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Thursday, September 30, 2010

A trailer for my dear sweet book

video

I would like to note that in the book, the estate is not beautiful. How's that for defying convention!

You can also catch this video at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Opclwm7Gio











Today is also the day of my prize drawing on authorsatthevirtualpark.blogspot.com -- did you enter in time? 


Tune in tomorrow for a great interview with writer Dixon Rice!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One of My Favorite Stories Ever Is Now Available, and Real-Life Rhinos

I'm so excited, everyone! Probably the most fun story I ever wrote is now available for purchase in a great 'zine from Australia! That's right, the epic "Rhinoceros Dreams" is now out there for public consumption!

Follow this link to Issue 4 (September 2010) for a sample of two of the stories in the issue (one is "Rhinoceros Dreams") and to purchase: This Mutant Life. Yet again, they've saved the best for last. A direct link to the preview is at the left of this page, in my publications page.

This Mutant Life is a great little 'zine, dedicated to the promotion of stories the editor really believes in. People who like comics might especially appreciate its offerings.

"Rhinoceros Dreams" came to me out of nowhere. I was sitting at a table, possibly waiting for something, and feeling the bridge of my nose, when the first line appeared, fully formed. The rest of the story flowed naturally from there. It's the story of a woman who feels she has nothing in common with anyone, alone to the core. The only thing connecting her to the real world is her overwhelming love of rhinoceroses. When she finds someone with an equally enormous obsession, she's found the most contentment she possibly can in this world. Or is there something more?

I had several versions of the ending. I wasn't sure whether Allie should obtain and keep her heart's desire. Would she be willing to give up on love of a man for this bigger love? Did she have responsibilities in the world of humans? Was she meant to follow this path, or was she just a silly girl? It wasn't easy to decide. Let me know if you think I made the right choice.

Writing the story led me down the path of true appreciation for rhinoceroses. Who can deny the grandeur, the mystical presence of modern-day unicorns, rhinoceroses?

Poachers can. Unconscious, completely unable to empathize, people invade rhinoceros territory in Africa, India, Sumatra and Java every day, using increasingly sophisticated technology, to kill beautiful creatures indiscriminately for their horns. They kill pregnant cows and they kill mothers, leaving their children to die a slow and sorrowful death.

The slaughter is absolutely senseless because of the ways in which the horns are used.

A highly desired traditional ingredient in Asian medicine, the horn is usually ground into powder. However, looking at it from a perspective of logic and reason, we see that rhino horns are made of keratin. Keratin can be obtained in many other ways without killing any creatures. Keratin also lacks any known medicinal value. It's just hair or fingernails! Why would anyone want to ingest this material? Please, people, stop the demand, devalue the supply. Poachers understand money. Take it away, and stop the senseless killing.

As for ornamental use, the horn loses all of its natural beauty when it is removed from the animal.

Current numbers:

Javan Rhinoceroses: 40 or fewer left in the world

Sumatran: 400

Indian: 2,400

Black: 4,000

White: 17,500

The white rhinoceros is threatened, all the others are critically endangered.

I missed world rhinoceros day on September 21st. Until next year, please go to STOP RHINO POACHING NOW to see if you can help. (Warning: contains graphic images of the results of rhino poaching.) And enjoy "Rhinoceros Dreams"!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Here's What I Need to Continue Posting

1. One of my forthcoming publications to show up. September, yes, but when in September? October, perhaps.

2. One of the writers who promised me an interview to get back to me. If you're a writer, please contact me. I'd love to feature you here.

3. More hours in the day. I need to pack up, figure out what to do about the house, find a job, and write. It doesn't leave much blog time.

So you see, I don't ask for that much. Just three little things. I'll post again when one of those conditions is met. Take care until then.

And meanwhile, don't forget to check out authorsatthevirtualpark.blogspot.com (they've saved the best for last! I'm at the very bottom!) and a coupe of books that are sure to bring you hours of joy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Origin of Slippers

"Slippers," a charming microfiction piece published by Sillymess this summer (see bottom of page for a direct link), is a new piece I came up with as a result of losing my slippers whenever I try to navigate the stairs in our house. No matter how high the back on them, how tight the toe, slippers always slip right off my feet, and then it becomes a big production -- do you keep going and retrieve the lost footwear later? Do you pick them up now? Or is there a nice man behind you to hand them back to you? How complicated is life!

My toes are flexible enough that if there were a handlebar inside the slipper, they could grab on and carry the slipper up the stairs along with the feet. If you carry this out logically, you realize that each handlebar would have to be specially fitted, etc. But as an on-the-fly solution, it was very pleasing.

