Saturday, December 29, 2012

Geek Girl Goes Glam

I invite you all to follow my newest blog project, Geek Girl Goes Glam, a year-long stunt blog based around vintage dating and beauty guides.  I'll still post here on occasion, so keep checking back, but my hope is that by the end of this year, I can be as purty as Goggins over there:

I'm also now on Twitter @LibbyCudmore.  Follow me!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

I believe I have finally made the full transition into actually being Liz Lemon.  The other night I had a dream that Jack McBrayer was wearing a vest and making me a sandwich, and it was the best dream I've ever had.  Because I got a sandwich.

Yeah, I'm kind of a dork.

In other Gentlemanly News:
I also saw Lincoln last week, and all I can say is that Walton Goggins was sporting the same haircut as I currently have, which is really awkward because I think he looks prettier.  And no, I will not post the picture of him with tits.  And certainly not because I'm jealous that he's got a bigger pair than me.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

From the Vault--PIL and Eric Bogosion

I'm finally getting back into my CD dump, which is a process I never saw myself engaging in--that is, taking all my CDs and digitizing them.  So much for "Kill Your iPOD."  The only thing that would make my iPOD more lovable was if I could get Walton Goggins' face on my iPOD case.

The process is actually helping me rediscover music I'd either ignored or completely forgotten about, which has been an absolute joy.  Right now I'm listening to PIL's "Disappointed," which was part of the musical tapestry that made up the last half of grad school and my now ex-stepdad leaving, an event so catastrophically devastating that I have yet to be able to write about it other than to tell people what a lying cockwad he is and leave it at that.  Because he pretty much ruined my life and it has only been in the last year or so that I've managed to hustle things back into some semblance of order.  But it wasn't fun

Oh you handsome devil
Eric Bogosian's Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead was the other big album at that time.  I was obsessed with Eric Bogosian, both on Law and Order: CI and as a writer; I'd seen him read from The Perforated Heart at AWP and fell in love.  His writing was so visceral that it made me physically uncomfortable, which I sort of liked because it was a nice distraction from crying all the time.  Matthew got me a signed copy of Nails and I read it while working costumes for Beauty and the Beast.  It also helped me get through that clusterfuck.  Eric Bogosian pretty much saved my soul.

I was especially fond of "Blow Me."  I loved the explosive, raw frustration of the piece because it was exactly how I was feeling.  The whole world, as far as I was concerned, could just fuck off.  At one point, my mother, with whom I was having a pretty rough time with post-ex-stepdad-leaving, suggested that I get a tattoo.  I whirled on her and snarled I'm going to get a tattoo, I'm going to tattoo my EYELIDS and they're going to say BLOW. ME. so that when I close my eyes the whole world knows how I feel about 'em.

She never brought up getting tattooed again.

There was a time where I could recite "Blow Me" from memory.  I was going to perform it at the Stonecoast Talent Show but Matthew talked me out of it because he is occasionally a buzzkill.

I still love Bogosian, but I'm at a point in my life where I need a little more smooth.  Where people yelling doesn't make me feel better, it makes me feel worse.  The man is a comic genius, an amazing performer and very handsome (also, a sweetheart, he replied to my email).  Things have gotten surprisingly better, for the most part.  I've mended.  I don't think I've listened to Nails or 9 since that time, but oddly enough, it brings with it a weird sort of nostalgia, not putting me back in that awful, dark time, but rather, reminding me that somehow, I got through all of it. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Writings Is Hard

I had what could more or less be considered the perfect weekend.  Not because I especially enjoyed it, but in theory, I got out of a weekend everything I've always thought I've wanted to do.  Namely, I wrote, slept and watched MST3K.

And man, am I bushed.

People who aren't writers don't understand how much it takes out of you.  It's mentally taxing.  It's headache inducing, eye-frying torture.  Yesterday I spent approximately six hours in my office, with short breaks for getting the mail and making lunch (which I ate at my desk) and at the end, I had finished a microfiction piece that took a lot longer than I'm use to spending on something less than 500 words (from inception to finished story took three weeks; by contrast, I wrote the first draft of "The PI's Wife" in 45 minutes, then typed it, and "Hero Cop" was written to a final draft in a total of 30 minutes, counting the walk back from the Brooklyn library where I wrote most of it on a piece of scrap paper in tiny golf pencil).  I then started on another piece, which is an absolute mess.  When I'd done all I could on that (it's still a mess), I sent out half a dozen submissions because my self-esteem is getting a little too high.  I finally shut it all down and watched Riding With Death, which I did not fall asleep during.

Today I got up and spent 4 hours tweaking and arranging a full-length manuscript for submission.  Then it was onto The Projected Man, which I made it through about 3/4 of.

*yawn*


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I think I'm better at making break-up mixes than I am making actual, real, "Hey, you're rad" mixes.  It might by my affiliation to the Smiths, but I absolutely rock at making a mix to get dumped by.  I've absolutely perfected the art of saying "to hell with you" through song.

Exhibit A: I made this for the same guy who adored me with Matthew Sweet's "Winonia" dumped me via Billy Bragg's "A Lover Sings"--one good mix deserves another.

-"Human" The Pretenders
-"Change Your Mind" The Killers
-"Wrapped Around My Finger" The Police
-"King of Wishful Thinking" Go West
-"(Still) Terminally Ambivalent Over You" The Real Tuesday Weld
-"Bouncing Off Clouds" Tori Amos
-"No Reply At All" Genesis
-"Not About Love" Fiona Apple
-"Boys on The Radio" Hole
-"I'm Still Standing" Elton John
-"You've Got Everything Now" The Smiths
-"Here's Where the Story Ends" The Sundays
-"I Don't Love You Anymore" Magnetic Fields
-"Nothing Lasts" Matthew Sweet (see what I did there?)

I mean, how is that not awesome?  It must have worked, because I never heard from him again, which is fine, because he had turned into kind of an ass.

I don't know if I'm going to ever actually get around to giving this one out (or finishing it--it's a tad on the short side), but it's too perfect not to share:

-"Take a Bow" Madonna
-"House of Cards" Radiohead
-"Swallow Tattoo" The Long Blondes
-"I Don't Believe You" the Magnetic Fields
-"Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" The Smiths
-"Passion Kills" the Fontanelles
-"Off My Line" the Spin Doctors
-"Cabo Cad" JaR

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Joel Stein is Manlier than Me

Saturday night generally suck for me, because everyone I know/like is either a) living a hundred + miles away from me, b) married with kids or c) off having some lovely grand love affair.  Or d) at work, like Ian, so I'm stuck home.  And since Ian works with kids and kids get whatever they want, like his Xbox, I don't even have access to the wide world of MST3K on youtube, which I'm sure as hell not going to watch on my teeny tiny laptop like some commuter.

Being lonely and therefor in a bad mood, I decided that Tom Waits Nighthawks at the Diner would be a good choice for music, since the conversational parts of it make it seem like Tom is hanging out in your own living room, drinking all your beer, and having a drunk hipster around might remind me of college.  I had just picked up Joel Stein's Man Man: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity and decided now was as good a time as any to sack out on the couch and read a few chapters.

I read the entire thing.

I didn't even get up to turn over the record.  I barely got up to eat.  I read for five straight hours.  It was that good.  Waits generally trumps everything, but lat night, Joel Stein was the only man in my life. (Sorry Joel Hodgeson).  I read for so long that the next day, I couldn't turn my head.

I've always found Stein's work witty, engaging and conversational, which is what I like/strive for in my nonfiction.  Also, if by some chance he's reading this, he is also handsome, especially with his Marines-issued Buster Bluth haircut.  And generally I find stunt memoirs trite and tiring (although I'm really looking forward to My Year of Living Biblically) Man Made lacked the petulant selfishness all-to-inherent in the traditional memoir, but this one lacked all of that too.  Instead of the usual "I am awesome and special so look at me" bullshit, there was a sweetness, a genuine sense of wonder and enough gray matter to realize what the whole thing was really about.

