Archive for the ‘Writing and Publishing’ Category

Just finished this brilliant, candid, generous memoir by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon.  Aside from her reflections on music, art, creativity, parenthood, fame, band dynamics, and more, through the  experiential filter of being a woman, there were lots of little, unexpected Easter eggs for me:  a few people we know in common, Northampton, the NYC post-punk scene …  Whether you liked Sonic Youth or not, this is a great read, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

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This is dark, scrappy headlong Western Weird, Cormac McCarthy meets Jack Ketchum, with the most awesome heroine since Temple in Alden Bell’s “The Reapers Are The Angels.”   Beautifully written and impossible to put down.

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Man, the dude can write. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given decades of rock and roll poetry blazed onto the zeitgeist, but … the dude can write.  The riff on Elvis’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show alone is worth the price of admission.  I’m still pretty early in the book, still in the origin stories, but he made me feel all over again what it was like to be a young teenager in America when rock and roll blew everything wide open.  He’s a little older, and was across the Hudson in Jersey while I was in Manhattan, but I felt it, I was there too, and he nails that sense of sweet disruption and limitless possibility that so many of us of a certain age shared, and some still do.

I’m not even much of a Springsteen junkie.  I like a lot of his work but much of his catalog just doesn’t do much for me.  This book reaches well beyond that.  His writing is generous and wistful, funny, sad, and accurate, cultural archaeology as well as personal memoir.  Whether you’re a Boss fan or not, you should check it out.

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Checking out the ACC award longlist and shortlist (as well as the award itself, of course) is a great way to get yourself provisioned with interesting reading material.

From Award Director, Tom Hunter:

“It’s important to remember that prizes like the Clarke Award are first and foremost celebrations. We celebrate new books and new writers, but most of all we celebrate alongside all the readers and lovers of stories who are given a unique invitation to encounter something new, something strange and something wonderful whenever a new shortlist is announced. The love of books and the sharing of stories is the true legacy we should aim to create.”

2015 Winner  Station Eleven, also a National Book Award Finalist.  This was a great read, and I’m delighted to see it getting the recognition it deserves.

2015 Shortlist. Man, The Girl With All The Gifts made it onto the shortlist.  If you haven’t read this yet, check it out. Possibly my favorite SF book of 2014.

2015 Longlist. No guarantee that everything on this list will kick ass, but there are some really fine titles and authors represented here.


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Fat City

Leonard Gardner’s proto-Cali-noir masterpiece.  I read this as a young man, loved it, and haven’t thought much about it since (along with the many other authors I read in my misspent youth that have slipped into my brain’s archival storage – Celine, Donleavy, Crews, others …).  Just stumbled across it paging through post-purchase Amazon recs, sucked it down, and was immediately immersed in its bleak poetry.  Highly recommended.

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I’m always looking for good writing warmups.  They’re like scales and arpeggios for musicians.  They get me in the zone before diving into serious work and they’re fun just for standalone word play.  Lately, I’ve been doing 20 lines a day of iambic pentameter.  Not poetry, not even poultry, just setting to cadence the random-ass stream of muttering bullshit that passes for thought in my addled brain.  For those who have somehow missed a standard issue liberal arts education, iambic pentameter is (basically) just a 5-beat line:  DUM-ba-DUM-ba-DUM-ba-DUM-ba-DUM. That’s it!  Kind of.  A bit like saying learning the hook to The Standells’ “Dirty Water” makes you a badass post-proto-punk. It does!  But it also doesn’t.   Regardless, jamming all your thoughts into this template can make you crazy almost immediately, and has a kind of Neil-Diamond-lyrics brainworm effect — you can’t fucking get it out of your head.  No, you can’t get it out of your head.

Some ‘xamples:

Pass the salt; these eggs are really bland.

I’m going to the store; you still need milk?

The cat puked on the rug – I’ll get a rag.

The London data center just went down.
I didn’t get a fucking page — did you?
The customers will make a lot of noise
Until we fix it like we always do.
And something something something rhymes with clown.

I missed the fucking bus again today!
I’ll go back home and have another cup
Of coffee, maybe half a bagel, too.
My team will wonder where the hell I am.

I’m watching Season One of Game of Thrones
Again.  You’re dead.  You’re dead.  And so are you.

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Discouraged after an unusually long string of short story rejections, bouncing “good” stories off of the usual markets, then the unusual ones, then the really unusual ones.  After receiving the last “send more stuff, just not this” email this morning, I thought, rather petulantly, What do I have to do to sell a goddamn story?  The answer came immediately, with almost comical clarity:  Write better ones.

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I’m reading new work at 10:30 AM, running a workshop at 1:30 PM and generally shmoozing about the rest of the weekend.

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Clarion West Writers Workshop is a nonprofit literary organization based in Seattle, Washington, with a mission to improve speculative fiction by providing high quality education to writers at the start of their careers. As an extension of its primary mission, Clarion West also makes speculative fiction available to the public by presenting readings and other events that bring writers and readers together.

Every year, hundreds of writers commit to a summer tradition: to spend six weeks working on their writing goals while supporting Clarion West.  I will be writing a short story a week for the 6-week duration of the workshop — the same goal that each workshop participant must achieve.

Clarion West made a tremendous difference in my life when I attended over 20 years ago.  Please help me give something back by sponsoring my participation in the 2014 Write-a-Thon.  Go to my Write-a-Thon profile page and click “Sponsor Daniel Marcus.”

All sponsors of my 2014 Write-a-Thon goals will receive a digital copy of my short story collection, Binding Energy, described by Salon.com as “a cross between Raymond Carver and William Gibson.”

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First published in Asimov’s, July 1996.  Hey, it’s old enough to vote!

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