In the story, the female is a woman with flexible toes who doesn't realize she's in the wrong relationship. I know it's the wrong relationship for her because the male character doesn't know how flexible her toes really are. Also, he takes everything way too seriously. In his seriousness, he fails to realize the potential behind silly ideas. Tsk, tsk. That idea made the piece a perfect fit for something called Sillymess.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rejection, Rejection

Two days ago I received a form rejection note for something I refer to as "Job Fair" (again with the title problems...) from a place I was sure was perfect for it. It seems every time I think I've found my genre, and a magazine that publishes it, I get kicked out of the club.

"Job Fair" is a flash fiction, under 500 words. In one impactful scene, it evokes the frustration, misery, heartache and worry caused by the economic climate and, in a more personal way, my overly prolonged job search. (I actually gave up for a while, focusing instead on getting pieces published.) So, it's a piece about rejection, that's being rejected over and over again. Just a little too a propos.

I have a special relationship with "Job Fair" because it's the first creative writing that hit me like a bolt from above since about the year 2002. (Those literature PhD degrees really take the creative time and energy out of a person.) I remember buzzing with it for a few days, to the bemusement of my now-husband, who'd never seen anything like my creative process before.

I wrote it in April of 2009, inspired by the job search I had been unsuccessfully carrying on for more than two years at the time. I'd had some nibbles, but I still haven't reeled anything in, even now during my renewed efforts. I felt that the topic would be irresistibly current for any lit mag and began sending "Job Fair" out immediately. So far, they've resisted.

It's hard not to identify with one's stories. It's hard not to see this double rejection (jobs, and a story about the job search) as a double rejection of any contribution I might be able to make to the working world and of my darling children, my writings.

But we must carry on. Just as I have to find a job in order to survive on the physical plane, so too must I keep the faith about my sweet little story if I'm to continue as a "Famous Writer." I've already sent "Job Fair" somewhere else. Go, little story, go! Try for all you're worth!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Calcium-Rich

I wrote the first paragraph of what is now known as "Calcium-Rich," published in Short, Fast and Deadly on July 4 of this year (see bottom of page for a direct link), in about 1996. I was writing my undergraduate honors thesis, but extraneous ideas kept coming. It was probably influenced by what my mother was telling me about the members of my extended family during our weekly phone calls. I personally had never been interested in health issues, but the constant talk of vitamins and supplements and older women having to watch and never fall created a strange place in my creative mind. I wrote the first paragraph and a little more, thinking to someday create a complex, multilayered story with this extraordinary character.

It was not to be. Much more recently, as I was mining my oldest creations to jump-start my always-meant-to-be career as a famous writer, I decided that the character could be the centerpiece of a fairy tale world. The narrator would be a member of a mining colony (like in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) in an enchanted forest. She would live with many other miners and they would have their own subculture going, rivalry with other mining colonies, etc. Then this character with her chalky habits arrives, needing a place to stay while she starts her new job in the mine.

That's where the second paragraph comes from. Robert is one of the other miners, a shaper of our little culture, influential in all our affairs. His opinion of this new arrival would create most of the tension in the developing plot.

Then I found the magnificent Short, Fast and Deadly and finally realized that, like other writers I've admired, I could create a piece of microfiction! In spite of whatever evidence this blog may provide to the contrary, I've been known for terseness and admire its virtues. I first sent a new piece in, and it was rejected. No plot, etc. Completely understandable. I trimmed "Chalk" even further, gave it a new name, and sent it in with high hopes. Which were realized later that day! I just love a fast turnaround time, whether it's for rejections or (preferably) acceptances. I think the story has a lot of impact in this short format.

Some writers feel that, once conceived, literary characters survive in some kind of limbo until their stories are told (see Six Characters in Search of an Author, for example). I hope my little mining colony isn't suffering because I cut them off so quickly. If you are a writer, I invite you to finish their story and put them out of their limbo misery. (Just give me some kind of idea credit, if you would be so kind.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Love and Madrid

Today is the first anniversary of the day I married the love of my life! I'll use the occasion to talk about something that happened more than a year before that, in August 2008, to really consolidate our relationship.