Joel Stein is a literary rock star.  He can come hang out at the diner with me and Tom Waits any day


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Patriarchy: The Hands of Fate

My super-smart friend Ari and I have been going back and forth about the term "patriarchy," in terms of theoretical vs. literary device.  Ari is insanely well-read and versed on the subject, and I, having done two years at Bra-less MFA would, frankly, rather have something all be a dream in the end than even see the word patriarchy in a manuscript.

Patriarchy is a Big Bad.  It is predominantly used in memoir writing by rich white women complaining about why it sucks to be wealthy and white and privileged (see Eat. Pray. Love. Don't literally see it, because it's stupid, just click the link and read the Something Awful review of it).  I recently read a piece where a woman blamed the patriarchy in one paragraph and then got her panties all wet over her rich boyfriend's "manservant" (yes, she used "manservant" because I guess "Negro" was too polite) and how her rich boyfriend ordered dinner for her and how romantic the whole thing was.  I don't get too offended, but this made me so mad I was pacing around the room while I was trying to make notes and it took everything I had not to toss the whole thing in the fireplace and slap the woman who wrote it.

Memoir writers use The Patriarchy as a way to avoid blame or actual introspection on anything in their work.  It's much easier to blame the husband for the failure of your marriage than to admit that maybe you could have done some work too.  It's easier to blame some faceless white men for you not getting the keys to the Scrooge McDuck's vault than to say "Maybe I'm just a selfish bitch who thinks she's entitled to everything."  It's much easier to blame the chef than to say "Maybe I shouldn't have ordered that discount blowfish."

In my experience, the same writers who use The Patriarchy in this way generally are the first to strongly dictate how other women should behave.  Women who don't fit their narrow construct of feminism (wealthy, white, modest in dress albeit braless)  therefor fall into two categories:  In need of saving ("My Black Friend") or The Enemy.  I mean, thank goodness for Yale educated poets.  What would we do about our soul-crushing poverty without a bunch of women to teach us interpretive dance!  And of course, they deserve those $2K grants to teach us, after all, those dancing women work hard, and now that we all have the gift of interpretive dance, who needs food?

I tend to wear spike heels, short skirts, cut-up shirts and skinny jeans.  I think you can guess which category I fall into, despite the fact that I am economically disadvantaged and worked insanely hard to crawl my way up to where I am now.  But clearly, I'm not a feminist because I own thong underpants.

If we as writers want to something about The Patriarchy, which is back and badder than ever (trans-vaginal ultrasound, anyone?) we have to confront it head-on.  Name names.  Describe the men who've stood in your way.  Make them real, flesh and blood, make them accountable for their actions.  Simply lumping them together makes them little more than word too easily dismissed and lets them continue to get away with stripping us of our dignity and our hard-fought rights.

But more importantly, we, as women, need to solidify ourselves.  No more us vs. them.  No more feminists vs. sluts, working moms vs. stay-at-home.  It's too easy to divide ourselves, and divided, we will fall.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Overheard from a college-age waitress at a local diner:

"What's the difference between Crisco and butter?"

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I stopped teaching.

Rifftrax Live Report


Ian, Eeon and I went to see Rifftrax Live! Manos: The Hands of Fate last night in Albany, and it was the absolute best movie-going experience I've ever had.  The place was packed, the show was great (although I have to say I preferred the original Joel riff) good shorts and this:
What made the whole experience so awesome was not just that I was there with two of my favorite people on Earth (although that helped) but that we were all there together.  There was not a single person in that audience who got dragged because it was their boyfriend's turn to pick the movie.  We all wanted to be there.  This was something all of us had been waiting for.  No one was bored or disappointed.  Strangers complimented each other's themed tee-shirts.   I was going to bring Servo, but he had a slight accident on the car ride up and had to stay laying down in the backseat.  I did, however, wear my silver Servo necklace (Ian loves me).  If I'd had time, I would have made a sheer white Manos Bride costume.

And when the lights went down, something magical happened.  Not a single cell phone screen lit up.  No one's "Firework" ringtone went off.  And it stayed that way for the entire movie.  Think about the last time that happened.  I can't.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has always done what few other shows have--it makes the audience a direct part of the show.  Joel/Mike opened the show by welcoming everybody--not a live studio audience, but everyone watching at home as though you were there in the studio with him.  You were part of the experiment, and that tradition continued last night most notably during the "Welcome Home Norman" short, which is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen.  Our homecoming hero, Norman, does nothing but groan the entire time, so after the short, Kevin invited us to give a big ol' Norman catchphrase.

Obviously, we were watching a simulcast.  We were not in the Nashville audience.  Mike, Bill and Kevin couldn't hear us.  But we all did it anyways because it was part of the experience.  And normally I hate when people clap at movies, but this time, I didn't mind, and clapped heartily and often.  We hooted and hollered and stomped with laughter.  And no one that night left unsatisfied.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

As someone who writes a lot of stories that take place in the south, I can no longer stay silent on the horror that is Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  I've never watched the show or it's former monstrostity, Future Jon Benet Ramsey and Tiaras, because if I did, I surely would have consumed a nice strong cocktail of Allen's Coffee Brandy and Drain-O, neat.

For starters, her mother makes Divine look like Kate Moss.  She's a strawberry jello mold in a bridesmaid's dress.  She's a Hutt wearing lipstick.  She is the single most disgusting person I've ever seen, and I used to go to the Sunshine Fair, so I'm kind of an expert on ugly people.

It's not about the horrificness of TLC exploiting a family who really needs to have CPS called in.  It's not my smug, over-educated feminist outlook on beauty pageants.  It's the fact that this show continues to perpetuate the myth that the South is made up entirely of trailer parks and populated by rednecks who fornicate with gay pigs while gumming grits.  And I am so fucking sick of that version of the south because it's just not true anymore.

The south has made huge strides in culture.  Great bands like REM and the B-52's came out of Atlanta, Georgia.  High-end restaurants in North Carolina are fusing Korean  cuisine with grits and pork belly.  The Oxford fucking American, people!  It's in the middle of a renaissance, and it's garbage like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo that continue holding it back.

I remember watching The Blue Collar Comedy Tour with my then-boyfriend, his brother and his brother's wife.  She, being from Queens, thought it was the funniest thing she'd ever seen.  She couldn't understand why the three of us, being from Cobleskill, weren't laughing.  It wasn't that the jokes weren't funny, it was that we knew those kind of people.  It wasn't anything new or shocking to us.  But to her, the thought that someone might have sex in a satellite dish was so far out of her imaginative grasp that we might as well have said "You might be a redneck if you've got three heads, all named Billy Bob."

There are hicks everywhere.  If you ever want to see white trash at it's absolute finest, visit beautiful Cobleskill, NY, fantastically far north of the Mason-Dixon.  They just held the Redneck Blank in parts of Maine that might as well be Canada.  Rural America exists beyond Alabama and Georgia.  It's in PA and WI and CA.



I couldn't even read William Gay's Provinces of Night because it took place in the 1950's despite being published in 2000.  It just seemed like such a cliche, and damn it, I LOVED the film version of "That Evening Son."

PLEASE, people, enough with the old South.  MOVE ON.  It's one of the reasons I love Ray McKinnon so much--in the "Making of" featurette on Randy and the Mob, he says that he wanted to write a story set in the south he knew--the modern south, where people drive Kias and work in offices and wear khakis and occasionally have mob dealings.

