Fugue

Oh, that I had time to read all the books which arrive at my house, and Oh, that I had the time to write all the stories which are bouncing around in my head.

A small but significant stack arrived this week. On the left is Empire of Gold, the final book in the Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty, I have unfortunately only read the first in the series. I now have the set, but likely will not have time to read the next until the end of the year.

Second from left is volume 6 of the superb Long List Anthology of Hugo Award finalists. Again, I have the complete set but have only read a few stories from each book. And again, I really need to spend more quality time with the books I already have.

Second from right is the latest issue of Amazing Stories, of which I most certainly do NOT have the entire set, as it has been around since 1926.

And on the far right is the latest issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, the excellent literary magazine published by Small Beer Press. Again, not the full set etc., though as this is issue #42 I could in theory hunt down all the past issues. Hmmm…

In writing news, there is no writing news.

In reading news, I have been catching up on short stories, and will post the list of such which I read in November, at the beginning of December. I am also making my way through Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story, which is brilliant and entertaining and I am slowly working my head back into the space from which stories come, though I doubt it will be in time to make even a bit of difference for NaNoWriMo 2020.

I am also still working my way through Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, which is no longer making me angry. Rather, it is making me deeply, profoundly sad for everyone involved, with a few noted exceptions where obvious sociopaths are involved in the eviction process. Fuck those guys.

The year is winding down and, other than a few Kickstarter rewards, I don’t expect to acquire many more books and magazines before January. Just as well. I don’t seem to have time to read the ones I have already picked up.

Writing or Not

Thing in my life are back to normal in the sense that I am now working long hours and weekends, thanks to a series of miscommunications at work. Each time it happens I say “never again!”, yet when circumstances conspire to require me to work until 20:00 on a Tuesday or something I do it, grumbling the whole time, and invent self-justifications to keep from feeling too resentful about the loss of another chunk of my extremely limited free time. Rinse, repeat.

Another small stack for the library this week – the new issue of Jacobin, and Damn Fine Story, Chuck Wendig‘s guide to writing, which I ordered during the run-up to NaNoWriMo, only to receive it in the middle of the month when I have given up on NaNoWriMo anyway. 2020 is just not my year.

In reading news, I am working my way through Apocalyptic, an anthology of short stories about (you guessed it!) the apocalypse, which I received as part of a Kickstarter campaign held by Zombies Need Brains. These stories are just what I need right now, and they distract me from the feelings engendered by reading Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, which infuriates me enough that I can only read a few pages at a time before I want to go out an cause an apocalypse or two of my own.

As mentioned above, NaNoWriMo for this year is pretty much a bust, unless I miraculously come up with significantly reduced stress along with vast chunks of free time over the next two week. But I am trying to keep my head in that space. I created a list of twenty (so far) possible topics for short stories, most based on past calls for themed anthologies to which I never actually submitted stories. Though this year has been incredibly stressful, I am still feeling energized by the recent acceptance of one of my short stories. Now I want to do nothing but write, but of course not one writer in a hundred thousand makes enough at their craft to support any kind of stable life. So I write code for money, and stories for pleasure.

If only it were the other way around.

The Sunny Warm Days of…November?

I took this picture in the late afternoon of Saturday, November 7. At the time the temperature outside was around 70 degrees, Fahrenheit here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The air smelled of dry leaves and moist earth, an odd juxtaposition of the scents of spring and autumn.

Two books arrived this week at the Library of Winkelman Abbey, from an impulse purchase from Subterranean Press. On the left is Seven of Infinities, and on the right is On a Red Station, Drifting, both by Aliette de Bodard. The first was published by Subterranean Press; the second by the now-defunct Immersion Press.

I have not read much of de Bodard’s work; a handful of her many, many short stories, probably in one of the superb Long List anthologies. With these books I will begin my 2021 reading project early, to wit: exploring the novella, much as I spent the first few months of 2020 exploring the short story.

Speaking of novellas and short stories and the like, NaNoWriMo 2020 for me is on the very cusp of crashing and burning. I started strong, with 2,000 -3,000 words a day for the first four days, but the election, work, family, and life in general sapped my time and energy and I am several thousand words behind schedule with little time available to make up the lost ground. I will keep writing, however, and if I can get back to 2,500 words a day for the remaining days of the month I should be able to squeak through on the 30th.

In reading news, I finished the Sealey Challenge (referenced in my previous blog post) and in the midst of all that read the publishing memoir For Exposure by Jason Sizemore, head of Apex Publications, and Road to Heaven, Bill Porter’s magnificent travelogue of searching for the Buddhist and Taoist hermits of rural China, back in the 1980s. These nonfiction works, plus 31 poetry books and chapbooks, helped me keep my head in a good place for emotional and psychological stability during the run-up to, event of, and long, torturous denouement from, the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden won, and while things are far, far from good, at least they are not getting bad quite as quickly as they were last week.