I had never seen Manolo García live, but the summer of 2008, I planned to go to a concert. It was the tour accompanying his last release, Saldremos a la lluvia. In order to afford the airfare, I had to save money for months ahead of time and justify the expense. I had only moved in with the man who would be my husband one month prior, and the mere fact that he accepted and encouraged this trip impressed me hugely. It was only for the weekend, and the cost was something like a hundred dollars per hour that I would be on Spanish soil, but he alone understood that this was to be the culmination of a life's dream for me. He couldn't come with me only because we had just spent so much money moving him from Idaho to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

My visits to Spain have never focused on Madrid. It was a mere stopover on the way back to the States, or on to other, more quintessentially Spanish regions.

I made my way quickly from the airport to the main train station, having honed my navigation skills on previous trips. I waited in line for an hour to buy my ticket to Ciudad Real, the concert venue. Then, instead of stopping to eat, I called my significant other from a bank of phones, because I knew he would want to know I was safe and on my way.

I learned immediately upon hanging up that it doesn’t do to get so comfortable in the biggest train station in Spain that you drop your guard, even for a second. When I turned away from the phone bank, back to my suitcase, my purse was not where I had left it. I stood, astounded, and a fellow traveler started making signs as if to ask whether he could use the phone now.

“Creo que me robaron” (I think I was robbed), I said, unable to believe it.

“Que te han robado?” (You’ve been robbed?), he replied in surprise. He kindly led me to the security guards, starting a very long afternoon for me. It happened to be Friday, and a holiday, so I had to search the neighborhood for a police station that was open in order to report the theft. With the purse, I had lost American and European cash, credit cards, the train ticket I’d just purchased, a digital camera, and, most importantly, my passport and all my other forms of ID. At the police station, I learned that you cannot have money sent to Spain from the United States without a proper ID.

By the time I had made my declaration, the time for the train for Ciudad Real had come and gone. I had still not eaten, and I had hotel reservations in Ciudad Real, but no way to get there. I had Spanish friends, but they were all outside Madrid and I hadn’t brought their phone numbers with me, since it had been planned as such a short trip. It was looking as though I would have to sleep in the train station and beg for crumbs until the American Embassy opened on Monday so I could replace my passport. I have never been so stranded and without resources.

I refused to give up, and eventually, the police called social services. Two pleasant young Spaniards -- fans of Manolo García, no less -- came to deposit me in a halfway house, where I could sleep in a shared room, take public showers, and eat terrible food, all at no charge. Grateful as I was, all I could do was wait and try not to think of all my ruined plans.

Each time I had come to Madrid previously, it had struck me as a hulking modern behemoth: overwhelming, busy, and not open to being enjoyed. This was in spite of my programmed tours of the typical tourist destinations. This time, without a Euro cent to my name, I couldn’t spend money on goods or attractions, and so I would have expected to enjoy Madrid even less than before. But, without the distractions of timetables and costs, I could focus instead on learning the streets on foot. I took advantage of churches with free admission for something to do, and since I couldn’t even take pictures, I found myself becoming much more present and receptive, observing and experiencing the life around me. I fell in love with Madrid through the purity of those three days. 

Landscape by Manolo García. My name is visible in the inscription!
In the halfway house, I got to watch a Star Wars marathon dubbed in Spanish because of a ten o'clock curfew. I got to watch parades and festivities in honor of the holiday from the balcony. I got to observe all manner of people passing through the residence, and I helped some of them by interpreting between them and the staff. Perhaps most importantly, I got to read a gift from my significant other, The Power of Now. Without that book's sane perspective, I would have had a completely different experience. I only got to speak with him on the phone twice, for about three minutes at a time, as I milked the last minutes out of the calling card I'd bought from the States. What was really important? I was safe and I had my future husband's love and support, albeit from afar. More than any other experience, this confluence of events taught me to accept things as they are. Wishing they were different would only have made me miserable, since there was nothing else I could do to change the situation.

Monday rolled around, and with my new passport, I had money sent, and was able to stay in the Madrid hotel I had reserved from home before leaving for the States, as planned, on Tuesday. Iberia upgraded me to first class at no charge, as if they somehow knew I hadn't been able to live my dream and wanted to compensate. I still haven't seen Manolo García in concert. But there are worse things than being stranded and penniless in Madrid. I wrote Manolo a letter and he responded with a beautiful watercolor and a personal note (what a great guy!). 

The following year, not much less than one year ago today, I returned to Madrid with my new husband on our honeymoon. We spent a couple of enchanted days in the capital of Spain, and I was able to show him around all the better for the crazy experience the previous year. Such a glorious time, with the man I love most in the place I still love above all others. 

Now, we're more or less stranded in Pennsylvania. All my writing and creativity, and all his hard work, aren't keeping us out of the poorhouse. But, better hungry in Pennsylvania with him, than in Spain with all the money in the world without him. I love you, wonderful man! Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Unicorn in Medieval Spain

It's rhino week here at Famous Writer! 