We need to start embracing the south as a real place with real people, not some deep-fried Brigadoon that exists solely so Northerners can laugh at while they cram another organic Chipotle burrito into their gaping maw.  Find some other poor people to write a story about from your grant-funded beach house.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Better Late Than Never


Bunny Goodjohn, who is an outstanding writer and who had no business being in the Stonecoast Alumni Writer's Workshop because her piece was so awesome and there was nothing anyone else can teach her (although we were so happy to have her!) was kind enough to give us a shout out on her blog.
So if you haven't read her blog, get on over there.  Bunny is funny, engaging, charming and unbelievably talented. And while you're at it, pick up a copy of her first novel, Sticklebacks and Snowglobes. And pray she finishes up the novel I got to see pieces of, like, sometime around now, because even as a one chapter rough draft, I can say it was fantastic.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Everything I Touch Turns to Flies

Or, more precisely, everything Matthew and I touch, we destroy (although I did notice Betsey Johnson went under pretty quickly after I got really into her accessories).  Our story "Convention if Exphrasis," which was written about the 2009 AWP Convention in Chicago, was picked up by an anthology, which folded weeks before it's release date.  "Convention" was ours again, and we pitched it to another magazine, which accepted it.

And folded six months later.

This morning, I woke up late and to an email announcing that The Writer, which published our essay "The 12 Conference Commandments" in the July 2012 issue, will be on hiatus after October until another publisher is found. All submissions before March 1, including our follow-up about Low-Residency programs, were to be considered rejected.

So, yes, fellow writers, blame us.  Our curse destroyed The Writer magazine, the single best trade publication (suck it, Ponces & Weenies!) in the writing life.  We accept our responsibility, and apologize for the inconvenience.

Now if only McSweeney's would take something of ours . . . 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dispatches From the Desk

I got back a few weeks ago from the First Annual Stonecoast MFA Reunion, which was of surprising awesomeness.  I give all the credit to that to Erin Underwood, who is rad and who gets shit done, mostly because she has the perfect combination of being uncompromising and nice, whereas someone like me is heavy on the former and non-existent on the latter.

I sat on a panel with Lexa Hillyer, poet extraordinaire, co-founder of Paper Lantern Lit and fellow 30 Rock affectionato who stressed the need for a good web presence and a consistent blog.  Now I am pretty consistent about my great love of Walton Goggins and my deep hatred of, well, lots of stuff, but that has nothing to do with my writing (with an occasional exception). When I started this project, I was still trying to write pop-culture memoir, which sorta isn't my thing anymore.  I still like records, and I sure as hell still like me some Goggins (sad about him not getting an Emmy nod) but Lexa was right, and if I'm going to refocus my career on writing, then my web presence needs to be about writing and all things related to story and craft and the writing life.

So enjoy that last picture of my sweet Walton, because it might be the last one you see for awhile.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

50 Shades of Goggins

I did not go looking for this:
I was at the library.  An issue of GQ was there on the table.  I flipped through it, came to the "Bad Guys" section and thought, "Gee, I wonder if . . . "

Yep.  There it was.

And the worst part is that I'm not sure how I feel about it.  For one, it's terrifying.  The rest of the photos were extreme close-ups or just plain seated poses, but Goggins, of course, has to take everything one step beyond, because he is brilliant and possibly insane.

I have not and probably will not read 50 Shades of Grey.  I am not turned on by bondage and am actively turned off by bad prose.  If anything, this picture should have made me slam the magazine shut and tell our mayor that the library had hardcore pornography just laying about all willy-nilly.

But that chest!  Those shoulders!  That neck!  That hair!  Those eyes, perfect orbs of infinite inky darkness!  How can I not love that my darling Goggins is finally getting the centerfold recognition he deserves?

And the chill, that sweetest chill that shivers down my back when I see this picture. Because damn, I can hear that scream. I can feel the tension in his muscles, the tightness of his neck. As the girlfriend of a professional photographer and as a photography model, I find it fascinating when a photograph can portray such emotion in a flat, paper image. Tiny gestures and intimate details take on grand, larger meanings. It's something I can't do, and so I'm fascinated when people do it well.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Matthew Sweet, or How Wikipedia Ruins Everything

My Professor introduced me to Matthew Sweet when he put "Winonia" on the first mix he made me.  He said it reminded him of being alone in grad school, a note on pink paper that seemed so gut-wrenchingly poignant at a time when I too felt so fucking alone. (Also, how the fuck was I supposed to interpret that as anything but a call to be his Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a task I spent two frustratingly fruitless year attempting)

I bought Girlfriend as a way of trying to connect, and it was pretty good, but not so awesome that I had to listen to it over and over (except for that one song).  It hung around in a box for awhile until I began attempting my great CD purge, and I thought "Hey, I should look Matthew Sweet up on Wikipedia and learn a little more about him."

I discovered that he had a tattoo of this character:

Seriously? Matthew Sweet represented the time when I was most cool. I was one of the Original Binghamton Hipsters. I wore clunky shoes and knee-high socks. I hung out in dive bars and collected records and watched movies on VHS. And the soundtrack to all of that had a Lum Invader tattoo?!?

I guess I should expect that from a guy who wrote a love song about a comic book character

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ian and I saw Prometheus tonight, which was pretty rad.  But you probably already knew that, so I'm going to use this platform as an opportunity to warn you about a far deadlier menace.

That's My Son.

I've sat through several Saw trailers.  I made it through 28 Weeks Later while eating Red Vines.  Hell, I watched my sweet Walton Goggins get his spine ripped out in Predators.  But I actually thought I was going to be physically sick during the trailer for this God-forsaken abomination.  My gag reflex actually spasmed when Adam Sandler said "WAAZUP?!?"  It was just so horrible and grating and annoying that it was more than my strong constitution could handle

Look, I like a good Adam Sandler flick as much as the next moron.  The Wedding Singer is great, and Billy Madison made me laugh.  But now, seeing the phrase "Happy Madison" makes me feel the exact same way I feel seeing the confederate flags, a swastika or one of those "terrorists hunting permits" on the back of some redneck's Toyota--angry, nauseated and ready to just start kicking and screaming obscenities and throwing punches until I either hit someone or get hauled out by security.

(Eeon has seen me do this to frat guys and knows the kind of berserker madness I'm capable of.  It's how we ended up seeing AvP at the dollar theatre.  He knew if he didn't take me out, I was going to beat the skanks in the corner triple to death with a tire iron borrowed from the trunk of his Alero)

I could rant about the failed state of comedy or the idiot stoned asswad teenagers who talked and kicked my seat during the entire two hours of the movie, but instead of anger, I offer you a cure.  If any of you have been infected by this movie trailer, I URGE you to watch this video of Maru playing on the sofa.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

I am not a huge fan of animation.  I like it in theory, I like classic animators like Tex Avery (as well as homages like Ralph Bakshi's Cool World and Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and I thought Cowboy Bebop was super awesome back in the day, but for the most part, modern animation makes me angry.  Partially because I feel that computer animation is too rounded and flawless to have any real "life" to it, and partially because so much of it is not used to tell a meaningful story, but rather, to sell toys.

But these two animated trailers made my day:
   

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Love, Summer Camp and Billy Joel

"How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
perhaps we don't fulfill each other's fantasies"

Billy Joel, "Summer Highland Falls"

For as much as I rag on Billy Joel, "Summer Highland Falls" will always be one of my favorite songs ever.  It's still sad and tragic and beautiful (especially the live version on The Millennium Concert; I've always maintained that Billy Joel, like Tori Amos, is better in concert) untarnished by the realization that Billy Joel is a fat rich crybaby.

For me, this song is 17 and The New York State Writer's Institute Summer Writing Program, which was 25 of the top young writers in the state.  It still remains one of the highest honors I have ever received, and I've been in Pank.  But the night before I left, Aaron dumped me (because Aaron was, among many things, a first-class asshole) leaving me mourning among strangers.

But I acted out, as I am wont to do, and made some friends by being incessantly quirky.  And I met a boy, Andrew, who was cute and sweet and actually liked me, which was sort of a rare thing at the time. We went on a walk and found a cool tower.  And then he asked me to Billy Joel night at the commons.  I was at a crossroads--Billy Joel was kind of Aaron and I's thing (our song was, appropriately, "And So It Goes" because Aaron was, among many things, insane) but here was a boy who was asking me to go someplace with him.  Luckily, something inside my 17 year old mind, in between thinking about Pokemon and MST3K, said "fuck that guy, Andrew wants to hang out with you, and Andrew is rad."

