Sometimes it doesn’t matter where things start, it’s where they takes us.
For the past several days, I’ve been reading Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud. I’m finding that this practice not only improves my control of the iambic line, but also helps me understand how to use punctuation, line breaks and rhyme more effectively. I’m also becoming more and more unforgiving of forced rhymes and poetic inversions in the work of others.
When on the twelfth day I got to Sonnet 12, beginning ‘When I do count the clock that tells the time,’ and – and I’m prepared to forgive that ‘do’ in the line, since it was probably written in the late 16th Century and all – I immediately started thinking of the song ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmBLSGy6g58
Are they linked together? Does it matter? Today I heard radio static while passing a tree and it seemed as though the tree itself had static. Things spark and catch on fire due to rogue winds.
Just bought an issue of Mojo Music Magazine, because there was an exclusive interview with Nick Cave in it and a CD stuck to the cover. The blurb on the cover said that it contained ’15 original tracks’ that ‘inspired Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’. I’ve been listening to it, and it’s wonderful, even though the sound quality is a wee bit harsh at times. But hey, some of the songs on the CD are from the 20s!
Today I started obsessively listening to an old American lullaby for children from it called ‘All The Pretty Little Horses’ , sung by Pete Seeger (pictured), which has these lines:
Don’t you cry,
Go to sleepy, little baby.
Way down yonder
In de medder
There’s a po’ lil lambie,
De bees an’ de butterflies
Peckin’ out its eyes,
De po’ lil thing cried, “Mammy!”
Don’t you cry,
Go to sleepy, little baby.
So disturbing! And it’s the peaceful soothing nature of the piece that makes it all the more troubling. And there’s also this cruel ballad called ‘Knoxville Girl’ by The Louvin Brothers on it, and the ballad ‘Katie Cruel’, which is not as cruel, which has the following lines:
‘Through the woods I’m going
And through the boggy mire
Straight way down the road
‘Til I come to my heart’s desire
If I was where I would be
Then I’d be where I am not
Here I am where I must be
Where I would be, I can not’
Anyway, these old songs stimulate me to write more, and to write more darkly.
Tagged onto the end of the other good news, I’ve just received word my flash fiction piece, ‘Sometimes, there are bears’, has been accepted for the August edition of Blue Fifth Review, an online quarterly of art, flash fiction, essays, reviews, and poetry.
It’s seems I wrote too soon. The ‘unrestrained’ werewolf story that I mentioned in May, ‘Against the Wall’, has also just been accepted for publication in the August 2017 issue of The Siren’s Call Ezine. The issue contains stories on the theme ‘Feel the Fear’.
This is just to share the good news that three of my ‘horrorku’, or ‘horror haiku’ have been accepted by Scifikuest Magazine, and will be published online and in print by Alban Lake Publishing in November .
I have also received news that the respected and long-running New Zealand literary magazine, Takahe, has accepted my poem ‘From Ashes On’ for publication, possibly in the August issue.
Onwards and upwards!
There’s something about truly great short stories (OK- that’s rather subjective!) that touches me deeply, and drives me to immediately reread everything. Perhaps it’s because the first time I might read a little bit too quickly, and miss certain important aspects, but I think it might also be due to some other reasons, which include:
- I don’t want to leave the world of the story so soon.
- I want to see the way the story is woven together, to inspect the thread and weave of it.
- The twist has brought about some new understanding of the events in the story, and I want to reread the story after knowing what happens at the end.
- Confusion because I didn’t pay attention enough the first time around and I think I’ve missed something essential.
- Various other whims and reasons.
Stories that I have read in the past few months that have encouraged the rereading instinct in me include the following:
Roald Dahl: ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, ‘The Butler’, ‘Royal Jelly’
Neil Gaiman: ‘The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains…’, ‘Click-Clack the Rattlebag’, ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’
John Collier: ‘Are You Too Late Or Was I Too Early’, ‘The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It’, ‘Without Benefit Of Galsworthy’, ‘Ah the University’, ‘Back For Christmas’, ‘The Chaser’, ‘Special Delivery’
Ray Bradbury: ‘The Veldt’, ‘Homecoming’, ‘All Summer in a Day’, ‘The Pedestrian’
Joyce Carol Oates: ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’
Shirley Jackson: ‘The Lottery’
Isaac Babel: ‘The Story of My Dovecot’
I just got back on Saturday from a short holiday in Niue, a wonderful Polynesian paradise. We arrived there the day before we left New Zealand, and after a short flight, I returned to New Zealand the day after I left Niue. Back in the land of the tomorrow people, I’m getting back into my regular morning discipline of writing.
