Day 1

Subbed four stories this week, sold one so far. So now, everything ‘in progress’ is now outbound and I am in novel mode.
My brain can barely function. Those stories meant a lot to me, they took all I’ve got. I got nothing left. Maybe some yoga. Maybe run for a while. Something. Maybe a new pen.
And in the lull, I’ll get onto updating the site, and I’ve got some posts I’m mulling over… but now some air. The air outside this office. The dog gets it. He’s farting in agreement, yeah it stinks in here. Let’s hit the road.

Portland here I come.

I am going to concentrate on getting ready for the conference today. It’s called Tin House and it’s in Portland, Oregon. And although I was born in Ca, I live in Sydney, Australia, and I haven’t been to the Northwest since I was a baby. It’s a big thing. Not just the travel, but also going to my first writers conference. Most of the delegates will be younger, more familiar with conferencing. I’ve never read to an audience before. When INK was launched I had a band play instead of reading from the book. But I’ll be reading from my story next Thursday. It’s real. Today I’ll get all my material together. The eight or ten stories from the workshop I’ve been assigned to. My e-tickets and maps and information on Reed College, where the conference is being held. I’m familiar with the work of many of the instructors there, and I’ll familiarize myself with the rest of them before I go. I’ll clean my office and get everything ready to write about this and other things when I get back.

I’ve never travelled alone. I didn’t backpack or do a student exchange. I met my husband when I was nineteen and have been more or less glued to him ever since. The glue has expanded to include my work now, and the world upon which it is based.

Which is to say that I’m shitting myself. I had to get new glasses. Here they are. I had to buy a conference outfit because I mostly work in my sweats or my pajamas. Do I need to get new pajamas? Will there be somewhere there I can hide when I need to apart from the bathroom? Will I make friends?

But mostly, will I come home bigger and smarter and better than when I left? Will I come home with new work, a new story, a start to my next novel? I don’t need to come back with an agent, because I already have Himself, and I’m thinking now that I’m writing this that I don’t need to come back with anything, really. It’s not a hunt and I don’t want a trophy, a piece of horn or hide to nail up on my wall because that would be the death of something other than myself, and I don’t want that on my hands. Yeah, I think that what I need more than to come back with something is to have left something behind. Shed something. Leave a piece of me there, something I don’t need anymore (but will always be there waiting maybe, growing old and hoary with time and waiting, tempting me) and come back pared down and ready for the fight. Which is to say that whenever you do something big like this you have to be in it not for the trophy, not the badge of honor or dishonor but to prepare for, be okay with, even grateful, for something in yourself to die.

Tricky Truman

Truman Capote likened the finishing of a novel to taking your child into the back yard and shooting it. As a parent, I’m intrigued by the mind that could have created that sentence. Still, I take his point. I was all but undone by the completion of my previous novel, cried for days, became physically ill.  Wracked with grief for what I’d created and destroyed. But not with this one. This one felt more like letting go of a red balloon. There was that sense of loss, but also elation. I’d seen its shape from the beginning, knew from the moment I conceived it, that it wasn’t mine to keep. They never are.

New Story at Fantasy Magazine

Union Falls is live, here, at Fantasy Magazine.

‘I finished the story and it was close, but not there. For some reason this disturbed me more than any other story that I’d written. It meant a great deal to me, and it was terribly important to get it right. But I knew it wasn’t. I showed it to two trusted readers, and they asked the right questions, and I started again, and that time it came out as it should, effortlessly, as if someone was telling me, rather than I was telling it. That’s when you know it’s true.’

You can read the rest of the interview here.

Jim Mickle’s Stake Land

I watched this at the Sydney Film Festival and I dug it. There was Ginger Snaps (2000) and Bigelow’s Near Dark before that, but U.S. indie offerings in the vampire genre have been somewhat wanting compared to what the British have been serving up for years:  zombies (28 Days Later), for instance, and werewolves (Dog Soldiers). Some kind of antidote to the scourge of blockbusters like Blade and I am Legend seems long overdue, and Jim Mickle does it with Stake Land.

Teenage Martin (Connor Paolo) loses his family to the vampire epidemic sweeping the country, starts hanging out with a badass vampire killer known only as Mister (Nick Damici). The pair are joined by not your usual misfits—a middle-aged nun, pregnant barmaid, a marine—all trying to stay one step ahead of the bloodsucking scourge, plus some cannibalistic tribes and Fundamentalist nut jobs who drop live vamps from the sky into frontier settlements for fun, oh, and because God told them to.

Beyond 70s-era taut cinematography, and a brave take on a Matthesonian world in which the monsters evolve—get smarter—Stake Land has three essential things going for it.  Read more

The Fall, at New Dead Families

… His flesh hung in folds over his eyes, one of which had a sideways cast to it. His wife, Una, pushed into the center of the pass window behind the bar. Her face red as rubber, a boiling ball of rage and defeat stirred by the rage and defeat she saw in her husband and could not cure…

Read more at New Dead Families, along with some very cool fiction and demon art.

Another first

Twenty years to the day after getting my first chunk of change for a piece of non-fiction (an article for the San Diego Herald-Tribune bizarrely titled, Home is Where the Art Is!), I just got my first check for a piece of fiction, and it is for the exact same dollar amount. Sweet…

A month of firsts

It has been a month of firsts in a year of firsts. Last week, I was interviewed for the first time ever, an out-of-body experience if there ever was one, so watch this space; I sent off my first collection of shorts to the sublime and savvy Le Zaparogue, got my first cover art, and my first foreword —authored by the formidable Kris Saknussemm. Oh, and I bought my first Crock Pot.

So I finally have one of those volcanic, bubbling, gloppy mechanical kitchen monsters that my friends used to have when I was a kid.

And, I’m thinking for the first time in a long time about friends. Not a strong suite of mine, I’ve always thought, being a friend. But lately I’ve been getting to know some really smart, creative people, and I’m letting them be my friends, and am hoping, for the first time, that I measure up.

A new post up on The Nervous Breakdown…

Okay, let’s talk about rejections.

War wounds and badges of dishonor. I’ll see your bruised pride and raise you a broken spirit.

One of my favorite rejections to date came from an editor who knocked back my submission but told me by way of consolation that one of my colleagues—an enviable Irish wunderkind—got in instead, and how proud I must be. The editor went on to say that my story (which has since been published elsewhere) was ‘a little too dry, a little airless.’

‘She talking about your story,’ said a supportive friend, ‘or her vag?’

Read the full piece here.