Work in Progress: Inspired by the Darren Aronofsky Movie

How many readers actually saw “Noah” when it was in theaters earlier this year? The speculative fiction film version of “Noah,” the one that starred Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connolly? Self loved it. In fact, it’s still one of her favorite movies of the year.

Self is calling this work-in-progress “The Ark.”:

Two by two, the counting went on, day and night.

In moonlight sometimes Noah heard his wife singing.

No more than two, Noah said. One pair, that’s all we can take.

His wife began to argue with him. There must be a way, she insisted. Her eyes had that stormy look. Like lake water in spring, when the wind blows hard around.

Right now, it stands at around five pages, double-spaced (1,000 words). Happiness!

Stay tuned.

The List in Self’s “The Secret Room” (CAFE IRREAL, Issue # 50)

Self has long pondered the difference between science fiction, speculative fiction, fairy tales, myths, horror stories and the “irreal.”  The other day, she decided to go through the Café Irreal essay, “What is irrealism?”

She’d first read it several years ago, when she began writing lots of speculative fiction.  It was nice to re-discover it.

The essay reminds us that, in “pre-modern” times, the people telling and listening to folk tales and legends assumed them to be “true.” These people, if they had heard Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” read aloud to them, “would most likely assume that the transformation” of the protagonist into a bug was likely the result of “a spell” (And why not? In “pre-modern” times, spells were considered practical ways to deal with malevolence; in other words, spells were not “magic.” They were solutions to a problem) For them, “the irreality of the story — which flows from an irresolvable clash between the real and the unreal — would be lost.”

There’s more, much more to ponder in the essay.  Self recommends that readers go over to Café Irreal to read it in its entirety.

Self’s story, “The Secret Room,” is in the current issue.

At yesterday’s writers group meeting, self’s esteemed friend (and soon-to-be-famous published novelist) Lillian Howan mentioned that her son liked the list in the story.

Which, self confided to Lillian, was the trickiest part of the piece.  Self had to keep working at it and working at it, constantly changing the items in the list because she was never completely satisfied with the “mix.”

Here’s the list in its final, published version:

  • A map of an island with no name.  There was no way to tell whether this island was near or far, whether it lay within the bounds of the Narrow Sea or beyond, in some yet undiscovered realm.
  • A piece of yellowing parchment, on which had been written, in her husband’s careful hand, the letters KMCVQH
  • An iron knitting needle
  • A stone the size of her fist, on whose rough surface glittered a sparkly metal that might have been silver
  • A drawing of a unicorn
  • A broken silver chain
  • A dozen gold coins stamped with the profile of Aurelia, the Queen of the Undersea
  • A small painting, about the width of a hand, of a man with no eyes

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Sweetness/ Fan Fiction/ Café Irreal

Self is reading something based on a fairy tale.  It’s really sweet, Hunger Games AU, based on the tale “East of the Sun & West of the Moon.”

Peeta whisks Katniss away from her house in District 12, in a broad heavy sleigh, and they arrive in a house at the edge of a lake.  It’s enchanted, like all good houses should be.

It’s really clever, how elements of the fairy tale are woven in, such as in this description:

“. . .   it isn’t the ancient palace from my dream, with its high stone walls and dusty rooms, filled with silence and nameless fears.  I didn’t ride here on the back of a white bear . . . “

The two are tended by Avoxes, which is another thing that fits in with the sense of unreality.

*     *     *     *

On August 1, a fable of self’s is going live on Café Irreal.  It’ll be her second story in the magazine.  Her first, which appeared a few years ago, was a flash fiction called “Appetites.”

Here’s an excerpt from the story soon to be posted, called “The Secret Room”:

One day, during a fox hunt, her husband fell from his horse and broke a leg.  His squires carried him into the castle.  A monk came with healing herbs and made a poultice.  A surgeon set the bone.  But in spite of everyone’s best efforts, the King continued to scream with pain.  For days everyone in the castle was frozen by the sound of his shrieks.