Whether that changes remains to be seen.

The Sealey Challenge 2020

The Sealey Challenge for 2020 is complete. 31 poetry books and chapbooks in 31 days. These are the books, in the order in which I read them. I listed them on Instagram and Twitter as I read them, but this is the the first and only photo of all of the books in one place. According to the statistics at Library Thing I have just over 270 poetry books and chapbooks in my library, and the 31 I read over the past month have put a significant dent in my TBR pile.

Traditionally the Sealey Challenge is held in August, so I have eight months to collect 30 more poetry books so I can go into the challenge with a new stack of unread material. Or maybe I will just hit a few used book stores and buy 30 back issues of Poetry magazine, since each issue is essentially a good-sized anthology of contemporary poetry.

I regrettably do not have any books by Nicole Sealey, the founder of The Sealey Challenge, but I hope to remedy that before the end of this year.

Here is the list of titles, in reading order, with links to the author’s information pages:

2020.10.01: Rogin-Roper, LeahTwo Truths and a Lie
2020.10.02: Danos, StephenMissing Slides
2020.10.03: Mandelstam, OsipVoronezh Notebooks
2020.10.04: Almeida, AlexisI Have Never Been Able to Sing
2020.10.05: Kaneko, W. ToddThis Is How the Bone Sings
2020.10.06 – Coolidge, Sarah (ed.) – Home: New Arabic Poetry
2020.10.07 – Cooper, WynChaos Is the New Calm
2020.10.08 – ortiz, mónica teresaautobiography of a semiromantic anarchist
2020.10.09 – Brace, KristinThe Farthest Dreaming Hill
2020.10.10 – de Alba, Cassandrahabitats
2020.10.11 – Le Guin, UrsulaWild Angels
2020.10.12 – Matthews, Airea D.Simulacra
2020.10.13 – Rogal, LisaFeed Me Weird Things
2020.10.14 – Amezcua, EloisaOn Not Screaming
2020.10.15 – Stafford, WilliamMy Name is William Tell
2020.10.16 – Stack, GarrettYeoman’s Work
2020.10.17 – Brandt, EmilySleeptalk or Not At All
2020.10.18 – Olszewska, DanielaAnswering Machine
2020.10.19 – Marinovich, FilipWolfman Librarian
2020.10.20 – Harris, JosephLogically Thinking
2020.10.21 – Harrison, JimCollected Ghazals
2020.10.22 – Bettis, ChristineBurnout Paradise
2020.10.23 – Gleason, RachelNew Kind of Rebellion
2020.10.24 – Khayyam, OmarThe Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
2020.10.25 – Cáceres, OmarDefense of the Idol
2020.10.26 – Chang, KristinPast Lives, Future Bodies
2020.10.27 – Goff, NicholeAluminum Necropolis
2020.10.28 – Gurton-Wachter, AnnaBlank Blank Blues
2020.10.29 – Burns, MeganSleepwalk With Me
2020.10.30 – Trier-Walker, Amy JoTrembling Ourselves Into Trees
2020.10.31 – Harrison, JimLetters to Yesenin

And now, time to put down the poetry books and pick up the pen for National Novel Writing Month, which starts in just under six hours.

October’s Waning Daylight

The slide from October to November continues, accompanied by a rapid reduction in both daylight and warm outdoor air. I can no longer sit outside for an hour every morning before work and read and write without being attacked by Poe the Ricochet Kitten. I must now take frequent breaks to play with her lest she make of my toes a sampling of ors d’eouvres.

Just a small stack of new reading material this past week. On the left is the November issue of Poetry. On the right is Harmada, the latest work from Joao Gilberto Noll, published in translation by Two Lines Press.

Writing has fallen by the wayside due to upheavals in my personal life, though I have thought through the narrative blockage in the book and should be ready to hit the ground running on November 1. In reading news I am keeping up the pace for the Sealey Challenge and with six days left and reading list planned out I will easily make it to the end, assuming certain looming family issues don’t come crashing down before the end of the month.

That’s all for now. 2020 is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Re-centering Poetry

One of the advantages, if you can call it that, of working at home in the Days of COVID is that I can see the day-to-day progression of the diminishing daylight as we move from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice. When I close down my laptop at the end of my shift the sun is just a little closer to the horizon, the light a little more golden – or red, depending on the drift of smoke from the west coast. And each day it is just a little more difficult to pull myself from bed early enough in the morning to complete my morning routine.

