Slacking, But for Good Reasons

I know, I know.  I am seriously slacking when it comes to blogging.  To be fair, I did warn you that somethings, such as sleep, would sometimes take priority.  However, it is not sleep that is pushing me behind as of late.  I’ve been busy building a social media platform for my university’s brand new creative writing club.  I have had help.  Most notably, Lori and Angie have had me on their heels.  I think they like it, personally, but don’t tell them I said that.  Also, since this is also a project for my multimedia writing class, I can thank my classmates Carl and Jake for some great ideas.  I’m especially grateful to Carl for doing the bulk of the paperwork which gives me time to construct the sites and add some content.

Fear not, though.  No matter what, I’ll make it back here for Recommend It Monday where I’ll be talking about A Clash of Kings, the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.

Recommend It Monday–Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Happy Monday!  Ok, who am I kidding?  Those words never belong in the same sentence, let alone be their own sentence.  Still, it is Monday, so what can you do?  I should mention that this post contains some spoilers.  If you are concerned about spoilers, you should probably stop here.

Last week, I mentioned that I would begin Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  I did not begin it; I devoured it.  It’s hard for me to find large periods of time to just sit and pleasure read, but I found myself making the time for this book.  I was hooked from the first few pages.  So much so, that I am going well out of my way to make a trip to the library today for the next book in the series.  The story line is great, but you can have a great story and still end up with a crappy book.  These are some of the reasons why Martin ends up with a fantastic book.

  1. The Characters–I would have loved to see Martin’s work space while he was writing this first book.  There are a million characters in it.  I exaggerate, but not by much.  I had been warned before I ever started with this book that there were a lot of people to keep track of, but I really didn’t have too much trouble with it.  To me, that means that Martin took extra care to keep all his characters straight for the writing process.  He has a firm grasp on all these people, so he can write about them in a way that is clear and easy (for me, at any rate) to keep track of.  I was also thrilled with the complexity of his characters.  There were only a few people that I hated outright (Cersei, Jaime, Gregor) and very few people that I loved outright (Arya, Bran).  Everyone else had this wonderful shading to them.  Catelyn, for example, was a character that I mostly loved, but then she was a total hag to Jon and that made me mad.  Then there were people who were mostly douchebags, like the Hound, but then they showed something that didn’t make them 100% horrible.  One place in particular was with Sansa after Joffrey becomes king.  He’s kind to her in a rather cold, fatalistic sort of way.  It’s just enough to give you pause.  I have something to aspire to with my own character writing.
  2. The Chapters–I really appreciate the different chapter breakdowns that Martin gives the reader.  There are so many people to worry about that it would be very easy to forget things about them, and forget their own subplots.  Martin breaks down the chapters so a different character is the focus of it.  You could get the same plot point from three different perspectives, each one advancing the plot, like a literary relay race.  For example, once Eddard Stark is imprisoned, you might get his perspective, then Arya’s later on, and then Sansa’s later still.  This is especially wonderful because you not only jump from male to female perspective, but from adult to child.
  3. The Subplots–Sometimes, writers will add in subplots as a “beside the point” feature.  They have nothing, really, to do with the main plot, but they give more depth and richness to the characters.  The thing that makes me feel insignificant and small as a writer is that Martin’s subplots almost always seem to advance the main plot in some way.  As I was reading, I kept imagining this world of Westeros as a complicated house of dominoes.  One domino falls here, one way over there, and they start the chain from the bottom as the main plot starts it from the top and before you know it the entire thing is imploding with you in the middle of it.
  4. The Women–Martin gives us some rather strong female characters.  They’re not all strong.  I spent most of the book wanting to smother Sansa with a pillow (I’m sure Arya would have held her down).  I have no use for her, and I’m told I’ll have less use for her as the series progresses.  Oh, goody.  But that’s part of what makes the book great.  Then, we have Arya.  She’s learning blade skills, she thinks for herself (even if she’s not always making the best choices), and she has a strength her sister lacks.  She’s not perfect by any means, but I love her completely.  I’d probably ground her for life if she were my own daughter, but she’s not.  I love that one of the deadliest bad guys is a woman.  As much as I despise Cersei, she is a bad ass.  Sure, there are a lot of people you need to watch out for, but the one I would always keep my eyes on is her.  Catelyn lets us watch her struggle with her weaknesses in order to be strong.  The Lady of Winterfell battles with the mother of Robb.  She does what she needs to do for her son even though it takes its toll on her personally.  Unlike her sister, Lysa, who does what’s best for her and turns her son into an insufferable budding sociopath in the process.  Catelyn and Lysa contrast true strength and false strength.  Catelyn is in a battlefield, exposed to all the dangers and having her action or inaction potentially affecting the outcome of the battles they fight.  Lysa has the strength of the Eyrie and not much else.  She has bravado because she believes her stronghold is impregnable.  Without her walls and without an enemy on her doorstep, she has no risk to her bravery (She should be medicated, if you ask me.  Cersei is cunning-scary.  Lysa is psycho-scary.).  There is no static female characterization to this first book, and I really appreciate that.

