Anger is an Energy

“Stay angry, little Meg,” Mrs. Whatsit whispered. “You will need all your anger now.” For those who don’t recognize it, this is from Madeline L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle In Time.  It’s an important thing to hear, especially for the young (alas, I’m no longer in that group), and for women, and people of color. Too often, there is a denial of anger. You’re not allowed to be angry. You cannot voice that anger. You can’t give it form.

Why? Because it’s rude. It’s unladylike. It confirms everything they say about you. (Never mind “they” are allowed to be angry, and have think pieces written about their anger, and have talking heads on networks want to explore their anger in depth.) I’m going to quote a young lady, Emma Gonzalez, who said today “We call BS!” Anger is needed right now. And I hope this lady stays angry for a long time to come.

Anger is explosive fuel. It can consume you. You’ll burn out like 40,000 matches. But anger can be channeled and focused. It becomes passion and drive. You can use it to build and create. You can use it to fight back in ways most folks can’t conceive.

Take control of your story. Show that your lives matter. Fight the default narrativeBe the stone that the builder refused.

Please. Because we need the right kind of anger now, more than ever.

 

 

 

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So I Turned Myself to Face Me

First, because he caught the sentiment in a bottle:

Another year has clicked away. This one starts with a few changes for me.  But there’s one, regarding my writing, I have to announce now. As far as the IRS is concerned, I am a freelance writer.  Yep. Self-employment taxes start if you earn $400 or more. I’ve earned around $420 from short story publication. It’s not much at all – I’m not going to do without a day job based on this income.  But it feels like I’ve accomplished something. What was Ambassador Kosh said?

OK, maybe not appropriate. But I’ve wanted to share that portrait for a while now. And while pebbles do get caught in the avalanche, pebbles are how avalanches begin as well. Small actions and small changes. A little more rain than usual. A wildfire which takes out just the right stand of trees.  All of these items build into something bigger, until it keeps rolling along. I’m hoping this will start a personal avalanche.

This will take more than a few short story sales and residuals. I need to keep working (and, yes, I do mean the day job) but on other projects as well. So, here’s my 2018 punch list:

 

  1. Write Another Novel – I’ve gotten out of the novel-writing habit as I’ve focused on short fiction. That has to change. I’m working on a book based on a short story wrote last year, and I think it’ll be an interesting story I haven’t seen in the market before.  But, I’ve got to put the work in. The first part of this year will be planning. All planning.  That way, during the second part of the year, I can just dig in and start grinding out the word count.
  2. Submit Stories – This has to continue.  I’ve got six short stories in various stages of planning and writing. I’ve got to work on more, and work on increasing the quality of the stories. If writing a novel is practice for cross-country running, the stories are how I keep my sprinting skills intact.
  3. Get Serious on Education – 2018 will be a learning year for me. I’ll be retraining myself in quite a few skills, but I need to throw myself into a more structured way of improving my writing.  Books on writing books are lovely, but I can only go so far down that road. I’ve been traveling it since I was in high school…
  4. Network – Last year, my wife challenged me: “Have one conversation with someone at a conference that you don’t already know and did not publish you.” It’s her way of saying I need to network more. And it’s true. How many opportunities do I lose because I’m shy? Or I just don’t say, “Oh, why the Hell not?”  Time to say yes, despite my fears.
  5. Photography – To say my photography has suffered in the last year is being kind. I spent most of my energy just surviving. I focused on writing. But I need to make sure I find time, at least once a month, to go and take photos, then post them. Even if it’s nothing fancy – even if it’s just me trying lighting set-ups.
  6. Podcast – This actually combines with photography. I’ve been told I have a decent voice. So I’m planning on a small podcast named after this site. It’ll likely be something thrown up onto either YouTube or maybe my Flickr account, but I figure it can’t hurt to be heard

Yes, this is a lot. Yes, it may be overly ambitious.

But compared to others, I’m in a good place. I’ve got family, friends, and funds I can rely on.  Now, I have to capitalize on my good fortune and see where I can go from here.