In 1283, when he lay ailing in Sevilla, his last loyal city, Alfonso X el Sabio had his writers and artists compile the last great book of his reign. Gathering information from the best sources, the Book of Chess is the definitive work on the subject for its time. Like other books commissioned by Alfonso, this one also adds new material. In a new game called "Grant Açedrex" new strange and wondrous pieces in the shapes of animals are introduced and described. Can you guess what the Unicorn piece really represented?



E ell Vnicornio es bestia muy grant & muy fuerte. & ha dos cuernos ell vno en la fruente & ell otro en la nariz. & el dela nariz es mas luengo que el dela fruente. & ha tan grand ualentia en el cuerno dela nariz quel mete al marfil por el uientre & alçalo de tierra. & de el cuerno dela fruente es agudo. & taia muy fuerte. & este Unicornio ael cuerpo grant como marfil & la color como de ceniza. & las piernas tales como el marfil. E las oreias commo de puerco & quando es sannudo paransele los oios bermeios como el rubi... (Text from http://history.chess.free.fr/acedrex.htm)

The Unicorn is a very large and very strong beast with two horns – one on its forehead and one on its nose. The one on its nose is longer than the one of its forehead and is so strong that it spears an elephant in the gut and lifts it from the ground. The forehead horn is sharp and cuts powerfully. This Unicorn is as large as an elephant and ash colored. It has legs like an elephant and ears like a pig, and when it is angry, its eyes turn as red as ruby.  

Apparently, it is common to talk about unicorns as huge grey beasts with pig ears in the thirteenth century. Marco Polo would have seen Asian rhinoceroses, or at least representations of them, and appropriately called them "one-horns." The problem comes when trying to apply such a name to the double-horned African rhinos so many other travelers to southern Europe would have been familiar with. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Let's Go to the Zoo!

The new baby giraffe patiently awaits her lunchtime. 

In celebration of our upcoming anniversary, my husband and I made use of a free hotel stay and spent some time in the Philadelphia zoo. It's America's first zoo, and parts of it are suffering with age. If you love animals, support this zoo so they can live better!

We went principally to see the two rhinos, to commune with those magnificent and literary beasts. (Ionesco's play --a great piece of theatre -- uses them as negative symbols, but I don't see how they could be considered anything but enchanting, and my stories always feature their good qualities.)

It turns out that the African white rhino is only out until 1 pm, when the zebras take over that enclosure. We were driving down and eating lunch at the café, blissfully unaware that we were missing our chance to see him! I don't care if he was just sleeping in the shade, I wanted to see the rhino! I'm sure that with a lot of funding, the zoo could set up separate full-time areas for everyone. If only I had money, I would be a great philanthropist...

Then the sweet Asian rhino was feeling under the weather. We came by her enclosure and didn't see her, so we went back later to make sure. While we're told she often basks in a nice pool very near the viewing public, that day we only saw her from afar. She was inside her building, looking out  the door and chewing. We called to her and told her how lovely she was, but really we could only see her ears outlined in the light. A zoo volunteer explained that she might have been stung by a wasp on one of her sensitive parts near the nose and mouth. Most of the day, the zookeepers let her choose to stay in or go out but by then it looked like some bars had been lowered to keep her in for the few minutes the zoo was still open. Mostly, she wasn't feeling up to visitors. At least we got to appreciate the beautiful shape of her silhouette.

Although it was too hot for us humans, the rest of the animals were surprisingly active. The rest of the day was great. Support your local zoo!

Another underappreciated animal, the sloth, literally hangs out with the endangered primates.

The zebras during their afternoon shift in the African rhino enclosure.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Conversation in the Park

An exciting new experience is coming to the web! Once a month on the 25th, a bunch of writers will get together to converse about their work in a virtual park. There will be many fun prizes for visitors! Get in on the fun! I'm at the bottom of the page: they saved  the best for last!

And don't forget, if you're a writer -- or a discerning reader -- I want to interview you here! Contact me for details!

In other news, my poetry book has finally made its appearance on Amazon! If you can't wait to win it at the virtual park, buy it there or here! It really has something for every taste.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Name of My Publishing Company

I've always had a strong desire to get new writing out into the world for readers to enjoy, whether the writing is mine or not. In high school, I expressed a desire to be the editor at my own publishing house when my life's dream was needed for the local papers. It sounded more professional and realistic than just to say that I wanted to be a famous author, and hey, I was already a famous writer (see my first post), so I didn't want to seem lazy!