I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones from HBO to see how close it was to the book.  I have to say I was impressed for the most part.  All of the child characters are older in the show, and I can understand how difficult it would be to work with children as young as the ones in the book, but their advanced ages took something away from the story.  There’s something more urgent for me in a 7 year old Bran getting shoved out of a window than in a 10 year old.  There’s something more desperate about an 11 year old Sansa getting betrothed to the Crown Prince than there is a 13 year old.  Still, the first episode did an excellent job setting up the show according to the book.

For next week’s blog, I thought I would take a poll.  You can vote only once, and make sure you share!

Operation: Chapbook

I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of the projects I’m working on  is a chapbook of poetry.  It’s coming along rather nicely.  I’m about 1/3ish of the way done and I still have no idea what to call it.  This is one of my favorites so far:


























It bothers you, don’t it?

The void, the whiteness

of the page screaming

“Fill me with something”

because of course it should

be filled—pages and vaginas

left empty amount to no

good and we can’t possibly

have that because they might

get uppity like that cheap whore

under the lightpost on the corner

of Main and Sample who

decided all of a sudden she’s

too good for your crab infested

pubic hair and the callouses

on your hands that catch

on her hair as you grunt

your beer laced breath in

her face as she dreams

of being “Pretty Woman”

while knowing she’s only

that dead hooker on that

one episode of CSI.

Why do I leave my

pages empty?

Because fuck you—

that’s why.

I forget how I got fixated on the concept of voids, but I saw a blank page with a title in my head.  Then I saw people scanning the page, flipping it over, flipping it back, looking around a table, looking on the floor…trying to find the words.  In short, they started to freak out a little, these people in my head.  So I decided to start off the piece that way.  That was the only calculated writing.  The rest of it was almost a stream of consciousness thing where I let the words take me.  I also took the time to rebel against a society that tries to dictate my actions.  I don’t have to act the way society tells me to act, and I don’t have to justify it either.  To clarify, this doesn’t mean murdering people and stealing their crap.  It means I don’t have to conform to society’s notions of gender, gender expression, or sexuality.  It means I can take one partner, or several partners, or several partners at the same time if I choose.  Or I can take no partners at all.  It means society doesn’t get to define me.  Even if what I choose for myself aligns with society’s notions of who and what I should be, it doesn’t mean I have to go about it in the same way, and it doesn’t mean society gets to take the credit for it.

This poem from the collection is the shortest one:

My Doxology

Misery be to the Father,

The Daughter,

and the Broken Spirit.

As it was in the beginning is now,

and ever shall be,

Pain without end.


For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, a doxology is a hymn-like response that calls glory to the Christian God.  This piece very neatly ties together two things I have a very big problem with: organized religion and my father.  I took a doxology and modified it.  In fact, I may take a few more and sprinkle them throughout the collection.  I hadn’t thought of doing that until just now, but Cynthia Cruz gave several of her poems the same title in “The Glimmering Room” and I thought that was an intriguing idea while I was reading her.  This is something I plan on exploring for future pieces.