Have Yourself An Upgraded Christmas

IMG_20171211_192305_827Once again, I reach a time of year where I’m reflective. Luckily, the day job has been doing its level best to keep me busy, making sure all my energy is spent there and not on frivolities like everything else in the world. But, moments of introspection still creep into my head.  I need to remind myself I’ve actually accomplished a few things:

I’ve been published in two anthologies now. The latest is The Death of All Things and I had the distinct honor of being edited by two authors I admire: Kat Richardson and Laura Anne Gilman. I learned more than I can say working on that story, and have been working on applying those lessons in all future stories.

I’ve got five stories out on submission, and three more in various stages of completion. And, I’m diving back into planning a novel, based on the character from my short story.

My photography has not expanded much this year. I need to change next year, and actually get back to creating and posting images as well as text. But, speaking of images, I’ve made my first AMV in ages. That and a test recording I did had folks suggest I create a podcast which only a few isolated folks will listen to. I think I might mix the two: have the podcast style ramblings but with images I’ve taken, or art by my friends.

But I have to invest more in my writing. And that means moving away from comfort into areas of fear.  It means trying to come back from conferences speaking to at least one person I had not met before. It means making contacts, networking, and all the things my introverted nature hisses at. It means pushing my boundaries. I must improve. I must adapt. I must upgrade.

In the Heat of the Sun: Desert Noir

Film noir. Two words which conjure images of unshaven men in fedoras, dangerous women in evening dresses, rain-slicked back alleys in America’s cities, and… prospectors in California mining towns?

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And yet, I’m starting to find the arid lands outside of the great noir settings hold just as many people making bad decisions in a desperate attempt to escape their circumstances.

Every Sunday morning at 10am Eastern, I visit Noir Alley.  Hosted by Eddie Muller – a man who earned the title “The Czar of Noir” with his work in the Film Noir Foundation – I watch our host lead us through classic films of the era. And while I’ve seen my share of bank jobs gone wrong, or loves turn to murder (and tweeted along to them on #NoirAlley), I was surprised by one location which kept appearing: the desert, and the mountains.

Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino’s High Sierra is a famous example. This early noir ended in the desert town of Lone Pine, California, with a sharpshooter taking down Bogart after a tense stand on the rough mountains. But as films went on, the desert became more and more prominent.

In Framed, Glen Ford’s follow-up to Gilda, Ford plays a mining engineer looking to start anew. He finds an old prospector, a chance at a good job, and a James M. Cain style murder plot all under the glaring sun.  The end of The Prowler, a dark little film staring Van Heflin and Evelyn Keys and written (in pseudonym) by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, ends with the larcenous pair trapped in a ghost town where their adulterous desires will meet a brutal end.

And then there is Split Second. On the surface, this is a hostage drama with escaped convicts. But instead of an urban home, everyone is in an abandoned resort town in the desert under a ticking clock. In this case, an above-ground atom bomb test.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen someone get their (film production code mandated) bad end through a nuclear detonation.

But even through other films, the desert shows up. Las Vegas becomes a setting in many places. A good number of chase scenes take place out away from the city. I know it’s likely just because it’s cheaper to film out there, yet I think here’s something more.

Take Ida Lupino‘s brilliant film, The Hitch-Hiker. Without the desolate beauty of Baja California, would the main character’s plight as hostages of the high-hiker been half as tense? In the desert, you can run anywhere, and still have nowhere to go, and no safe place to escape.

Think about this the next time you’re heading down a dark road in the middle of the desert, no companions but scrub brush, coyotes, and a strange man who asks you: “Got a light?”

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Babooshka & Delirium’s Mistress at Tea

Often, when I write, it’s downstairs on the couch. Usually there’s a cat attempting to knock my iPad out of its Qwertkey keyboard. Often there’s sun spilling through the blinds. But always there’s something playing on YouTube. Usually, it’s music. Today, it was about music. I threw on a 2014 BBC documentary on Kate Bush as I wrote up notes on various possible stories and novels. And as I listened to Kate Bush’s songs, and watched her videos, a notion hit me.

I posted this on Twitter: “In my imaginary world, Kate Bush and Tanith Lee used to spend afternoons together, laughing, and telling each other stories based on dreams.”

And I could see it. I could see the two of them in a small house somewhere – either Lee’s residence or Kate Bush’s Wickham Farm home studio. Kate would be working on Hounds of Love, singing bits and pieces of it, toying with a piano or keyboard. Tanith would be writing everything longhand, as if possessed, and reading early drafts of Delirium’s Mistress or “Medra” from a battered and cluttered writing desk.

