Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rules For Writers, Part One

Caitlin R. Kiernan is the award-winning writer of such great books as The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, The Red Tree, and Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart. She keeps a blog which you can read at Dear Sweet Filthy World, and on March 22, 2005 she posted the following:

"I have to write. I have to write regardless. I does not matter if I've had a bad day. It does not matter if I am depressed or in some other sort of mood not conducive to writing. I still have to write. I does not matter if the weather is crappy or if there's trouble in my family. It does not matter if I'd rather do something else. It does not matter if, in some objective, cosmic sense, I've earned the right to do something else. It does not matter if it's not my fault. It does not matter. I have to write. Nothing else matters, ever. Nothing else matters more. Them's the rules. I knew them when I signed on, and now I'm stuck with them. I have to find a way to write in spite of chaos. That's the only option, because clearly things have no intention of becoming any less chaotic."

Good Advice.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

His Inner Poe: Rare Tennessee Williams Horror Story Published For First Time

From www.foxbusiness.com

As she takes in the despair of her in-laws' one-room apartment in "A Streetcar Named Desire," Blanche Dubois exclaims, "Only Poe! Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe could do it justice!"

Years earlier, Tennessee Williams channeled Poe for an entire story.

Williams' "The Eye That Saw Death," appearing in the spring issue of The Strand Magazine, is a feverish, 4,800-word horror tale clearly inspired by the patron of the genre. Recently unearthed by Strand managing editor Andrew F. Gulli, "The Eye That Saw Death" is narrated by an unnamed man who has suffered from a seemingly incurable disease that has left him nearly blind. At age 30, he receives an eye transplant that restores his sight, but leaves him with ghoulish side effects. The narrator is afflicted with visions that begin as a "chaotic blur," then become more focused and traumatizing, whether "huge, black, bulging eyes" or "terrible, tusk-like teeth."

The new eye, it turns out, belonged to a convicted killer. The narrator begs to have the surgery reversed.

"It is true that the pleasures of the blind are few and frugal," Williams writes. "They live apart from the world and participate little in its affairs. But I do not regret that choice I made the day I fell, raving mad with horror, to the floor of the oculist's office. Oh, never! Far, far better to be blind than to see with the eye that saw death!"

Gulli, who has previously published little-known works by Graham Greene and John Steinbeck among others, found "The Eye That Saw Death" at one of the country's leading literary archives, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Williams scholar George Crandell says the undated work is a "pretty good story" and surprisingly polished for a piece never published before. Crandell is especially impressed because he thinks Williams was likely in high school when he completed it.

"The story has a similar feel to 'The Vengeance of Nitocris,' kind of a horror story that was published in Weird Tales in 1928 (when Williams was 16)," says Crandell, the associate dean of Auburn University's graduate school and a member of the editorial board of the literary journal the Tennessee Williams Annual Review.

"The Eye That Saw Death" has a fable-like quality even as its plot recalls Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." It reads like an inversion of Greek mythology, in which the blind are not prophets or wise men, but those who truly will not see — or like an allegory for creative expression, when the artist is almost literally tortured by his vision.

Williams had good reason to be preoccupied with eyesight. He had poor vision in his left eye and would undergo four cataract operations, one of which he describes in "Memoirs," published in 1975. In a humorous but unsettling scenario that his early short story seemed to anticipate, Williams remembers agreeing to a procedure for which the doctor waived his fee in return for Williams allowing the operation to be the basis of a lecture to observing student ophthalmologists.

"The patient is now in position, apply the straps," Williams remembers, roughly, the doctor saying.
"Tighter, tighter, he has a history of vomiting during the surgery. Eyelids secured against blinking, pupil anesthetized now. The needle is now about to penetrate the iris. It is now into the iris. It has now penetrated the lens. Oh, oh, vomiting, nurse, choking, tube in esophagus. My God, what a patient. I mean very good, of course, but an unusual case."

Ohio Woman Held Captive a Decade Overcoming Fears, Loves Stephen King

From abcnews.go.com

A young woman held captive and tortured for more than a decade in a Cleveland home says she is conquering fears these days.

Michelle Knight said she now likes reading Stephen King novels.

"I like a little scare in my life," she explained at a Cleveland Main Library public discussion on Saturday.

She also said she plans to go skydiving to overcome a fear of heights and because "I'm adventurous."
The Plain Dealer of Cleveland http://bit.ly/1bax6ar reported, though, that she hasn't decided whether to watch an upcoming TV movie about the ordeal she, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus survived.
"I prefer not to put myself in a backwards spiral," Knight, now 33, explained. "You've got to take the bad in life and replace it with something good."

She said her main goal is "to keep hope alive for the missing and the voiceless."

Knight was kidnapped at age 21 by Ariel Castro. The women escaped his house in May 2013 and Castro committed suicide in prison that September after pleading guilty to a long list of charges.
Knight was the first taken captive by Castro, in August 2002.

"When I first was outside, it felt like my eyes were being fried like eggs in a frying pan," she said, telling the audience she needed special sunglasses after being freed.

"I don't have pity for him," she said of Castro. "He has hurt me for years, and now I am over that."
The Plain Dealer reported repeated applause and cheering for Knight, whose book "Finding Me" is now in paperback.

"How could you not be moved?" asked Cleveland resident Karen Sroka, one of the many who lined up to have books signed by Knight, be photographed with her or just chat briefly. Sroka gave Knight her sweatshirt from Alaska after Knight complimented her on it.