Recommend It Monday–Falling Behind

17-hmeI’ve been reading Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice since my last post.  I should mention here that this is the first book I’ve read by Rice, although I am aware of several books by her.  I just haven’t read them.  It’s not that the book is bad.  It has some fabulously rich descriptions and all of the backstory is interesting.

Of course, Azriel is perfection on two legs, so that doesn’t hurt either.  It just doesn’t grab my attention.  I can read it for about 30 minutes at a time, and then I get bored and look for something else to do.  I’m not invested in Azriel.  It’s unfortunate that he was basically boiled to death in a vat of melted gold like some sort of man-soup, and while I can readily agree that that would suck, I don’t really care.  I realize that makes me sound horrible, but there you have it.  It really bothers me not to finish a book once I’ve started it, so I would really like to finish it.  I may give up on this one, though, so I can move on with my list.

On my latest trip to the library, I picked up Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  I’ve been told by several people I should be reading this book, so I’m pretty hopeful.  Fantasy is my go-to genre, though.  It’s my first choice to read when I have a choice, so I’m cautiously optimistic about it.  I really hope it’s one of those books that grabs me.

I would really like to be able to start reading some of my Rainstorm Press authors.  They have some amazing sounding books out.

Michiana Monologues

Tonight is the first showing of the Michiana Monologues.  It’s been going for a few years now, but this is my first year going.  I submitted a monologue, and I’m curious to see if it made it into the show.  It’s patterned after Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” and features the stories of local women.  All of the proceeds benefit support services for women who have been victims of sexual and domestic violence. If you’re in the area, and you’re interested in catching the show, it starts at 7 tonight and tomorrow night in the auditorium of North Side Hall on IU-South Bend’s campus.  There is a silent auction before the show starts and you’re sure to hear some amazing stories.  You might even hear mine.

Abstract Musings


San Antonio River Walk

 If I could take a snapshot of the inside of my head, this is what I imagine it would look like.  Nothing is fixed.  Its movements, its colors…it’s all fluid.  Of course, I also have the attention span of a gnat sometimes, so that could have something to do with it, too.  This is a picture of the San Antonio River, and I think water perfectly illustrates what writers do.  We take the things around us, and we reflect them back to the world through our unique distortions.

Sometimes we cast shadows, or blur the edges to velveteen softness.  Other times we bring things into stark relief, honing the knives of their edges to scalpel sharpness.  We can reduce them to simple black and white, or we can explode them like a bag of Skittles, painting all of their nuances.  We can nurture and we can destroy.  You can dam us up, reroute our flows, or do your best to drain us, but our droplets are ideas and they are everywhere.  Even things made of stone eventually fall prey to our persistence.

My ultimate dream is to one day make it to the Banned Books list.  So far, I’ve only read 7 of them.  I’m not a literature major, after all, and I do have a lot of reading I do.  In fact, if you take the top 100 novels, I almost double that number.  (I’ve read 13 of them.)  How many have you read?  Which one are you most interested in reading?  Personally, I’m a bit OCD, so when I get the time to start this list, I’ll start at the top with The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Champaign Dreams on a Ramen Budget

Now that I’m getting close to graduation, and while I’m waiting to hear about my grad school application, I’ve been thinking about how to become a part of a larger scale writing community.  Initially, I was looking for writers’ conferences, but I found this instead. Well, more like in addition to.

To say I want to attend this program is a gross understatement.  By that, I mean I’ve been discreetly looking into the going rate for kidneys.  To attend both summer sessions (because of course I want to attend both summer sessions), I would need to raise $3500 by two weeks after program acceptance.  So I could eat whilst I am there.  Provided I get accepted, of course.  These are funds I do not have.  However!  I am not despairing yet.  I’m attempting to look into grant and scholarship opportunities that would apply to this summer program.  Considering it’s Yale, it’s really not that bad.

And so the hunt begins.  I think I’m going to apply anyway.  If I don’t get accepted, then I have found valuable information for future endeavours.  If I do get accepted, even if I can’t attend, I can say I was accepted into a summer writing program at Yale.

