Another Nano, Come and Gone

And just like that, NaNoWriMo 2019 is over. For me it was the most successful one yet. I hit 50,000 on November 20 and added around five thousand more in the last ten days. Final tally, somewhere north of 55,500 words. If I hadn’t abruptly run out of steam right after winning I could have hit 70,000 and still had more story to tell. Such are the vicissitudes of life.

This was a good week for the Library at Winkelman Abbey, mostly thanks to various Kickstarter campaigns.

At upper left is the latest Pulphouse magazine. Next to it is the fifth annual Long List Anthology of short stories which made it to the preliminary round of the Hugo Awards but did not win. Next to it is the latest issue of Poetry.

In the bottom row are the three books from the reward from a troubled Kickstarter campaign which, though it took a year longer than anticipated, finally came through with flying colors. Knaves, Scoundrels and Brigands all look to be excellent anthologies and I look forward to reading them as soon as they get to the top of the TBR pile.

To the far right of the pile are two books from Semiotext(e). On the top is Carceral Capitalism by Jackie Wang. On the bottom is Gore Capitalism by Sayak Valencia. I first heard of Wang’s book when I was researching the various manifestations and rhizomes of capitalism after browsing through The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism, the third volume of which I picked up in San Francisco this past summer. Given that this is the major purchasing month of the year I feel like these books, along with A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Deleuze and Guattari, might have some interesting things to teach. These are the kinds of things I read when the holiday season has me in a certain mood.

Blame that on a decade of working retail in West Michigan.

Damn It’s Cold Around Here

Cold weather has settled here on West Michigan and I can feel it yea unto my very bones. I have to remind myself that I am 50 now, and the physical discomfort which in past years would have dissipated in a flood of angst and testosterone now lingers like the uncomfortable memories of actions performed under the influence of angst and testosterone. Thus there is symmetry in the universe.

Only one addition to the library this week – the latest issue of the excellent New Ohio Review. I bought a subscription when I submitted a few poems to them, around this time last year. Obviously they didn’t accept the poems or I would now be rolling in money, as poetry is one of the most lucrative form of writing.

In reading news I am almost halfway through Black Leopard, Red Wolf and still loving the hell out of it. Just a damn good book.

I just started reading Tobias Buckell‘s It’s All Just a Draft. This was another Kickstarter reward and already it has paid for itself. I opened it to a random page and there was Buckell’s system for systematically submitting stories to venues arranged in a spreadsheet according to a sophisticated (to me anyway) algorithm. Start at the top, and as rejections arrive, work your way down to the bottom. If you reach the bottom, archive or bin the story.

This approach had never occurred to me, though it was obvious from the submissions we received at The 3288 Review that something like this was standard operating procedure for a number of submitters. The methodical approach is, in the long term, more successful than the haphazard. Once NaNoWriMo is over I will put together a list and a few packages of poems, and hit the internet.

I also just started reading J. Michael Straczynski‘s memoir Becoming Superman. I am only a chapter or so in, but already it is quite compelling and I can see it taking reading time away from the Marlon James book.

This past Friday I hit the halfway point in my NaNoWriMo project – 25,000 words in nine days. I didn’t add to the total at all yesterday and have only added about 200 so far today. I hope to hit 35,000 or more by end of day Friday because this upcoming weekend will be exceptionally busy and I want to keep my momentum going. I am sorry to report that the neighbor who is the central piece of this book keeps giving more material to work with. At this rate I could easily complete a trilogy.

A few hours ago I delivered the latest templates for the schedule page for ConFusion 2020. Two months and one week until the convention, and I am counting the hours. This will be my sixth time attending, I believe, and I regret all of the ones I did not attend after the first. I do sincerely enjoy volunteering for ConFusion. I have a set of skills they find useful, and it is so much more fulfilling (if not quite so profitable) than using those skills at work.

A Winner Is Me!

