Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's NaNoWriMo Time, NaNoWriMo Time - NaNoWriMoWithABaseballBat

November nears and, for me at least, this means it's time for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I will be participating again this year (here, here, here, and here are my posts from last year), though my goal this time around isn't to hit 50K words (though that'd be nice) but simply to get through my long story/short novel, which I've tentatively titled Claw & Eye. (Uhh...yeah it's the same title as last year's story, but totally different, I swear.)

The problem with last year's event was that, though I managed to make the 50K goal, I didn't really like anything I wrote - the prose was sloppy, the characters not-so-well thought out, and overall just plain limp as far as story goes. This was in part because I had made a conscious decision not to plan any detail out before I began the challenge. Well. That might work for some people but, what I discovered in the process, is that it doesn't really work for me.

Instead, over the last couple of months, I've been jotting notes, chiefly concerning world-building, characterization and action in larger scenes, as well as writing different entry points - a piece of advice I picked up from author Jeff Vandermeer during Clarion - to the story. I've also completed a short page-and-a-half synopsis of events.

I will be uploading the story here two or three times a week throughout November (and into December or later - basically, until it's finished) for your perusal, should you wish to read this thing I'm writing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Best First Opening Lines of the Year (With Conditions)

I thought I'd do something fun in gearing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as well as the requisite "Best Of" lists that will populate this here bloggy-blog for the rest of the year, mostly. And that fun thing? Oh, you know, the 10 best first opening lines from novels or stories I've read this year - which means, of course, not all of these are from books or stories published in 2011, though most of them are. Are we having fun yet? Okay, great. Here goes:

10. "Interviewer: Can you introduce yourselves?
      "Alpha: We are third-generation intelligent agents of LogiComm Works, Inc., designed to calculate and settle agreements for our clients.
      "Beta: We are designed to filter out emotional noise factors that may prevent human agents from coming to an equitable resolution that maximizes efficiencies." - "Saving Face" by Shelly Li and Ken Liu (from Crossed Genres, January 2011)

9. "The tent is draped with strings of bare bulbs, with bits of mirror tied here and there to make it sparkle. (It doesn't look shabby until you've already paid.)" - Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine

8. "We sat on a hill. We watched the flames inside the balloons heat the fabric to neon colors. The children played Prediction." - Light Boxes by Shane Jones

7. "It began, in a way, with the midget hunchback tuk-tuk driver." - "Aphrodisia" by Lavie Tidhar (from Strange Horizons, August 2010)

6. "I'd never wanted to go to Earth until the doctor told me I couldn't, that my bones were too brittle." - "Long Enough and Just So Long" by Cat Rambo (from Lightspeed Magazine, Feb 2011)

5. "It is possible I already had some presentiment of my future." - The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

4. "For years the air above the earth had begun sagging, suffused by a nameless, ageless eye of light." - There is No Year by Blake Butler

3. "In some places, time is a weak and occasional phenomenon. Unless someone claims time to pass, it might not, or does so only partly; events curl in on themselves to form spirals and circles." - "The Aunts" by Karin Tidbeck (from ODD? Anthology, October 2011)

2. "There is no book about me. Well, not yet. No matter." - "The Book of Phoenix: Excerpted from The Great Book" by Nnedi Okorafor (from Clarkesworld Magazine, March 2011)

1. "Morning light the sulphur color of the mine dumps seeps across Johannesburg's skyline and sears through my window. My own personal bat signal. Or a reminder that I really need to get curtains." - Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Monday, October 24, 2011

Get Your Copy of Dustin Monk & The Dirty Priests

For anyone who would like a copy of my first solo record, Dustin Monk & The Dirty Priests, you can now purchase copies through me. These are limited edition CDs, with three different covers: bicycle, compass, and telephone.

Just send $12 (shipping included for US) or $22 (for international) to my paypal account: In the note section, make sure to include your name and shipping address, the quantity (if more than 1), and which cover(s) you'd prefer.

Dustin Monk & The Dirty Priests was recorded at June Bug House in Eureka, IL August-September 2008 and released in November the same year. It's been called a set of "postmodern western songs of death and heartache," and "Blood on the Tracks' baby sister with a limp," by at least two crazy people.