Oh yeah, I have no idea what to submit yet.  😀

Recommend It Monday–Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice and Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb

I have started Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice, but I’m not finished with it yet.  I blame my academic schedule.  So far, I’m enjoying it.  I’d like to have it finished by Wednesday or so, depending on how much homework I get saddled with tomorrow.

I did finish Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb, though.  It is the 34th “In Death” novel I’ve read, and I have to tell you, I’m not going to tire of them anytime soon.  Delusion in Death is the next one on my list and Robb has Calculated in Death coming out sometime this month, if it’s not out already.  I really, really, really hope they never make a movie of this series (and one was in development previously but has been dropped at this time) because they will screw it up.  They always do.  The movies never capture the magic of the books, and sometimes that’s ok, but sometimes you end up with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with me sitting in the middle of the theater in full-on nerdrage, spittle flying, all but screaming, “That didn’t happen.  That didn’t happen.  They didn’t have to convince the Ents of anything! WHERE THE <expletive> DID THOSE ELVES COME FROM?!?!?!”  If you were in that showing, I apologize.  It would end up like Sahara by Clive Cussler: great book, mediocre movie.

NEW at IUSB: Creative Writing Club

If you are a part of the greater Michiana/IU-South Bend community, you might want to check this out.  This is a new creative writing club that is open to the community, as well as students.  You do not need prior creative writing experience, nor do you have to be an English Major to participate.  It’s workshop based and I’m sure it will be a lot of fun as well as a great experience for the beginning writer.

NEW at IUSB: Creative Writing Club.

Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields

Last week, my professor, David, suggested that I pick up Ashley Capps and read through some of her work.  So, I borrowed her book from a friend of mine and started reading.  He wanted me to see how she structured her work.  At least, I think he did.  I couldn’t remember why he wanted me to read her when I started, but what I took out of it was how she structured her work.  There were several pieces that had phrases or words that I really enjoyed, but the one I like best so far is Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields, from her book of the same name.


Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields


Ophelia, when she died,

lay in the water like the river’s bride, all pale

and stark and beautiful against the somber rocks,

her hair an endless golden ceremony.

She made the water sing for her; it flowed

over her folded arms.


Not so my father’s sister Karen,

swollen in a day-old tub of water

when they found her,

needle tucked into the fold of her arm,

her last thing: a wing.

So everything went as nameless as the men

who lifted her naked from the tub,

or those who rolled her

into the mouth of the furnace,

which is what you get

when you don’t get a service,

when your mother’s years of grief turn

into last rage: I won’t pay for it.

Leave me out of this.


And even though they finally said

it wasn’t suicide; a mistake—

no one knew what to do

with all of that anger,

or in the end how not to blame her.


Even now, in her unmarked container.


People once believed a deeper reason, some dark secret

motivation to the way the lemmings threw themselves

en masse into the sea. Were they weary

of their lives; could they, too, despair?

Or like those second-vessel swine

when Jesus exorcised two babbling men of their demons,

driving the demons through a pack of bewildered hogs–

the way they plunged?


The truth we know now: they leave when food is scarce,

when they’ve grown too many;

believe the roads they follow

lead to new meadows, a place to start over.

I think of Karen, feeding

and feeding her veins, how it is possible

she saw all of us suddenly there–miraculous

and festive on some bright and other shore,

like the life she had been swimming toward

all along, trying to get right.


Like those sailors long ago,

that tropical disease, calenture

when, far from everything they knew,

men grew sometimes delirious

and mistook the waving sea for green fields.

Rejoicing, they leapt overboard,

and so were lost forever,

even though they thought it was real, though

they thought they were going home.


So many things I love about this piece.  For starters, I happen to be reading Hamlet.  I guess that gives me an extra appreciation for her Ophelia reference.  I love the way she pairs that image with the accidental overdose of her aunt.  I was also touched by the anger that you can’t get rid of, even when you know you should.  It’s the beautiful/pathetic.  Ophelia’s death was suicide, not accident, and her songs were a manifestation of her madness.  Not to say there cannot be beauty within madness, and there is a sense of serenity for Ophelia.  In fact, her suicide is one of her greatest acts, in my opinion, because she was finally allowed to act with her own agency without being punished for it.  And then there is Karen.  How sad for this woman, shooting up…maybe to avoid being alone.  And then no one finds her until a day later, when her body has bloated from her decomposition.  The saddest thing about her is the anger she didn’t deserve and the forgiveness she will never receive even though she shouldn’t need it.  They make an interesting pairing.  And yet, Karen becomes almost beautiful at the end of the poem, seeing the life she always tried to have shimmering before her mirage-like.  Maybe she pushed the needle too far trying to get back home.