So, as some of you will be discovering soon, I've created my own "imprint." The Kindle version of Tree/House already has it listed, and Dusk Before Dawn proudly bears the name: Açedrex Publishing. But what does "Açedrex" refer to?

That's the way Alfonso X el Sabio (more about him later, no doubt) and his humble writers referred to the game of chess. In the thirteenth century, chess was strongly associated with the refined culture of the Arabs, who compiled and passed on many great treatises on the game. Alfonso himself seems to have held chess in high regard because it favored the use of intellect, rather than blind luck, as in the many popular games of chance of his day. It was also considered a pastime for the well-to-do because it required time and tranquility (what peasant had either of those?) and it could serve as a model for real-life warfare for noble knights. It was also most appropriate for people who, like Alfonso when he commissioned a tour-de-force chess treatise in 1283, found themselves aging and not as vigorous as they used to be.

"Açedrex" has therefore come to symbolize (for me, who's thought about this a little too much) refined entertainment. No pandering to the masses here, nope. The motto is "The leisure of the well-informed," a nod to Alfonso's learned reputation (well earned, I assure you!).

Once we're back on our feet financially or even just geographically, I hope to take steps to further legitimize this imprint and make it into something Alfonso might be proud of. Wish me luck! And start writing some things to submit to Açedrex!

And yes! You can still check out my brand new poetry book here!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Feminist/Masculist and Meta-literary Possibilities in the Latest from Oscar Hijuelos

Beautiful Maria of my Soul is, above all, a fun, summer book. 


At times, Maria reminded me of the mother in The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao -- unsympathetic, one-dimensional, and living in the past -- but then at other times, principally when she's convincing herself that she loves Nestor, she seems an enchantingly hopeless romantic. So she has two sides, but the other characters don't develop and we only ever see one side of them. I almost dare to think that, like the Oscar Wao book, the author has no real sympathy for female characters. They remain too mysterious. We're seeing Maria's story not from her perspective, but from the perspective of one of her salivating admirers. That said, the prose pulls the story along nicely. In the end it's a nicely written love story in which no one has ever really loved anyone, a statement about being extracted from one's homeland and the incredible loneliness that comes with the sense of never belonging anywhere. Read from that perspective, it's a very powerful book.

I haven't read The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, although I did see the movie when it came out, so I don't know to what extent this book differs from the first book. Although the author's self-insertion in the last part of this book, complete with great reviews of the Mambo Kings and its movie, was self-indulgent, I enjoyed the way it made the last part of the book a meta-book. The song in the movie is different than the song in the "real life" of this book, the movie only showed Maria for a few minutes and she feels like a minor role in the play of life. The story starts to proliferate in all kinds of different iterations, starting to become something eternal. The characters' objections to some of the details of the story within the story made them more real to me even as the fourth wall was torn down. 

I read an advance reading copy, and it was rife with type-os and unintentional mistakes in the Spanish. The rendering of the Spanish, with an English translation right after, was a little wearisome. It doesn't add anything to the story if it's that simple to translate, anyway, so just stick with the English in most cases.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Manolo García, The Poet of Spanish Music

If I had a dollar for every unit of how much I love Manolo García, my husband and I would never have to worry again about money. My family would be set forever. Several universities and millions of hungry people would love Manolo García as much as I do, and the cycle would continue. Yes, Manolo García is the key to world peace and full bellies.

He's primarily a musician, with an illustrious career on the Spanish pop scene. I love his melodies and his voice, and of course, that mysterious alchemy when he was making music with Quimi Portet. But the writer in me really appreciates his surrealist, lyrical, lyrics. They come from a beautiful place of pure inspiration. They either make no sense at all or they make perfect sense. Below is the song that makes the most sense of all.

"Rosa de Alejandría" Nunca el tiempo es perdido (2000)


Rosa de Alejandría, rosa amarilla,
Alejarme quiero. Adentrarme en el silencio.

Alejarme quiero
De esta vida que yo vivo sin convencimiento.
Y adentrarme en el tiempo de las luces,
Barros vivos encendidos por la mano
Del misterioso alfarero.

Alejarme quiero. Adentrarme en el silencio.
Caminar sereno. Abandonar esta senda.

Alejarme quiero.
Anidar en los atrojes
Con las golondrinas de azuladas plumas.
Convertirme en caja de medir fanegas,
Arrobas, celemines: ser trigo en las eras,
Nunca polvo en las aceras.

