End of Life (Tuesday, 22 April 2014)

Regular readers of this blog know that self has been sending out her stories like crazy: at one point she had no less than 38 stories in circulation.  Right after she announced that figure on Twitter, however, rejections began coming thick and fast.  Now she only has about 21 stories wending their lonely way across editors’ desks, all across America.

Of all things, a few days ago she had one story picked up by two publications.  OK, egg on her face.  She absolutely lives for these two words: SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS.  It’s just never happened to her before:  two magazines wanting the same story.  She must be in some kind of zone.

Then there was a new message yesterday, from Café Irreal.  They’ve published her once before: that story was “Appetites.”

The one they will publish this August is “The Secret Room,” an odd little story which she wrote last year, and begins with these lines:

For years the Queen had tried to learn what was behind the locked door in the east tower of her husband’s castle.

The locks were intricate couplings of brass and silver.

Self loves writing fables.

And, in a last-ditch effort to storm through her Pile of Stuff, she picks out yet another New Yorker. Appropriately enough (given the subject matter of “The Secret Room”), it is an article on Death Certificates, written by Kathryn Schulz, from the April 7, 2014 issue.  Apparently, the Death Certificate had its start in “in early sixteenth-century England, in a form known as the Billy of Mortality.  The antecedent of the Bill of Mortality does not exist.  No earlier civilization we know of kept systemic track of its dead: not ancient Egyptians, for all their elaborate funerary customs; not the Greeks; not the Romans, those otherwise assiduous centralized bookkeepers.”

One would have thought the early Christian church would have stepped in here, but no:  “the church was interested in the fate of the soul, not the body.  If the goal of life is to gain access to heaven, and death is in God’s hands, there’s no point, and no grace, in dwelling on the particulars of how we die.”

Alas, self can blog no further.  7:46 a.m. and she’s still got to prepare a manuscript to send out today, to yet another literary contest.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

3rd Friday of April (2014): Still a Humongous Pile of Stuff (Sigh)

And here we are, another week gone, and yet another issue of The New Yorker pulled from the humongous Pile of Stuff, but this one’s from 2012.

What the — ???

She remembers the story, one by Said Sayrafiezadeh (and no, don’t ever expect her to remember how to spell that name).  That is, she remembers beginning it.  And googling the author.  In the two years between 2012 and now, he’s achieved some measure of success. Having a story published in The New Yorker can do that to you.

The story in this particular issue (January 16, 2012) is called “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy.”

A man volunteers for the army and gets shipped overseas (Country isn’t named. This might be science fiction, for all she knows).  The story begins with his platoon, marching towards a distant hill.  But the man’s mind keeps wandering (as self’s mind would keep wandering, too, if she was ever forced to take a protracted hike.  It wanders when she’s in yoga class, even.  Which is supposed to be pleasurable, with the cool wood floors and the dim lighting and the mood music and the fabulously toned teacher whispering encouragement in dulcet tones.  Where were we? Better get cracking, self, as you have to return a whole pile of books to the library, books you checked out months ago, which you never got around to reading, and probably never will because next week you are going to Ireland)

Anyhoo, if anyone is planning to read this story, then read no further because THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

As the narrator muddles on, he realizes

that I’d come here for all the wrong reasons.  Vanity and pride topped the list.  Girls, too — if I was being completely honest.  In other words, ideals were very low.  Staring at a hilltop that was getting closer and closer, I would have traded all of it never to have to see what was on the other side.

But the inevitable, ineffably boring future arrives:  they take the hill.  And, nothing.  No enemy soldiers, no fortifications.

After we’d discovered nothing is when the boredom set in.  Excruciating boredom.  We’d eat, we’d shower, we’d clean, we’d train.  In that order.  Then we stopped training, because there was no point.  That was about the fifth month.

This story is so good, it’s like Joseph Heller and Kafka, all mixed together.  There is not one instance of bonding between the narrator and his fellow platoon members, so no, this is not the second coming of Tim O’Brien.  But self likes it.  Maybe it’s a little bit like Kobo Abe.  The Woman in the Dunes?  That kind of perplexing (and hopefully never explained) mystery.

A Letter to a Member of Our Armed Forces (80% Redacted)

A Letter to a Member of Our Armed Forces (80% Redacted): In the Story “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy,” by Said Sayrafiezadeh, The New Yorker, January 16, 2012

This is probably the only New Yorker story she’s ever encountered that has an accompanying visual: a letter to our bored soldier, everything redacted except for the salutation and the “xoxo.”  Ha, good one!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

1st Saturday of April (2014) Reading

First, there is The New Yorker of January 16, 202 (Don’t ask.  Self just can’t explain), a short story by Said Sayrafiezadeh called “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy.”  This story is the first post-”Things They Carried” war short story self has ever read.  And since she first read Tim O’Brien ages and ages ago, she thinks it’s high time!

