Love and Rain/Out on the Eastern Slopes

I have a pair of short prose pieces (under a thousand words each) up at Vending Machine Press Today – “Love and Rain” and “Out on the Eastern Slopes.”

You can read them Here

Standard disclaimer: Neither piece is autobiographical in any sense. None. Nada. Zip. No way Jose’, it wasn’t me, I was at a friend’s house, the check is in the mail. Pure fiction.

Vending Machine Press and Editor-in-Chief Mike Lafontaine are a treat to work with.

Give ’em a read and let me know what you think.

Steve

Sue and Labor

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The cover photo is by Lindsay McLeod of Point Claire, Quebec.

My story “Sue and Labor” is up in the Montreal-based Bloody Key Society Periodical’s issue #3. You can read it Here.

Remember: Everyone gets something they want, but no one gets everything they want.

Much thanks to Adam Kelley Morton and the BKS crew for the honor.

Give ‘er a read and let me know what you think. I’ll be back with more stories shortly.

Steve

The Two People You Meet in Every Creative Writing Class

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Johnny Greatness Demands That You Acknowledge His Greatness. Greatly.

There are two people you are guaranteed to meet in every creative writing class you take. Now, it’s important to note that I’m not talking about MFA programs – I’ve never attended one and dislike the implicit “workshop everything to a middle common denominator” I fear may be contained therein.  (Like everyone who writes who doesn’t have an MFA I suffer from a strange kind of pride/inferiority complex in regards to MFA’s because no one would ever lend me that kind of tuition money to spend eleven years writing a shitty novel I’ll never finish while working days for minimum wage in an insurance company call-center.) No – I’m talking about evening non-credit courses offered by your local institution of higher learning. Take one of these (or two, or even three or four) and you will meet A) “Johnny Greatness” and B) “Jenny Book Club”.

Johnny is recognizable by his excessive output, both written and verbal, and his feverish need to take over the class and point it towards … himself. His cheerful willingness to offer suggestion/critique/blah-blah-blah that will somehow, always reference his own work. ‘Well, what I do in my writing … ” prefaces a lot of what comes out of him after his hand shoots up. Johnny is usually under twenty-five, can’t do five push-ups, and has staked his entire (inflated) sense of self-worth as being the guy in his social group who is absolutely convinced that he’s the most creative of them all. His ambition? To write something Lord of the Ring-ish meets Blood Meridian-ish. His Achilles heel? Incoherence – a lot of it written in the second person. Johnny doesn’t edit or brook suggestions of any sort. He doesn’t need that kind of negativity in his life.

What I most admire about Johnny Greatness? I wish I had that kind of confidence.

Jenny is almost always a middle-aged woman with limited output but a whole lot of opinions – almost all of which are negative.  Her catch phrase is “I’m sorry but … ” i.e “I’m sorry but some of Hemingway’s stuff is shit. I’m sorry but it is.” One of Jenny’s hallmarks is her unwillingness to present her own materiel for workshopping, discussion. It’s beneath her and she fears reprisal. If she has to present something it’ll be: A) incomplete, and B) she’ll attempt to limit critique by saying things like “I don’t want line edits” or “I just want to know if the main character is interesting enough to proceed with.” She’s not there to participate, she’s there to kvetch about other writers, especially if you like them. You can bait Jenny by tossing out random writer’s names to hear her passive aggressive take-downs. “She’s OK but I didn’t like …” she’ll say or something like that. You can sometimes bait Jenny by making up a fake author name just to watch her say “Meh” and shrug her shoulders dismissively. Her ambition? To be agreed with. This is why she’s been uninvited from more than a few book clubs she’s joined after three meetings. She doesn’t actually write and may not actually read. Not her thing.

What I most admire about Jenny? I wish I had that kind of confidence.

What they both have in common is that they think of writer as “destination” i.e. Declare yourself “a writer” and watch the checks roll in and the interview requests pile up. They like their “ideas” praised but don’t have any actual work to show.

I’d like to declare myself a “lottery winner” and I think I will. We’ll see how that goes.

Stay salty comrades, I’l be back with more sassy-ass back-sass when I feel like it.

Steve

On Muses and Shakespeare’s Fire

O! For a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest invention of heaven!

Wm. Shakespeare

There is a general assumption in the arts that a muse comes in the form of a woman, close enough to aspire to, but no so close as to actually reach, and that great art is created while in a state of great longing. The inference is of course, that one cannot make great art except out of love. I don’t believe this to be a universal truth. What muse then to women who make art find a muse then? (There seem to be few male muses.) Or, conversely, what muse to the writing of Whitman and Wilde and others going back to antiquity? Note too that the muse comes as much from loss as longing – artist HR Giger’s Li for example. (I have no doubt that loss can beget longing, possibly more strongly than presence.) Is the muse then the longing for something that cannot ever be had?

