Boom, etc.

The annual ritual of pretending to blow up every goddamn thing in the city is over for the year, or at least until tonight. All political opinions aside, the mode of celebration of Independence day, to wit: simulate acts of destruction, has been done to death. Maybe from now on we as a country should collectively do something constructive with our holiday time. Like volunteer at veteran’s hospital or something.

Nah, that will never happen. This is America! Belligerence is freedom! Compassion is socialism, or something.

Anyway.

Now that the McHenry LARPing is done I can get back to my regular schedule of 4-5 hours of sleep a night, rather than 2-3 as has been the case this past week. No matter what time I go to bed, I am awakened by Poe at cat o’clock, which tends to be in the 4:45 to 5:15 time slot. With my rest time returned to “barely adequate” I may have the focus and mental energy to begin writing my new novel, which I had planned to start last week, before the glacier of burnout calved and filled the ocean of my mind with the icebergs of FUCKIT.

Anyway.

This past week was a good one for books here at the library at Winkelman Abbey. Ten new books, chapbooks and periodicals arrived since last Sunday. On the top left is the super-fun Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike. I recently finished reading the e-book version and liked it so much that I bought a physical copy, in the event that I ever run into Mr. Pike at a convention, assuming conventions ever happen again.

Second from left is the final book in Dyrk Ashton’s Paternus trilogy, Paternus: War of Gods. The first two, Paternus: Rise of Gods and Paternus: Wrath of Gods, were fantastic, so I have high hopes for this one.

In the middle of the top row is LatiNext, the fourth book in the BreakBeat Poets series of anthologies published by Haymarket Books. I cannot recommend this series highly enough. The power, passion, precision, beauty, anger and love in these pages is unequaled in my experience. They are just that good!

Fourth in the top row is The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, which has been on my to-read list for several years. Times being what they are, it seemed the appropriate time to dive in.

On the top right is Captivating Freedom, a collection of essays on the extrusion of the carceral space into the daily lives of “free” or non-incarcerated citizens. I came across this one while reading Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism back in late 2019. I have only read the introduction so far, but it was enough to recognize that there are some important and frightening lessons to be learned therein.

On the lower left is the latest issue of Poetry magazine. Next to it is the latest issue of the ever-wonderful Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, published by Small Beer Press, one of the very best of the small, independent presses in operation today.

The last three in the lower row are Trusting the Mind, A Day in the Life, and The Missionary Sutras, chapbooks of Red Pine’s translations of Buddhist writing, published by Empty Bowl. I have enjoyed Red Pine’s writing and translation for many years, and am always excited to discover something new in which he has had a hand.

(Note that links to author info and purchasing options are collected on the 2020 Books and Reading List.)

In reading news I finished Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes, and it was quite good. I didn’t feel that it was quite the equal of The Sword of Kaigen or Orconomics, but it was an enjoyable read all the way through and I recommend it to any fans of pirates and magic. I am also about halfway through Derek Künsken’s The Quantum Magician, and so far really enjoying it. It reminds me a little of Michael Flynn’s The January Dancer, in the way that Künsken treats the dispersion and fragmentation of humanity in a far future set in a boundless space.

A few days ago and purely at random, I pulled up on my Kindle Saga of Old City, Gary Gygax‘s first (and best) Gord the Rogue novel. This is pure comfort reading. It is passably well-written (6/10) for its time (mid- 1980s) and Gygax’s excitement and joy in writing his first novel really comes through. Unfortunately the subsequent books in the series do not measure up to the first, becoming increasingly encumbered by unnecessary hooks and references to the source RPG material. By the last in the series (Dance of Demons) they are nearly unreadable, except as artifacts of the history of fantasy RPG novels.

It is on my bucket list to do a complete re-edit of Saga of Old City and Artifact of Evil, the first two books in the series, and the only two written by Gygax which were published by TSR.

(Note that with reference to 21st century sensibilities, none of these novels aged particularly well)

I have one more week of vacation, and I have reduced my writing expectations from 20,000 words to 10,000 and likely down to 5,000 by the time next Sunday rolls around.