Here’s the narrator describing a mission:

To get to the hill you have to first take the path . . .  I was loaded down with fifty pounds of equipment that clanged and banged with every step.  I might as well have been carrying a refrigerator on my back.  But after the first month the fear dissipated and the path started to become fascinating, even charming.  I was able to appreciate the “beauty of the surroundings” . . .  even the trees that I was constantly bumping against.

Oh, that is fabulous writing, simply fabulous. Hilarious. She wonders (since she hasn’t yet finished reading the story) if it ends in tragedy.

The other thing self is reading is of course Hunger Games fan fiction.  She landed on this story just yesterday.  It’s no use hiding the fact from dear blog readers:  in the past few months (probably since last December), self has completely surrendered to the charms of Alternate Universe Narratives.  She reads one every night before she goes to bed.  Her filters are “Angst” and “Peeta.”

In the one she is currently reading, charming Miss Katniss Everdeen has been summoned home to America, a country she had not seen since the age of eight (Self is all too cognizant of the fact that the tone of the particular piece of fan fiction she is reading — it’s set in 1832 — is beginning to bleed into her blog post, but anyhoo), not since she was enrolled by her parents in a very ritzy London private school called Panem’s Better School for Girls.

The ship she books passage on is called the Mockingjay.  Her chaperone is a ditzy woman named Miss Effie Trinket.  Just as she boards, however, Katniss discovers that Ms. Trinket has to go, and there is no other female presence on this dastardly ship.  Worse, the captain’s name is CORIOLANUS SNOW. The first mate, a man with mutton chops and “dark, glittering eyes” is called SENECA CRANE.  Before you can say BOO, our heroine encounters yet another unsavory sort, a sailor named ROMULUS THREAD.  Sailor after sailor attempt to warn her that she would be best getting off the ship and embarking on another — say, The Virginian.  But our Miss Katniss is an extremely stubborn soul.  It appears she is more terrified of appearing weak than of actually experiencing any sort of physical (or moral, or emotional) harm.  The last doleful warning comes from a rheumy sort who begins addressing her as “Sweetheart.”  Still our plucky Miss Katniss refuses to budge.

Self’s heart was pounding a mile a minute — that is, until Miss K happens to make the acquaintance of the cook.  This man — or boy — happens to have eyes of cerulean blue and the longest eyelashes she has ever seen.  At which point, self felt like standing up and screaming:  KATNISS, STAY ON THAT SHIP!  YOU DON’T WANT ANYONE TAKING YOU OFF THAT SHIP!  BELIEVE ME!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Inside 7: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Wow, self continues to be madly inspired by the WordPress Photo Challenge this week:  INSIDE.

Heartfelt thanks to The Daily Post for the fantastic prompts!

Here’s a picture of one of self’s Stanford chums, Penny Jackson, as she emulates a Yoga pose in front of the Asian Art Museum. Her arms are pressed together above her head, she is INSIDE the pose.  Get it?

It is always a lot of fun hanging around with Penny.  She is so spontaneous, pure Nitro.

It is always a lot of fun hanging around with Penny. She is so spontaneous, pure Nitro.

Self has always had an enduring fascination with snow globes.  Here’s one she bought about 30 years ago.

Christmas is a great excuse for nostalgia . . .

Christmas is a great excuse for nostalgia . . .

2013 was a special year:  Manila Noir, a collection of “dark” stories about the city of Manila, and edited by Jessica Hagedorn, was published.  Self has a story in this anthology:  The story is called “Desire.”

She’s not a big name, like the others in the collection, so her name didn’t get listed on either book cover.  But, still.  Open to the Table of Contents, her name is there.  She is INSIDE the book.

Manila Noir (Akashic Books, 2013): The covers of the U.S. and Philippine editions

Manila Noir (Akashic Books, 2013): The covers of the U.S. and Philippine editions

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Essence of Spain

A year ago, I became convinced that I should spend the rest of my life in Spain.

I made up my mind to find the true, true essence of Spain.

I decided that, until I got to Spain, I would listen only to Camaron.

I purchased maps, because I had decided that one of the important things I had to do was walk the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela.

To prepare myself for the Spanish time clock, I disciplined myself not to eat until 10 p.m.

To get used to the idea of “siesta,” I imposed a daily two-hour nap on my hectic life, which resulted in my employment being terminated, which made me happy because I had become extremely worried about exceeding vacation limits.

(Like what you’ve read here? Read the rest of the story on Eunoia Review)

Stay tuned.