Rosa de Alejandría, rosa amarilla.
Hoy has de ser mi guía, la luz que brilla.
Faro de mediodía, rosa sencilla.
Rosa de Alejandría, rosa amarilla.

Con las flores de un campo encendido
Como un San Francisco entre jarales vivos
De lagartos, vivo.
De quimeras me alimento,
Con simplezas me contento.

Mozas de risueño gesto en calma me encuentran
Como a un Góngora perfecto,
Perviviendo lejos del bullicio,
Con mi rosa amarilla, con mi rosa de los precipicios.

Alejarme quiero. Adentrarme en el silencio,
Alejarme quiero. Abandonar esta senda.
Alejarme quiero.

Rosa de Alejandría, rosa amarilla.
Hoy has de ser mi guía, rumbo entre islas.
Faro de mediodía, rosa sencilla.
Rosa de Alejandría, rosa amarilla...



And my humble trot:


Rose of Alexandria, yellow rose. 
I want to get away. To go deeply into silence. 


I want to get away
from this life I live unconvinced,
and delve into the pulsing lights
raw clay jars lit by the hand of the mysterious potter. 


I want to get away. Go deep into silence. 
Walk calmly. Abandon this path.


I want to get away.
Make a nest in the eaves
with the blue-feathered swallows.
Become a measuring cup for bushels, liters, gallons,
be wheat on the threshing floor,
never dust on the pavement. 


Rose of Alexandria, yellow rose.
Today you must be my guide, the shining light.
Midday lighthouse, simple rose
Rose of Alexandria, yellow rose.


With the flowers of a flaming field
like a Saint Frances [of Assisi], I live among the thickets
crawling with lizards. 
I feed on chimeras
and content myself with simple things.


Maidens with smiling faces find me at peace,
like a perfect Góngora [Spanish poet from Córdoba of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, complex imagery, revolutionized the Baroque style, longing for the peace of the countryside]
surviving far from the hubbub. 
With my yellow rose, with my rose from the precipices. 


I want to get away. Go deep into silence. 
I want to get away. Abandon this path. 
I want to get away.


Rose of Alexandria, yellow rose.
Today you must be my guide, path between islands. 


Midday lighthouse, simple rose.
Rose of Alexandria, yellow rose.


His more recent work has been a lots less Angst-ridden, but no less beautiful. Manolo García is a huge influence to me, if only because I try to tap into that mystical place of creation he so clearly accesses with his words and look for the most beautiful images, the ones that would make him proud. You can see my attempts at this in Dusk Before Dawn


Also he's a very nice person and loves living creatures. But that's a matter for a different blog! 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day, Everyone! (Hire Me!)

This is not the happiest of Labor Days, considering the quantity of people who have to make do without work. But because it's September 6, I present for your consideration some of the reasons I would be a good employee. My husband and I are ready to relocate just about anywhere.

Qualities I Can Offer You: 
I'm a very hard worker and never leave a project unfinished.
I have zero tendency to procrastinate. I like to leave enough time to check my work and make sure it is error-free before a deadline.
I'm industrious and decisive.
I collaborate well in team situations.
I take pride in well-executed details.
I remain calm under stress and focused when there is no appreciable stress.
I'm highly logical and creative in problem-solving situations.
I'm great at prioritizing, planning and organizing.

Skills That Pair Well With Those Qualities:
I'm very comfortable with Microsoft Word and Excel and anything else in the Office Suite.
I have razor-like precision when it comes to using a scanner!
I can edit and develop: I have an excellent "story sense," I know the difference between raise and raze, and when to use commas.
I learn new skills quickly.
My communication skills have been honed in a wide variety of situations.
I'm fluent in Spanish. I earned a PhD in Spanish literature, taught Spanish to English-speakers, and have published translations from Spanish to English.
I can read French, Latin and Portuguese.
Though naturally shy, I have given successful professional presentations at five different academic venues.

Unique Accomplishments:
I was first in my class in college.
As a result of persistence, patience, and determination, I have published stories and poems in independent zines (see the bottom of the screen).
I've spent significant time in Spain and England, successfully adapting to different cultural and academic circumstances.
I didn't panic when my purse was stolen in Atocha train station. I found a place to stay, even though I had no money or credit cards, while I waited three days for the American Embassy to open so I could get a replacement passport. I even served as an interpreter during those three days.