Billy Joel night, by the way, was a guy with a Casio keyboard playing Billy Joel songs.   We sat at white picnic tables.  All our other fellow campers were there.  When he played "Summer Highland Falls," I looked over at Andrew and he looked at me and we smiled at each other.  It was then that I knew that I was going to be just fine.

What with "Summer Highland Falls" as our song, you're probably not surprised that things ended kind of badly with Andrew despite not having ever really begun.  It sucked, but it wasn't unexpected, because life isn't always fair and sometimes both choices have consequences that far outweigh any benefits.  I don't blame either of us, because that's just how things go.  He hurt me and he may not have known it, and I know I hurt him without meaning to, but, like Billy Joel suggested, we couldn't fulfill each other's fantasies.  Despite this, I still thought of him fondly--if not a little wistfully--and that smile on a night when I needed to reclaim part of myself, even if it was just a song or two.

I touched base with him a little while ago and was kind of annoyed that I hadn't looked him up sooner, because he lives in Austin and I was in Austin last summer.  We agreed that if either of us was ever in the other person's time zone, we'd get dinner and catch up on all the years between us.  And we left it at that.

Most grand romances are not meant to be.  But I've found that the most epic of romances exist only in the span of a few short moments, when you're raw and unaware that something wonderful is happening until it's all over.  We can't marry everyone we meet, but that doesn't mean we can't, even just for a few seconds or minutes or hours, be in love without picking out china patterns and combining our bank accounts.  Sometimes love just needs to be that flutter of the heart as the object of your desire turns the corner, never to be seen again.

All that being said, Billy Joel is still a fucking ponce.

Friday, May 25, 2012

More on Vertical


Now while Mike is a voracious reader; I am less so.  I get on kicks where I'll devour a book in two days, but I generally stick to short forms, like The Huffington Post or Regretsy.  TV is and always has been my favorite means of storytelling.

But I am reading Vertical, because Mike got it for me for my birthday and Mike is awesome.

First things first--I've forgotten how dark Pickett's work is.  The film plays Miles as a sort of sad, affable chump who occasionally drinks too much, but the Miles in Vertical, like the previous book, is a hardcore, dawn-til-dusk alcoholic who never draws a sober breath, even when he's driving cross-country.  Yes, driving.

A lot of the prose is very repetitive.  Yes, Miles, we know you're dropping your mom off in Wisconsin to live with her sister, you said that five pages ago, no need to repeat it for the hundredth time.  Yep, you're speaking at a wine festival.  Yep, you like Pinot Noir.  Got it.  Remembered it from the first book.

Pictured: NOT YOU
Male writers labor under the delusion that they are rock stars and sex gods.  Just because Clive Owen donned a bad mustache to play Hemingway does not make the average basement-dwelling Stonecoast graduate into a hot piece of British ass (sorry Piglander).  And sorry Pickett, but Miles is Paul Giamatti, and while I love him with all my heart and my soul, I do not want to have sex with him.  Yet, Miles goes around banging hot chicks simply because he is a writer and Pickett lives in a magical fantasy world where hot women want to spread their legs for a balding, pudgy, middle-aged alcoholic.  It would be funny and maybe kind of quirky if it wasn't happening every three pages.

Better Days
Side Rant: Men have always thought they deserved hotter wives than they do.  No matter how fat, greasy, jobless, sweaty or balding a guy is, he always thinks that Megan Fox's panties would melt right off if she saw him.  Women, of course, have the opposite problem, being told that we are ugly and fat and have muffin tops and smell weird in private areas.  However, a disturbing trend I've noticed is that women's magazines are toting tubster schlubs like Jonah Hill and Seth Rogan as hot.  We're supposed to look like Megan Fox, but guys get to look like Chris Farley right before he died.

No.  We deserve better.  And we also deserve to be treated with dignity as characters.  Stephanie, played by Sandra Oh in the film, is reduced to one line about becoming a crack addicted stripper after Jack breaks up with her in Sideways.  This is a woman who is clearly a higher-up a successful, award-winning winery, and because one douchebag breaks her heart, she falls to pieces and becomes a drug-addicted slut? (their emphasis, not mine).  I can buy the fact that Miles gets constant tail before I'll believe that bull.

Male authors do this because they think they're so awesome, and it's a way to get back at some cheerleader who hurt them back in high school.  Kevin Smith does this in Clerks, which is why I can never watch it again.  Clearly, making Caitlin Bree have sex with a dead guys is his way of getting back at a girl who hurt him.  Real mature.  It's a sign of weak writing, and it's all over Vertical.  I got news for you guys--I've been hurt by lots of douchebags, and I cried and I listened to the Smiths, but I never became a drug-addled skank.  I got over it.  We all do.  You are not that special.

Ultimately, Vertical drips with futility and self-indulgence.  It didn't need to be written.  I was not lying awake at night, wondering what became of Jack and Miles.  Clearly Rex Pickett wants us to think he's awesome and bangs hot chicks all the time just because he wrote a book, but he would have stayed more awesome, in my mind, if he'd left the whole thing alone.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Over the years, I've started viewing writing less as a pleasure and more of a job.  I have to.  One, because it is my job and two, because I hate writers who romanticize the craft without ever actually doing any actual writing (shout-out to my poet-bro John, who wrote 30 poems in 30 days during National Poetry Month in April).

But part of the job is submitting, and that part sucks.  It sucks because it's all mostly rejection letters, and for every cute "please send us something else!" written in pink pen at the bottom of an Oxford American rejection slip, there are five form emails calling you "Dear Author."  I once got a breakup rejection email ("it's not you, it's us") from a magazine trying too fucking hard to be all cute and twee and hip.  Like the Stonecoast MFA program didn't do enough damage to my self-esteem, now magazines are breaking up with me.  Thanks, stupid magazine.

I worked at two different FYE stores for about three years total in my early 20's.  I did not like it, but it was better than The Gap, where I previously worked and had to quit when a my idiot co-worker snorted "Ugh, do you see what that baby is wearing?" and I responded "You're beautiful" and things got pretty cold.

Yay Moxie!
Some of my FYE co-workers were fun, and I was a much better salesgirl than they were paying me to be, and learned to like Shiny Toy Guns and the Kaiser Chiefs and Judas Priest, but I was not going to advance beyond part time.  FYE would not be my career, although I made more money there than I did teaching three classes at SUNY Cobleskill.  No joke.

Submitting is like that. You do it because it's expected and it's part of the job, but you know that it's not going to get you anywhere.  And just like working at FYE during Christmas puts a little extra cash in your pocket, occasionally a submission comes through with a YES and you have a Moxie and things feel good for a few minutes.  But then lunch break is over, and you go back to work, and it sucks.

I'm back in the submission process.  I have three new stories ready to go, and I think they're pretty rad, but every time I click submit, I get disheartened.  The rejection letters don't bother me, I don't really even notice them anymore except to cross them out on my submission list.  It just feels so rote, so mundane, like there's no spark anymore.  No hope that maybe this one will get through.  If it comes back rejected, I shrug and send another one out.  No big deal . . . and I think that's what bothers me the most.  I want to feel that spark again.  I want that hope.  I don't want this to just be another job that I don't like, because I've had plenty of those . . . and if I did need that (like, for research) I could easily go back to work at FYE and get my fill of quiet desperation.

But I can't live like that.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pictured: Mike and I
Sideways was the first movie my nemesis Mike and I saw together.  He won a bet to find the Star Wars Holiday Special (remember, this is pre-youtube) and the prize was a date with me, and he was reviewing it for the paper, so we went and I think he paid, which only endears him to me more.  It was also the first of only a handful of movies we both agreed we loved (the only other one springing to mind is Sin City) and so I bought him the book as a graduation present and as a toast to a friendship I only wish I'd started earlier.

