Poetry at the End of Days

Ugh. That was a week. The project I have been on for the past month crashed and burned, and I had the delightful and familiar experience of being thrown under the bus. Such is the life of a developer. The project manager was a good sort – smart, driven, creative, good ideas, but really bad with organization and communication. Thus the current view from under the bus.

A nice collection of reading material arrived this week, a combination of subscriptions, an online order, and a delivery from our superb local bookstore Books and Mortar.

On the left is the new issue of Poetry. Next to it is autobiography of a semiromantic anarchist by Monica Teresa Ortiz. On the top right is Kristin Chang’s collection Past Lives, Future Bodies.

Bottom row left is Palestine+100, a companion volume to Iraq+100, which I picked up a year or so ago. These are collections which imagine what the respective countries will be like 100 years from the catastrophic events which befell them, in the case of this book, the nakba in 1948. Lower middle is Barn 8 by Deb Olun Unferth, and bottom right is Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichy. These last two are the latest from my subscription to And Other Stories.

My girlfriend and I have adjusted to the new reality of both of us being home all the time and not being able to get out and walk around due to her recently-sprained ankle. We both have personal projects to keep us occupied, and house and kitten do take a lot of maintenance to keep them livable.

Speaking of kitten, Poe has been with us for just over three months. I think we will hit the 100 day mark on Friday, which will probably warrant its own blog post. Poe is a treasure, and her presence in the house is a wonderful stress reliever, even when she wants to be fed and entertained at 5:00 a.m. At this moment she is laying in my lap cleaning herself, sprawled across my left arm and partially tucked under my laptop. She is just too cute for words.

This past week I only read random bits of things, nothing meaningful enough to blog about. Likewise with the writing. The combination of existential uncertainty, coupled with the significant disruption to the daily routine, has diminished my ability to focus on what needs to be done. Even editing old work takes more mental energy than I currently have available.

But spring is here and the days are longer, warmer and brighter, and though the amount of time I have available hasn’t really changed, deep down in my bones I feel more energized.

Apex Delivery

February ended on a cold note but here in the first day of March I walked along the river with my honey in late afternoon sunshine and an air temperature in the upper fifties, Fahrenheit. We still have three more weeks of winter, technically, but fifty degrees in winter is much better than fifty degrees in summer.

The library of Winkelman Abbey only saw one delivery this week, from Apex Publications, with the two books pictured above – Winterglass and Mirrorstrike, both by Benjanun Sriduangkew.

In reading news I rounded out the month of February with a little over twenty short stories completed, which put my brain in an excellent space to start revising a couple of first drafts. I will post the list later this week.

Writing for the past week was about on par with writing the week before, to wit: Not a lot started or finished. I was just completely brain-fried and needed to take a little time off. But now that we are in a new month I intend to get back into my daily routine tomorrow at 5:30 am sharp. If I can keep that up for the month that should be enough time to get another story to a point that I can begin shopping it around to some lit journals. And maybe give me time to start working on a new short story for one of the thirty or so calls for themed publications I have bookmarked for the rest of 2020.

That’s all for now; time for bed.

February and All That

Amazing how time flies when you have a kitten. Suddenly February is here and I can already feel the impending changing of seasons and birthdays and of course the end of the year is one month closer.

This week’s bundle of books for the Library of Winkelman Abbey is small but distinguished. On the left is Berari’s The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance, from Semiotext(e). In the middle is the latest arrival from And Other Stories, Gerald Murnane’s collection of essays Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs. On the right is Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts, the cover of which is even more beautiful in person than in the photo.

In reading, I am slowly ramping up again and working my way through volumes III and IV of the Long List Anthologies. There stories therein are absolutely amazing, no two anything alike, and while reading I feel simultaneously inspired and intimidated.

In writing, I took some time off from creating and editing, and used that time to update my list of published works. This effort included posting my novelette “Hvalur,” which was part of the original Brewed Awakenings anthology published by Caffeinated Press back in 2015.

I have made some progress on a cyberpunk-ish short story, and the research thereof has given me material for some new poems which may or may not see the light of day at some point in the future.

If I publish none of it, at least the cat will still love me.

New Old Story

Back in 2013 I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. My project was a science fiction murder mystery set in and around a twenty kilometer tall tower located in the Gabon Estuary near Libreville. It was a fun exercise and I learned a lot about writing, but there were many (in hindsight) problematic aspects to the story and I have not done much with it since.

In 2014, as Caffeinated Press was starting up, the editor in chief approached the members of the writing group which had spawned the press and announced an open call for stories for an inaugural anthology. I wrote “Hvalur,” a 9,900 word prequel story to the 2013 NaNoWriMo project, and it was accepted and published in Brewed Awakenings I.

Since then, Caffeinated Press has gone out of business and the rights to the story have reverted to me. Rather than consign “Hvalur” to the long-tail limbo of Amazon.com’s back shelves I decided to put it up here on my website where it can be read for free. Aside from some minor line edits, this is the version which appeared in the anthology.

“Hvalur” is the first of what will eventually be a large collection of my writing which I will release publicly. If I get positive feedback I might even set up a Patreon account.

Click here to read “Hvalur.”

 

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!

The Kitten of the North

Poe has been with us a little over a week, and in that time we discovered that (a) Poe is a girl, and (b), she is extremely affectionate, going from half-feral when we got her into the house, to insisting on sitting on our laps, shoulders and heads.

No new books here in the first week of the year, and my reading time has been limited. I am still working my way through Sayak Valencia’s Gore Capitalism, and opened up Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (again) just for some light reading. I also finished all the stories in issue 7 of Pulphouse, which is a truly excellent magazine. I am glad they are back in business and are making a good go of it.