The Multi-Tasker: Resuming DIVERGENT

Very exciting doings in self’s life:  yesterday, she had just dropped off her car at the mechanic (It failed the smog test, boo) and was finally sitting down to dinner when she heard — or rather, felt — this awful hard thing pop out of her mouth.  She looked in dismay at her hand:  she was holding a tooth.  A tooth!  A tooth!  A tooth!  And she hasn’t even finished paying for two implants she had done a year ago!

She called the dentist and the dentist said, Can you come over right now?  And self said:  I can’t.  My car’s in the shop.

Make no mistake, the part of her mouth that once held the wayward tooth hurts.  Throbs.  Self wonders if she can survive the weekend.  She decides to douse herself with vodka.  No, brandy!  Good thing she just came from Costco and bought a huge bottle of brandy for $13.99!  That was very forward-thinking, self!

Dr. Oz is on TV. Which makes self feel twinges of guilt for not trying harder to look for her high-cholesterol medication.  She thought she packed it in the bag for Seattle, but when she arrived at her destination, it wasn’t anywhere. Then she got so distracted, she never bothered ordering a refill, so it’s about two weeks since she’s taken anything. And yesterday, when she saw her doctor, she told him she was going to be in Ireland in May, and he said she should have her cholesterol checked before she leaves, and then self remembered that if she doesn’t resume her medication, her cholesterol will be high.  So she told the doctor she’d get back on the medication, and stay on it, and then — after a month, say — she’d have the blood test.  And he just looked at her and self could practically read his mind:  I am so tired of this woman.

Anyhoo, Dr. Oz is on TV, and self was perusing the Clarkesworld Magazine website because, as dear blog readers well know, science fiction is her new “thing.”

Oh, there have been scattered forays here and there:  her ZYZZYVA story, “Extinction,” and her New Orleans Review story, “Thing.”  Her “Isa” story on Eunoia Review.  But lately, she’s been having sustained bouts of science fiction writing, and she loves it.  Loves it, loves it, loves it.  In her stories, her characters can be green or blue, scaly or moss-covered, six-eyed or blobb-y.  They don’t need to be attractive in the human sense.  In fact, they’re mostly physically repellent.  What does this mean.

SPOILER ALERT!

She’s also reading Divergent (at a snail’s pace).  There was some nail-biting tension in Chapter 5, because Beatrice slashed her hand and let the blood drip over — not glass, not earth, not water — is there anything else?  Self, you dolt!  You’d better go back over the chapter and read from the beginning!

Beatrice’s blood falls on coals.

Coals.

Which means she has chosen –  self draws a blank.

She has to read into Chapter Six to learn that “coals” represent Dauntless.

Just before it is her turn to choose, Beatrice goes over her decision to remain in her parents’ faction, Abnegation (which means she will have to help her parents clean up after everyone else has left the room, how exciting):  “I can see it now . . .  I watch myself grow into a woman in Abnegation robes . . .  volunteering on the weekends, the peace of routine, the quiet nights spent in front of the fireplace, the certainty that I will be safe, and if not good enough, better than I am now.”

Self was just beginning to think how someone in Abnegation would be an extremely boring character to stick with for a 500-page novel when, of course!  She chooses something else.

It’s just like the moment when Katniss decides to shoot an arrow straight up into the force field dome, instead of into Finnick’s gorgeous face!  Totally unexpected and –  AARRGH!

Anyhoo, our plucky Beatrice chooses the Dauntless faction, and pretty soon we learn that she is so much shorter than everyone else in Dauntless because she can’t see past their shoulders.  Good thing the factions don’t have a height requirement.

But perhaps that’s precisely Veronica Roth’s point:  Short people can be dauntless, too!  Height, after all, is not a requirement for bravery!  Yay!  There’s still hope for self, who The Man opined is two inches shorter now than she was when he first met her, in grad school (She did ask her doctor about this, BTW, and it only seemed to exacerbate his exasperation.  Basically, his response was:  “Do your care?” Self’s response:  “Only if it means I’m getting hunchbacked!” At which the doctor just shook his head.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Most Recent, Part Deux

Self thinks that now would be a good time to remind herself that there is a point, after all, in trying and trying and trying and trying, that this is where she’s heading:

  • “Cake” appeared in Alimentum.
  • “Magellan’s Mirror” appeared in J Journal and was nominated for the Pushcart.
  • “Devotions” appeared in Word Riot.
  • “Vagabondage” (self’s first novella) was published by Vagabondage Press, Florida.
  • Manila Noir (Akashic Books) was published.  Self contributed a story, “Desire.”
  • “Bridging”, a piece self began in Hawthornden, appeared in Waccamaw.
  • “Hollow” appeared in 5_trope.