Ah Niue…it’s such a bright place of sunshine, coconut trees and blue water. I’ve brought so many memories back here with me. I think the most memorable part of the trip for me though was having my first adventure scuba diving, swimming about in the reef ten metres below the surface among sea snakes and a wondrous plethora of multicoloured tropical fish. I will dive again.
Now, back to the writing, to look deep down below the surface…
It’s easy to make ‘whiplash’ decisions based on prior experiences, and lose the chance to experience new things. It’s easy to stay at home doing what you often do, playing computer games or watching television, and forget to engage with the world.
Perhaps I am naturally anxious, or have tended to be more careful, worrying about trying new things that could be truly life-changing. But when others suggest I try something new, I think I am now becoming more likely to experiment or try new things.
A few weeks ago, when my wife suggested that we take the kids for a walk in the rain, my first impulse was to think: ‘Hey, that’s crazy!’. And yes, it was bitterly cold that day. Wet, and muddy. But I’m glad I chose to ignore my first reaction to the suggestion.
I still remember the day we went walking together in the rain, my wife, the kids and I, huddled together against the cold, drinking coffee as we walked around the central city near the closed shops, and remember our youngest daughter giggling and trying to stomp in muddy puddles. I remember how we hid from the rain under one of the few shopfronts on Cashel Street near the restart mall as we ate our German hotdogs. The cold brought the family closer together.
But if I had chosen to stay at home that Sunday, it wouldn’t have been as memorable. I may not even have been able to recall enough details to be able to pass on the weekend events to my colleagues on a Monday morning.
My Chinese kickboxing coach, Alex Zhao, commented this evening that I can throw quite a good hook to the jaw. I guess this is an important attribute for a fantasy and horror writer. Still, I need to work on my staff and spear – never know when it may come in useful when I’m describing a fight scene in a story, or when I take that time machine back in time and am forced to fight with bandits or gangsters in an open field.
I got a pleasant surprise today. Checking my emails on the computer at 6AM, I saw an email from Flash Frontier, an international online flash fiction magazine. They want to publish my 250 word story, ‘Rubble’, in their June issue! This makes me very excited. It’s a great publication with high editorial standards devoted to short fiction, the June edition is an international edition, and it will be my second publication.
I’m still waiting on replies from work I’ve submitted to other publications. Maybe some of my horror poetry or stories were accepted. Or maybe I’ll get a hook to the jaw. Gotta roll with whatever occurs.
I’m finding it enormously productive to listen to audio-books when driving. Instead of listening to songs I don’t like, ads, or inane comments on current events or rugby, I can ‘read’ some more. And if I can ‘read’ this way, and then in text, it’s even better. I’ve listened to a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories, classic horror, and a couple of Andrei Sapkowski’s ‘Witcher’ novels while travelling from place to place.
I bought another Neil Gaiman book today: ‘The View From The Cheap Seats’. It’s not a novel, but a collection of non-fiction essays, articles and speeches. Like with the introduction to his short story collections, I find reading his ideas on writing, storytelling and how he put his stories together very inspiring. It also has the text of his speech ‘Do Good Art’, which I think has something to offer any writer. The speech itself is here:
I’ve been following Charlie Brooker’s advice (see the last post), and the month of May has been my most productive and destructive yet: productive, as I’ve made submissions to eight different magazines, ezines and competitions; destructive, in the amount of sentences chiselled away into the dark void in the impossible quest for perfection.
I’ve discovered deadlines in Pacific Standard Time are very forgiving on people from this part of the world, and that setting monthly targets is an excellent idea. I’ve also realised that although I would like to write from 6-7 AM, my current work timetable doesn’t really work in with this. Maybe in a month or so my situation will change.
Tomorrow I’m going to the XCHC to take part in an event called ‘Book Buzz‘. The award-winning Christchurch poet and children’s writer James Norcliffe will be launching his new book ‘Twice Upon a Time’ there. Other writers have book launches at the event too, but I don’t know them yet – check the link for information. There’s also an opportunity to take part in open mic, which I am very keen on. Should be fun.
Until next time,