There you go.  Even when writing fables, self always heads straight for “dark.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

In Case You Were Wondering

This is the kind of stuff she’s been writing here at the Tyrone Guthrie Center:

POLYPHORES

The boss was born Earthstar.  He’d never look at her.  His spores were meant to go somewhere else:  to a Silverleaf.  Or a Shag.  Not K that smelled like wet rot.  She belonged with other Common.

Varnish and varnish:  I’d say this for K:  She was tenacious in her delusions.

“My mum’s a thick,” she said once.  “A focking thick.”

“Hmmm,” was all I managed to say in response.

Want to know what happens?  Tune in next week.

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, It 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.

www.treehugger.com

Self wrote a short short of speculative fiction called “The Forest” and has been getting some nice rejections, like one from The Chattahoochee Review that said they liked the voice.

That’s something.  It’s a strange story.  About twin boys who keep lobbing tennis balls into the narrator’s backyard.  One day he decides to talk to them so . . .

Self decided to do some research on saving the huge stands of trees that once grew all over the California coast.  Believe it or not, dear blog readers, this is connected to the story.  Thank God for Google.

On treehugger.com, she found a list called:  5 FOODS YOU SHOULDN’T EAT IF YOU CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT

And the first thing on the list is self’s own favorite food to ingest:  COFFEE.

But, it’s OK to ingest “shade-grown, organic coffee.”  Coffee is really a shade plant, and self knows this because, in the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, self saw a coffee plant.  In fact, here’s a picture:

Arabica Coffee Plant, San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Arabica Coffee Plant, San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

But according to treehugger.com, “many farmers now grow it in full sunlight, with a heavy dependence on pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers.  They also chop down rainforests, destroying bird habitats.”

Next on the list of BAD-FOR-THE-ENVIRONMENT FOOD is:  FACTORY-FARMED BEEF.

“Cheap burgers are environmental assassins,” says Logan Strenchock (What a name.  Almost as bad as Plutarch Heavensbee), “Central European University’s sustainability officer.” And self has super-high cholesterol so she really shouldn’t be eating beef anyway.

Third on the list of BAD-FOR-THE-ENVIRONMENT FOOD IS:  PALM OIL.

According to the article, which by the way was written by Katherine Martinko and posted on the day before Valentine’s Day, “Palm oil is used in half of all packaged food sold in the U.S., particularly cookies, crackers, and soups.  Palm oil is the largest cause of rainforest destruction, resulting in huge swaths of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests being bulldozed in order to plant palm oil trees.”

Fourth on the list of BAD-FOR-THE-ENVIRONMENT FOOD IS:  BLUE-FIN TUNA.

“Bluefin is a popular choice at high-end sushi restaurants, but their numbers in the oceans are dropping fast.”  There’s a link to an article on Japan’s insistence that the fish isn’t endangered.

The final item on the list of BAD-FOR-THE-ENVIRONMENT FOOD IS:  GENETICALLY MODIFIED CORN.

“It kills bees, reduces biodiversity, drives heirloom crops to extinction, and requires excessive processing to transform it into high-fructose corn syrup, another ingredient found in processed foods (which should be avoided anyway because they contain palm oil).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Pairings Battles: Who Will Win?

This is total fluff, but anyhoo, since self seems to be on a roll, she will just keep on posting (that is, until The Man gets home and imposes some order on self’s abysmally dis-ordered mental state):

Hypable’s Battleships Pairings Tournament is down to the semi-finals, so if you feel inclined to pitch your hat in favor of either of the following pairings:

  • Bella/Edward
  • Brienne/Jaime

Go HERE!

(An early round had Nick/Gatsby and Frodo/Sam.  At some point, did any blog readers wonder if Haymitch and Effie could possibly have some outside-of-the-games romance?  Honestly, the way Haymitch rolls his eyes at Effie leads self to think the man has got to be in love — BWAH. HA. HAAA!)