Writing is hard. Starting to write is harder.

A Sudden Bump in Book Stocks

After several weeks of small or nonexistent book orders coming in to the Library at Winkelman Abbey, several appeared at the same time. This was due to various subscriptions, Kickstarters, bookstore orders, and one impulse purchase from an independent publisher.

On the top left is Wild Sun by Ehsan and Shakil Ahmad. This one arrived unexpectedly from Dreamforge as a thank you for supporting their Kickstarter. In the top center is Last Dragon by J.M. McDermott, the latest from my subscription to Apex Publications. On the right is Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie, which I ordered from our local indie bookstore Books and Mortar.

Middle row left is the latest issue of Poetry magazine. The next three are poetry books which I ordered from Books and Mortar – Without Protection by Gala Mukomolova, How to Dress a Fish by Abigail Chabitnoy, and Simulacra by Airea D. Matthews. I subscribe to several poem-a-day email services, of which the most prominent two are Tracy K. Smith’s The Slowdown and the Poem-a-Day from the Academy of American Poets. When a poem resonates, I will find a recent book by the poet and add it to one of my lists on Amazon. When I feel the need for more poetry in my life I will order a few of the books on that list from Books and Mortar. When they arrive, I remove them from the list on Amazon. It’s the opposite of the people who browse local bookstores then order the books they want from Amazon. Those people are jerks.

The bottom row contains the three books I ordered from the Literary Conversations series, published by University Press of MississippiConversations with William Gibson, Conversations with Gary Snyder, and Conversations with Samuel R. Delaney. At present count I have about a dozen of the Literary Conversations collections. They are extremely well done, quite enjoyable to read, and valuable resources for research.

In reading news, I recently burned through R.A. Salvatore‘s Dark Elf TrilogyHomeland, Exile and Sojourn. These were all re-reads of books which I have not revisited in at least fifteen years. Once upon a time I read everything I could get my hands on which was set in the Forgotten Realms. I think I burned myself out. But it felt good to dive back in. They are not great literature by any means, but they are good stories with engaging characters and quite complex worldbuilding. It was a complete comfort read, and now I will probably read a few more before I return to the world of LitFic.

Plus, I decided I want to write a fantasy novel, and Salvatore’s work is a great place to start putting my head in that particular space.

Publication Announcement: Portage Magazine

I am overjoyed to announce that Portage Magazine has just published two of my poems in their 2020 issue. You can read “Afternoon Traffic” and “Percussion” on their website, as well as the rest of the excellent collection published by this gem of a journal.

These are the first poems I have had published since 1999. This is also the first unsolicited work which I have had published since 1999, when I placed in the 1999 Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition and was subsequently published in that year’s issue of Voices.

I became aware of Portage Magazine when I was looking for possible venues for submission. There are of course thousands of outlets for poetry but that doesn’t mean a specific outlet is right for a specific poem. Since I am a Midwesterner, and therefore a Midwestern writer, I tried to use certain keywords to filter the lists from Poets & Writers, Duotrope, and other lists, but that still left several hundred possibilities. So I abandoned all of that and simply looked through the author bios of the 12 issues of The 3288 Review which Caffeinated Press published over the past five years, and wrote down the venues which had also published the poets which we had published. That left a much more manageable list, and Portage Magazine was right there in the middle of it all. And they do a very good job of publishing and promoting their authors.

Thank you for reading!

Poe Approves of Poetry and Translation

Poe is recovering nicely from her spaying and wants you to read the latest issue of Poetry, as well as That We May Live, a collection of Chinese speculative fiction in translation from Two Lines Press.

The big news from this past week is that I was notified that two of my poems have been accepted for publication! I will announce the venue when the publication date approaches. I can say that the journal which selected them is of the highest caliber. This will be my first unsolicited acceptance since the 1999 issue of Voices.

