Archive | October, 2014

Horror Horoscope for Halloween

27 Oct
Totally legit.

Totally legit.

ξ

As a special thing for Halloween (or Samhain, or whatever), I am pleased to present this treat. No tricks. In fact, this has been put together by the best psychic I know. It is guaranteed to be at least ten percent more prognostical and prescient than any other horoscope you read this week. For reals. Enjoy!

Aries (The Ram / Fire)

Something you thought was a lie will reveal itself to be true, and take on new meaning. It could be your gentle nudge in the right direction. Or, the stars are laughing again. They’re laughing. They’re laughing at you. At you.

 

Taurus (The Bull / Earth)

Everything you eat goes somewhere, Taurus. But where do the doughnut holes go? You have holes inside you, Taurus. Holes. You can’t prove a negative, my friend, and you cannot poop a hole.

 

Gemini (The Twins / Air)

Your secret heart is in danger of ruination, Gemini. It burns, can’t you feel it burn, all the way down to a blackened cinder. Use that fire, my friend, and do the first thing that comes to mind. Fan those embers into a bonfire of fury. Burn something.

 

Cancer (The Crab / Water)

Why not help a stranger? The pieces will start to fall into place and the world will begin to seem fresh and new – full of possibility and hope. “Today you, tomorrow me” is the innocent phrase that runs through your head. Of course. The Karmic Wheel must turn for the Good Samaritan.

That’s why you flick your turn signal and pull over. Yes, it’s a dark, desolate highway, but the man standing by the station wagon’s open hood seems nice enough. He’s middle aged, with a spare tire around his waist and he’s going bald. Harmless. That’s the word, isn’t it? He reminds you of your cousin – the shy one who never talks at the family reunions.

This doughboy is smiling a big, sheepish grin. He seems nervous and overly grateful you stopped. The chill in the nigh air cuts through your shirt like a knife. You’re still acclimating to the weather. You haven’t even lived here for a whole year yet. Middle aged man points his tiny flashlight at the grimy car engine and shrugs. He doesn’t know what wrong with it, he says. It just sputtered, revved up real high, and died on him.

You shiver at the cold as you sidle up to the engine and lean over. There is something terribly wrong under the hood. The oil – the black, sludgy grime – is crusted and gritty and hot. But there, right behind the radiator, there is no fan. The battery is gone too, and the alternator, and the whatchamacallit. Where there should be nine hundred pounds of Detroit steel and the powerhouse behind a century of American-made car pride is you mother. And she is furious.

How could you have done this to her, Cancer? Is it that you really don’t love her at all – or is this the only way you can show your love? Some perverted, sick, serial killer dream-turned-nightmare, set loose in your subconscious mind. Why are you backing away? Where do you think you’re going? Help her, damn you! Help her.

Oh, it looks like she can move on her own. She’s unfolding her legs and arms – far too many for her to have – and she’s raising her voice. She is using your whole name to call you out. One after another, after another, her greasy legs stretch out of from under the hood. And your breath catches in your throat, your fingers pry at the door handle to your own car. The red glow of your taillights shine on the thing that is your mother. She puts her feet on the ground and lifts herself up, into the freezing cold night. Up and up, all black, grimy arms and sharp fingernails, her massive belly looms higher and higher. And you can’t even breathe, or speak, or open the door of your car.

The balding, round-faced man shrugs and looks down at his feet. He smiles an embarrassed, gap-toothed grin. He and your mom have been seeing each other. It’s pretty serious. They wanted to wait, for the right time. He hopes you and he can become friends.

You spill backwards, but the gravel on the side of the road doesn’t break your fall. You tumble into the icy earth, beyond the reach of the starless night, and the screams of your mother’s voice. Your name, Cancer. She is still screaming your name.

 

Leo (The Lion / Fire)

Don’t look to your community for help. They’ve been against you for years, Leo. Make new plans. Grab a partner and see how far you can make it before the inevitable happens.

 

Virgo (The Maiden / Earth)

You already know what to do. Why seek a confirmation of how awesome you are in these lesser creatures who pretend to be your peers?

 

Libra (The Scales / Air)

Want to make a million dollars in real estate? Sure, go ahead. There is no reason to delay, or study the complicated market. Go on, jump in feet first!

 

Scorpio (The Scorpion / Water)

So, you wanna move on, huh? Do you really think it’s the right time? Can you just throw it all away – everything the two of you meant to each other! – and just run? Go ahead, run. See if you can outrun yourself, damn you.

 

Sagittarius (The Archer / Fire)

The power to do the right thing is in your hands. Or maybe your pants! Hey, I know – it’s probably in the pants of the next attractive stranger you meet. Sure, that deep, ache of longing to connect to another human being might fade for a second or two, but it’s worth it. Right? It’s worth it, just to forget who are you – what you are. Is there anything you won’t do, in pursuit of oblivion, Sagittarius? We all know the answer to that.

