Anthology Awesomeness

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This is a squee moment so cover your ears.  /squee/

Okay, I’m done now. But I may break into random happy dancing as I write this. You have been warned. I may give Elaine from Seinfeld a run for her money in the dorky dance contest.

I got news today that the anthology, At Second Glance, for which my short story “Edom the Treasure Keeper” was purchased, is available for ordering.  My story details the events before “Jack in the Beanstalk.” There are a ton of wicked cool other stories in there as well. Order your copy today.  I will see my own copies hopefully soon otherwise you would get some fresh-off-the-printing-press photo spam right about now. I’m excited and nervous and anxious and proud all wrapped into a tight ball of giddiness. My name as an emerging writer. Coolness to the Nth degree. Truly.

Here’s what’s written on the jacket cover:

There are always at least two viewpoints to every story and yet, we usually only hear one. A different perspective can provide an entirely different story than the commonly known tale; the other side of the looking glass, so to speak. This year, our anthology series continues with volume 4: At Second Glance, an anthology dedicated to exploring those alternate angles. Inside you’ll find exciting new tales by established authors such as Felice Picano, as well as stories from emerging writers like Evan J. Peterson, Casondra Brewster and Louis Flint Ceci. Readers will even find a piece from our volume editor, Eric Andrews-Katz. From comic art to playscript, from mythology to modern fantasy; all the pieces take the reader forward by glancing back.

/faint. And the cover art from Garth Meske is breathtaking.

At Second Glance, Gay City Anthology Volume Four

These types of anthologies from Gay City are so important to the literary world.  These anthologies and its sister literary journals (KNOCK, Line Zero, Glimmer Train, Palooka, Tin House and Zahir, to name a few)  take chances on emerging writers and those trying to make our way in the choppy waters of the publishing world.  Therefore supporting such endeavors are critical if you think that a) our culture is better because of art, b) this is the only way new, experimental, transgressive or any other edgy work is going to make its mark in ink,  c) you know not everyone can live in a cubicle and must make a living some how, and lastly, d) see reason A, again.

These journals are where folks like me get our highly coveted branding as “emerging writer.” It’s what makes agents take a chance on us. It’s kind of like having compost in your garden. It’s the difference between having a two tomato harvest to a 22-tomato harvest.

So, I beseech you to support the At Second Glance anthology for the reasons above, including that yours truly has a story in it. It will be available later this week on Amazon.com, too. You know, in case you have a gift card sitting around from Aunt Martha and you want to use your new found wealth to support artists and newbie urban farmers like myself.

 Consider it a gift for the authors as well as into the ether of art-dom. Well, that, and you’ll have my undying gratitude, wherein I’ll spew digital thanks all over the screen. Hey, I’ll try to be neat about it, I promise.

 

 

 

Chef Casz and her Crock Pot

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I’m working hard on creating some new dishes and the inspiration comes from my desire to stay at my desk and write and NOT go to the grocery store every damn day.

Today I created:  Gringo Chicken.

 Ingredients:

Gringo Chicken for the Slow Cooker Ingredients

Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (Frozen – recipe can handle up to eight)

Frozen sliced multi-colored peppers (to taste — I used 1/2 a bag)

Can of green chilis

Can of white beans

2 Cans of Cream of Chicken Soup

1 Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup

Diced Tomatoes

Mojito Lime Grill Mates Seasoning

Cooking Spray

(Cooked Rice, prepared separately to serve with)

Directions:

Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray. (I have an oval six quart slow cooker. It looks like this.) Cover the bottom of the crock pot with sprinkling of the Mojito Lime Grill Mates seasoning (You can use more or less dependent on your taste).  Next put in the frozen chicken thighs. (I had six filets). Put in remainder of ingredients on top (no particular order is necessary). Cook on high for five hours (if you need more time, switch to low and you should be good for up to 8 hours). About halfway through I did stir it; but, it’s not necessary. Serve over hot rice.  We garnished with chipotle hot sauce.

