Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Encaustic Blog

I'm posting over at The Hive Encaustic--my blog for visual art, some writing, massive jitters and general twinges. See my studio, read about my cat and wish me luck in the treacherous waters of encaustic art. If you don't know what encaustic art is, here's your chance.

The Hive Encaustic

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Off Course the Novel

Maybe it's time for another post… But you know, sometimes, how you just get tired of your own voice? Like that.

Off Course
I started a new novel which I am stoked about. It's called Off Course. It's about a magical device that transports people out of this world in a big flash of light. The device has fallen into the hands of a brother-sister team of criminals who have been disappearing wealthy men with the device for years. But now a quasi-governmental agency has learned about the device and believes it is a powerful weapon. They recruit a retired former agent to get close to the sister and steal the device. When the sister uses it on the agent and accidentally transports herself with him, the two of them find themselves not dead but in another world. Unfortunately, the device doesn't work in the reverse. They can't get back unless they learn the secret of the device and the reason it came to be in the girl's possession. Cue living rocks, shifting landscape, tribes of people with mysterious secret powers. Oh, and all the men she sent there earlier, many of whom would like to wring her neck.

If you think it sounds like fun, let me tell you. It is painless. Fun will be if it writes as well as it has through the first nine chapters and the rewrites aren't some bitchly epic that takes years to complete. That would be fun.

What am I liking right now? Mmm, I like Robert Crais and Jennifer Wiener (she's so cool). I like the show True Blood and want to watch it all the time. The books, not so much but maybe that's just me. I like Swiss cheese. I like recording my dreams in the morning and reading them later when they're like dreams someone else had. I like getting my heart rate up into the 140's especially since it's not recommended for my age…but then the Professor just does it for me like that sometimes. And Zinfandel. Like that too.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Notes on Rejection

Thought for the day: Rejection. Oh god not that again. Thought I'd write this while I'm still thrilled with my story live on Spinetingler. What, you haven't heard? Go here now and read it. The Professor, a discerning reader who very often has a pained look on his face when he is forced to read my light and airy para-whatsit stories, said he spent an enjoyable lunch time reading The Red Tent. And thanked me.* Special note: He did not wonder aloud in my hearing why I don't write more things like that. Good man.

Full disclosure: Before I start this thoughtful teaching moment (note sarcasm) let me say that The Red Tent had very few rejections. It was worse. The magazine that accepted it first went belly-up, became a Dead Market, was not sleeping, a few weeks before TRT's publication date. I was crushed and did not send the story out again for years. I thought I had personally killed the magazine with my haunted tale of ice and snow (the fact that it is an homage to a certain Raymond Carver story might have been bad juju. But yes, I meant to do it. Why the hell not? I can't think of another sport that is more consumed with pride, desire and self-interest than mountain climbing. And So Much Water So Close To Home is a nearly perfect story, as the several movie adaptations demonstrate. It felt like there was enough water in that pool for my characters to swim too). When I sent it out again to the beautiful people at Spinetingler, I heard back in about 24 hours. You can imagine how I felt. I had probably just received non-interest for the umpteenth time from the literary 'zine I love to hate the most (…and still submit to every year, why?).

Why. Because anger/embarrassment/humiliation/disappointment/self-doubt/self-loathing is so much fun? Those are the good points! At the core of each rejection is my Secret Voice reminding me yet again that I'm not any good and never been any good and, at my age, never will be any good.

Some days that is certainly true.

Other days I write like an angel, decide to quit my day job and babble crazy-ass plot twists to the Professor or anyone else who happens to be around.

But most days what I do is decide it doesn't matter how old I am, what editors say, what new expression of boredom crosses my family members' faces. Fuck 'em all.

That's the mantra, the answer, the word. And as a result I am occasionally blessed with those days when writing is easy and the universe touches me on the crown of the head with all good things on the page.

Someone please remind me of this when I hear back from two places that have my stuff!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Beadie and The Blesser

My house blesser, Nick Fortunato, was asleep. His earbuds hung out of his ears and Sweet Dreams by the Eurhythmics escaped like little balloon squeaks from his collar.

"The topic today is…" Happy Hour's leader, Robert, stared around the room trying to decide if we were worthy. "Your higher power."

At that moment the coffee house door flew open. Wind and rain blew into the room, followed by a long-legged redhead in a blue dress. She hesitated in the doorway with damp leaves sweeping past her. Skinny. Four inch heels.