So there I was, waiting for the holiday to begin and SUDDENLY OUT OF NOWHERE* there appeared an ARC of Jin Yong’s A Hero Born. The publisher ran a sweepstakes thing a few weeks back and I entered, as one does, not expecting anything to come of it. This just proves that hope is real.

The other two books in the top row are the latest from Deep Vellum Publishing – a collection of the poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Blood Sisters, a newly-translated novel from South Korean writer Kim Yi-deum.

The bottom row consists of my rewards from a Kickstarter campaign I backed back in fall of 2018. Zombies Need Brains LLC publishes anthologies centered on various subjects and topics. Last year they announced Portals, Temporally Deactivated and Alternate Peace. I submitted a story to Portals, which was rejected, though it was a personalized rejection so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

ZNB just announced the themes for the 2019/2020 collections: Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is Low and It’s Getting Dark. The submission window will open when the Kickstarter launches the first week of August. Keep an eye out, and warm up your pens!

In reading news, I had a great, relaxing few days over the Independence Day weekend and dove into some science fiction from Patrick TomlinsonThe Ark and Trident’s Forge, which I picked up (and got signed!) at ConFusion a couple of years ago. Now I am about a third of the way through Rebecca Roanhorse‘s Storm of Locusts, the sequel to her excellent Trail of Lightning.

To keep myself on task I have begin transcribing all of the poetry sitting unattended in my (over 25 years of) journals. A lot of it is already in Google Docs, but the exercise of re-writing it by hand is useful for seeing where the poems can be improved and also gives me a sense for how my style and sensibilities have changed over the decades.

And maybe I’ll submit something to somewhere sometime.

* actually delivered by a postal employee

The Passive Acquisition of Reading Material

And just like that, the year is half over. Moderately more ups than downs at this point, which is entirely reasonable.

This was a slow but interesting week for the acquisitions department at Winkelman Abbey. Two Kickstarter fulfillment packages arrived, as well as two journal issues. On the left is Frozen Hell, the newly-released deluxe hardcover version of the John Campbell story which inspired The Thing. On the left-of-center is The Writer’s Book of Doubt, an anthology of encouragement for writers, by writers. Center right is the new issue of the always excellent journal Reckoning, and on the right is the latest issue of Poetry. These all just kind of appeared at my doorstep and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

In reading news, just before midnight last night I finished the book which I have been beta-reading for the past two months. It was superb, but I need to let it sit for a month before I offer my feedback to the author. I am also about 20% through the book of essays for which I will be providing a blurb in a few week. For pleasure reading I picked up Ken Liu‘s novella The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary. I quickly realized that, while a beautiful story, it’s a terrible story, if you follow me. Or, as Tom Waits would put it, “beautiful melodies telling me terrible things”. I’ll likely finish it this evening if time permits.

June 30 was the last day of submissions for the October 2019 issue of The 3288 Review, and I am hard at work sending out acceptance and rejection letters and contracts and other various communications on behalf of Caffeinated Press. After an extended bout of self-inflicted FUBAR around the previous issue, this one is coming together nicely, which makes me very happy as I finally have some breathing room in my life, so I can enjoy the summer with my wonderful girlfriend. Maybe I’ll even do some writing. And maybe it will even be good. And with a whole lotta luck and some good old-fashioned elbow-grease, I’ll get something published by the end of the year.

 

Kummerbücher

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks here at Winkelman Abbey, so I buried myself under a new pile of books. Between family, class, Caffeinated Press duties and work, I haven’t have any time to decompress, other than spare moments with my girlfriend at the beginning and end of the day. So my brain has unravelled a bit and lost some data.

If you are looking at this post through an Esper you will see that there are two copies of the Jim Harrison book. I was so distracted by events I ordered a copy from the publisher, then went out and bought a copy at Books and Mortar. When the publisher copy showed up in the mail I was both confused and elated, because multiple copies of a collection of Jim Harrison’s poems is inarguable a Good Thing.

(Plus, to crib a joke from My Blue Heaven, I might want to read it more than once.)