Reading and writing have both been mostly on hiatus for the last week, due to family duties, taking care of a recovering cat, and general exhaustion from extreme lack of sleep. I have managed to read a few stories from Varlam Shalamov‘s collection Kolyma Stories. This has done nothing for my peace of mind, as they are set in the gulag where he spent more than a decade of his life.

I have begun the process of turning my NaNoWriMo 2019 project — lightly-fictionalized writing about my terrible neighbor — into a series of short stories, and should hopefully have at least one of them whipped into shape before my birthday at the beginning of June. Would be nice to have at least one more publication under my belt by the end of the year.

Non-ConFusion Books is a Relatively Small Stack

While digging out from under the post-ConFusion pile of books I set aside two new additions to the Library of Winkelman Abbey. On the left is the latest edition of Poetry magazine, and on the right is The Best of Uncanny from Subterranean Press. This is a Big Gorgeous Book and I will likely be reading the stories therein for several weeks.

Speaking of reading, I am working through the stories in the various Long List Anthologies of runners-up in the Short Fiction category from the Hugo Awards. Five of these anthologies have been published so far, and I hope the series continues as long as the Hugos are awarded.

Writing has mostly involved a few short poems and a lot of editing of the large stack of short stories. I have about half a dozen submissions out there and I have already received three rejection letters in 2020, so I am off to a rocking start!

Paws for Poetry

First, the most important news of the year. As of Christmas day, 2019, we have a cat! Internet, meet Poe, our Yooper ginger kitten. As near as we can tell he is about five months old. We adopted him from my girlfriend’s sister’s farm in Rudyard. Or rather, he adopted us. All of the cats were approachable, but Poe was the only one who stuck around to socialize after being fed.

Zyra named him after Edgar Allan Poe. Addressing someone as “po” is also a sign of respect in Tagalog and other Filipino dialects. And before anyone asks, no the cat was not named after Poe Dameron from the latest Star Wars trilogy.

(When I announced the kitten acquisition on Facebook the fine folks there suggested names like “Gravy”, “Pasty”, and “Poutine”. Poutine would in fact be a good name for a cat.)

Unless something exciting happens in the next two days, the January 2020 issue of Poetry will likely be the last acquisition to the Library at Winkelman Abbey for 2019. And that is fine. I have more than enough to read over the next few months, and since I want to hit the ground running on January 2 with lots of writing, editing and submitting, I won’t have as much time to read and catalog. I think of all my various subscriptions I will only be keeping three going into the new year: Poetry, Paris Review and And Other Stories. I might renew the subscription to Restless Books, but I need to draw the line somewhere.

In reading news, I haven’t done much in the past week. Still working through Gore Capitalism and occasionally edging carefully past my copy of A Thousand Plateaus on the way to and from the kitchen, lest I startle it into attacking me.

I doubt I will start reading any new books before the new year; too many and-of-year projects to complete, too much food to eat, and wow, do kittens require a lot of attention.

Happy New Year, everyone!

(PS: You cant have Poetry without Poe! Poetry without Poe is just “try”.)

A Break in the Drought

Oh it’s been a crazy busy couple of weeks, but to make up for the stress of work, work, and, uh work, we received a refreshingly large pile of reading material here at the library of Winkelman Abbey.

Top left is the latest issue of Dreamforge. Next to it is the latest issue of Rain Taxi, which means I will probably soon be ordering a few more books, based on the reviews in Rain Taxi. Third is The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain, which I picked up from Amazon on a whim. Last in the top row is the latest Tensorate series book from Jy Yang, The Ascent to Godhood.

Bottom row left is She Had Some Horses by newly-installed Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo. I am somewhat embarrassed to say this is the first of her poetry I have read. Next is the Ted Chiang’s newest collection Exhalation. Second from right is How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This one has been on my radar for some time, and in anticipation of its arrival I have watched several of Kendi’s lectures and interviews on YouTube. Dude has some seriously powerful things to say about institutional racism.

Rightmost in the bottom row is the newest book from my Patreon subscription to Apex Books, Ration by Cody T. Luff.