The Next Big Thing


“THE NEXT BIG THING” is designed to raise awareness of new works, or works in progress by posing ten delicious questions the work, and then tagging other authors to do the same.

I was nominated by Johnny Worthen.  I met this excellent author through Rainstorm Press. Take a look back and check out his stuff. I’m thrilled to follow him. Also be sure to hop along to the fine authors I tagged at the bottom of this post. They’ll be up on the 13th of February.


What is the working title of your next book? 

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
It came from Harold Camping, actually.  He was so certain that the Rapture was coming, and at a specific date and time, that people were selling their homes and getting rid of personal items so they could be ready for it.  At the time, I thought of how a predator could use this in order to kidnap a child and no one would ever bother to look for him or her because they would say the child had been Raptured.  I was horrified by the thought.  So, I decided to explore that in this next book.

What genre does your book fall under? 
I’m not really sure.  It’s a long way from being completed.  On the one hand, it could be considered horror, though not in the traditional sense.  On the other, it’s just a book that’s purpose is to get people to think.  I’ll have a better sense of genre when I get the first draft completed.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Buddy: Steve Buscemi
Tiffany Montgomery: Anne Hathaway

I don’t have a good sense yet of who would play which parts because I’m still in the initial draft.  The hardest part to cast will be Jeanne Montgomery because she’s so young, but I would definitely want Steve Buscemi and Anne Hathaway to be cast.  Their work is amazing.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
The town believes Jeanne Montgomery was Raptured, but was she?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
I do not intent to self-publish the book, but I’m not sure yet where I will send it because it’s not finished.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
I’m still writing the first draft.  I have a lot of projects going right now, so I haven’t been able to work on it the way I’d like to.  The portion of the manuscript that I have finished, I wrote in about three days.  I have a feeling that this manuscript will come in bursts like that.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
I hesitate to compare myself to anyone.  I could see Mary Higgins-Clark tackling the subject matter, though.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I mostly answered this above, but I guess what really tugged at me was the selfishness involved with blind obedience.  Underneath it all, that’s what it is.  Someone has the need to believe in something so badly, they will overlook the obvious in order to keep that belief unchallenged.  And who is at fault?  Who do you blame when someone gets hurt because someone else needed to believe in something?  Obviously, you blame the person who did the hurting, but there’s a deeper responsibility than that.  Do you hold individuals, or even institutions, responsible, or do you allow them to be blameless because they believe?  How much hurt is too much hurt?  Who gets to draw that arbitrary line, and is it really arbitrary if others who are outside of that belief are held to that standard already?  When does society get to say, “Enough.  Your beliefs are dangerous to others,” or do they ever get to say that?  These are the questions that pull at me.  I’m not even sure they are questions that can be answered, but answering them and passing judgment isn’t the point.  The point is getting people to ask the questions.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It won’t be for the faint of heart.  Bad things happen, and although I try to be as delicate as I can, those things are still very graphic. In fact, I made myself ill writing one scene, and I haven’t been able to work on the manuscript since then.  It’s not gratuitous, though. Unfortunately, the graphic nature of the book is necessary because it is steeped in reality.  If I do my job right, people will get angry…and then they’ll start asking the questions.