Two things are helping keep me on my game as winter approaches: Poe, who still insists on being fed at 5:00 every morning, and a large stack of poetry books and chapbooks to read through as part of the Sealey Challenge. I am managing to stay on schedule, mostly thanks to a large pile of unread chapbooks which have arrived over the past four years as part of my subscriptions to Horse Less Press (currently on indefinite hiatus) and Ugly Duckling Presse, which is still going strong though I had to let my subscription lapse for financial reasons. I note that traditionally the Sealey Challenge has run during the month of August, so next year I will align myself with the rest of the poetry universe and complete the challenge in the appropriate month.

An excellent pile of books arrived this week at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. On the top left is a new one from Subterranean PressEdited By, a collection of stories which have been edited by Ellen Datlow. The collection itself is, well, edited by Ellen Datlow. So there’s a lot of meta going on with this one.

In the top middle is Francesco Verso‘s Nexhuman, the latest delivery from Apex Book Company, to which I have a subscription through Patreon. Editor Jason Sizemore was kind enough to reach out to me when the original print run for this shipment ran a few short and he allowed me to pick any title from the Apex catalog. This was my first choice, and it was fortunate they had copies in stock, as I am slowly picking up every book Apex has published, thanks to Patreon, Kickstarter, and purchases at various ConFusions over the past several years.

On the top right is Road to HeavenBill Porter‘s beautiful travelogue/story of wandering the mountains of China looking for the Buddhist and Taoist hermits who maintain a tradition once much revered in Chinese culture.

Bottom left is The Collected Ghazals by the late, great Jim Harrison. Copper Canyon Press recently released this collection, as well as the book in the bottom center, Letters to Yesenin. I have been a fan of Jim Harrison since a college professor turned me on to him back in 1993, when he picked up a copy of Wolf. Since then I have read almost everything Harrison wrote, and have bookshelf dedicated to his poetry and prose.

On the bottom right is the new collection from Garrett Stack, Yeoman’s Work. I first heard of Stack when we published a few of his poems in an issue of The 3288 Review. This is an excellent collection, and well worth seeking out.

In reading news, I have so far read 18 poetry books and chapbooks, and am keeping a running tally of the list up on Instagram and Twitter. I haven’t taken a deep dive into poetry like this since the late 1990s, unless you count the thousands a year I read as editor of The 3288 Review, which is not really the same thing. The Sealey Challenge has been a wonderful experience and with 13 more books to read my mind will be in a wonderful place when NaNoWriMo starts on November 1.

I just finished reading For Exposure, Jason Sizemore’s brilliant history of Apex Publications, with contributions by half a dozen or so of the editors and other contributors, employees and supporters of his wonderful company. I picked up For Exposure at ConFusion back in, I think, 2015, when I managed to spend a few minutes talking to Sizemore about the trials and tribulations of running a small independent publishing company. He is a Righteous Dude, as the kids say these days, and I offer all the kudoes to him and his team for the work they do in the literary world.

Writing hasn’t been going as well as reading, though I managed to put down a couple hundred more words in the book as I try to work through this one lynchpin chapter and scene, from which the rest of the book will flow, which tells me I may need to just mash my fact against the keyboard until something clicks and I can move ahead. The goal is still to complete a first draft this year, and with luck even complete the draft during NaNoWriMo, though I am having more and more concrete thoughts about a series of short stories which might eventually become chapters in a new book. All I know is that I will spend a lot of time writing in November 2020, assuming the slings and arrows of the mundane world allow me the mental space and emotional clarity to do so.

The Warm Days of October

We are in the middle of a gorgeous mid-October heat wave, with temperatures in the upper 70s during the day, and abundant sunshine and a light breeze which makes the autumn trees shimmer like kaleidoscopes seen through a good dose of psilocybin.

Only one book arrived at the house this week – Recognize Fascism, an anthology of resistance-themed short pieces edited by Crystal M. Huff and published by the always-excellent World Weaver Press, from a recently-completed Kickstarter campaign. This is a follow-up to the 2018 anthology Resist Fascism, also edited by Huff. If you think you have noticed a theme in the books which I have collected over the past couple of years, well, you are not mistaken.

In reading news I have managed to keep up the book-a-day pace for the Sealey Challenge, and having this volume and density of poetry in my life is doing wonderful things for my state of mind.

In writing news, I have done almost none over the past week though I think I have figured a way through the snarl which kept me from completing the current scene in the book. I will hit it Monday morning and see if my idea will play out on paper.

In other exciting news, I was just notified that a short story I had submitted back in January of this year has just been accepted for publication! The issue in question will go live on January 1, 2021, and at that point I will announce the venue and post the link and all other sorts of fanfare and information.

In all the chaos, misery and uncertainty abundant in the world right now, this was a very welcome piece of news.