Results:  

Everyone loved it. Leftovers are yummier.

Adjustments:

Next time I’ll cut back to one can of cream of chicken soup and add a second can of beans. I also would use just a touch more peppers. Maybe 2/3 of the bag.

 

 

Retraining the Psychological Writing Brain

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It’s been just under six months since I started writing for my livelihood, a foolish choice by most, since my savings and regular gigs were low and few. But, it was that or walk into the Snoqualmie Riverwith stones in my pockets.  Seriously, I could hardly stand another day in my former day-job life. However, that’s not what this blog post is about. No, it’s about figuring it out.

When I had *TSSDJ, I had to carve out time for writing. The muse and desire would build up so fast and so strong that when I sat down to write, it would come spilling out – erupting, if you will, like a formerly dormant volcano. It seemed easy.

Now that writing is the focus, I struggle more. I have found that my time at the keyboard is much more difficult. I have to squeeze that last bit of story much like getting the last dose of toothpaste from the tube. I have to massage and work it from the bottom of my writing soul on up to get it to dribble – and yes, often times; it’s a dribble – out.

When I discuss this with some of my family and friends – both writing and non-writing types – they give me all kinds of advice.

“Go take a walk.”

I do that. My dog and I walk almost every day.

“Go volunteer.”

I’ve been volunteering for years.

“Go read.”

Reading is part of my daily schedule.

“Just write, don’t worry about if it’s no good.”

Revision is part of my writing life.

“Go get another day job.”

What? Go get another day job? But this is my day job.

All of this gives me pause. I reflect. I inspect. It makes me wonder if it’s psychological. Is it purely an example of psychological reactance? I couldn’t have the writing life when I had TSSDJ. Therefore, when I had a moment to ‘pretend’ I was a writer, I actually was. My attention was heightened. I paid more attention to my creativity much like you pay attention to the donuts, potato chips and nachos when you’re on a restricted diet. My writing time was scarce, so my perception was that it was precious and I relished it. Almost as if the writing time was a one-of-a-kind item on Etsy. You pay attention; you give over resources without question just to have it. You are like a competitive gamer giving up sleep to reach a new achievement.

Now, however, there’s a voice in my head that says, often, and with which I must battle daily, is that I may focus on other things than my writing because I can write whenever. The genuine artist in me scoffs and forces my butt in the chair…most times. But that part of me doesn’t always win, and I spend the day focusing on rearranging the kitchen cupboards or reorganizing my scarf drawer. Oh and the Internet. How it distracts me; fortunately not more than any other project (like Yule present making I have to focus on soon). I can find so many things to do but write.

At this moment, I’m not sure how I’m going to retrain my brain to go from wanting to be a writer because I can’t do it to understanding I am a writer and I need to write to actually be one.

This article in Forbes magazine reminded me why I wanted to do this. Author as a profession is one of the happiest on the planet. My inner and outer happiness depends on writing and that’s why I turned my world upside down to live a writing-focused life. Getting to author, however, is a long hard climb. Those who know me personally know I’ve never done much in my life the easy way. I’m cursed, what can I say? It gives me things to write about, for sure.

The awareness alone of realizing I’m playing these mind games with myself is part of the solution. Yet, beyond that I’m not sure how to retrain my creative muse to overflow the words and stories like before when that wasn’t my sole focus.

Stick with me and you might find out how I figured it out. Until then, I must go write, drip, leak, trickle or slop and spatter. It must come out.

 

*The Soul-Sucking Day Job

Carrying Bernie’s Scent

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I wrote a novel back in 2006-07. It is for all intense purposes the only romance I’ll ever write. Even then the romance folks won’t publish it because it isn’t bodice-ripping enough and there isn’t this big happy ending. No the ending is more an individual victory, which to me is a happy ending. But, you know many folks in the publishing industry have what I like to call formula brain. It – this manuscript called ‘Wink’ – doesn’t fit the formula or the mold of former success; no one is going to buy it. To their credit the buying public can be that way (I’ve worked in retail in the past, there does seem to be a bit of sheeple-ness to purchasing matrixes). At any rate, I have to give you this back story, because my Free-Range Fiction piece this week is based upon a prompt and incorporates two people in the story. We won’t mention that the main character of Bernie has been speaking to me again lately and she has more stories to tell. (Dear Bernie:  I’m not Jennifer Weiner any more than I am Stephen King. You may want to find a different channel.)

