting for publishing schedules is hard. Harder still is waiting for acceptance or rejection.  I totally understand that. But, as the man once said, "The waiting is the hardest part..."

The current novel is still floundering its way forward. 46k words or so. I'm so tempted to tie it off and try to make it a novella, but that would be a mistake--that's not what it wants to be, just what my laziness wants to make it. Meanwhile the ideas for a sequel to the urban fantasy novel are coming fast. I need to get this one finished, though, before I start that one because that one is going to be a lot of fun. If I try to get them going simultaneously, I'm fear the current one will go by the wayside. 

The academic book is moving forward swiftly. I was a bit shocked when they said that I had to index it myself, to be honest, but I understand their point. They said "no one is going to care about getting that index perfect like you, the author, will." They're right. Still, that's going to take time. My hope is that they can get it back to me before Spring break so I can use that down time to do the indexing. I'm still waiting on their okay to share the cover with you. You're going to love it, I swear.

I'm the director of the literary conference this year. I have a colleague who has ties to the Women's Fiction Writers Association, and so I asked her to help me find some authors from their ranks to invite. So far I've got two, Jill Hannah Anderson, and Joy Ross Davis. I think they're going to really hit it off with the young writers. Still searching for a poet or two, though. Maybe a nonfiction person. Putting these together whenever I get to be the director is the high point of my year.

We just finished up our big festival of humanities this last week. An old friend, Dr. Holly Wendt, came in to present. It was so fantastic to see her. Speaking of chomping at the bit, she's getting into the finishing stages on what we all call "her pirate novel" that I cannot wait to read. She was a fantastic mentor, and she's an incredible writer. You're going to know her name before too long.

It's the time of year when the Intro to Gender Studies class starts talking about Kate Bornstein's book, Gender Outlaw.

I've gushed and gushed about that book so much that you already know all about it, but I just love it. I'm never going to stop. I was also able to show them some of Alex Bertie's wonderful and brave videos about his transition. If there was any way we could afford long-distance travel from England, I'd love to have him come talk about writing about his experiences in his book, Trans Mission.

I find myself watching way too much TV these days. Still on the fence about Star Trek: Discovery. So many good things, but at the same time, so many things that need to be cleaned up. SyFy's Deadly Class, though, is an absolute treat (and feeds my near-obsession with actor Liam James). Netflix's The Umbrella Academy is every bit as good as the hype is telling you (and feeds my near-obsession with actor Robert Sheehan).

A whole bunch of books have gone on the DNF pile between the last one I reviewed on Goodreads and now, including one that I was so excited to read. How do you make a novel about a possible hidden romance between Melville and Hawthorne uninteresting? No shade intended, I was just flabbergasted. Currently cruising through Julie Kagawa's Shadow of the Fox,
A little girl who is half Kitsune? I. Am. All. In.

As always, thank you so much for the support. Can you believe that ten years in, people are still discovering Stealing Ganymede for the first time? That makes me really happy. Take care of yourselves out there, and we'll see you back here at the end of March.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Misunderstanding of intention

Winter is trying to stay mild, but these waves of storms keep coming through. It almost makes me prefer the regular kind of winter where the cold just sets in and stays consistent. I'm sure those of you who had to live through -50 degree F weather would agree on some level. Here, we're battered by wind.
I decided not to wait and got up this morning to power through filing taxes. It's nice to at least have that chore done.
The folks over at University Press of Mississippi are doing an amazing job with the academic book. They revealed the cover to me just a few weeks back and it's stellar. I'm over the moon with it. I can't wait to share it with you.
The semester has started and is going smoothly so far. Or, at least, as smoothly as it can. Enrollment is down and there hasn't been any talk of raises for years but at least the shutdown didn't involve us.
I would talk about my feelings about politics right now, but if I wrote about it here, I'm pretty sure what I have to say would, at the very least, get me on a watch list (he said, as if he wasn't already on at least three). All I can say is this--if you're LGBTQ (especially if you are Trans) in America right now, just hang in there. I suspect that this level of nonsense cannot keep up much longer without a reaction in the opposite direction. 
The current book is creeping along. It's not that I don't like it. It's not that at all. I'm just starting to think that this is part of my process--this middle part where things kind of creep along.
I'm still trying to find a home for the urban fantasy book, so it's out there making the rounds.
One of the things I've seen lately online is people vehemently rejecting the idea that there can be any advice for writers. I'm surprised by the bitterness of it, to be honest. There are twitter rampages about rejecting the idea of "plotters" and "pantsers." There are tirades calling the idea of "kill your darlings" ridiculous. If you're out there, you've seen them. I wonder if that's not how we are going to come to think of this particular era of literature--now that we've rejected all the rules of narrative and structure, the next step of postmodernism is to completely reject the idea that anyone can give any advice to anyone else. I think what disturbs me most is that this backlash against advice, no matter how time-tested and true it might be, seems to come from a place of anger. It's as if people believe that these ideas were being passed down as a kind of attack rather than as a type of help. And isn't that the online community in a nutshell these days...a complete and willful misunderstanding of intention. Don't get me wrong, as a writer I get the feeling of "just leave me along and let me do what I do." However, every time someone has passed down a bit of advice, no matter how corny it might be, it has helped. In his genius book, On Writing, Stephen King defines a "bad" writer as one who is unwilling to work on their craft. Just by virtue of working on your craft, King says that you aren't a bad writer but instead at least a competent one. I like that a lot. I can't help but think that part of this backlash against advice is a kind of excuse to not have to put in the work of improving. That's just what I think, anyway.
As always, thank you for your support of the books. It truly means the world to me.
Until next time, stay warm, and stay safe.