Bit of Bella


Poem for Wrinkles
August 18, 2017, 5:22 am
Filed under: Poetry

That boy has too much pain
Too early.
She saw something
Beautiful
In him.



Book Review: Acceptance
August 16, 2017, 7:05 pm
Filed under: book reviews

acceptanceJeff Vandermeer is my current favorite horror author. More users on Goodreads have shelved the Southern Reach Trilogy (of which Acceptance is the final book) under science fiction than under horror, but this story is classic metaphysical and psychological horror to me: frightening, disgusting and haunting by turns.

In the interest of writing a review that’s at least partially free of spoilers but also effectively communicates how fully this series blew off the top of my head:

I want you to imagine that a stretch of the Oregon coast one day becomes invisibly but irrefutably cordoned off from the rest of the world. Everyone in that place is lost. No one can come in, no one can come out. They called it The Forgotten Coast before. Now it really will be forgotten, except by the government agency (The Southern Reach) assigned to study and contain the land now called Area X as it changes, births strange landmarks, grows feral and dangerous. Eventually the government identifies a door or a window or a crack in the armor. They find a way into Area X. They begin to send expeditions of scientists, soldiers and survival experts.

The first expedition returns with serene reports of a paradise untouched by pollution. Every member of the second expedition commits suicide. The third expedition explodes in gunfire and murder. And on and on and on: those who attempt to explore Area X either die, or disappear or are changed irrevocably by the experience.

The series begins with the eleventh expedition. It’s an all-female expedition because that’s a variable they haven’t tried yet. The Biologist is the protagonist, but there’s also an anthropologist, a linguist, a surveyor and a psychologist. The last is the de facto leader and…there’s something a little off about her.

As the series continues and the mysterious of Area X slowly bloom, characters come and go, die and are resurrected, change and change back. What seems like a perfectly workable motivation shrivels and is replaced by something monstrous and glowing and growing.

Area X grows too. It begins to spread. No one knows what it wants, what it is, or where it’s from. No one knows how to stop it.

This series is stunning. Part House of Leaves, part Gormenghast, fully insane.  Plus, the covers are stunning and unique.

A solid 4.5 stars!

-M



This Week in Writing
August 13, 2017, 9:21 pm
Filed under: journal

I always write this introduction last, just like I always plot a story before I write the first line. The first first line usually gets cut anyway. I guess that’s because I’m a careful planner and a niggling perfectionist. Neither of which necessarily equal success, especially when taken to levels of extreme. Anyway, I sucked this week. I was tired, I guess? Somebody slap me on the wrist with a ruler…OR A SNAP BRACELET. Please.

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Blogs: C-

Not a great week for my blogging life. Four posts on this blog and none on either of my more professional sites.

Need to refocus on podcast blog and talk with my co-host about what kind of content is appropriate/hammer out some definite boundaries. I think I’m suffering from too much freedom.

No such excuse for my professional writing blog; I know exactly what kind of content I need to post there.

Silver lining this week: I did a bunch of planning this week, which is the only way I squeaked out a C. Working on a series of blog posts about local conventions that is appropriate for the podcast and professional blogs. Have some book reviews and story seeds planned for this blog. Exciting stuff…I just need to write it.

Freelance: B

Very quiet week in Freelance because I’m in limbo between training at the company I work for. Need to start checking spreadsheet daily for assignments – they’re more far and few between than I’d like to see.

Only reason I gave myself a B this week (instead of a completely average C) is because I found a job opening at a freelance editing company I used to work at. Will be applying this coming week – nice extra source of income.

Podcast: D 

I didn’t do anything with my podcast this week except finish prepping for our upcoming Blade Runner episode. Didn’t plan ahead with guest on show so had to move back recording a whole week. Meh.

Novel: A

Started moving final edit into Scrivener on PC this week. Started with Chapter 3 because I’ve pretty definitely decided to cut Chapter 1/launch into the story at Chapter 2…which means both of those chapters will need some level of rewrites.

Did a bunch of research (via Practical Solitary Magic) that helped me further contextualize the magic system in my book and understand Alex’s powers. His titles are starting to get pretty impressive: Lost Acolyte of Love, First Possessor, Conquest of the Apocalypse, Master of the Spiritual Plane. Nice.

Audio Book Narration: F

Another week, another F. I’m starting to think that this whole goal is just a lost cause. BUT I’ve scheduled some time next week to simply play with the mic and tech setup, as well as try out a few audition clips and samples. I really can’t figure out what’s holding me back! Fear of technology, lack of an appropriate work space, a curse? Maybe all three!