Challenging Poetry

The nights are definitely longer than the days now, and the days of October are so far mostly filled with clouds and rain. I would like to say that this means more time to read and write but unfortunately (or not) my schedule is not at all dependent on the whims and uncertainties of the weather.

Three new tomes to add to the collection this week. On the left is the newest from Michigan author Jim C. Hines, Tamora Carter: Goblin Queen, from Hines’ recent Kickstarter.

In the center is W. Todd Kaneko’s new poetry collection This is How the Bone Sings. I met Todd a couple of years ago at a Caffeinated Press event, and have been a fan of his poetry ever since.

On the right is the latest issue of Poetry Magazine, back from their summer hiatus.

In reading news, On October 1 I began The Sealey Challenge, wherein participants try to read a book or chapbook of poetry a day for a month. As luck would have it I have a great many unread poetry books and chapbooks, so coming up with a list was not a problem. I can set aside enough time in a day to read up to about 100 poems, though I may have to sacrifice some sleep in order to complete the requirement. I selected as many shorter works as I could, because I don’t want to just slam through the books without taking the time to appreciate and enjoy the works therein. I am posting updates to my progress on Instagram and Twitter, and will probably post collected updates here at the 10, 20, and 31 – book increments.

Nothing much to report in the writing department. I am stuck on a scene, and since I am only planning one scene ahead in the writing process, I need to see how this one turns out before I can lay out the details of the next one. I have given up on trying to force it, and instead in my free moments let my mind wander in that general direction and let my subconscious do the heavy lifting. Looks like NaNoWriMo will be a catch-up month for the novel, rather than a collection of new short stories. Of course it could also be both.

That’s all the literary news for now. Tune in next week for some new and exciting sameness.

Last of Summer, First of Fall

A nice pile of reading material arrived at the Library of Winkelman Abbey this week. Four books from subscriptions, and the latest issue of a lit magazine.

The first two books are from my subscription to And Other Stories. On the left is Slash and Burn, written by Claudia Hernandez, translated by Julia Sanchez. Next to it is What You Could Have Won by Rachel Genn.

In the middle of the photo is the latest issue of Rain Taxi Review.

The two books on the right are from a Patreon sponsorship of Apex Publications – The Convent of the Pure, followed by The Labyrinth of the Dead, both written by Sara M. Harvey.

In reading news, I finished Dyrk Ashton‘s Paternus: War of Gods, which was a superb conclusion to the superb Paternus trilogy. For anyone who has any reservations about the quality of self-published books, let this series put those worries to rest. This was a welcome distraction from The New Jim Crow, which was as angering a book as I have ever read. Sadism is indeed the defining characteristic of the American spirit. In the spare moments I am still working through San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets, published by City Lights Books. Right now I am at the end of the first interview with Michael McClure. Such good stuff!

It was an excellent week for reading, but not really for writing. I managed only a couple of hundred words which was discouraging after several weeks in the multiple thousands. I’m going to consider this a week of rest and try to dive in again Monday morning and get at least 7,500 words by the end of the work week.

Assuming the world still exists in any meaningful sense.

Feeding the Beast

Poe can’t read, so instead she absorbs the knowledge contained in books through her face. In this photo she is enjoying the only new addition to the Library of Winkelman Abbey this week: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, by Isabel Wilkerson. Since I am about a hundred pages from the end of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, where the author is digging into the meat of the permanent disenfranchisement caused by even a hint of a criminal record in this, the land of the free, Caste seems like a good next book to read. After that will either be Matthew Desmond’s Evicted or Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.

In fiction reading, I just started Paternus: War of Gods by Dyrk Ashton. This is the final book in the Paternus trilogy, and though I am only about fifty pages, it is already just as good as the previous two, and according to reviews it only gets better from here. So I have high hopes.

Writing this past week went very well. I passed 20,000 words in the work in progress, and that puts me well on the way to 40,000 by the end of the month. And if I manage to continue this pace I think I should have the first draft completed before NaNoWriMo. Of course as with any first draft, the first is really the zero-eth, and after the first round of editing, then I will have a first draft. So, maybe at the end of January. I can already see places where what the characters are doing necessitate going back and changing some of the story as already written, particularly in the first two chapters. I don’t see this being a particularly long book; likely to top out at around 80,000 unless the muse strikes me with a mighty big stick.

A new follower on Twitter asked why bother to keep word count as you really just write until the story is done. This is true, and also word count is a good way to track productivity, and while the story may go on for hundreds of thousands of words, a book is by necessity finite — though a series of books is not necessarily so. It was a good question and caught me flat-footed.

Then again the poster had never participated in National Novel Writing Month, and if NaNoWriMo instills one habit in a writer, it is the fanatical tracking of word count.