"Someone get the door," said Robert.

Happy Hour met at Palio Cafe after it had closed for the night. The hours were clearly posted. It was no accident that Beadie Watts just happened to wander off the street on this bitch of a night. The only question was why.

Well, hell. I stood up. "My name is Veronica and I'm an alcoholic."

A chorus of hi, Veronica.

"And all I want to say is that some of us don't have a higher power. I'm not a believer. I'm Veronica."

Someone in the back yelled, "He believes in you!"

I sat down.

"Nice, Ronnie." Beadie perched on the edge of my table and crossed a slithery leg. "I heard you were on the wagon."

"I heard you weren't," I said.

Beadie shrugged. "I could stop drinking this minute."

"Still in the biz?" The last I heard, she was into custom built homes. River rock, gold-plated faucets. When the market was hot, she moved a lot of bricks. But it had been two years since anything in this town had been hot, including the men. It was a down market.

Custom homes used to be like printing money. Everyone wanted a new house if they could afford it. No ghoulies or ghosties, cold spots or bad smells. In fact, a blessing certificate by a licensed and bonded house blesser wasn't even required.

It's a loophole in the law. Supposedly, new homes don't have bad spirits and evil presences. But anyone who's seen a plumber's ass knows that bad spirits arrive from just about anywhere.

Or so I've heard. I don't feel the spirits myself. But since my market is REO properties and foreclosures, my listings have that lived-in look. State law says each one has to be blessed by a guy like Nick. At my expense.

"Is that Fortunato?" asked Beadie, surprised. "My, my, my. You and him?"

"There's no me and him." Unfortunately. "We work together."

"Wish I'd known."

I glanced at Nick, slumped against the nearest wall in a doughnut coma. Dark, lean, pale and, so help me god, beautiful. He'd been sober a month. Because these sensitive types are always going into rehab or quitting the business, a good one can be hard to find. Nick was very good.

Beadie popped open her clutch, removed a business card and wrote something on the back. "Do me one for old times? Take Fortunato and go here. He'll know what to do, and you can have the listing when he's done."

I took the card. Ravensview Drive. "If it's new, why do you need a blesser?"

But she was headed for the door.

Fortunato woke up as the meeting ended. He looked at me and sighed. "Better give me the card."

I fished Beadie's card from my pocket and handed it over. I stopped asking how he knew these things. He just did.

The place on Ravensview was cherry. High end. Three million. My teeth ached as we pulled into the circular drive and parked. "Tennis courts. Riding stable. I'm going to kill that bitch."

"Underwater." Nick made a choking sound and climbed out of the car.

"Probably. Are you sick?"

"It's bad. I can't go in there." He disappeared into the shrubbery and began to retch. He did that around dead bodies.

"Could you not find a corpse for once?" I headed for the front entrance. "Third time this month. Fuck head."

"Master bath," he called after me. "Underwater."

That's where I found her. Beadie was a shadow of blue tinged flesh sunk deep in the marble tub. Her kit rested on the floor next to her purse—rubber tubing, a spoon, gold lighter and a used syringe. Her dress hung from a towel rack. Heated towel rack. Nice fixtures, except for the dead junkie real estate agent floating in the bath.

"Oh, Beadie." I'd never hated her that much. I took a seat on the brushed steel bidet and called 911.

Nick sat on the curb, a pile of mashed butts on the pavement between his boots. "You okay?"

The cops were loading the body bag into the van.

"She came to Happy Hour tonight. She looked good— I can't believe it. The detective said she'd been dead since yesterday."

"You had a ghostly visitation." Nick got to his feet. "Not being able to tell the quick from the dead is pretty bad, Ronnie. Maybe you should take a class or something."

"She used us."

"She was looking for something."

He headed into the house. Now that Beadie was gone, he felt fine. In the foyer, he struck a match off his boot, lit a cigarette, and pulled a fir branch from his back pocket. I made to follow him but he held up his hand.

"Let me do my job. That's how she wanted it."

It didn't take long. Never does. I felt a breeze scented with Opium (like that wasn't a clue) and all the windows in the great room rattled. She was gone.

Nick came down the hall, whistling. He'd lost the green tinge to his skin.

"What happened to you?"

"Nothing." He blushed. "Nice lady. Friendly."

"I can't believe it. You had sex with a ghost."