Sideways was, for my social group at the time (Mike, Dwight, Ian) a pivotal film.  I'm not quite sure why it resonated so deeply with us; we were all young, just on the cusp of graduating college, our whole lives stretched out in front of us like smooth highway pavement. Dwight just at the age where he could legally buy wine, which the two of us drank from mismatched NY Wine Trail tasting glasses while watching 80's movies on VHS tapes in my overheated basement apartment.  We drank cabs mostly, the occasional Pinot, no fucking Merlot, although I have developed a distaste for Merlot long before the movie came out.  And to this day, the Sideways poster Mike snagged for me from the movie theater he worked at still hangs framed in my house, as it has in every apartment since he gave it to me.

Maybe we gravitated towards the movie because all that sudden freedom came a certain sudden uncertainty.  Would we fail, the way Miles had?  We all quietly identified with his speech about the thin-skinned grapes. We all wanted to pretend we were Marv and Dwight and Gail, but deep down, we were fraught with anxiety about our work, our abilities, the expectations put on us as new college graduates facing a world that didn't look a whole lot like the one in the post-graduation brochure.  I was working at FYE, Mike was working at the movie theater, Dwight was waiting tables and Ian was doing flood cleanup and temp work.  It was a difficult time, but it was also one of the happiest.  We had something, a piece of art, that united us.  We quoted it endlessly, working it into our lexicon like code.  We took turns being Miles, being Jack, each of us in our time being obsessive, boisterous, melancholy, charming, hopeless romantics, hopeless dogs.

So this year, for my 29th birthday last Monday, he got me the sequel, Vertical, with the intent that we would read it together and discuss it.  I almost cried when I unwrapped it, I was so touched.  It was an acknowledgement of where we'd been, what we'd lost, what we still had--each other.  Seven years later, through moves and heartbreak and rejection and loss and anger and frustration, we still had this . . . and, like Miles and Jack, we still had each other.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Observations from Re-Watching The Shield

I re-watched a couple episodes of The Shield last night after a considerable hiatus (and a dream that Dutch and I were at nightclub dancing to Kei$ha, probably prompted by the Kei$ha record--yes, vinyl--that Eeon quite randomly and charmingly sent me) and I have a few observations:
Much Better

1) Shane looks great in a tight grey tee-shirt, but the button-down worn open over it makes him look sloppy.  I much prefer when he starts wearing the cowboy shirts tucked into those skin-tight jeans around season 3.  Also, his hair is too short, making his forehead too big and emphasizing the fact that he has very small eyes.  Still hot as an Oklahoma August, though.

2) Vic Mackey does not hold up in second viewings.  His character is based entirely on unpredictability, so when you know what his next move is, it gets boring and you just .  He doesn't have much of an arc and he's just kind of an asshole to everyone.  I mean, really, why did he have to steal Dutch's Ding-Dongs?

That is the face of
a man with wicked
intentions
3) Dutch is the character to pay attention to.  His law-and-order b-story tends to get lost in the first viewing (after all, a plain old procedural isn't as exciting as a car chase or a beat down) but he's masterful to watch the second time around. Pure detective bliss. The fact that Jay Karnes is 6'3" and terrifyingly sexy doesn't hurt either.  He's got a great voice; I want him to read me a bedtime story.  He makes me shiver.  I want to see him play Phillip Marlowe and wear a belted trench coat and a fedora in a non-Brooklyn way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If Justified knew what was good for them, they'd use Justin Towne Earle's "Mama Said" as an ending montage of Boyd Crowder doing stuff.  Anything, really.  Drinking bourbon, unbuttoning his shirt (seriously, he needs to stop buttoning that top button, it's driving me nuts), driving his truck, turning around, showering in slow motion . . . it's sort of all-purpose.  It's got a fitting melody, perfect lyrics and the exact right melody for a story that takes place in backwoods Kentucky. And the way he says, "I used to drink, boys, I used to cuss," sounds exactly like something Boyd Crowder would say and exactly how he'd say it.  He'd even do that little thing where he nods his head just slightly to the side, closes his eyes and smiles just a little.  God, I love it when he does that.



Of course, if Justified knew what was good for them, they would have reduced Raylan to almost nothing and put the focus on the crime families of Harlan, because the Bennett clan, Dickie Crow (such a great name that I wish I'd thought of it) and the Crowders are a hell of a lot more interesting than him and stupid boring Winonia could ever dream of being.

A Crisis of Voice

Back when I wrote crime, my voice came easily.  Starting with "Hero Cop," I just did my best Frank Miller impersonation.  Over time that evolved into the complicated dialect of Crimson City Blues, which even had it's own thesaurus that Dwight and I lovingly compiled over late-night trips to The Spot and bottles of red wine on the dirty grey couch of my basement apartment.  We had a dozen synonyms each for the two words that appeared most: drinking/drunk ("slung low" was my favorite; it appears in "Roderick and the Kid") and prostitute ("Pink Pants," "Lap Girl").  It was fun.

(Damn it, I miss Dwight.  That guy could write a sentence that could give you a hard-on.  He had this wonderfully cold style, like feeling breath on the back of your neck when you swear to Christ you're all alone.  It was a thing of brutal beauty and if his story "Bad Cop"--which absolutely killed me to take out of Crimson City Blues when we split--ever comes out as a book, I'll be first in line to buy a hardcover copy even though I doubt he'll sign it)

Point is, every phrase in that book was carved out of marble.  If you go back and read the whole series, you'll notice how precise every word is.  I read it now and I cannot believe I wrote some of that.

I can't do that anymore and it's giving me a complex.

I'm going to blame grad school.  I had some great mentors and workshop leaders who encouraged me to better develop my unique style, but a few of them attempted to homogenized my voice.  One objected to my snarky, bittersweet style, saying that all I did was "shit all over people" (hey, it worked for Tucker Max, who I hate but who made a lot of money with that style) another fussed over my use of the word "addiction" as though he alone owned and defined the word.  I haven't completed a piece of CNF (that wasn't a blog post) since.  And while both of them had valid points that I took to heart so much it crippled me, one has to wonder if it's a mentor's place to completely shut down a style they personally object to for the so-called "betterment" of the student.

It's tough to say what will sell and what won't, and I'm completely against the "cheerleader" style of mentoring--after all, I didn't pay $25 large to have someone smile at me and tell me I'm great.  I have a mother, thank you.  But I think a good mentor should be able to help you develop your voice, as it's on the page, without interjecting their personality into it.

As for my fiction, I feel like it's all just a bunch of words on a page.  Phrases feel like I've written them a million times, and when I read Raymond Chandler or Tom Perrotta or Lauren Groff I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how the hell they do it.  How do they craft these phrases, like glass birds?  (Lovingly and over five years, I imagine).  Even when I get work back from my writing partner, I can look at his work and say, "yep, that's his."  It's as though he invented the sentence for his own personal use.  Mine just sort of lay there, like dead fish.

Ugh.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Today is 4/20.  That means that if you're a pot smoker, you can smoke pot, which you probably did yesterday and will probably do tomorrow, so good for you . . . ?  It's not like on April 20th it's suddenly legal to smoke pot, so why is everyone cackling like they're suddenly doing something so naughty?

I have never and will never smoke pot.  Why? Well, one, because I'm allergic to smoke, and two, because of the horror I've recently witnessed.  Today, walking barefoot down the street, I saw a shirtless dude with filthy white guy dreads, a string belt holding up dirty khaki shorts, playing his acoustic guitar for all to hear.  And you just know he had a hacky-sack in one of those cargo pockets.