 

Capricorn (The Goat / Earth)

Birth control is a terrible idea, if you want to get pregnant. And who doesn’t want to get pregnant? Men, that’s who. Don’t be a man about things. Get knocked up. Feel the wriggling, black, worm jism of some shadowy force make its way inside you. Let it fill you up, germinate within the folds of your soul. Pregnant, Capricorn. Pregnant.

 

Aquarius (The Water-Bearer / Air)

Turn a new page in the book of your life. Once you do, you’ll see there’s more to the big picture that you can possibly see on just one page. Who cares if your book was found in a haunted house, next to pit of discarded corpses?

 

Pisces (The Fish / Water)

Do you want to know what the future holds? Well, you better get used to not getting what you want. Tough titties, friend. Isn’t it enough to know that the hammer is going to fall? Oh yeah, it’ll be soon, but you don’t need to know exactly when. It’s better this way. When it happens it will be a shock, and your face will blanche in terror. Icy pinpricks will crawl up your spine, and the utter, permanent enormity of your fate will show itself. You’ll wish for a moment more – for some brief respite, or a chance to reach out for help, for mercy. But there will be nothing. If only someone would warn you, Pisces. Oh well.

 

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Pictures and Words 02: Beautiful Tools

22 Oct
Yes, the 'new' is fully ironic - sorry.

Yes, the ‘new’ is fully ironic – sorry.


This is my favorite writing instrument and it is responsible for hundreds of thousands of words – and some of them are good, I swear! In fact, I just finished up a draft of my newest novel on this machine. My guess is about 85% of the final pages came through the typewriter before I put them on the computer. It might seem like a time-consuming process, but I am actually lazy and super efficient. This type-first method gives me a chance to edit on-the-fly, as I retype it into a Word document. As a bonus, there is a stack of raw pages for me to look at – complete with all my spellcheck-free errors and grammatical gaffes.

Note to self: burn all original pages; the embarrassment would kill me; there may be collateral shame-deaths.

Now, it does have a few temperamental issues. The ink ribbon doesn’t auto-return. So I have to open the top and push a little lever to change the direction it advances. And, regardless of how much I use it, a couple of the keys stick – for no good, goddamn reason. The ‘m’ and the ‘j’ keys are the worst offenders, but some of the other keys like to get on the action too. There is very little to match the frustration of having to stop every time I use those letters.

But it has a solidity – a real, tangible quality – that is perfect for my work. The sound of the keys hitting the paper is like music to my ears. The feel of the impact in my fingers makes me feel like I’m actually making something. There is an uncanny rhythm and sensibility to the action of typing. The keys slap, I move the carriage back, I mark the page number when I pull out the paper, and I carefully insert another, and roll the wheel to line it up.

Now and then I forget what I’m doing and I reach for my wireless mouse. You take for granted how easy it is to distract yourself from writing. I can’t check my email, or look something up “really quick” on Wikipedia. Those short moments when my mind is idle don’t lead to a destructive cycle of procrastination. Instead, I just plow on, until I get done. Yes, it’s ‘just’ a machine. And yes, I am totally in love with it. No, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Pictures and Words 01: Art and Work

19 Oct
Bless you Angelica - wherever you are!

Bless you Angelica – wherever you are!

I suppose it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, these pictures are only worth about 500 – tops. Gojira (pictured) reads over my shoulder all day, but I don’t mind. For a giant, radioactive dinosaur, Gojira is a very good guardian against terrible grammar errors. I swear, not a day goes by that I don’t look at this big print and smile.

The artist – a long time friend – made it for a school project. She gave it to me for a ‘song’ basically and I feel so lucky. I don’t think she ever really understood how much I appreciate it. Not only do I have a life-long love of Godzilla movies, this kind of bombastic, pop-art treatment is right up my alley. And, of course, it means a lot that she made it. I have precious few works of art by my friends.

My Work Space

16 Oct
This motivates me.

This motivates me.

 

The studio I work in is in (what I think is) a strange part of downtown. The building is mostly empty, with a restaurant out front and a bar next door. I share it with two real cool writers and I think we’re good for each other. Just being around other people who are actually working is pure magic – but that’s a subject for another time. I have never been more productive and happy to work on my craft.

My chair is a solid wood thrift shop find on big ol’ casters. It’s got funky, orange padding, it’s not too comfortable, and you can’t adjust anything on it. The typewriter was a gift from a dear friend; he’d lugged the damn thing around the world and back, even though it’s not really portable. It’s home is on top of the brown, leather briefcase my mom bought me when I turned eighteen. Why would she do such a thing? No one will ever know, but I still get some use out of it now and then – just like the typewriter.