Starting from the left side, going clockwise around the circle, first is Outside the Gates of Eden by Lewis Shiner. I have always been fascinated by events which seem to be the nexus or apotheosis (or both) of cultural movements, and Woodstock is one of the most important of the post-WWII era. This will be a good autumn read, I think.

(I like my beer like I like my books – too thick to see through.)

Next is the most recent issue of Rain Taxi, which I hesitate to read until I get a couple more paychecks, as the reviews therein are just that good.

Third, at the twelve o’clock position, is Nineteen Letters by West Michigan poet Kathleen McGookey. This book is gorgeous! Hardbound and composed of a variety of types if paper, seemingly random. And the poetry therein is, of course beautiful.

Next is volume 3 of the Breakbeat Poets series, Halal If You Can Hear Me, full of poetry written by Muslim women and queer, non-binary, and trans writers. If it it anything like the previous two volumes in the anthology series, this will be a helluva read.

On the far right is the newest issue of The Paris Review. Next to it, in the four o’clock position is The Fall, the sequel to Tracy Townsend’s The Nine, which was a wild ride. Probably dig into it later this summer, and will CERTAINLY bring it to ConFusion 2020 for a signature.

At the bottom right is my current day read, Jim Harrison’s The Essential Poems, newly released by Copper Canyon Press. I have probably read every one of these poems at some point over the past quarter century, but they are good to revisit.

At the bottom left is an impulse purchase, the chapbook Dragonskin from the superb Michael Swanwick.

On middle-left is Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse, which is the sequel to Trail of Lightning.

In the middle are two new books from Apex Publications – the kickstarter-funded anthology Do Not Go Quietly, and Maurice Broaddus‘s new book Pimp My Airship.

Yeah, that’s a good haul. Just reciting them makes me feel a little more…stable.

In reading news, life has been chaotic and I haven’t read much other than a few dozen more pages in my role as a beta reader. I did finish Here: Poems for the Planet, and I offer my whole-hearted recommendation that everyone in the world buy a copy and read it cover to cover, twice. I originally planned to open some nonfiction next, but with the Harrison book it will be poetry for at least a couple more weeks.

(The title of this post is a play on the German word Kummerspeck – “sorrow bacon” – the weight gained through stress-induced overeating. Hopefully stress-induced book buying is less damaging, other than financially.)

Half a Century, Give Or Take

Yup. I did it. I just turned fifty. I have been reading for approximately the past 47 years. If I could do it all over again, I would start earlier and not purge the books I had to buy for college. Well, not all of them, anyway.

Here we are in the first full week of June. I have been running myself ragged trying to get the new issue of The 3288 Review out the door to our contributors and customers. We were ready to go a couple of weeks earlier but ran into an unexpected roadblock called I AM AN IDIOT WHO CAN’T INDESIGN, and that pushed us even farther behind schedule. But the magazines are out now, winging their way into the hands of the excellent members of the West Michigan literary community.

The latest issue, by the way, is in the upper right corner of the above photo. If you would like a copy, they are available from the Caffeinated Press online store.

(That amazing cover artwork? Local artist Jon McAfee.)

So, yes. It has been a busy week.

From top left in the above photo, we have the latest issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet from Small Beer Press, followed by the newest Dreamforge. On the top right is of course the Spring 2019 issue of The 3288 Review.

The middle row is all Harlan Ellison, from a Kickstarter campaign I helped fund back in 2016. Ellison, of course, passed away just over a year ago. But reading through these previously-uncollected works I felt the same frisson I experienced when I first cracked open Dangerous Visions, The Glass Teat, and the excellent collections put out by White Wolf Publishing back in the mid-1990s.

In the bottom row we have The Body Papers by Grace Talusan, published by Restless Books, followed by Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice. On the right is The Wilderness After Which, a collection of poetry from L.S. Klatt, a former Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The latter two I picked up on a whim on a recent visit to Books and Mortar. Call it a birthday present to myself.