Jumping on!
Visit these authors I’ve tagged next week for THE NEXT BIG THING:

Kellie Wallace

Kristian Gore

Geoffrey Chaucer and Charmi Keranen

A few days ago, I posted a poem from Charmi Keranen from her book The Afterlife is a Dry County.  Today I get to talk with her and pick her brain a bit.  I love getting to meet and talk with other writers.  Everyone’s writing process is different, and I’ve gotten some interesting ideas from other writers based on how they do things.  I especially like to ask them who they are reading.  If you’re a writer, but you don’t read anything beyond the shampoo bottle while you’re sitting on the porcelain throne, you’re doing it wrong.  Even reading <shudder> Twilight is better than reading nothing at all.  I just hope if you do read Twilight, you read it as an instruction on how not to write.  I don’t get to meet Cynthia Cruz, though.  This makes me very sad.

In other news, I’ve been memorizing the first 18 lines of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.  In Middle English.  Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with Middle Earth.  This, too, makes me very sad.  I’ve read the Knight’s Tale and the Miller’s Tale so far.  I’m looking forward to the Wife of Bath’s Tale.  That’s one of my favorites.

Recommend It Monday

Today is the first post for Recommend It Monday.  Last week, several people gave me a bunch of authors to read.  I made my list, headed to the library, and started reading.  Today’s post will be a bit unusual (I hope) because the author I chose was Christopher Moore and his book Love Bites.  I couldn’t get through it.

Now, this isn’t to say that there were no redeeming qualities about the writing style.  There were a couple of times I found something clever or something make me chortle.  The narrator was a teen girl, Abby Normal, and the writing made me feel like it really was a teen girl.  And therein lies my issue with it.  Its nonstop teen-ness.  For some folks, that may not be an issue, especially if the person is a teen reader.  I am not a teen person, though.  I wasn’t a fan of teens when I was one, and I found myself wanting to smack my 13 year old son just on principle.  I did not smack my son, nor would I.  I’m just saying.

I only got about three chapters in, so I don’t know how the story progresses.  Moore’s book Lamb was recommended to me as one of his great books, so I will be checking into that eventually.  I’m currently torn between forcing myself to finish it and abandoning it entirely.  Reading is one of my pleasures, but if the reading isn’t fun then there isn’t much point.  I will probably abandon it.

Instead, I picked up Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb.  This is not a recommended author, but I love her work and I adore this series.  If you have not read her, do it.  The first book is Naked in Death.  If you didn’t know, J.D. Robb is a pen name for author Nora Roberts.  The “in Death” series is my favorite of her work, but no matter which name she’s writing under, you’re bound to get a great story.  I read half of my book the first night I started reading it and I can’t wait to get the free time available to finish it.

Through the Eyes of a Storm

Huzzah!  We have finally decided on the name of the newest short story anthology from Rainstorm Press.  Through the Eyes of a Storm will feature Rainstorm authors, including Sakina Murdock, Tommy B. Smith, Nate D. Burleigh, Susan Dorsey, Diane Lefer, Jane Isaac, Amy Durrant, and myself.

This should be an amazing collection and there’s a broad range of stories.  There is no release date, yet, but I will be sure to update when that information becomes available.  Whilst you are waiting, why not check out some of these amazing books?

Snow is a Four Letter Word

I don’t know what the weather is like where you’re at, but here in Northern Indiana, it’s cold and there’s snow everywhere.  This would be unremarkable except that two days ago it was in the 60s.  I can honestly say that I have even used my air conditioner and my furnace in the same day.  It made me think of a piece I wrote about 6 years ago.  I had to write a sonnet for a writing class I was taking, so I wrote this (in my opinion) wonderful sonnet questioning spirituality and one’s rightful place in the universe.  I get it back, and the comments went something like this:

I liked the sonnet, but change everything in it.

I’m paraphrasing here.  So, I changed it.  Hope it gives you a chuckle.


Meditation on Pigeons


I wish I was a pigeon in the breeze

To flutter, fly, escape these enclosed walls

To soar past buildings high above the trees

And soil the statues during nature’s call

The dirt, the grime, the smog I do not mind

And so on feathered wings I take to flight

Near benches in the park is best to find

The breadcrumbs tossed across the banks of white

The homeless leave these treats upon the snow

And I am pleased those kind folk thought to share

They barely have enough for them, I know

And still they gave me all that they could spare

So when the Cops evict those gentle ‘bos

I leave a pigeon present on their clothes.