This, my fellow Americans, is why marijuana needs to stay illegal forever.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Today's Playlist

-"Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" Tom Waits ("He's a lawyer/he ain't the one for ya")
-"Cure Kit" JaR ("Her stuff in boxes/out in the hall/I'll cut the phone lines/in case she calls")
-"Jackass" ("If you knew me/like I know myself/you'd hate me like/I hate myself")
-"(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" R.E.M ("It's not as though I really need you/if you were here I'd only leave you")
-"Genius" Warren Zevon ("Your protege don't care about art/I'm the one who always told you you were smart")
-"Nobody's Baby Now" Nick Cave ("These are her many letters/torn to pieces by long fingered hands")
-"My Winding Wheel" Ryan Adams ("Wear it out tonight/for anyone you think could outdo me")
-"King of Wishful Thinking" Go West ("I don't want to let you see/that you have made a hole in my heart")
-"Rubber Ring" The Smiths ("And when you're dancing/and laughing and finally living/hear my voice in our head and think of me kindly")
-"Cut Here" The Cure ("I miss you/I miss you/I miss you/so much")

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tonight I made the Liz Lemon decision of all Liz Lemon decisions.  I had a choice between writing a story I'm almost finished with and extremely happy about, eating pizza and watching Justified . . .

 . . . and I chose pizza.

Podcasting, not podracing

Several months ago my very good friend Eeon asked me if I would like to join him and our very good friend Pete in podcasting on Cutthroat Island over at Canned Laser.  I was confused, because their first podcast was of Robocop, which is a good movie, and Cutthroat Island is, well, a bad movie.  But of course I agreed, because I knew it was going to be a chance to talk about movies with Eeon and Pete, who are pretty much my own personal Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy.  Eeon is one of my favorite people in the entire world; he has a wonderful Midwestern sense of humor and tends to take jokes to absurd levels.  No one makes me laugh harder.

Pete, on the other hand, graduated before I got to Binghamton University and was therefor only known to me in myth and legend.  I seem to remember him being about seven feet tall. We reunited at Eeon's wedding and I was surprised that he remembered me, because I did not recognize him in a tuxedo and of mere mortal size. I have since found him to be a phenomenal storyteller, the familiar legends each time taking on a slightly more mythic quality each time they are retold.

So in mid December 2011, I went down to Eeon's house, where he and his wonderful wife Bridget gave me a leopard print snuggie to sleep under and let me drink their expensive whole-leaf tea. I don't think it's possible to love and respect Bridget anymore than I already do, after all, she allowed me to give the speech from Independence Day at her wedding, whereas most brides in my social circle seat me somewhere between the kid's table and the kitchen as punishment for daring to speak to their husbands with my brazen, hussy propositions of "hey, want to come over and watch Cowboy Bebop and eat a jumbo bag Ranch Doritoes?"



I didn't realize that podcasting about a movie would require us to watch the movie, let alone twice.  I hadn't seen Cutthroat Island since college and despite my teenage love for it, found this part to be excruciating. We riffed.  We made notes on yellow legal paper.  I quoted along with the film, astonished at my own geekiness.  I was having trouble remembering the name of the diner Eeon and I had lunch at earlier that afternoon, but I could remember whole chunks of dialogue from a film I hadn't seen in five years.

By now, it was nearly 11 p.m.  Bridget had gone to bed, and Pete was just setting up the recording equipment.  The first take started around midnight.  We talked for about 45 minutes.  We did a second take around 1 a.m.  When you listen to the podcast, you start to hear where we're getting punchy and silly, where our words slur together and we trip over our phrases.  Those are from that take.

At around 2 a.m, we finished and went to bed.  Because Pete was staying over too, I had to surrender the couch, (but not the Snuggie) and slept on the loveseat with my knees drawn up.  Around 3a.m, I heard audio and wondered if I'd fallen asleep in the middle of recording.  Nope, it was just Pete.  I asked him what the hell he was doing.  Editing, I guess.  I fell back asleep with my own voice echoing back at me.

I have a bleary memory of Bridget leaving.  I was glad when she came back, because she brought back bagels.  We all ate like zombies.  She went to the movies and we three, still in our pajamas, watched the rifftrax of The Star Wars Holiday Special, too exhausted to do anything but lie there and take it.  If the rifftrax had stopped dead, we would have just kept watching.  That's how tired we were.

And if I had the chance, I'd do it a hundred times more.  It was a great experience, talking film with two people who love movies and make me laugh, even at 2am when I am punchy and tired.  Hope you all enjoy listening to the podcast as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Greatest Thing Ever Might Happen


Jeff Goldblum might be on Justified.


Yes, I know I complain all the time about the lazy writing, poor character development and general lack of Goggins nudity on Justified.  What can I say?  I hate the show.

But Goldblum, yes, sweet Goldblum!  It's as though my 13 year old self and my 28 year old self are giving each other a high-five . . . of course, the last time this happened, we got Cowboys and Aliens, but, as every season of Justified begins, I am filled with hope that maybe this time it will finally get good and stop being stupid.  Maybe they'll finally take my suggestion of getting rid of Raylan and just letting the criminals of Harlan County trick and manipulate and kill each other.


Probably not, but at least it will give me extra hotness to look at.  

Star Wars is Officially Stupid

I've been engaged in an ongoing battle with my Star Wars fandom for the better part of a year, and before that, when Harry Plinkett helped me figure out why The Phantom Menace was so, so terrible.

(Quick side story--my friend Dave, whose wife Rachel was in The Odd Couple with me and who are two of our favorite people to hang out with because they laugh easily, explained Plinkett's review to his eight year old daughter by saying she could watch it when "she (is) older and George Lucas was dead.")

And while I recently decided that Back to the Future is the superior trilogy, I still get a little wistful for my Star Wars geekdom.  I want to make an Endor terrarium or Wookie Cookies.

Not anymore.

Not with the release of the Star Wars game for Kinect.  Especially not the part where Han Solo Dances.  You see, the last time I checked, Han Solo wasn't on Dancing With The C-List Actors You Hate. (I don't mean David Arquette when I say this--everyone knows he's a triple Z-list actor who was a has-been by Arizona's definition of when life begins). And worse,  they rewrote awful pop songs so that they had Star Wars lyrics.  My sister Hilary did that when she was eight. Her rendition of "Obi Wan Kenobi" (to the tune of Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee") still makes me laugh when I think about it, but you don't see me putting it up as a dance remix.

A lot of people my age are prequel defenders.  They sit there and they try to tell me that George Lucas would never do anything to hurt them.  They insist that he wrote them as one big mythology and that he knows what he's doing.  And yet here we all are, dancing like goons in front of our TV to "Hologram Girl" (sung to Gwen Steffani's abomination "Hollaback Girl").  And because we are perpetual children fed fat on irony and quirk, believing that our helicopter parents will take care of everything while outwardly voicing that we don't trust the government or our teachers or anyone else.  Lucas is just another extension of the helicopter parent, assuring us that all is well, goodnight.  It would never occur to us to believe that the childhood he created for us was made solely out of greed.  The mean nasty black president is out to take our guns and force us to have partial  abortions performed by Muslim doctors, but George Lucas selling us out?  Never.

New flash: George Lucas is a dick.  If this doesn't prove that he is money-grubbing clown shoes, I don't know what will.  Look, I don't take Star Wars as some sort of great generational mythology.  It was a good space movie, and Han Solo was my first love . . . but I take it with the seriousness I take any story--I expect it to be told in an even tone.  There is nothing in Han Solo's character than indicates he would bust a move.  Lando, maybe, but not Han freakin' solo.  Leave the dance routine to Oola.

So Star Wars is sort of dead to me now.  I can't be that fan who thinks that this is cool and will happily eat whatever shit George Lucas shoves into my face. At least the Back to the Future game stayed within the relative realm of the story.


Friday, April 6, 2012

How To Know You're Totally Over A Breakup

I was listening to "Mr. Wrong" by Cracker, previously off the 2nd mix CD Dwight gave me, titled She Doesn't Think My Tractor's Sexy Anymore (poor Renee Zellwegger) and I realized that it no longer reminds me of Dwight.