In reading news, by day I am still working through the superb poetry in Here: Poems for the Planet. I would have finished by now, but I kept getting sidetracked by sudden inspirations for my own poetry. Collections like this will do that to a person. I am about halfway through the beta read of a novel a good friend wrote over the last decade or so. Time permitting, I should be done with that one by the end of the month.

In non-literary news, I was saddened to see that Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John, a.k.a The Night Tripper, passed away on June 6. Dr. John’s music got me through some of the most difficult parts of my life, and the world is diminished by his passing.

The second line in his honor was quite the celebration.

 

Acquisitions and Losses

It’s been another quiet week for literature here at the library of Winkelman Abbey. The only book to make its way into my collection is the above, It’s All Just a Draft by Tobias S. Buckell. This book is a Kickstarter reward.

I met Buckell a few years back at the ConFusion science fiction convention. He is a semi-regular guest and panelist, and a fun person to talk to at the bar in between sessions. He writes some excellent books, of which my favorites are his Xenowealth series, Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose.

In reading news, I am most of the way through Postcards from the Interior by Wyn Cooper, who I almost met a couple of years ago at the Lost Lake Writer’s Retreat. Almost, because though Cooper couldn’t make it to the retreat, his books did, and I bought some of them. I didn’t have much time or brain-space for reading, so my poetry intake is languishing. I should be done with it today, and then on to the next one! I am also almost finished with Laurus, and should be on to the next evening read by the end of the week.

The “loss” referred to in the title of this post is, of course, the legendary Gene Wolfe, who passed away last weekend at the age of 87. I have been an on-again, off-again fan since the mid-1990s, when I first read his superb Shadow of the Torturer. I met Wolfe briefly at a science fiction convention (probably ConFusion but also possibly a different one) back in the early 2000s. I still regret not having got a book signed.

Here is a brief list of remembrances and appreciations of Mr. Wolfe.

Remembering Gene Wolfe, Valya Dudycz Lupescu
Gene Wolfe Was the Proust of Science Fiction, The New Republic
There Are Doors Everywhere, CSE Cooney
Valar Morghulis, George R. R. Martin
The Bureaucrat has Left the Planet, Michael Swanwick

Warm Days are Good Days for Reading

A little while ago, and for the first time this year, I sat out on my porch and wrote in my journal. The warm weather isn’t expected to last, but I will take every minute I can get.

The first week of April was another fairly quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey. I picked up four new books, three of which are new purchases.

On the left is issue 2 of Michael J. DeLuca‘s fine journal Reckoning, which publishes “creative writing on environmental justice.” I picked up issue 1 at ConFusion back in January, where I also met and shared beers with Mr. DeLuca (as well as several other excellent folks from the genre writing community).

Next is the second volume of the Breakbeat Poets anthology, Black Girl Magic. I picked up volume 1 when my significant other and I visited City Lights Books in June of 2018. I love these anthologies! They are full of powerful, important work which I would almost certainly have never encountered otherwise.

Third up is the revised edition of Conversations with Jim Harrison, a collection of interviews with the late poet and author. I picked up the first edition seven or eight years ago, and read it ferociously, writing down every book, poet, writer and recipe Mr. Harrison mentioned through several dozen interviews. This edition includes additional material up to Harrison’s death in late March of 2016.

Last up is I Am the Abyss, a collection of dark fiction novellas from a Kickstarter campaign I contributed to about three years ago. Things (as they often do) Happened, and production was delayed and further delayed. But the book has finally been released, and it is a thing of beauty! Nine novellas, each with its own custom artwork, all in a very well-produced, high-quality paperback.

In reading news, I finished The Monster Baru Cormorant at around 10:30 in the evening on March 31, thus opening the way for the stack of poetry books I am working my way through during National Poetry Month. So far I have completed the fiftieth anniversary edition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind; Jack Ridl’s latest collection Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, and sam sax’s remarkable book madness. I am currently partway through When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering by Ruth Ellen Kocher.