"Some of them want to use me." He shrugged and headed for the door. "She said to say thanks."

"Fuck head." I followed Nick outside.
Thanks to Pattie Abbott

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Human Trials, Part Four

First of all, the cat is all right. Let's get that said immediately. Marzi, my little ten month old orange and white male kitten is all right. He lived.

I have some cats. Cats being what they are, you only see three or four of them at a time. So that's how many cats I have. Three or four. Marzi, Andy, Spot and Edie and their mother Dru (oops, five) joined Achilles, Naomi and Cloudy last summer (is that eight?). I blame the idiots who do not neuter their cats and then ABANDON THEM IN OUR DRIVEWAY. Thanks to economic downturn, we couldn't off the strays—the shelters were full. So, here we are. All of us.

For anyone who thinks this is excessive, you are so correct! But we are four (semi) adults who live in the country and the cats are indoor/outdoor varietals. It only gets really hairy around feeding time. I have my bee suit and whip. We make it work.

Andy is a puffy-haired gray male with a lolloping walk and a whisker for trouble. He is a well-known hooligan. If I have an appliance—oven, Cuisinart, coffee grinder, washing machine, electric toothbrush—the cat is all over it, in it or eating it. Many's the time Andy has hopped into the clothes dryer when my back is turned. I scoop him out and shut the door.

Not so last night. I threw in my wet socks and workout clothes, turned to look for Andy who was clamoring for half-and-half in the kitchen. I turned back, shut the door, started the dryer and left the room.

There was a clumping sound, like shoes in the dryer. I don't want to say how long I ignored it before going back to check. It was a, hmmm, I don't remember putting shoes in there feeling. I opened the door and saw Marzi's limp body fall to the bottom of the dryer. Not moving.

I'm not proud. I screamed and ran. The Professor didn't understand what I was screaming about, as if "Marzi! Dead! Dryer! Omigod! Omigod! Marzi! Dead! Dryer!" didn't make complete sense. By the time he got to the dryer, the cat was up and wobbling away. They tell me he was fluffier than usual.

I didn't think it was possible, but after a couple of hours hiding under the coffee table and trying to get as close to the gravitational center of the earth as possible, I was all right. And Marzi is fine. No broken bones or anything. I said his nose looked too pink this morning and the Professor, bless his little cotton socks, offered to roll me up in a rug and take me to the psychiatrist.

To celebrate having lived another day without becoming a cat murderer, here is Part Four of Human Trials. People are different; killing them in fiction doesn't seem so bad.

Human Trials, Part Four


The beauty of the drug was that Richard only had to find one perfect girl.

Sal explained it over beers one night, months earlier. Time distortion was still theoretical at that point and no one knew if the drug would actually create the effect. Everyone at the lab joked about Dr. Mack. Who gave funding to such a whack job?

But Sal believed it might work. Or maybe he just saw future opportunities. Of a financial nature.

"Ever wanted to relive the best fuck of your life?" asked Sal. "Think about it."

"Like virtual reality?"

"Virtual nothing! It's the real deal, Richard. You are there."

Richard paused for a sip of beer, gathering his thoughts. Already, there was a girl. "Does it affect other people?"

Sal shook his head. "Unknown. It's supposed to create a distortion envelope around the subject's body. Like it's Thursday in the world, but Wednesday for you. But we've talked about making it a bigger event with a higher dosage."

"Make it Wednesday in a whole room?"

"Make the whole planet Wednesday, Richard. Or any day you like."

The last time Richard saw Sal in the hall before he died he was too busy to talk. "Gotta run, Rich. Remember that thing we talked about? It's going very well. Know what I'm saying? You won't fucking believe it."

"Wednesday?" Richard asked.

Sal laughed, already moving down the hall. "Wednesday, Tuesday, Monday."

Richard wondered what day it had been when Sal had injected a planet-sized dose into his arm and blown the top of his head off.

In the confusion before the cops arrived, Richard stepped into the booth and grabbed a handful of vials from a cooler. Two empty vials were next to a syringe on the table and Sal's remains were on the floor. Hard to associate the guy with whom he'd shared a few beers to the thing on the floor with a lower jaw and not much more above the collar.

Two empty vials; that was Sal's mistake. All Richard wanted was to replay the events of one night in one crappy little neighborhood. Make it Friday again. You didn't need to mainline a gallon of the stuff to do that.

And he already had the girl.