Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Perfect Cup of Coffee

We've got low clouds and fog in Norman this morning. It's around seventy degrees (in January!), and maybe even a wee bit muggy out there. My wife tells me there's a tornado watch, but I'm not watching. It's a writing day, and I'm about to settle in to work on the novel. But right now I am drinking one of the best cups of coffee I've had in my life, and I want to tell you about it. It's bittersweet, it's rich, and it feels indulgent. This is the Nicaragua Segovia from Marioposa Coffee Roastery--a local roaster with a gift for roasting and a big heart for social justice, here in Norman. And best of all, for locals, Mariposa delivers. But wherever you are (in the U.S., at any rate) you should treat yourself and order a bag or two from Mariposa. This is outstanding. And when the bag arrives, I highly recommend opening it and just putting your nose in there with the beans. Trust me, it's heavenly.

This is only my second purchase from Mariposa. They're a bit pricey--I usually go for cheap organic/fair trade coffee from a co-op--but so well worth it. I've convinced my colleagues in the office to join me in making regular Mariposa purchases.

Here's Mariposa Coffee's sweet new promotional video. Give it ninety seconds, then treat yourself.

Mariposa Coffee: Short from Scissortail Media on Vimeo.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sad, Sad, Sad Piano

I mentioned ambient music yesterday. The universe dropped this into my lap today. For your listening pleasure, I give you Dostoevsky's Piano Music for Bronchitis.

(I was unable to embed the player, so just click the link above.)

These sounds have been making their way into my novel, somehow, all afternoon. Well, most of the afternoon. Well, some of the afternoon...when I wasn't napping...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"You are a woman just as you are a man"

I usually listen to music while writing (and yes,, while blogging about writing when I ought to be doing the actual writing). When I do this, I can't listen to lyrics in English, so I wind up playing a lot of ambient music that shuffles between Brian Eno, Sigur Ros, Hammock, Caretaker, and William Basinski. Now and then I'll mix a little Klaus Schulze into the playlist--usually his collaborations with Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance--but one can only take so much of that. This one, anyway. Cocteau Twins don't usually fit the bill, because I find their music too engaging. The Moon and the Melodies (their collaboration with Harold Budd) works well, though. And maybe other songs here and there. For the most part, though, Cocteau Twins demand my focus.

Speaking of the Twins, this week their original label, 4AD, has uploaded several of the band's old videos to Youtube. Here are three, for the hell of it. Or, rather, for the heaven of it. I find that the videos don't do service to the music, but I appreciate these glimpses into a band that thrived in an age before the Internet, when musicians were remote and difficult to glimpse. Even now, twenty-some years later, I appreciate these fleeting glimpses.

"Pearly-Dewdrops Drop" (1984)

"Carolyn's Fingers"(1988)

"Heaven or Las Vegas" (1990)

And here's a song that maybe wasn't among my favorites back in the day--because it came on their last album, which I didn't give enough attention at the time. This one has made a home in my heart, though, over the years. Hard to listen to it now without feeling a rush of emotion...not that I mind a rush, now and then. I save it for special occasions.

"Seekers Who are Lovers" (1994)

If I had the magical power to reunite any band, maybe this would be the one. Please don't tell Johnny Marr and Morrissey, though.

[This message was brought to you by the Center for the Treatment and Cure of Middle-Aged Hipster Syndrome.]

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Don't Say I Didn't Tell You about Mary Miller

I'm pretty sure Mary Miller is a genius. She's a great fiction writer, anyway. Everything I read from her--everything!--catches me up and moves me in ways I don't fully understand for a while, or maybe ever. But she's really, really good. I just found this short story: "I Won't Get Lost" in Frederick Barthelme's New World Writing. And a few weeks ago I read this essay: "I Am Sorry, Women," at the Rumpus. And her story collection, Big World, was one of my favorite books of 2011...or was it 2010? She's got a novel in the works, too. Anyway, read Mary Miller. Like, now.

A Little Deactivation Action

I dropped off the Facebook grid today. Feels good. I don't intend to stay away forever, but for now it's the right thing to do. I've got a book to write. I've got classes to teach. I need more quiet time, less goofing off. So down I go, into the darkness.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

“It’s a self-contained bondage and submission device.”

I forgot to mention a recent publication. My short story, "The Master of Submission," appears in the new issue of Fiddleblack.  This is the one story in Magnificent Mistakes that has sparked the most vocal response. I'm glad it finally found a home--and I'm not sure why I didn't get around to sending it out before now. In any case, thanks, Fiddleblack!

I feel strange about this story, not least because it touches on the strange-to-some sexuality of he central character in a way that emphasizes his solitude and challenges him to find his own ethical core (for lack of a better term). He flails wildly when his long-term girlfriend dumps him, behaving badly in his attempts to win her back. I don't think it spoils anything to say that he fails. No one could succeed, doing the things he does. And he knows this, he begins to question whether he deserves love.

I'll leave it at that, except to say that this is the story I've been sending out as my writing sample, in my current job search. It's a risky choice, because it involves both kinky sex and an extremely unlikable protagonist. I've been told several times, by readers who know me personally, that many of this book's stories don't seem like they could have been written by me. I'm not entirely sure what that means, and I doubt it's a good idea for me to dwell on it. So, of course, I will. It's fine with me that a story might not remind a friend of me. It's fine that my stories go to dark places that I, in my daily life, don't go. Or don't seem to go. In fact, it would be pretty strange if someone read "The Master of Submission" and said, "Yeah, that story about the sex toy inventor who can't stop behaving as a passive-aggressive submissive, that one reminds me of you." Because I'm not that guy, and I don't want to be that guy. But he's in here somewhere, and this was my way of dealing with him, learning about him, and giving him the chance to learn a bit about himself.

In what would likely come as a surprise to readers of this book, I've lately grown interested in writing for children. Not little children, but middle graders, I suppose. Eight to twelve year olds. My novel-in-progress is probably a young-adult book, but I've decided not to worry about how it could be marketed. It's a story, and I'm going to focus on the characters. Just as I always do. That said, I've given some thought recently to going with a pen name for my stories for kids. I listened to a fantastic podcast interview with xTx the other day, and I found myself feeling envious of her anonymity. I want some of that for myself.

But mainly, right now, I want to find the willpower to back away from the blog and get to work on the book. So goodbye!