Speaking of Jack Ridl, this past Friday I attended the Saint Peter and the Goldfinch book release party in Douglas, Michigan. It was a small quiet affair – Mr. Ridl and his family and over 200 of his closest friends filled the Douglas UCC Church to overflowing for a three hour event full of music and poetry and good fellowship. Jack was accompanied on stage by the superb John Shea Trio, who occasionally joined him for, as he put it, “poetry with jazz, rather than jazz poetry.”

Best of all? Jack signed my book.

During National Poetry Month I am tweeting brief snippets of poems from each of the poets we have published in the pages of The 3288 Review. I was going to do one a day but, well, we have published far too many poets for that to work, so each day I am tweeting out, oh, several, give or take.

It feels good to go back through the several years of publication and see the work which has inspired me to participate in the West Michigan literary community. It really feels like…home.

A Quiet Week

It was a quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey, what with the latest polar vortex turning Grand Rapids into a wasteland of ice and snow. Not a lot of time or energy for complex tasks (or thought), so it is just as well that the new stack was small.

From left we have the latest issue of The Paris Review and the new Two Lines journal. Next is 77, the most recent shipment from my subscription to Open Letter Books. The last two are If This Goes On and Hope in This Timeline, books from a couple of Kickstarter campaigns which I backed some time ago. They will go nicely with the other resistance-themed anthologies which I have picked up over the last few months.

Speaking of such anthologies, I am still reading through A People’s Future of the United States, which remains amazing. Such consistently powerful writing from an exceptionally diverse group of writers! I expect to have it finished by the end of this week.

This issue of The Paris Review includes an interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who will turn 100 in a couple of weeks! The interview was conducted over several weeks in 2018, when he was 99. That he is still alive is remarkable, and that he is still active in the literary world is nothing short of astonishing! In the interview he offhandedly mentions regular occurrences from his early life in France, like occasionally seeing Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoer in a cafe in Paris. You know – trivial things.

Ferlinghetti’s book A Coney Island of the Mind was published in 1958, which means it has been out for over 60 years. I have the 50th anniversary edition, which I picked up at City Lights Bookstore this past June. Ferlinghetti has been doing great things in and for the literary world for a decade longer than I have been alive, and he is still going at it, with a new book, Little Boy, coming out on March 19. I was going to hold off on buying more books for a while, but I can see this is a lost cause.

For more on Sartre and de Beauvoir, I highly recommend At the Existentialist Cafe.

Books, and What Could Have Been

A small but distinguished selection of reading material appeared at Winkelman Abbey this past week. From left, we have Cursed and Skull & Pestle, two anthologies from World Weaver Press. Third is the inaugural issue (!!!) of DreamForge Magazine. And finally, and most eagerly awaited, Terminal Uprising by Jim C. Hines.

A year ago this month I spent most of my free time putting together a story for Skull & Pestle. I completed about 90% of a first draft but realized that I would need to either burn a week of vacation days or break up with my girlfriend in order to complete and edit the story in time for the deadline. Therefore I shelved it. The story is good, I think, involving a colony of Old Believers, teen angst and bullying, the Midwest, and of course Baba Yaga. I may complete it at some point and see if there is still need for such stories.

But hey! Even if I didn’t submit my story to this anthology I still get to read the anthology, and that is a very good thing. And World Weaver Press consistently produces some top-quality anthologies.

In reading news, I finished The Blood-Tainted Winter by TL Greylock, and moved on to Death March by Phil Tucker. This was a much faster read and I had more time available for reading, so I completed it Friday night. Last night I started The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark. 25 pages in, and I am completely hooked! Of course it is a short novella so I will probably finish tonight or tomorrow. Then likely on to Terminal Uprising, though The Nine by Tracy Townsend is suddenly looming large in my attention, due it being discussed in the most recent episode (14.7, “How Weird is Too Weird?”) of the Writing Excuses podcast.

Currently goals: Structuring life so I have time to both read well and write well.