Apologies, dear blog readers.  Once again, self has gotten side-tracked from the original impulse which caused her to think of posting.  Which is that:  After much slogging, self has clawed her way to PAGE 214 of Henry M. Stanley’s 536-page How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa.  YEEESSS!  In between p. 1 and p. 214, self:

  • Ate a whole lemon meringue pie.
  • Watched her Netflix movie rental, Boy A, and developed admiration for Andrew Garfield.
  • Found out her short story “Sofia” will be in Philippine Speculative Fiction, vol. 9.
  • Got very, very sick.
  • Attended a New Year’s Eve lunch in Menlo Park.
  • Watched Stanford lose in the Rose Bowl.
  • Went to town on take-out from Sam’s Chowder House in downtown Palo Alto.
  • Saw “Frozen.”
  • Read five back issues of The Economist.
  • Discontinued her subscription to The New York Times Book Review.

There were also relaxing activities like:  watering, watching birds in the backyard, watching Dr. Oz, and watching Saturday Night Live re-runs.  Self just realized:  things are so much clearer when one is sick.  Self had no idea how beneficial forced home incarceration/rest can be for the mental faculties.  For one thing, she got to read everything about Mockingjay.  Now she knows that Katniss first mentions Peeta’s name on p. 5.  P. 5!  Holy cow, girl!  Can’cha get with the program already!

On p. 214 of How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa, Henry M. Stanley develops a severe case of malaria.  While he is feverish and thus incapacitated, his porters take the opportunity to abandon him.  All except for one, an “Arab” named Selim.

I asked Selim, “Why did you not also run away, and leave your master to die?”

“Oh, sir,” said the Arab boy, naively, “I was afraid you would whip me.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The NYTBR, 16 June 2013

Congratulations to the following writers/contributors, who made this issue of the NYTBR worth reading (Although self is still canceling her subscription):

Elaine Blair * Jeannette Walls *  Donovan Hohn * Justin Cronin *

Elaine Blair’s review of What Do Women Want?  Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, by Daniel Bergner was the title page review.  Blair’s review made self want to read Bergner’s previous book, The Other Side of Desire.  See, it is so interesting that a man is responsible for doing all this research into female desire.  Self fully expected that a woman scientist would produce the first comprehensive look at this fascinating topic.  But then, why can’t it be a man?  Men, after all, are just as affected by feminine desire as women are!  Onward.

The “By the Book” interview is a good one.  It’s with memoirist Jeannette Walls (There was one time the “By the Book” interviewee was Amanda Knox, she who was jailed in Italy for several years after being convicted of the murder of her roommate.  What on earth the NYTBR thought they were doing when they interviewed Amanda Knox about her favorite books is still a profound mystery to self)

Jeannette Walls’ favorite book “of all time” is The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene.

Recently, she was impressed by A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout, a memoir about Lindhout’s time spent “kidnapped in Somalia.”  In addition, Walls recommends the following memoirs:  In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, by Neil White; The Memory Palace, by Mira Bartok; Denial, by Jessica Stern; A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah; An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison; Chanel Bonfire, by Wendy Lawless; The Center Cannot Hold, by Elyn Saks; After Visiting Friends, by Michael Haimey; The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison (Self has read this one; it’s about Harrison’s affair with her father); My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor; Couldn’t Keep It to Myself:  Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution, edited by Wally Lamb.

The book that “had the greatest impact on” Walls when she was growing up was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Donovan Hohn reviewed The Riddle of the Labyrinth:  The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, by Margalit Fox.  It is wonderful to read that the “gentleman archaeologist who led the excavation at Knossos” on the island of Crete brought along for sustenance “two dozen tins of ox tongue, 12 plum puddings and a Union Jack.”  Hohn also brings up the term “hash marks” which then leads self to wonder how far we have come, from markings on an ancient tomb in Crete to Twitter.

Finally, there is Justin Cronin, who reviews “the world’s first 9/11 werewolf book,” Red Moon, by Benjamin Percy.  Here we are in a world where “lycans” (werewolves, for you non-initiates or total ignoramuses) are confined to a reservation on a “discouraging patch of permafrost in northern Scandinavia, currently under American military occupation to safeguard its valuable training resources.”  A majority of Americans goes about their business peaceably under “mandated medication — a mind-dulling silver-infused concoction wittily named Volpexx.” Sold!  How soon can self get her hands on this book?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Thanks Much, Charles Tan

Charles A. Tan was the first person ever to solicit a piece of speculative fiction from self.