Instead, I picture Dennis "Beeper King" Duffy from 30 Rock.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Laborious Art of Novel Writing

I am a horrifically impatient person.  I'm sure I always have been although I didn't acutely become aware of it until fairly recently.  And it's not just impatience about when the next disc of 30 Rock is going to show up in my mailbox or when the Huffington Post is going to update, (although those are trials in themselves) it's an impatience with myself when I realize I can't just magically jump from point A to point D without going past B and C first.  This is why I failed at karate, ballet, piano, French and most relationships.  I don't want to waste time with the baby steps. I just want to get to the part where I play Carnegie Hall in pointe shoes while smashing planks with my bare hands.

I realized this about myself last week, when I heard Lauren Groff speak about her new book Arcadia at The Green Toad.  It, as readings occasionally do, made me panic.  One, because Lauren is awesome and sweet and kind and a NYT Bestseller therefor, I am terrified she will find out that I am, by contrast, a blithering idiot. I feel the same way about Megan Abbott, to the point where I avoided her at a conference for three days even though she was asking other people about whether or not I was there.   God forbid I ever come within two states of Walton Goggins or Geena Davis; I would have no choice but to change my name and flee the country until they were safely gone.

Good thing I had Clive Owen and
Benicio Del Toro to Keep Me Company

When I interviewed her for the paper, Lauren said that the "natural life" of a novel is "about five years."  Five years.  I can't imagine writing something for five years.  I think about the person I was five years ago, the kind of work I was writing then and how much I've changed.  I was just starting what would be the series of stories known as Crimson City Blues, I was obsessed with Sin City, just starting to think about grad school and had never even heard of Walton Goggins.  Five years from now, I will be yet another different person, and if that's the case, I would never get the book finished possibly ever.

Lauren does a cool thing, because she is cool.  She writes a first draft by hand and throws it out.  Then she writes another draft and throws that one out.  Then she writes a third draft on the computer and the story begins to take it's current form.  How I wish I had that kind of patience!  I'm still in pop fiction grad school mode, where I write a novel in six months, spend another three polishing it and then spend another six months getting rejected by every agent and unsolicited manuscript accepting publishing house in NYC.  This has happened twice, each time with some astoundingly nasty rejection letters.

I've got a novel now that I'm working on.  It's a longer version of a short story I wrote that has yet to be picked up, about an ex-con who promises his brother that he'll look after his wife and her two kids when he's released on parole, but after he arrives, it's clear she doesn't want him there and the two of them have to find a way to work into each other's lives.  It's a sad, beautiful story about family and love and grace that Matthew admits just about made him weep.  When I'm done with a story, the characters sort of vanish, their stories told but I couldn't get these characters off my mind, so I started turning it into a novel.

And it keeps coming.  I wrote half a draft and realized that it was just a series of scenes and that would never work.  So I started again, and characters came and went, locations changed, POVs shifted.

Clearly, this was going to take more than six months.

And this terrifies me.

The failed dance/karate/piano lessons can be chalked up to youthful exuberance, but my 20's have been fraught with poverty.  If I hit my snooze button, I missed my bus to work.  If I didn't get to the reception early, the food was all gone when I got there.  I had deadlines to meet, multiple jobs to juggle.  Patience was for people whose lives didn't depend on bus schedules and free spinach triangles.  My life was carefully organized and stacked, and in the world I knew, taking time to write a book was a luxury afforded to beautiful people with grant money and tenure.  I wrote partially because I loved it and partially because I saw it as the only way I knew how to bust myself out of low-wage jobs and crippling poverty.  If I could sell a story to Glimmer Train, that would pay my rent and phone for a month.  A book deal would pay off my student loans.  Heck, even a $25 sale to an internet magazine could pay for two weeks of halfway-decent groceries.

So I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.  No one can ever say all I did was daydream.  I wrote "The Weather Girl" in 3 days, "The PI's Wife" in a hour,  "Purgatory Blues" and "Pussy" in 30 minutes each.  And not first drafts either--finished, final drafts ready for submission.  I put my impatience to work.

Then Crimson City Blues didn't land me an agent.  Neither did Six Bullets, which I worked on for a year and a half, part of that time with a high profile agent who, after six months of rewrites, suddenly rejected it and told me I didn't know how to write a novel.  I got rejection after rejection from Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Electric Literature.

But what I did get was a good job that I love, and now I have the arduous task of retraining my brain to enjoy the process and the labor of the story.  From "The Carpoool" to "Goodnight Lily" Crimson City Blues took about four years.  But I loved every minute of it, from the first scribbling of "Hero Cop" on a scrap of paper at the Brooklyn Library to drawing city maps on the placemats at the Spot with Dwight to adding the "take the rape"* sequence in "Until Proven Guilty" to getting that first acceptance letter from Hardboiled for "Big Night Out."

I don't think I'll ever spend eight years on a book, as Mike keeps reminding me his mentor did.  But what I will do is pace myself to enjoy the process, as laborious and difficult as it can be.  Because I look back on Crimson City Blues and think "That was the happiest I ever was when I was writing."  I want to be a happy writer.  If I'm going to spend hours at my desk, I want them to be happy ones.





*A romance writer I went to grad school with actually said this phrase to me in workshop.  She looked me in the eye--someone she didn't know, quite possibly one of the 213,000 women who are sexually assaulted each year--and said, "I really feel like Lily should just take the rape."  I was so appalled that I reacted the only way I knew how--working it into the story as a line of advice from another prisoner.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's the Deal with Lexus Ads?

I've been home sick for three days now, which is a drag because I hate being sick and still live in the minimum-wage fear of being fired despite the fact that I have a great job where I am treated well and valued as an employee.

This is a new thing for me, and it occasionally manifests itself in utter terror and confusion.  "Wait, I can be home sick and not lose my job?  You mean the interim chair of the English department at SUNY Cobleskill won't intimidate my students by telling them I'm a bad teacher* and then try to take away my unemployment benefits when they fire me just shy of the point in my employment where they would be forced to hire me on a permanent basis, thus having to pay me a living wage?  What magical land of employment is this?"

Kenny Johnson: Does he or does
he not look like Vash the Stampede?
So in being unable to get off the couch due to  weakness brought on by being able to stomach little more than saltines and ginger ale, I've fallen back in love with Hulu (that, and watching my cats wrestle).  Ian and I have arranged our Netflix queue so that we always have something we both want to watch (we like sharing), so since I was home all alone, I could finally catch up on trash TV, like Law and Order: SVU (which was awful before Stabler left and is worse now) and Commander in Chief (which isn't great, but Geena Davis is beautiful and my hero and I would elect her President without second thought).  Hell, I could have watched Trigun if I wanted to, but Trigun always depresses me a bit, because it should be good and it just isn't.

Here's the thing about Hulu.  There are ads.  This is fine, I always mute advertising, but I noticed that they're usually ads for expensive things, like $200 phones or a Lexus.  I am watching free TV on an 8-year old laptop . . . are free TV watchers really the kind of people you. people at Lexus, think will buy a car that costs more to lease than they make in an entire year?   They can't even afford cable!  It just seems like taunting to me.



*I have had exactly one student in six years say I was a bad teacher.  Probably because he failed the class.  Also, I have a chili pepper next to my name on ratemyprofessor.com, which means I'm H-O-T.  This means more to me than a stack of good reports, because I am vain.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Canned Laser Debuts Podcast!

Canned Laser, manned by my very funny and very smart film-buff friends Eeon and Pete, launches it's first podcast on Robocop.  Listen to it.  It's awesome.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Proper Use of "Forthcoming"

Remember how I mentioned that I had a story "forthcoming."  Well, here it is.  It has come forth.

Now, about my "forthcoming" marriage to Walton Goggins . . . .