This is the prompt as stolen from A Working Writer’s Daily Planner:  “Picture a conversation between two people you know who will never get a chance to speak to each other. Real people in your life who, for whatever reasons, are highly unlikely to ever meet. Yet suddenly they have. Why? Without your being there, what are they saying? Do they realize they know you? What would they say about you if they make the connection?”

Except that these are two who people reside in Bernie’s life. Not mine.  Without further ado…

 

Carrying Bernie’s Scent

 

“Jack with a beer chaser.”

“Preference on the draft?”

“Cold.”

The bartender gave a little courtesy laugh and shuffled his feet behind the bar between the well and the tap. The clock on the wall behind him with old English-scripted numerals read 11:05. The sun outside told the world it was a.m.  Charles, as his name plate on his black vest read, felt a wave of sadness for the man sitting at his bar. He wasn’t one of the overnight plant workers, or the retirees escaping their overbearing spouses, or a unit of the cluster of the functional alcoholics that normally would be in The Okra Pig this time of a day. This kid – yeah, he was a kid – was at the crossroads and he chose to spend his Wednesday morning to fill up a bar stool and empty a glass, or two or three or god knows how many. Charles presented the Jack and Abita draft.

“Thanks, man.”

“Ohio?” Charles answered.

“What?”

“Are you from Ohio?”

“No, Michigan.”

“Ah, yeah, North, like I thought.”

“That obvious?”

“Yeah. Kind of a side effect of this job,” Charles said. He stuck out his hand, “Welcome to Baton Rouge.”

“Daniel,” The dark-haired, young man shook the bartender’s hand. “Daniel K. Stokes.”

“Charles,” he smiled. “Charles P. Briggs.”

“Nice to meet you, Charles.”

Charles gave him a sympathetic smile. Daniel downed the Jack and followed it with a sip of beet. He slid the shot glass over to Charles. The older man filled it up with more whiskey. He watched the young men only take a sip of this shot as opposed to downing it like earlier, as if it would burn the sadness in him. He made work by stocking bottles and washing glasses. Daniel nursed his beer and second shot, starring into both glasses as if they were a television, with programs on that only the young man could see. Charles mind wandered for a moment on whether or now there would be any other customers any time soon.

Daniel let out a sigh and looked to Charles as if he was going to say something, but then he just pursed his lips tighter. He pulled out a handkerchief, one that obviously had belonged to a woman – needlepoint trim in lavender – and took a deep breath. Then he set it down on the bar and looked at that.

“Not a lot of men would do something like that in public,” Charles said without reservation.

Daniel shrugged, “A lot of men haven’t met Bernie.”

Charles raised his eye brows. Daniel downed the last of the whiskey in the small glass that had T-O-P etched into it like some sort of monogram.

“A woman.”

“Of course,” Charles smiled, his white teeth gleaming against his tanned skin. “Isn’t it always?”

“Hadn’t been for me,” Daniel looked at Charles. “Bernie was one of a kind. But I couldn’t seem to make her love me.”

“Nah, you can’t do that to anyone. Not ever. I don know that feeling. There was a Bernie once that I knew. She made all the men crazy. Course she was crazy, too. Wore all these different hats each day.”

Daniel looked up, then immediately stood up, “Holy…”

“What’s wrong? You okay?” Charles didn’t need the aide car coming to the pub today. He didn’t need the liquor commission knocking on his door.

“You know Bernie,” Daniel’s eyes widened and looked in brilliant bewilderment at Charles. “You know MY Bernie.”

“I do?”