That was several years ago.

Now, he’s compiled this amazing bibliography of Female Filipino Speculative Fiction Writers (Granted, that word “Female” is a little — odd?  Because here in the U.S. we’d say “Women Filipino Speculative Fiction Writers.” Anyhoo, enough with the digressions).

Whenever self has time, she goes over the list.  It is fun to do, as almost every writer on the list has a link to an on-line story, so one can actually read their work.

Today, for example, self read Nikki Alfar’s “Adrift on the Street Formerly Known as Buendia,” published on a site called Bewildering Stories, and it was very, very entertaining.  Also enjoyed Crystal Koo’s “The Startbox,” in Usok # 1 (2009).

There are some mysteries, such as why a writer named Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon has three inactive links under her entry.  Or why there are no links to any of Monique Francisco’s stories, or to Christine V. Lao’s.

But when one remembers that Charles isn’t paid to do any of this, that he contributes his time as a labor of love, that he himself writes, and has a day job —  when one considers all of these factors, then one becomes, like self, very, very grateful.

Charles is very, very shy.  Self has only met him twice in person.  He is Ateneo-educated, slight, and softspoken.  But don’t let that exterior fool you!  Inside, he is steel.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Mysterious Mirrors

Fearsome hot.

This morning, The Ancient One appeared wan, gave only indifferent attention to her food (over which self had generously ladled warmed up bacon grease.  At this point, she will not worry about Bella’s cholesterol!)

Self immediately text-ed son:  Prepare yourself!

He text-ed back:  Maybe you should switch her dry dog food.

Self became a little annoyed at the nonchalance.

She had a couple of errands to run, so she ran them.

Upon returning to the house, she headed straight for the backyard.  There was The Ancient One, positioned right underneath the magnolia tree (a favorite spot of hers; there’s a depression in the ground there.  An enormous black walnut tree once grew in the spot.  Five or 10 years after moving in, however, self managed to kill it, possibly from over-watering.  She knew nothing — NUTHIN’ —  about trees back then).  Self looked at the doggie dish:  All gone!  Once again, self has scared herself silly with imaginings!

Anyhoo, in a much more relaxed state, she resumes trolling the internet.  Lands on Café Irreal, a favorite site.  There’s a story up about a mysterious mirror.

Self hates mysterious mirrors almost as much as mysterious closets.  The closet thing started long, long ago, when self was in grade school.  She had a dream that a man with an axe hid in the closet in the bedroom she shared with her sister.  When her sister went to the closet and opened it, the man was staring down at her, and self kept trying to warn her sister but for some reason could not speak, or move.  As she watched, her sister began to rummage through the things in the closet.  And, and —  self doesn’t know how the dream ended.

Then, about 10 or 15 years ago, she was watching the new Twilight Zone, and there was a story about a mysterious closet.  A girl kept hearing strange sounds from the closet in her room, but every time she described the sounds to her parents, they said she was imagining things . . .

Anyhoo, back to the Café Irreal story.

First of all, self really likes that the main protagonist, a girl named Dani, buys the mirror from a vendor whose wife is “an autumnal blonde with a witchy look.” (See, self is already pro-actively thinking of Halloween!  This is not a joke.  Costco and CVS pharmacy and all the supermarkets have aisles of Halloween candy.  In fact, self bought one of these bags of candy because, she reasoned, they’re going to raise the prices the closer it gets to Halloween.)

Anyhoo — self, what is WRONG with you today?  Digressions galore!  Back to the story:  The girl brings the mirror home.  What does she see?

Of course she sees SOMETHING!

Not her face, silly.  If she saw her own face, it would be too Dorian Grey.

She sees someone else in the mirror.  A man.

Suggest going over to Café Irreal and checking out the rest of the story.  Here is the link.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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