Born Magazine and the Baltimore Review

One of the benefits of being up all night from the disease you’re harboring, if such benefits can exist, is you find some cool stuff on the internet.  Because really, who would rather sleep than miserably surf the web?  Well, I would, but that’s not the point.

I came across a couple of neat online writing journals: Born Magazine and The Baltimore Review.The thing I love about these journals is the multimedia experiences you get because they are housed online.  That’s more a factor with Born Magazine, but they both go beyond the traditional print experience.  For example, I like how The Baltimore Review has an author photo for everything on the site.  There’s also a tab for blog content.  However, if you’re a die hard printist (Is that even a word? It doesn’t matter.  I’m an English Major and I can create language as I have need for it.) you can purchase print copies of the journal.  But that’s not all!  The very last category link is “Visual.”  “Landing” is amazing.

Born Magazine, though, marries multimedia content with written works.  You can view the text of a poem, or you can watch the movie for the poem, such as “Like Wings Abandoned from Some Future Score.”  “Ways to Carry You” is probably the single coolest thing I’ve seen all week.

I should probably be talking more about the poems, but I’m taking a multimedia writing class so I’m really interested in the ways these sites incorporate more than just the words on the screen.  There are a lot of drawbacks to providing content online.  The need for a device to access content (PC, Mac, a Tablet of some sort), the need for electricity to power the device or the finite battery life, the additional eye strain caused by reading on an electronic screen, and potential formatting headaches are just a few of them.  There’s a versatility to online content, though, that makes it worth it.

You really should check out “Ways to Carry You.”

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Recommend It Monday–Goddess’s Choice by Jamie Marchant

Jamie Marchant stopped by and asked me to review her book, The Goddess’s Choice, for RIM.  It’s fantasy, and who doesn’t love fantasy, so I said, “Sure!  Shoot me a copy and I’ll give it a read.”  She sent me a copy and I settled in to read.  The book is based on the Norwegian fairy tale “The Princess and the Glass Hill.”

Overall, this was a rather entertaining read.  There were some flaws, however, both in craft and basic nuts and bolts.  For the ebook version (I have a Nook Tablet), the formatting was all over the place.  Since it was an entertaining read, I’m won’t consider that a deal breaker.  It was pretty disctracting, though.  I do not know if the paperback version of the book has the same formatting issues.  I also found a typo or two while I was reading.  I’m a bit less forgiving on that point.  For craft, the first chapter went out of its way to make sure you knew that everyone considered Robbie a demon.  It was a bit heavy handed.  Also, the book makes a big deal out of Solar keeping the peace between the joined kingdoms, but we really don’t get a lot of why that matters.  I’d let it go, but there are several places where the importance of maintaining the peace is mentioned.  In fact, the bulk of the story revolves around Samantha refusing to marry the court suitors, which she needs to do to help maintain the peace.  It would have been nice to find out some of that history.  Oh well, moving on to the good stuff.

I liked that Samantha was an aurora and Robbie was an amihealer.  I enjoyed the way those abilities complicated the story for the characters.  I thought the divide within the Church of Sulis was very well done.  I had not heard of the fairy tale she based the story on prior to reading the book, and I don’t think you really need to.  The elements don’t need the tale to justify them being in the story.  If you are familiar with the tale, you will definitely recognize the elements from it that Marchant incorprates.  The story was paced well, and there is a good mix of romance with action.  There are some rather graphic scenes, so there’s that.  I’m not off-put by them, but if you’re considering letting a younger person read it…well, perhaps you should reconsider that.  I did appreciate that the graphic nature of the scenes accomplish a purpose beyond just being graphic.  Duke Argblutal is a very bad man and these scenes do a good job of showing that.  The one thing I had a very big problem with was when Samantha was hearing about Captain Tremayne and how he raped a young woman.  I think it was the woman’s father who exclaims that it’s an experience worse than death and the author has Samantha thinking it was no such thing.  Bad move.  For some women, death would be far kinder than the hell they’ve experienced at the hands of a rapist and for the author to not only suggest otherwise, but to do it from the strong female heroine, is inexcusable.

So, there you have it.  Beyond the one major gaffe, the story is an entertaining read.  I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I’d give it 4 out of 5 without the rape apologist comment.  This is book one in a series of books, so I’m hoping that the future books will be better proofread and better formatted.  Also, leave the rape apologetics at home.

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.

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.

The Afterlife is a Dry County

Among the many things I’m reading is The Afterlife is a Dry County by Charmi Keranen.  To be honest, she hasn’t connected with me yet.  I don’t know if it’s because she had the misfortune to be read alongside Cynthia Cruz, or if it’s simply a matter of needing to read her more.  Probably the latter.  The title poem, however, is one that’s beginning to grow on me.

The Afterlife is a Dry County

He refuses to call them

structural.

Stair-step cracks, cold in

the grasp, stippling.

The vertebrae

lingering

whatever alludes

a prescient motion.

I watched a woman with the

mind of a bison light up a foyer.

This is my fault, isn’t it.

The deep wet felt,

the undertow.

(11)

Two things strike me about this piece.  The first is the line “This is my fault, isn’t it.”  The second is “a woman with the mind of a bison.”  There’s something very cool about that phrase.  It’s almost a primal thing.  It’s not something I have ever considered doing in my own work, but it’s intriguing.  I’ll have to play with that sometime and see what happens.

A Matter of Taste

I’ve been reading The Glimmering Room by poet Cynthia Cruz.  It took reading several of the poems until she clicked with me, but now that she has I’m really enjoying her work.  This is the poem that finally resonated with me and opened me up to the rest of the book.

NEW YORK STATE (4)

Beautiful and sad Sarah, girl

Ruler of the underworld. Strange

Saint of the otherworldly low

Weight. In mint panties and dreamed

Halo, waiting in the Arctic

Hallway for the morning weigh-in

With the rest of us.

None of us fit

For marriage, or for

Anything else,

For that matter. All of us dead

Or else hid in some mother’s suburb,

Somewhere. Expert only at

Long-distance running.

Wearing the war paint of

Women stunted

In preadolescence: skater-boy haircuts

And glitter-blue nail polish, holding

Care Bears and My Little

Ponies, wearing paper crowns.

(pp 35-36)

The most striking thing for me is the juxtaposition of the dark imagery with the child/girlish imagery.  Maybe dark isn’t the right word for it.  Perhaps a better way to say it is the harsh vs. the innocent imagery.  There’s also the clinical feel of the first three couplets, the “Arctic/Hallway,” that brings back every time I’ve ever had to be in a hospital.  Then there’s the line “None of us fit/For marriage/Or for/Anything else/For that matter.”  Marriage is the primary thing they’re unfit for, the most important thing they’re unfit for, and then almost as an afterthought, “oh yeah, we weren’t really good for anything else, either.”  If you haven’t read this book yet, you should.  Read it in your head, and then read it to the empty room.  Chew the words and listen to how you spit them out.  You’ll be glad you did.