This past Thursday, January 2, I went back to work after almost two weeks off for the holidays. More importantly, I started in on my new morning routine, which is really more of a clarification and expansion of my old morning routine. It goes something like this: Wake up every morning at 5:30. Work out for about 45 minutes. Do writing stuff for an hour and a half. Work out for fifteen more minutes. Get ready for work.

The writing stuff is broken up by day. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I write. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I edit. on Friday, I submit. That meant that this past week I got in one day of editing and one day of submitting. It worked well; I got in some good edits on three poems and submitted four older poems to three journals. We will see how this goes. As a sub-goal I will try to send out about five submissions a week of variously assembled packets of poems and whichever of my large slush pile of short stories are ready to send out into the world.

As I get fully into my routine, which will likely happen in February, I may adjust some things to account for my girlfriend’s new morning schedule when she starts her new job, and the wants, needs and demands of the kitten.

Entering the Home Stretch of 2019

Wow. That year went quickly and also dragged like a drunk sloth. And we still have three weeks to go.

Last week was fairly quiet for the acquisitions department here at the library of Winkelman Abbey. Most of my subscriptions have wound down and I am not out and about purchasing new books as frequently as I have in past years. I don’t consider that a particular problem as I have enough unread books here that, were I to quit all other obligations and devote my life to reading, I would still have difficulty making it through the pile before 2030. For every 36-page poetry collection I have a matching 800+ page genre novel, and more of each are published every day.

In the middle of the above stack is the latest issue of The Paris Review. On the left is Soft Science, a poetry collection by Franny Choi which I purchased on impulse when I visited Books & Mortar to pick up my special order of the book on the right, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher.

With the Fisher book in hand I now have a good stack of holiday reading, which I consider appropriate for some good holiday reading here at the end of 2019.

All of these books have arrived at the Abbey within the last year.

With NaNoWriMo over and Caffeinated Press winding down, as well as various other obligations on hiatus for the month, I have had a lot of time to read, which has been wonderful! I completed Dyrk Ashton‘s excellent Paternus: Wrath of Gods last weekend, and shortly after made it to the end of the magnificent Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. Both books have sequels in the works, and they cannot arrive soon enough!

Currently I am about a third of the way through Jackie Wang‘s Carceral Capitalism. For this (and the other books in the holiday reading photo) I am going back to my roots as a student and treating the reading as a learning assignment. I am taking notes and cross-referencing, underlining long stretches of text with a blue ball-point pen. The experience has been enlightening, if such a word applies to a book as astonishing, infuriating and depressing as this one.

In my spare moments I have been organizing all of my completed, mostly-written, and partially-written poems and short stories, and sorting them into stacks based on whether or not I think they are ready to send out into the wild. Based on the advice Tobias Buckell offered in It’s All Just a Draft I have put together several lists of potential targets at which to fire off my work – fiction, nonfiction poetry, genre and themed deadlines and anthologies. Gotta be somebody, somewhere who wants to publish the work of a burned out, disaffected fifty-something dude.

With 2019, and therefore the decade, winding down, many think-pieces are surfacing on the internet, looking back on the events of 2009-2019 and how now compares to then. I have not decided if I will do something like that. If so it will certainly happen in the last day or so of the year. Wouldn’t want to miss a last-minute event.

 

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.

50K and Counting

At 9:00 pm on Wednesday, November 20, I passed 50,000 words in my NaNoWrimo 2019 project titled Neighbors: A Malediction. It. Felt. Wonderful. This is by far the earliest I have passed 50,000 words in the seven years I have participated in National Novel Writing Month. This is also my fifth win. I gave myself a much-needed break and slept in until 7:30 am yesterday, instead of the customary 5:15 which arrives oh, so early as the days get shorter and the nights darker.

Now that the bulk of the writing is out of the way I have time to read and catch up with my journaling, which has fallen by the wayside these past few weeks.

Three books arrived this past week, and none the week before. On the left is volume 1 of The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction, which I grabbed from the Write616 archives scattered around the floor of the Caffeinated Press office when I stopped by to pick up a few copies of issue 5.1 of The 3288 Review to ship to a customer. In the middle is Lesley Conner’s The Weight of Chains, which I received as a surprise lagniappe for backing a Kickstarter campaign for Apex Publications. On the right is the latest arrival from my subscription to Restless Book, Silence of the Chagos by Shenaz Patel, which looks like something I might need to bump up a few tiers in my TBR pile.

I have managed to set aside a little time for reading this month. I finished both J. Michael Straczynski‘s extraordinary memoir Becoming Superman and Tobias Buckell‘s extremely helpful book of writing advice It’s All Just a Draft. I am still working my way through Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and loving it more with every page. And for my night reading I just picked up Paternus: Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton, which I picked up (and got signed by the author!) at ConFusion 2019 back in January. I’m only about two chapters in but it is every bit as much fun as was the first book in the series, Paternus: Rise of Gods.

For  the last week of the month I plan to add a few thousand more words to the NaNoWriMo novel to get to the end of the first draft. Of course “first draft” is perhaps overselling the novel at this point. It is really the “pre-first” or “box of scraps” draft. A thorough re-read and hefty rewrite will bring it up to first draft.

This is the first time I have completed a novel during NaNoWriMo. In the first year I came close, though on re-read there are many things about it which were problematic and will need to be changed. But perhaps at this time next year I will be able to announce that I am shopping a novel around, looking for a publisher.

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.