She didn't want to discuss her son, who was adopted while she was still missing and "locked away in hell." She also described her relationship with Berry and DeJesus as "kind of hectic ... It's best to deal with it in our own way.

Knight legally changed her name to Lily Rose Lee, but still goes by Michelle Knight in public appearances.

She said she recently moved into her own house and has named a puppy she adopted "Sky," because the pattern on her fur "reminds of the sky I didn't get to see for years."

"She's an inspiration," said Cindy Spiegler of Willoughby. "We've all had hardships, but hers is beyond anything."

Saturday, March 21, 2015


"Of all liars, the smoothest and most convincing is memory."

Olin Miller

Molly Campbell Keeps The Ends Loose

Dayton, Ohio author Molly D. Campbell's new YA novel “Keep the Ends Loose” has drawn widespread interest since its February 24th release. Well-known writers such as Beth Hoffman, Robin Black and Anita Hughes have lavished praise on the work, bestowing terms like “brilliant”, “charming”, and “insightful” on both the book and its writer. For Molly Campbell herself however, the novel, a coming-of-age story, about a quirky fifteen-year-old named Miranda Heath, is simply the end result of her interest in unusual names.

“I'm a humor blogger,” the two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Award winner said at a local coffee shop recently. “And I've been blogging for a long, long time. I was writing my blog and very active on social media, and apparently my mind works in strange ways. I've always been interested in names, particularly unusual names. Your own name, 'Tim Walker',” she continued, ”is a perfectly normal name – but if you were walking around with a name like 'Reginald Arbithnot', how would that affect you and your life? How would that change things?”

“So,” she said, “I started a Twitter account called “Characters in Search of a Novel”, where every day – and this was just for my own entertainment; I had no followers at first – I would post a person's name and a one-sentence description of that person. And I did this every day for a year, and I wound up with a few hundred followers. I was just doing it for the heck of it. Then a very gifted writer named Robin Black contacted me and said 'You know, you're throwing these away. You need to hire an illustrator, and write a book, with a story written around each one of these characters.”

“So I did that,” Molly said. “And that became my first book, “Characters in Search of a Novel”, with local artist Randy Palmer illustrating the stories for me. And then one day while online I came across The Story Plant, who is the publisher of the new book – I thought it was a literary magazine, and I submitted one of my little character sketches to them. And they wrote back and said 'We're not a literary magazine, we're a publisher – but have you written anything longer?' I said no, and they said 'Well you really need to consider doing that.' At that point I thought they were crazy. I'm a blogger, so I said no. But they kept dogging me, and for a period of probably five years we had this ongoing conversation. So finally they convinced me to try and write a novel.”

Their persistence paid off, it seems. The five-year effort on the part of The Story Plant has been rewarded with an excellent Young Adult crossover novel, “Keep the Ends Loose”. Miranda Heath, the teenage protagonist, is just one of the many interesting characters - and yes, many of them do have unusual names – in Campbell's second book. “It's about a teenage girl, she's fifteen,” Molly outlined when asked about the book. “Her mom recruits her to find this guy who's her long-lost uncle, and all sorts of things happen. Family secrets are revealed, and chaos ensues.”

Written in a stream of consciousness style which immediately puts one in mind of Holden Caulfield, the book is a charming, poignant, and and often very funny slice of teenage life from a girl who views life through cinematic terms – every time she gets into a difficult situation, she imagines that it's actually the plot of a movie.

Her older brother, her best friend, her father Roy Heath, her mother and her aunt Iris Fletcher all combine in Miranda's eyes to make the novel a story of family, love and loss that will have you alternately tearing up and then laughing out loud. The familiar skyline of Dayton, Ohio makes an appearance as well.

“I've been in this area for a long, long time. I graduated from Miami, and taught English at Miami-Jacobs. Dayton is in the book – the family doesn't live in Dayton, but they come to Dayton on one of their quests. The town they live in is totally fictitious, because I didn't want to be tied down to anything factual where she lives. I had a bunch of information in the book that the publishers asked me to take out, but I asked them 'Please let me leave the Dayton stuff in, because we're from Dayton and it's kind of a tribute', so there is a lot of local stuff in there.”

Fiction lovers from all walks of life are sure to get a kick out of Miranda Heath's quest and pithy observations on teenage life. And for those who read the book and wonder if there might be a sequel someday?

When asked if she has any other novels in the works, Campbell responds “Yes, because now that I know I can do it, why not?”

Letter from Thomas Pynchon

Friday, March 20, 2015

Joseph Campbell on the Meaning of Life

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."

Joseph Campbell 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Jessica Amanda Salmonson Once Wrote Me a Letter

 Jessica Amanda Salmonson, discussing transcendent fantasy in a 1994 letter to the blogger:

"Many other writers 'in the field' look pretty damned good compared to the field as a whole. But it's like comparing a healthy compost to fresh shit. All too often, the most highly prized of 'genre' fantasy pales alongside work that is transcendent. It seems no one really wants to make their intended goal anything as extraordinary as Gogol's "The Overcoat" or Fuentes' "Aura" or Vernon Lee's "Legend of Saint Julian" or Yorucenar's legend of "Our Lady of Swallows" or Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl", and such like tales and authors. Who can deny that it is unfair to contrast f/sf's "best" writers to the world's actual works of genius? 'Not as good as The Overcoat' would indeed be unfair; for all owe our existence as short story writers to "The Overcoat" and are embraced in its fabric. Yet too many critics, having decided to overlook true greatness, go one step farther and begin to find greatness where mere goodness barely exists."