Grad School: D+

Bummer this week – was supposed to work quite a bit more on graduate school writing samples – rough drafts of all possibilities need to be finished by the end of the month. But Alex took most of my creative energy this week. I did work out a nice list of finalist pieces to focus on and a schedule for next week.

This needs to to be my #1 priority next week!

Cumulative GPA: D+

D for dick! No wait. D for destitute! No wait. D for depressed!
Ugh. What can I say?  This was a difficult week for me. D for difficult.

In other news: I cried through the last season of The Office, ate five salads and said things I don’t mean.

I’m reading: I finished Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer (full review of series coming next week) and Practical Solitary Magic by Nancy B. Watson. Just started The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin and Cold Iron by Stine Leight. I purchased both of these books from the dealer’s room at ArmadilloCon. The first is a collection of essays by the renowned fantasy writer on the convergence of writing, fantasy and the real world (as we know it). The second is a fantasy with a bedrock queer romance that I bought because I met (and immediately adored) the author. Can’t wait to sink my teeth into these two!

-M



Poem for Delivery People
August 11, 2017, 12:02 pm
Filed under: Poetry | Tags: ,

roman-kraft-119841

Mr. Delivery
Shatters me
With two pairs of chopsticks.

Demure, hopeful
through triple-length lashes.
He says he likes my shoes.

His optimism
Breaks
My heart.



3:11 – PT 4
August 10, 2017, 6:44 pm
Filed under: 3:11, Flash Fiction | Tags:

ROUGH DRAFT

I was raised by my mother to believe that human beings are set apart from animals by conscious thought and by God’s special love. Though I never believed our planet is the center of the universe it was easy, as a child, to feel in my little bones that it was, to believe that my eyelashes were like God’s and that the grubby life I was building was at the very forefront of the cosmic imagination.

It’s too bad, really, that eventually my certainties grew soft. Too bad because it was so much easier to accomplish, to walk through groceries stores before. I didn’t feel the press of populations against my cheeks, I didn’t know that eyes are mirrors and windows, both. I did not know my insignificance.

I don’t know how long I laid on the bedroom carpet, bleeding and afraid. It was clear to me that I was engaged in a battle. I had been conscripted on a cosmic level, initiated by the wind. My uniform, tightly pressed, was waiting on my bed, but the fighting had already begun.

Fire, fire is my weapon of choice. I struggled from the roots of the carpet prairie. I flew up, up into the sky. I grabbed one more book, a small one this time. I picked up a long-stem candle on a short brass candlestick. I only made a mistake once, glimpsed my reflection in the shiny surface of my Zippo. My enemy convexed the side of the lighter, beat his fists against the wall between us. I hid it in my palm.

Back out to my hut in the paperlands. I came around the XXXWORDFROMDAWNTREADER from the wrong side and had to traverse the steep slope sliding from the apex to the floor. I only stumbled once, only caused one minor avalanche. I blocked the shrine on the floor of the valley with my body. I martyrd myself, unthinking, instinctual, uninhibitedly. I knelt before it with my candle, with my Bible, with my enemy in my palm.

The wick was a floodgate. To open it without giving my reflection a chance to invade, I had to roll the flint with my right thumb, hand shaking and genuflecting, while my left hand played defense by wrapping itself, fleshy and boneless, five, six times around the lighter’s surface. I oozed across the fragile proto-breach, right up and under the flame. The delicate web between forefinger and thumb changed colors, changed texture, changed form.

The floodgates opened. The open bright fresh air held my hair back from my temples, caressed my cheekbones and lips and tongue with infinity. Like a thought, like a breeze, the wound on my face knitted itself closed, leaving only a line of dried blood that terminated near my chin.

My tendons jumped and my hair stood on end. The blessed land around me pushed the shrine, and me with it to a vantage point. I ascended the tower and when I got to the top I saw all the bright lights around me. My apartment complex glowed like a lighthouse, beacons in every window. I wasn’t the only one with a candle, but there were other lights, too. Bright hard crisp sunlight, preternaturally bright reflections of water, enormous murky coals.

As I rose higher, higher, I saw more lights, but fewer, fewer than I wished. A disco ball played behind a dumpster. A woman at a bus-stop guttered, guttered and, as I watched her light failed. The shook her hair behind her. She fell into darkness.

My pinnacle slowed and stopped. The apartments around me hung crazily to the sides of the mountain. The encompassing voice began to speak, my eyes fell out of my head, my tongue shriveled and I was spread-eagled, face to the wind, floating. I was given new tools, a bright shiny ruby tongue. I felt loved, I returned to childhood innocence. The wind propped it up, snatched it up, made it my battle banner.

The enemy raised their iron voices from everywhere. The cement bellowed. The shadows were cacophony.