Why these two? In some ways, I’ve always tied them together. The first time I heard Kate Bush sing, it was “Love & Anger” from The Sensual World.  Around that same time, the first of Tanith’s books – the Flat Earth Series – found their way into my hands. The back of my brain connected their voices.

But watching the documentary on Bush, and thinking back to ReaderCon discussions about Lee, I realized they were kin to each other. They were strange and sensual voices in a time plagued by sameness. No one could ever read one of Tanith Lee’s novels or listen to Kate Bush’s songs and say, “Well, it’s obvious they’re just riffing off this artist…” You can’t draw a direct line from their works to some antecedent.

They would always surprise you. They’d go down their own path and invite you along for the ride.

After all, these are ladies who would describe snow as ‘hooded-wept’ and ‘warm as toast.’ How could they not share garden space in the neighborhood of my mind?

We Can Be Heroes

They say you should never meet your heroes. You will realize they have feet of clay, lecherous hands, and spiteful mouths. Let them remain a shadow in the back of your mind. The Platonic idea of your hero will always beat the real thing.

In this case, I’m glad I didn’t listen. Over ten years ago, I went to GenCon with three close friends. We were there to support our favorite mini game at the time. And I realized that Michael Stackpole, fantasy and tie-in fiction author I admired for years, was not only attending but presenting  a multi-day workshop on writing. At the time, I dabbled and tried get a few things published – mostly to see if it would impress folks who really didn’t deserve the attention.

Michael Stackpole changed all of this.

I met him through the Battletech tie-in books. The Warrior trilogy in particular grabbed me by my little mech-powered heart over many a summer when I was young. His Rogue Squadron books influenced some of my favorite sessions of the old West End Games Star Wars RPG. And I will say his fantasy novel, The Dark Glory War, still haunts me.

And I mean it. The ending haunts me. The protagonist lives, but gods, you wish he had death’s peace.

So, I was concerned about the seminars. Would he grab the novella I had tucked in my backpack and set it afire in front of everyone, as I heard some Clarion instructors were wont to do?

No. He was open, forthright, friendly, and smart. His lectures completely turned me around. While they are currently trunk novels, it’s because of him I have three completed books hidden away.  He gave me just the right push, at just the right time, to start acting like  writer. Later, when his 21 Days to a Novel came out, I used it as a blueprint for one of my projects. Michael Stackpole still had a lot to teach me.

I returned to GenCon this year with three publication credits to my name – not much, but a start – and ran into Mr. Stackpole at the Catalyst Games booth. Not only did he put up with my stammering, he graciously signed my autograph book with two words: “Keep writing.”

No worries, sir. I will. Damn right I will.

Tellus, my Cirni Macak

Normally, I don’t post life or pet related items here. But sometimes the need to write overrides the need to remain on theme. And, in a way, this is about my writing.

Meet Tellus:

 

He is a six plus year old black cat. And I named him after one of the characters in my on-hold novel, Ivre. But he’s been having a rough go of things lately. Last week, due to a blockage in his urinary tract, he was hours away from death. He’s spent the last week in and out of hospital care and, on Sunday, had surgery to deal with the blockage and try to prevent it from happening again.

His recovery has been slow. He’s not eating beyond a few bits of canard et pois pill pocket (his favorite) and a few treats. But he has been recovering his demeanor. Tellus was affectionate, demanding attention for the time we get to spend with him, but he tuckered out easily. We are hoping we can take him home tomorrow night and I can telecommute on Thursday to watch over him.

Growing up, all I ever wanted was a cat. A black one in specific. My aunt Ruzica called me cirni macak all the time. Black cat. My first cat, Emma, was a black cat. She was also pretty feral, sporting a birdshot under her skin and a kill count that included two squirrels, dozens of chipmunks, and at least one raven. Small wonder she wandered off and never came back.

Adia and Tellus were rescued from under a friend’s brother’s deck. He was a paranoid, antisocial little ball of fuzz:

 

And I loved him instantly. Now, I’m hoping to get him back the way he was and, when he hides under the coffee table among the blankets stored there, it will be for positive reasons.

Be well soon, cirni macak.