1. Don't Be a Stranger/Black Widow
2. Say a Prayer for Watson
3. Eleven Crackerjack Blues
4. Goddamn the Good Girls
5. Are They Thinking About the Grape
6. Waiting on the Light #7
7. Brand New Blue Jeans
8. The Sexuality of Kick the Can

Running Time: 43 min.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recently Part Two: Books & Music

If you'll remember in Part One of Recently, I discussed some of the most recent books and music I've read and listened to. And now the conclusion...

The Thackery T. Lambshead's Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
This anthology is a sequel-of-sorts to the Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases, but is more involved, not just in creating the mythos surrounding Dr. Lambshead, but in the use of images and bigger, broader stories. Both anthologies are great examples of metafiction, but Curiosities succeeds in truly blurring the lines between "reality" and "fiction," including various artifacts discovered in Lambshead's home after his death (of which contained two Clarion classmates' - Tom Underberg and Kali Wallace - microstories). There's a great interview conducted by Cat Rambo on the SFWA site, discussing the anthology and many other things with the Vandermeers, here, here, and here. Some of my favorite stories/artifacts in this collection are Rachel Swirsky's "1943: A Brief Note Pertaining to the Absence of One Olivaceous Cormorant, Stuffed," Amal El-Mohtar's "The Singing Fish," Michael Cisco's "The Thing in the Jar," China Mieville's "Pulvadmonitor: The Dust's Warning," Naomi Novik's "Lord Dunsany's Teapot," and Ted Chiang's "Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny." The titles alone should get your heart racing!

Black Fortys' Voodoo Moon feels like a lost Stones record (if Mick Jagger had a huskier voice, anyway). Josh Murphy - singer/songwriter of the band - and I go way back. All the way to dirty, dimly lit open mics before the Hangar was destroyed by a tornado. We've watched each other grow as songwriters and musicians and I can say without a doubt that this is his most definitive statement - so far. Heartbreak is all over  Voodoo Moon. Heartbreak and rugged country, the kind of twisted shapes only moonlight can make.

Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, Volume I & II, are considered classics of the "dying Earth" stories. Each of these volumes is made up two books, The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of Conciliator, and The Sword of the Lichtor and The Citadel of the Autarch, respectively. Severian is our highly unreliable narrator - a torturer exiled from his guild for showing mercy to a prisoner - and it is through his eyes we (mis)understand his world. I enjoyed a lot of the descriptions and future technology (Father Inire's mirrors, the botanical gardens, etc), but a few problematic issues arose for me: Sword of the Lichtor tended to ramble aimlessly, which led to more aimlessness in Citadel. And the female characters - of which there were four, I think, in the whole series - were set pieces more than characters, there only for Severian to desire.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's Hysterical is another of my favorite "remember 2004?" bands that has released one of the more mediocre records of the year. There's nothing bad about these songs at all - in fact, they're put together well in a very clean, concise order; the problem is is that there is nothing remotely ear-worthy about any of it. Hysterical is so inoffensive and diffused of life it's kind of like the light brown paint on your office walls: you only notice every now and again and not as a work of art but as a revelation of "Oh, the walls are light brown. That's nice."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar from Cheeky Frawg!

Cheeky Frawg Books, an ebook imprint from Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, has just released the exquisite and wonderful The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar. It is a series of short fiction/prose poems describing the tastes of 28 different kinds of honey. Read more about here.

If you haven't read El-Mohtar, make yourself familiar. She is a superb writer, having written one of my favorite short stories of last year, "The Green Book," in Apex Magazine; as well as a fantastic piece in the Vandermeer-edited The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities anthology (which you should probably buy), called "The Singing Fish."

The Honey Month is the first of many ebooks Cheeky Frawg has lined up over the 6 months (although they already have an impressive lineup - see the first link above). I'm particularly looking forward to the ODD? Anthology, featuring new and established writers as well as translations, The Divinity Student by the genius Michael Cisco, The Troika by Stepan Chapman, Jagannath - a short fiction collection from the truly inspiring Karin Tidbeck, Women of the Supernatural edited by Ray Russell, and, well, pretty much everything they're releasing for the foreseeable future. Really, I'm only getting a Kindle so I can own these books (ebooks? boks? boiks? bookannaths?).