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It is an ancient Mariner

December 23rd, 2010

A Gustave Doré woodcut for Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Death and Life-in-Death game for the Mariner’s soul.

The first issue of Fantastique Unfettered comes out today, featuring my story “The Driftwood Chair”, a tale of nautical tragedy, hallucinatory demon ghosties and star-crossed beach flirting, set in Cape Cod, and much influenced by Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. I wrote it at Odyssey in 2005 as a kind of good-natured challenge with PD Cacek, got some phenomenal criticism from my fellow classmates and Steve and Melanie Tem, then sat on it obsessively revising and revising for the succeeding five years. You know, the usual story. There was way more Mariner in the original draft… but the feel of it (and an easter egg reference or two) is still there in spades. I love this story. Hopefully you will too.

O the Mariner is so awesome, it’s really hard to pick out just one quote.

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

If you’ve never read it, do so now. In fact, if you’ve only got time for one, skip “The Driftwood Chair” and just read the Ancient Mariner. Of course, if you’ve got time for two….

   HM, Horror, Odyssey, Writings | 4 Comments »

Readercon/TNEO/Chapbook Update

July 20th, 2010

Readercon was pretty fun. It may have been the first con I’ve attended where I didn’t feel weird, awkward or out of place hardly at all. And to think, it only took five years…and some beer…to achieve! I appeared disguised in mutton-chop extensions and a false Scottish accent on a “Future of Short Fiction Markets” panel, drank a lot of fine beer (no Brick Red though, disappointingly!) with a lot of fine people, read from “Between Two Treasons” at a packed Beneath Ceaseless Skies reading, and sat sheepishly behind the Small Beer table taking credit by proxy for all their wonderful new stuff and repeatedly forgetting to give away Daily Planners and talk up Weightless Books.

We did in fact get The Homeless Moon 3 Chapbook out in time. Barely in time, but it happened! And they went like hotcakes. I printed about 200 and ended up with less than 50. And then I gave away a bunch more to the Odyssey 2010 class at the TNEO mixer. Not many left. Get one now!

Here it is in its natural habitat in our suite at TNEO:

Tomorrow night (sorry for the short notice—you know how I am with these announcement things), I’ll be reading a new William-o poem at the TNEO Flash Fiction Slam, starting at 6:00 PM at the Manchester, NH Barnes & Noble. I’ll be joined by other fine Odyssey grads including my pal Scott H. Andrews, Hannah Strom-Martin (whose story “Father Pena’s Last Dance” appears in this month’s Realms of Fantasy, Barbara A. Barnett, Rita Oakes, Ellen Denham and many others. Here’s a map. Please come by and say hello!

   HM, News, Odyssey, William-O | No Comments »

Scott Andrews Interview at the Odyssey Blog

September 13th, 2009

The Odyssey Workshop LiveJournal blog has an enlightening interview with my pal Scott H. Andrews, a great writer, and the editor of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies. He has some interesting stuff to say—which I wholly agree with—about what works and what doesn’t in crafting an engrossing story opening.

   HM, Odyssey | 2 Comments »

Towards an Understanding of Dialogue in Style-Driven Fiction

August 4th, 2008

Well, I meant to write something today about Jan Morris’ Last Letters from Hav, which is a phenomenal book with a strange and challenging structure that holds all kinds of lessons for somebody like me who would absolutely love to sell fiction on the merits of weirdness and style alone. But, big turkey that I am, I took the book with me to Boston this weekend and forgot it somewhere, so cannot accurately quote examples.

Instead I thought I would just try laying out the bones of the argument I would have tried to make.

This year’s Never-Ending Odyssey workshop master class focused on dialogue. I consider myself not so hot at dialogue, so was looking forward to an opportunity to learn why and what I could do about it. But as lecture after lecture rolled off me like water off a duck, I began to realize that part of what makes me do poorly at dialogue is that I don’t enjoy writing it, and maybe what stops me from enjoying it is the fact that good dialogue, at least in the sense that it was being taught here (by genre writers, for genre writers) doesn’t serve the same purposes in the kind of stories I like to write (those with atypical structure and nontraditional plot).

I came home from TNEO with the idea of looking through great examples of the kinds of fiction I do like to write and figuring out where and how their use of dialogue diverges from, say, the snappy repartee of a Raymond Chandler detective, and where (if at all) it follows the same rules. Last Letters from Hav would have made a great case study (and still will if I can figure out where my copy went), because not only does it lack a traditional plot structure, but it’s designed not to read like a work of fiction at all. It’s fiction masquerading as nonfiction. So its characters aren’t required to further any plot, but rather are expected to act like real people: random, arbitrary, at times even dull, driven by their own purposes rather than the author’s, yet in reality just as constructed and unreal. Especially since one of Morris’ strengths is the style of her prose, so in order for us to believe Letters from Hav as a continuation of her actual nonfiction writings, we have to experience the “real” residents of Hav as filtered through the author’s erudition and wry commentary.