Main Interests:
I would put my heart and soul into working in just about any capacity for a university, especially in study abroad programs or the library.
I would jump at the chance to do anything in the publishing industry, whether periodical or book, print or electronic.
I would love to be paid to write.
I have a naturally clear soprano voice and can carry a tune. Any early music group can approach me and expect to be well received.
Soy aficionada de la serie Amar en tiempos revueltos. Si necesitan a un personaje que tenga accento norteamericano, pueden consultarme. O si es hembra, a lo mejor, puedo representarla! Que no digan que no tengo esperanzas...
These are just suggestions. Every job has a certain nobility. I would do my best at anything.

I hope these ideas have given you a sense of the happiness, optimism, and quality I bring to my work. That's the way I choose to celebrate this Labor Day.

And please consider buying my books here and here. They won't break the bank, and you're sure to get hours of pleasure from them.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My New Release: Dusk Before Dawn (Poems)

From the back cover:

How do we make poetry? Through the unlikely medium of language.
Why do we write poetry? For love.
Where do we find poetry? In those evocative spaces full of old spirits.
When do we create poetry? Whenever the muse strikes.
For whom did poetry come into being? For each and every human.

Based around these questions, the book offers 28 provocative poems, in English and a smattering of Spanish, especially for your enjoyment.

You were waiting for it, even if you weren't quite aware what you were waiting for. My book of poems, Dusk Before Dawn, is now available!

Dusk Before Dawn unites all my favorite poetic work from over the years. Some you will find good, some bad, some short, some long: an infinite variety. Hopefully, it's all entertaining. The book includes the tour de force "Call Numbers of the Wild," recently published in Haggard & Halloo, and also four others slated to appear in various 'zines. Have all your favorites in one place, to have and to hold, to read again and again!

It might be a few more days before it loads into Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, but please buy it here and I will get more royalties. Please buy it for your friends, buy it for your enemies, buy it to help the starving author who put it together, buy it to laugh at said author, but please, just buy it. At $6.99, it won't break the bank, but your purchase will have a huge impact on the life of this humble writer. And please tell your friends to buy it, and tell that guy from accounting to buy it. Tell a librarian to buy it for her or his library.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I will sign it with a personalized dedication if we ever cross paths.

Again, please take a look and buy it HERE. Thank you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rejection and The Place of Dreams in Fiction

I got a rejection letter from Bartleby Snopes a few days ago. First let me explain that Bartleby Snopes is quality in every sense. They do what they love, they do it well, and they do it with attention. They are pretty darn selective, and of course that helps the magazine.

I've been constantly trying to place the story I sent to them ever since I finished it in March. If it hasn't been at one zine, it's been at another. I knew I probably wouldn't have it published in Bartleby Snopes-- I'm just not that cocky-- but it never hurts to try. The reason it doesn't hurt is that Bartleby Snopes stands out for two more reasons: the editor gets back to submissions very quickly (not even two days for me), and he actually tells you a reason why he's not taking it. Non-writers and writers who've never tried to publish in a periodical are often surprised when I tell them that it's highly unusual to get an actual reason along with your rejection notice. In a perfect world, every editor would have the time and energy to explain in a couple of polite sentences why the piece isn't right for her publication at that time, but, the world just isn't perfect.

Anyway, in the scheme of things, I'm thrilled with this rejection letter because it gave me some aspects about the story to consider.

Thank you for submitting to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. This was an interesting read, but it didn't feel focused enough. The glue bit and the spray didn't mesh well for me. It felt almost like there were two different stories here, and the piece wasn't sure which it should tell. The piece also felt a little too restrained. It didn't allow the absurdity to fully develop and take control in a way that made it believable. Definitely a fun read though.

Good luck with this one elsewhere. Please try us again in the future.


Here's the thing: the story was based entirely on a dream. Not "focused enough," fine, but "too restrained"? Who has restrained dreams? I wonder if he means that he wanted the story to go further, and my dream cut off before the absurdity could really take over. Alternatively, he might mean that my conscious mind ought to have taken over, instead of staying so faithful to the dream and its cutoff point. (That would be if he knew I was writing down a dream, but he didn't.)


But here's the other thing: this was a flash fiction piece. It was pushing the traditional 1000-word limit already. If it were going to be a proper short story, I would have approached it from a completely different viewpoint, attack mode, word choice, etc. And maybe I should have...


White rhinoceros and her child in a South African reserve.
But here's the last thing: I really like this story! I can't imagine why no magazine has published it yet! It has a shrinking rhinoceros! I think it's pretty clever how the narrator starts out trying to sell something, witnesses something else bizarre, and then briefly reflects on the worth of the thing he/she was selling. To me, that's literature with something to say! 