I haven’t had much time to read this past week, what with work hours and the run-up to the release of the next issue of The 3288 Review. I am about 30 pages from the end of Jin Yong’s A Hero Born, and about a dozen poems from finishing Lynn Breedlove’s  45 Thought Crimes. After that, the next thing on my reading list is sleep.

It’s the Little Things In Life

Not much to add to the stack at the Library of Winkelman Abbey this week. The latest issues of The Paris Review and Two Lines arrived a few days ago, but life has been so busy I have not even had time to look through their tables of contents.

For reading, I finished The Hammer by Brazilian poet Adelaide Ivánova. It was quite an experience. The poems deal with rape and assault and infidelity and rage; what Tom Waits would call “beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” Highly recommended.

Right now I’m reading A Hero Born by Jin Yong. I won it a couple of months ago from a sweepstakes held at Tor.com. I have practiced martial arts for thirty years and seen scores of martial arts movies, but until now I have never read a wuxia novel. It’s great! Good characters, an interesting plot, and loads of great fight scenes.

I am also browsing through Andrés Neuman‘s book How to Travel Without Seeingwhich I received in September 2016 as part of my subscription to Restless Books. This is a travel book of sorts. Neuman wrote it as a collection of sentence- to paragraph-sized vignettes describing scenes and moments in his travels throughout Central and South America.

I have read other books written like this – Trysting by Emmanualle Pagano (excerpt). Notes From a Bottle Found On the Beach at Carmel and Points for a Compass Rose by Evan S. Connell. I love this technique – collections of notes, distinct in themselves, which when assembled create a compelling narrative. And the writing is beautiful; each vignette could be a short poem; each chapter a lyric essay.

Now that Autumn approaches my reading time will be in short supply, with the deadline for the next issue of The 3288 Review arriving in October, and National Novel Writing Month in November.

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate already.

Entering the Home Stretch of Summer

Yes, Summer doesn’t technically end until September 20, but this is the last week of August, so it’s the last week of Summer.

Not a lot happened this week, library-wise. I received the newest issues of Jacobin and Poetry (two great tastes which taste great together), but no new books.

In reading news, I finished A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, whose stories are wonderful and weird and strangely satisfying. Châteaureynaud has an interesting writing voice which feels like it came out of the late 1900s, even in his stories set in contemporary times. I am not entirely sure how much of this is Châteaureynaud’s own aesthetic and how much of it is a quirk of the translation process. I expect it would read much the same in French. Recommended for anyone looking for an unusual collection of short stories which skirt the edge of genre; like, say, Ivan Turgenev writing episodes of The Twilight Zone.

I am about half an hour from the end of Daâood’s The Language of Saxophones, and will likely finish it tonight. And I just started Snow over Utopia by Rudolfo A. Sirna, which arrived here a couple of weeks ago from Apex Publications. Only a few pages in, but I like it so far.

Namaste, yo.

Vita Brevis, Ars Longa

I can only guess that the current lull in books appearing on my doorstep is due to the end-of-summer doldrums currently afflicting (and affecting) the entire Midwest. The air has a noticeable weight to it which makes simple tasks like breathing and moving difficult. The only book to so far wing its way to my house is the one pictured, Snow over Utopia by Rudolfo A. Sirna, published by Apex Book Company. When Apex cancelled their superb magazine I tweaked the amount I contribute to their Patreon, and now I have a de facto subscription to the Apex Book Company catalog. Win!

No update last week as I was too busy with the ten thousand tasks which encumber the life of a homeowner and diligent boyfriend in these perilous times. I did manage to write a few poems, two free verse and two villanelles, which were both fun and useful for providing constraints which freed up the creative process.

In reading news I am working my way through two books – A Life On Paper, a collection of the stories by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, published by the always-excellent Small Beer Press; and The Language of Saxophones, a collection of the poetry of Kamau Daáood, which I picked up from City Lights Books during last month’s vacation to San Francisco. Both are brilliant, but my reading time has been been nearly non-existent this month so I probably won’t finish either until Labor Day weekend.