But for tonight, shiny and new like I am, I can stand full faced in the wind, look out on the world with my new golden eyes. I felt the barrier, like an irridescent, living bubble, like a biodome, fall over my body, my apartment, my neighborhood. Knowing what I know about the darkness and limits, I resisted the urge to push it outward. I danced in the air with the shadows, the reflections, the other. Sliced them with chemical reactions. Words danced from my ruby tongue, beams shot from my eyes.

When it was done I fell, exhausted, onto the concrete floor, the bits of torn pages. I knocked the candle over with my foot and the blaze quickly, hungrily spread across the prophecy and onto the chaff.

The fire department arrived just as I was cleaning up the salt and the char and the remains. I don’t know why they came. I didn’t need them. But it was definitely embarrassing.

END OF PT 4



Story Seed: Deep Sleep
August 7, 2017, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Story Ideas

“Charlton woke from a very deep sleep.”

A modern Robinson Crusoe “marooned” on a space ship moving through deep space. He reads, exercises, bathes and thinks about his family as he travels. He sends updates and information about the aliens he was spying on, but receives no reply from his superiors. His only companion is the ship’s A.I. The journey back to Earth has already lasted much longer than it was supposed to – he wants to get home in time for his little sister’s birthday.

What he doesn’t know is that the ship’s AI hyperdrives every time he sleeps, which means that time is passing much more quickly outside the ship than it is for Charlton. The ship is doing this because, while Charlton was spying, the aliens attacked Earth and destroyed humanity.

Charlton finally arrives tens of thousands of years later than he expected to get home. Though the planet has rebounded from the massacre, Charlton sees no humans. Even the largest and most beautiful cities and edifices of his former time are hard to find – ruins that have been crushed into the earth.



Last Week in Writing
August 7, 2017, 8:35 am
Filed under: journal, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Third time’s a charm: this felt like the most productive week so far…until I fell asleep, exhausted at 7 last night and woke up disoriented at 3:11 in the morning. Well. This post is technically late now, but I’m going to just cut myself some slack and count this as Sunday.

Blogs: A

Yay! I’m proud. 6/7 daily blog posts posted this week and 1 longer non-fiction piece incubated and rough drafted. Nice selection and variety of posts on this blog (5/5, as well). The longer piece is a not especially long (couple of pages) review of Armadillo Con. More on that below.

I also finally completed (though not very impressively) my formal author blog. Of course, I’ll be adding pieces on an ongoing basis for a while, but at least the skeleton and the graphics are there. Next week I’ll polish up the convention piece. Maybe the week after I can get a short story or some poetry up? Anyway, progress is being made.

Freelance: A

Good week in Freelance, too. Finished up training at BKA (the content company I work for). Will start premium training this week or next – can take on SEO articles in the meantime and make some extra money. Whoo! I’m rich!

Podcast: A+

Watched Blade Runner with Morgan and Aaron to prep for next weeks episode but haven’t really done any other prep – will have to do early next week. The reason I gave myself an A+, though, is because I gave out a ton of business cards at Armadillo Con and met some really funny and smart local podcasters. I will say…my business cards are almost unimaginably ugly and not very informative. I forgot to put “queer, feminist, fantasy” on the card. So…like I put them down on a table at Armadillo Con…but it’s literally impossible to tell what Beauty and the Bitch is about unless you take the time to look it up. Bah. Not my smartest moment. But whatever – people took them!

Novel: A

I finished the rough draft edit of Chapter 6 this week! I also prepared the document in Scrivener to start typing in the second draft, and experienced a series of minor breakthroughs (including cutting the entire first chapter). Need to kick Alex work into high gear, though, or I won’t have any chance (even a snowball’s in hell) of sending it out to agents and publishing houses before the end of the year.

Audio Book Narration: F

Ugh. Another week of failing. THIS IS BRINGING DOWN MY GPA. I am not a fan.

Grad School: B+

Didn’t do a ton of actual writing sample writing this week, but I did figure out exactly what I want to submit: 2 short stories totaling 30-32 pages. This was a more complicated process than it sounds because I’m applying to six programs and each one wants a slightly different thing. I had to make a chart and spend hours rechecking the requirements for each program.

I also brainstormed some good ideas I want to flesh out over the rest of the month.

Cumulative GPA: B

I’m not mad at it. Except that if I would just stop sucking at Audio Book Narration, I would’ve had an A week! 😦

In other news: I smiled through social anxiety, gave up on a houseplant and achieved very soft hair.

I’m reading: Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer. I love this series and have been saving the last book like a kid hoarding Butterfingers. I’m about a quarter of the way through so far and am loving the unexpected reoccurring characters, dark beauty and frightening detail. Four stars!

-M