“Different hat, crazy…fucking fantastic Bernie,” he sighed again and sat back down on the wooden bar stool. “How do you know Bernie?”

“She lived down here, a long time ago; she was just a pup then. Used to even work here – when this place was the go-to place for the university kids.”

“She never told me – course we only had a few months together. It was all I needed to know I loved her. Man, she just slipped away.”

“Brother,” Charles said. “It’s for the best. You ever see her on a full moon?” Charles thought about how Bernie had kicked out a gang of bikers who had tried to steal her tips with nothing but a lashing of her tongue and a waving of a very pissed off finger.

“Yes, and I even loved her then.” Daniel thought about how Bernie had thrown spaghetti at him after she had overreacted to something he had said and how they had made love in the kitchen even with the sauce simmering on the stove.

Charles shook his head and poured the boy another shot, “You got it bad, son.”

Daniel just nodded, “Thanks.”

“You have a place to go when you finish here?”

“Yeah, I’m staying in the Colonial Inn.”

“Good, I’ll make sure your body gets there in one piece,” Charles said. But I can’t do shit for your heart, son, he thought.

 

P.W.F. Reflection: Slave is a subjective word

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I’m not the kind of woman that men go to war over. No, instead they sent me to war. Hell, most people don’t even notice when I walk in the room – unless societal politeness compels them. I’m not blonde. I have plain mouse-brown hair with muting gray highlights. I don’t exude sexuality. No, I exude plainness. Any sexuality I once owned was sucked dry by vampiric men long ago. I certainly don’t have people writing poetry about me. I’m not graceful. I fall often. My body has so many scars, folks shake their heads in wonder I’m not dead. I wonder, too.  I am not an eloquent speaker. I cuss and swear and spice my dialogue with dropped g’s and ain’t’s and the slang du jour. My skin is pale like moonlight. Not inviting and warm or rich. My nose sits crooked and misshapen by heredity and accidents and more than one abuse. Smiles most days come slow to me, my teeth imperfect and stained from years of abuse from caffeine and nicotine and dental paranoia. My gray eyes don’t sparkle or have fluttering long eyelashes. No honey flecks or alluring almond shape to line with kohl. No elegant fingers to play the cello. I chew them into submission instead. My hearing is convoluted right now with constant ringing. Earrings just catch my clothing and scratch my lobes. Breathing without hesitation and antihistamines is not possible any more. My youthful world was polluted and gray and bleak. Such a past shrouds my health.  There is no coin in my purse. No black in my bank. People ask what is wrong or say they are worried, but I don’t feel sincerity with their words. I feel marginalized. Yet many say, “Oh white girl! That is not for you.” My lack of identifiable diversity makes me not embraceable. Again my experience is trivialized. I debate. I am shushed. “Child, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” How do I not know my own experience? It becomes a scale of my people versus their people. Who are my people? I have no true tribe. The human race only, I see. Don’t judge, they say. Yet, they judge. My skin betrays my actual experience. I don’t understand what line from which I descend, for there are many. This world, it seems to be producing a Diaspora of human beings. No matter their genetic make up. No matter their wealth. Period. But I can’t make others see. I try to grasp onto grace, but it sprints away to those with many bracelets and sandaled feet, whose stunning skulls are exquisite even without hair. Yet they have magnificent manes all the same. They are allowed to be positive despite the unattractive past. While I try to embrace that Zen-like loveliness, I am perceived as unreliable and undesirable. “Why do you behave so abnormally?” I’m asked. But wait, didn’t you say this is how one should live? Oh, that’s only for you? When I started to notice this injustice I was so angry. But the anger solves nothing. It changes not a thing. It just makes me an angry plain white female. Few find that fascinating, attractive or of value.

I sit here trying to make sense of it all. To take away something useful and worthy and move forward in evolution as a species. Achieve all that I can, should be the goal. One mission that benefits many not just the one should be in the sights. But all I can see is the plainness of me — nothing unique to give me a voice or place from which to be listened.

So I remain silent. I continue to suffer. I am shamed into a new kind of slavery.