There is a wooden coffee table under that, and next to it is a second-hand floor lamp which gives me an adequate amount of work light. All of this is next to my trusty, gray aluminum, two-drawer filing cabinet – which doubles as a small tabletop of sorts. It’s a good place to keep my small bin of yo-yos, little office essentials, and somewhere to prop up my papers. I usually don’t put my coffee, water, or snacks there, for fear of spillage – but I have a rickety barstool that does the trick.

Now, when I’m using my laptop, it rests on an old TV tray that is just the perfect height for me. A lot of people might not know what these are for, but they were an invention of the 1950s – right about the time that Americans fell in love with television. These tiny, folding tables were perfect for propping up your dinner, cutlery, and beverages, so the whole family could stuff their faces while watching TV. How wonderfully ‘Mericun. They still make ‘em, of course, and mine is light bamboo or something.

I didn’t spend more than ten bucks on any one of those things – a fact that makes me pretty pleased with myself. And it’s not just weird smugness. I literally had to save up to make those purchases (besides the gifts, naturally). Now I could probably head out to Ikea and snap up some super awesome Scandinavian furniture science without breaking the bank. But there is a crazy appeal to me, in this slap-dash, bizarre conglomeration of junk. It is MY stuff.

The one thing I don’t have in my cozy little workspace is the internet. Oh sure, my studio-mates have it, and they really do need it for their business and projects. But I have warned them – on pain of death – to never give me the password. If I have access to the internet, my ability to write fades away. It is not a matter of self-control really, nor is it a matter of ‘net addiction’ or whatever. It is the neurotic desire to check my email, or my twitter, or facebook, or – everything. It is everything that I could be doing.

I don’t have any weird desire to live in the past. I am not a nostalgic hipster. I couldn’t give a damn about being ‘mainstream’ or not. The only thing I want to do is write. And every time I get work done on a project, I am teaching myself the most important lesson:

This is what works, this is what doesn’t.

And that’s it. Get off the internet. Write some words. Now write some more. It should be that simple. I’m doing my best to make it that simple.

 

Letting Go

14 Oct

This is particularly apt for me, at the moment.

THE EDITOR'S JOURNAL

let go

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Counting Words

13 Oct
Mm hm.

Mm hm.

I have written a lot of words. That reads a little funny when I write it – I imagine it would sound funny if I said it aloud – but it is accurate. It would be interesting if I could have a magical, floating counter that told me what my lifetime word count was, at any given moment. I can almost picture it, at the edge of my vision, the manual dials clicking up as I type these words. What would the count be? If it included everything, starting from the first time I scrawled my name on the kitchen wall with a greasy crayon? I cannot conceive of it. In the sixth grade alone, I probably wrote more than in the next ten years combined.

Somehow, I don’t think it would be encouraging. It might have the opposite effect – after all, these particular words in front of me are special. They exist right now, as I create them, and put them together. If they aren’t special, does that just make them part of an indiscriminate mass? I suppose that it is the destiny of all our words, no? At some point in the future, everything you have written becomes just another statistic – another pile of characters, data, digits.

Uh oh. I think I may have dropped the existential soap again. Quick, gotta spin this away from the metaphorical abyss of navel-gazing doom…

So, I wrote a book. It’s a pretty big book too – at least, for me it’s big. It weighs in right about one hundred and ten thousand words. Since I was aiming for around ninety thousand (give or take), I’m pretty damn happy. If even ten percent of it needs to get cropped, the book is still in the proper range. Which is a funny way of looking at it.

We don’t talk about most other art this way, do we? Do you know how small the Mona Lisa is? Or how big your God’s finger is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Does anybody really measure the success of statue on how many tons it might be? It strikes me as peculiar that stories are counted, and measured, and judged on their length and girth.

The Stranger is a powerful piece of literature, and no less daunting to read just because it is (relatively) short. On the other hand, Infinite Jest is so dense and impenetrable that it would still feel thick if it were one-tenth the page count. I fundamentally don’t believe the size of a piece will determine its quality or efficacy in delivering a story. More pages equal more words, and more words equal a larger canvas to tell your story. And often, the stories don’t need that much room to move. Maybe I’m blind, or too narrow in my focus, but that is how I see it.

Of course, there is the commercial aspect. And some would say it is all-important. Who cares what your story is, if there’s no one there to read it, right? And to a large extent, that is true. For me, these words – just over a hundred thousand of them – represent my latest obsession. I still can’t think about it in those terms. I still have to cool off, let myself decompress, gain just a little bit of editorial distance. Otherwise, it may just end up another set of meaningless numbers – an anonymous jumble of funny shapes in a file somewhere.

Many years ago – when I first decided to be a ‘writer’ – a friend asked me if I was going to work on a novel. I replied something to the effect of, “I don’t hate myself that much.” Well, I’ve written a couple of novels now. And precious few of my words have ever seen the light of day. I wonder what that says about me and my precious words?