Kenny Johnson can be the "forthcoming" Best Man

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dispatch from the Dollar Bin: The Long Blondes "Someone to Drive You Home"

In transferring my CD collection to my iPod, I've been coming across a lot of albums I'd forgotten about, many of them impulse dollar-bin purchases from Last Vestige Records.  I'm paring down a lot, so I'm giving a these albums a second listen to see if they stay in the collection or eventually put them in a box and offer to trade them with my friends, hopefully for something cooler.  This is one of them:

I bought The Long Blondes Someone to Drive You Home for $3 sometime shortly after Dwight and I split up.  I was in the dead center of my neo-noir phase, coming out of my music journalism phase, newly relocated to Oneonta and just about to enter grad school.  This album's purchase, more than it's actual music, reflect this perhaps more than any other acquired at the time.

Yeah, I'm Awesome
I should like this album.  It's got tons of noir and 60's babe references (Shout outs to Edie Sedgwick and Arlene Dahl, in "Lust in the Movies," as well as the opening line "Give me a good film noir and a bottle of gin" from "Swallow Tattoo) and "Giddy Stratospheres" might as well have been written about the situation that inspired me to buy the album in the first place.  It's got a certain old-skool ska feel to it, which is kind of cool, and the album cover is a painting of Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde.  As a girl who uses a photo of herself wearing a Tom Waits cabbie cap in a dive bar in Binghamton  as one of her writer headshots, this should be my absolute favorite album after The Heart of Saturday Night.

But that's just it.  It's too self aware.  Awesome, Long Blondes, you own records and watch black and white movies and drink gin.  Yes, I did all those things in the year I bought this album (Dwight and I used to drink gimlets like in The Long Goodbye, which makes us clearly cooler than The Long Blondes) but seriously, give it up.  Yes, you're cool and the girls you're writing songs about don't deserve the boys you're pining for because they don't get your kitchy 60's references that everyone gets because Edie Sedgewick isn't exactly Jean Moorhead.  But that doesn't mean you have to write a whole album about it.  The Long Blondes have the nostalgia, but they lack the clever wordplay that someone like, say, Warren Zevon or Morrissey has.  The words are all crammed in, like they just set a diary entry to a fairly generic (but catchy!) guitar riff.  Kate Johnson's voice is great, but it's also generic of every hipster girl who thinks she's amazingly artistic and deep.  I know, because I sing just like her, and I am writing in a blog partially named after a Duran Duran song while wearing a hoodie festooned with a vintage Morrissey tee-shirt a stalker gave me and a free patch I got at Forbidden Plant when he was promoting Ringleader of the Tormentors that, incidentally, is also the same hoodie I'm wearing in my uber-cool hipster photo up there.

Keep or Giveaway: Giveaway
Song to Save: "Swallow Tattoo." 

Saturday, March 10, 2012


All fiction writers lie.  It’s part of the job.  Most of us have never swung a mighty broadsword, yet we wield the words describing the blade’s silver arc as though we have.  Getting to live a life or be someone you're not is one of the most enjoyable parts of the craft.

Lying about publication, however, is a different story.

Pictured: Publication
It’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed recently, especially among writers just coming out of writing programs.  These programs are notoriously competitive, so publishing is a way for students to separate themselves from the rest and secure mentors who want to work with them instead of the other way around.  It’s a good way to network, and it also sets you up to take the flaming dog poopie of rejection, as well as the bags of candy of acceptance when you're away from the teat of your mentor.

However, lying about your credits won't get you anywhere.

For instance, a woman I knew told everyone that she’d just sold her romance novel to a “major publisher” and “was asked by her agent” not to disclose her advance (not that anyone was asking; that’s rude).  A little research revealed that her “major publisher” was an e-book vanity press and her “agent” was, in all likelihood, a webpage she put her up herself.  When word got out, it damaged her reputation among other writers in her field, but it didn’t stop her from lying again about another manuscript with another major press that, you guessed it, turned out to be less than she’d bragged about.  She was a joke, and everyone knew it.

It’s worse when professional writers do this.  Let’s call this one writer Dominick.  Dominick had a moderately successful collection in the mid 2000’s.  He hasn’t published much since.  Yet he continues to tell people that he has a novel coming out “next fall.”  It’s been “next fall” for four years, with no novel in sight.  

And here's a fun tip--if you've never been to prison, don't base your entire platform on the story that you have.  There's this thing called "the internet," maybe you've heard of it, and you don't have to be a P.I. to run a criminal background check.  All you need is about five bucks and a few minutes.  Things like child abuse and drug addictions are a little harder to prove wrong, but your lie will eventually unravel and then Oprah will yell at you.  And no one wants that.

The absolute worst lie is the “forthcoming” novel when there’s no agent, no publisher and no release date.  All of us have a “forthcoming” novel, on our laptops, in notebooks or in our heads—but most of us don’t utter a peep about it until we’ve got a contract in our hands and a galley copy to show our friends.    

Here's how to use "forthcoming" properly: My story "Purgatory Blues" is forthcoming in The Citron Review. It should be up sometime next week.  It's real.  It's happening.  It's forthcoming.

Save the fiction for your book.  If you’ve accomplished something, whether it’s a 3-book deal or flash fiction in an e-zine, share it for what it is.  Be proud of what you accomplish no matter how small it may seem.  Writing isn’t easy, and publishing is even harder—but lying just makes you look like a jerk.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I am very, very mad at my home state.

For those of you who know me or have read my wikipedia entry know that I am originally from Oklahoma City. This is a point of pride for me, not only because I'm listed as a Famous Person From Oklahoma (along with Chuck Norris, Jim Thompson and James Marsden, who was in Sex Drive, which is a very funny movie by my absolute favorite screenwriters, Sean Anders and John Morris, who wrote one of my favorite movies, Never Been Thawed) but because it meant that I wasn't from Cobleskill, where my parents raised me and my four sisters (my older sister, Shaun, is also Oklahoma-born, but the other three are strictly Cobleskill).

Liz Lemon approves these movie references
Let me put Cobleskill in proper geek context: you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.  It's nothing but lobos and zipheads and they ought to tear the whole place down.  If my friend Jay ever moves, the town will have not one single redeeming quality.  It is a poverty-stricken hellhole filled with people who don't have enough money or sense to move someplace nicer, like Detroit or Compton.  I go back only when absolutely required, and my niece's first birthday wasn't enough motivation for me to cross the town line.  I survived on two mantras--I'm not from here, and I'm going to leave.

It's funny, people like my ex-boyfriend used to make fun of me for being from Oklahoma, like it automatically made me white trash. And when I say Oklahoma, again, I mean Oklahoma City.  I saw my first Shakespeare performance in Oklahoma City.  They have an art museum with a permanent installation by Dale Chihuly.  They have a symphony, an opera and a botanical garden.

Cobleskill, by contrast, has some graffiti on the train tracks, a couple of park bushes littered with beer cans and the high school production of "Anything Goes!" as culture.

Cobleskill, however, is in New York, which gives it one current advantage over Oklahoma.

New York didn't vote for Rick Santorum in the primaries.

I am deeply, deeply ashamed, Oklahoma. I've spent years defending you, trying to be a good ambassador of literature and culture, and this is how you return the favor?  Mitt Romney may be a rich dope, but I'm pretty sure that if Jesus Christ returned to Earth today, Rick Santorum would personally call for him to be crucified as a threat to our great Christian nation.

I know I shouldn't be surprised, nor should I care.  Oklahoma traditionally votes Republican and tends to hover on the conservative side of issues.  In the broad scope, I am not defined by soil, whether it be where I was born, where I was raised, or where I tread now.

But everyone longs for a place to call home, to be able to claim some land by which to help define their identity.  And if I am a pro-choice, pro-health-care, Obama-voting, anti-fracking, Jewish-raised, Doc Marten stomping, OWS supporting, Betsey-Johnson spike-heel bootie wearing, MFA-toting, liberal, feminist geek writer, how on earth am I supposed to say, "I'm proud to be from Oklahoma."