I would think that the muse is that which is there at the inception of the work, the idea, and often times not at the end. I say only sometimes because what work is ever really complete? Who would not remake something, who would not reorder the words and even the world, if only given the chance.

A man told once that there is an alternative translation of the first words of the Book of Genesis that say “In the beginning, God spoke a word upon the water and the world was created.” I have not been able to find that translation since I was first told of it, but I have thought often upon it and that, in it’s own way is a muse. Enigmatic and pure, the beginning for creation in conceptual thought (where the word stands for the thing) a corollary of a sort of the ontological argument for God.

I imagine that along time ago, in some cave not far from the particular blue waters of Mediterranean, a creature once an animal stared into a fire and then, moved by something they could not articulate, placed their henna-colored hand-print upon the wall. There, in between the light of Shakespeare’s fire, and the drying dye, was the muse. Something comes and was seen in the light of the fire, if only for a moment, and someone else marks its passing with something else.

I also think it possible, in the Socratic way where each statement implies it’s own antithesis, that with the exception of that first pure word spoken upon the still waters of the primordial, that muses come not to create but to destroy. The artist then must make something out of the ashes left in the fire of the their passing. Creation and recreation, fire and clay. Who builds until they have to?

Heavy Shit.

Someone beer me,

Steve

Permutations and Combinations

… and break-up songs on the radio.

I usually don’t talk about pieces before they actually appear. “Accepted” and “published” mean two different things. I’ve had a few where the accepting publisher has vanished or failed to meet their Kickstarter or whatever and the piece ultimately had to be re-shopped. That said I recently had a 666-word story accepted that is a permutation/combination of two poems I’d had accepted and published awhile ago. I pitched it to the editor that had taken the poems as a flash fiction piece and as  a different take on the same themes explored in that sweet, sweet poesy. I think an idea might be expressed in multiple literary formats – I had hoped they would concur. Concur they did with great enthusiasm and now “We Are All Already Dead (Reprise)” will be coming to you sometime in June.  So there, you have something to look forward to. I can’t promise you that there will ever be a “We Are All Already Dead – The Musical” but you never know what the future may hold.

As an aside this is the 5th 666-word piece I’ve written and placed. (I have two more that should appear before the “Reprise” goes up in June.) Inadvertently … I have found my niche. If you want a million words – a few kilos of words really – you’ve got DFW or some Russian. At the other end is the six-word story that started with Hemingway’s “Baby Shoes” – don’t pretend you don’t know it – and spawned a legion of contests. (Pro tip: Many of these charge you around $4/word to enter.) However, if you are particular about needing 666 – I’m your guy.

I’ve been listening to this lately, watched “American Hustle” the other night and this was on the soundtrack. I’m usually all metal, all the time, but something resonated and now it’s on loop.

Stay young and cool readers reader, I’ll be back with more literary shenanigan-izing in no time at all. In the meantime go google up where the band Steely Dan got their name from and don’t say you never learned anything via my blog. (I bet most of you already know anyways,)

Steve

This One & The Prophet of Regret (#9)

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The Cover Photo for The Rat’s Ass Review Summer 2017 Issue is by Gerald Leonard.

The Summer 2017 Issue of the Rat’s Ass Review is live and I have two poems in there – namely “This One” and “The Prophet of Regret (#9).”

You can read them Here.

Much thanks to E-I-C Roderick Bates for accepting these poems and for working through them with me to ensure they came out well.

As an aside, with nine “Prophets of Regret” now (not all have appeared in print) I’ll have to figure out some way to collect them all in a single volume. Nine is a whole lot o’ regrettin’. Next up is “The Prophet of Regret (#7 – Cathedral City)” in the Coachella Madrigals chappie I have coming out – I am not sure of the actual release date as it has been pp’d a couple of times.

Stay young and cool kids, I’ll be back with more publishing news soon enough.

Steve

El Centauro

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My story “El Centauro” is up at the always ably-curated Storgy magazine and you can read it Here.

True story: I pitched this story with the tag “Hesher heaven, Hipster Hell.” You know, I write all my stories on a blend of drive-thru coffee and middle-aged despair but if you want to blaze up, fire up some Orange Goblin, (“Time Travelling Blues” is my fave,) and read it let me know how that goes. Reading should be a sensory experience as well as in intellectual and emotional one.

Much thanks to the Ed’s at Storgy – it’s exciting to have a piece in a publication with the reach that Storgy has.

Stay cool friend-o’s, I’ll be back.

Steve