Which, of course, I can’t really do, because I haven’t got the book.

But the idea is to do a similar thing with a variety of atypical fiction. Borges and Lucius Shepard immediately come to mind, but I’ll throw in any other idea/theme-driven (rather than plot-driven) prose stylists I can come up with. Poe? Ray Bradbury? Vonnegut? Ken Kesey? Umberto Eco possibly. Maybe even Dostoevsky.

Obviously this is going to be a long-term undertaking.

   HM, Odyssey, Reading, Writings | 5 Comments »

TNEO Flash Fiction Slam

July 23rd, 2008

is tonight at 6:00 PM at the Manchester, NH Barnes & Noble. I am readying the sixth episode of the epic saga of William-O the Pirate King even as we speak.

Obviously I’m due for a bunch of updates on Readercon, the Homeless Moon chapbook, TNEO and suchlike, but that stuff will have to wait until next week.

   News, Odyssey, Reading, William-O, Writings | 4 Comments »

Lessons from TNEO 07

August 2nd, 2007

(TNEO would be The Never-Ending Odyssey, a writing workshop for Odyssey graduates.)

The usual notes to self:

  • Work harder.
  • Pay more attention to the new stuff. (Read more in general.)
  • Hang out with writers more.

And the unusual:

  • Work not just harder but longer. Deliberation and polish are part of the process, not to mention repeated rewriting. Suck it up.
  • Plot out your story beforehand, even if it is supposed to have no plot.
  • Pay more attention to character motivations–belivability and sympathy–because there can be no plot without them.
  • I think I’ll allow myself some leeway to experiment with different forms. Short-short and poem, in particular. Epic poem if I can build myself up to it. Likewise with novella–I’m still thrashing around in the planning stages.

Thought-provoking stuff I read while at TNEO:

  • “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” – Neil Gaiman
  • “Memoir of a Deer Woman” – M. Rickert
  • “Strange Wine” – Harlan Ellison

   Odyssey, Writings | 11 Comments »

Ye Gods Another One

July 18th, 2007

I have another reading coming up. I know, what is the deal? I am really not all that important.

Anyhow, this one is The Never-Ending Odyssey Short Fiction Slam, at a Barnes & Noble in Manchester, NH, next Wednesday night, July 25th, at 6:30 PM. Once again there will be a whole bunch of better writers than I involved. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

I swear, sometime soon, there will be a post up here with some actual content.

   News, Odyssey | No Comments »

Blood and Sawdust

April 5th, 2007

Mossy Skull ally and co-conspirator Jason S. Ridler, that master of gore-with-guts, of horror-with-heart, has a new story, titled “Blood and Sawdust”, in Issue 7 of Dark Recesses Press. Please go read it. You won’t regret it.

   Odyssey, Reading | No Comments »

Never-Ending Odyssey Recap (Belated)

August 7th, 2006

Well, TNEO has been over a while now. It was pretty great. I did all my crits ahead of time, which is clearly the way to go. On the other hand, next year I will definitely be re-reading both crits and stories while at TNEO, before I have to sit down face to face with the author of the story in question. Otherwise I forget what the hell I said and make a general nuisance of myself stumbling over my own thoughts.

Oh, and one other set-in-stone TNEO 2007 resolution: absolutely no pornographic scenes from romance novels shall be read aloud in any company while under the influence of delicious microbrews and whiskey. It just isn’t worth it.

Lessons learned from reading aloud, at the Slam and elsewhere: uber-poetical stuff that rolls off the tongue like music does not do well at holding audience attention. It lulls them to sleep, is what it does. Good for reading to hyperactive children, not hyperactive spec fic writers. Check. The thing to read aloud is the story with simple POV and plenty of suspense. And comedy. Boy does comedy work, if you can pull it off. Of course maybe there’s some kind of synthesis to be had here. I’m thinking The Telltale Heart. Couldn’t ask for a better read-aloud story than that. And it is certainly poetical, cadenced, like the music tuned-down violins lingering on minor chords. But I digress.

Lessons learned from other writers: (1) Pay more attention to what wins awards. (2) Stop being so touchy when it comes to form rejections. (3) Write every day (knew that already, but still counting it here).

What I’ve been up to since: Posted something in Writings about magic in the centaur world and its influences. Posted some pictures in Visions. Wrote a new story you can see if you belong to a certain elite.

A blog resolution: If everyone else can post brief inanities once a week as to the current goings on, so can I.

   News, Odyssey | 3 Comments »

TNEO Story Slam

July 20th, 2006

I will be giving a live reading on Thursday, July 27th at 6:00 PM, at the Barnes & Noble in Manchester, NH, as part of the TNEO 2006 Story Slam. Please come.

It’s free, and I believe there will be snacks.

   News, Odyssey | 1 Comment »

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