For the purposes of comparison, she includes her original post.

October 2012:  Most Recent

Do you know what this means, dear blog reader?  It means that, in the past 16 months, self has been busy busy busy doing what she loves most:  writing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Reading List Goes a Wee Bit Bonkers

Self has been reading The Hunger Games trilogy at night — an hour before bedtime, she selects a section of about 50 pages or so. She’s read each book about 10 times since the Catching Fire movie.

She made a wee bit of headway in Divergent.

She also trotted around with her, to coffee bars, the issue of One Story with B. J. Novak’s story (Yes, it’s that B. J. Novak, the one who co-wrote The Office with Mindy Kaling)

This morning, she began reading a new One Story story, Laura Spence-Ash’s “The Remains.”

She had minimal contact with the neighbors.  She waved once to John.  One of his boys — they’ve gotten so tall! — was pushing a lawn mower around their front yard.

She saw that all her clematis were still alive.  The one that used to be against John’s fence, until he replaced the fence and hacked it down, is still alive.  But struggling.  It probably won’t survive the year.  Now, it’s nothing but a clump of dead brown twigs, with small green shoots at the bottom.  It used to cover almost half the fence, and every spring for a dozen years it put forth the most magnificent, white flowers.  If it dies, self doesn’t think she’ll have either the time or the patience to grow another clematis to that size.

Let’s see, what else did she do this weekend?  She returned Black Lamb and Grey Falcon to the library (took nearly a month of her life) and began a new book, The Hemingses of Monticello:  An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed.

She scanned one of her bookshelves and pulled out a wee pocketbook called Envy.  It’s a dictionary.  Inside are definitions for:

  • acidity (Noun): The measure of bite or acidity in one’s tone
  • acidulous (Adjective):  A way of speaking that sounds bitter or sharp
  • adulation (Noun):  Extreme praise, admiration, or flattery, especially of a servile nature
  • allege (Verb):  To accuse someone of something — usually wrongdoing — without proof.

There’s a quote from Bertrand Russell:

Envy consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations.  If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Mondays: Quote of the Day (3 February 2014)

Self just can’t get over having to type year “2014.” It feels momentous because of Philip Seymour-Hoffman.

By sheer coincidence, the story self has been reading in The New Yorker of 20 January 2014, by Akhil Sharma, begins this way:

As far back as I can remember, my parents have bothered each other.  In India, we lived in two concrete rooms on the roof of a house.  The bathroom stood separate from the living quarters.  The sink was attached to one of the exterior walls.  Each night, my father would stand before the sink, the sky above him full of stars, and brush his teeth until his gums bled.  Then he would spit the blood into the sink and turn to my mother and say, “Death, Shuba, death.”

“Yes, yes, beat drums,” my mother said once.  “Tell the newspapers, too.  Make sure everyone knows this thing you have discovered.”  Like many people of her generation, those born before Independence, my mother viewed gloom as unpatriotic.

The title of the story is “A Mistake.”

Self fervently wishes that 2014 will turn out to be a good year.  She did finally do some things she’d been wanting to do for months:  she decided to visit Sole Fruit of Her Loins this coming weekend, and she signed up for yoga classes (which have been extremely fun).

And while yesterday turned out to be a terrible day for Peyton Manning, it was good for California because it rained steadily (at last! Though we’ll need lots more to get through the drought).  Self and The Man caught the Oscar-Nominated Short Films (Animation) at the Aquarius, and afterwards had coffee around the corner at La Boulange.

Of the short animation films, self’s favorite was Feral, directed by Daniel Sousa.  The Man said it was “too dark,” but self liked that it was.  The one she found the most corny was Room on the Broom, an entry from the UK which featured some very heavy hitters doing voice work: Gillian Anderson, Sally Hawkins, and Simon Pegg.

Which brings us back to Philip Seymour-Hoffman.  Self found out while perusing the web, late last night, and it was terrible.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth”

Yes, self, is is OK for you to remain all day in your pajamas.  You are a writer.  Writers are allowed to spend all day at home.  When The Man complains why your annual income is only $5,000, cover your ears.  Writers are strange.

Lately, self has added to her daily readings a dose of dystopian (that word again!) fiction.  She’s read and re-read Catching Fire.  She’s crawling through Divergent.

She suddenly remembers a short story from her childhood in Manila.  She remembers the title.  She googles.

There it is!  The entire short story is available on-line!  It was written by Arthur C. Clarke!  Self never knew!

(The only thing about the story is — why does the little boy have to be called Marvin)

The story is comprised of these elements:  the Colony.  The “abyss of space.”  Radioactive aftermath.

It is a very, very short story.  Surprisingly short.

Here’s the link.

Stay tuned.

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