Unless you're my husband, you haven't read this story I'm talking about, so I apologize for the impassioned plea in its favor. And I'll let you know when it does get published. 


This story is what it is. Which is not Bartleby Snopes material. But I will try them again in the future, because they're quality. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Interview Series I: Amy Blackwelder

Author Ami Blackwelder

Imagine how happy I was to meet a writer who, like me, creates worlds that look a lot like the one we live in, with just enough fantasy or weirdness to whet the reader’s appetite for something a little different.

The Hunted of 2060 is about a college sophomore named April who realizes she is something more than human. She can transform into a wolf , and is hunted because of her differences. Her story is one of conflict, confusion, betrayal, family secrets, torn passions, and loyalties.

Author and Florida native Ami Blackwelder writes prolific “paranormal and historical romance” books directed at young adults. Adult men and women will also enjoy her series that incorporates “passion and taste with a twist."

She began writing in elementary school, receiving her first encouragement when short stories were read aloud in class. She refined her short story writing at university, where she wonBest Fiction of 1997 and made it to the semi-finals in the Laurel Hemingway contest. Poetry has always been an important branch of her work, and she now gets comments that her prose is just as lyrical as poetry.  

In her thirties, Blackwelder switched gears. “I began writing religion /spiritual books and then started novels, after realizing how much I would love to see my short stories more fully developed.” 

Blackwelder’s direction into young adult literature seemed natural, since she has worked as a Kindergarten teacher and spent eight years in Asia, where she built up English programs in Thailand in order to improve children’s education. Of that experience, she comments, “The Ministry of Education rated our school two stars out of five before I arrived, and five stars out of five after I left. The principal was sad to see me go.”

Thailand was also a place of fruitful ideas for Blackwelder. The idea for The Hunted of 2060 came to her while she was gardening there: “…Visualizing a woman who transformed into a panther, while watching my cat jump into the trees.”

The Hunted of 2060 is an integral part of a series surrounding its characters. The first novel, The SCM of 2030, is told from the perspective of the humans, the military who pursue April, and tells the background story for the whole series. The second and third novels, The Shifters of 2040 and The Hybrids of 2050, make up their own set. The fourth and fifth books,The Hunted of 2060 and The Revolution of 2060, are told from April’s point of view and also go together as a pair.

“A prequel, The Shifters of 2040 is now completed and edits are underway,” Blackwelder elucidates. It will be available in October 2010 for fans interested in finding out more about April's world. “The novel will answer questions about April's birth mother, her grandfather, Bruce and his motivation, as well as further dive into the science fiction of April's ancestors and their hybrid offspring. Some familiar and new faces will be present.” 

In spite of the important fantastic elements in the stories, real life has an important impact on Blackwelder’s fiction: “I usually draw from my love of nature and wildlife, and so many of my novels exist in the forests and touch on environmental and wildlife conservation. I also employ themes of prejudice and oppression. Forbidden love is a common element in my work. These aspects of real life affect me and so they are seen in my writing. …My inspiration usually comes from a seed of social angst or passion. This is in the form of oppression, prejudice, wildlife and environment conservation. From those seeds a story is born.”

After the initial inspiration, Blackwelder employs language sensitively to create atmosphere and character voices depending on their age, location, and personality.

Blackwelder is a highly disciplined writer. She employs a structured method that nonetheless accommodates inspiration and other life matters. She explains, “I usually try to write one chapter a day. Some days I skip and other days I write several chapters. I can complete a novel in two-three months, depending on my work load/schedule.” Since nature is her biggest inspiration, she works on her laptop by a window where she can look outside. She also keeps information and ideas handy on shelves nearby. It’s not unusual for her to mentally get into character and act out a scene in her head, a practice that contributes greatly to her vivid descriptions.

Throughout her life, her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, has influenced her writing style. It may be that touch of Jane Austen that some critics are responding to when they tell Blackwelder that her prose is too descriptive. On the other hand, some “feel the words like poetry.” She justifiably says, “It really depends on taste. I stick with my own instincts. I enjoy details, as in what color were the buttons and how many? But my editor helps me weed out over-description.”

Other imaginative epics, like Star Trek, Star Wars, and the Twilight series, have leant their fantasy to her work, but never too much at one time. She observes, "I generally get feedback about how imaginative my writing is and sometimes have been told I write a new genre called Reality Fiction, because my work is so often based in 'this could happen and sounds real.'"

Find out more about Ami Blackwelder's writing, watch video trailers, and purchase her books so you can enter her fascinating world yourself at her websites: