Friday, June 21, 2013

Call Me Blogger

Call me Blogger or Blowhard, whichever you think is more apt or accurate. I bet you're itching to scold me for being a Melville-mugger since I've shamelessly snagged Ishmael's famous opening from Moby Dick; or, The Whale. For your information, I'm also referencing (pilfering) from the intro to Cat's Cradle. Oh yes, Foma and Grandfalloon fanatics, Mr. Vonnegut repackaged, re-purposed that juicy opener in his scrumptious Calypso Rhapsody. Ahem, here goes Vonnegut's twist. "Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did. They called me John." I dare you to find a snazzier or snarkier greeting. I double dog dare you.

Referencing is not only a high compliment to the artist, but it tells something about the person who is refashioning the thought, line, or idea and shaping it into a novel context. It shows you did your homework that you're not hiding under some rock but are engaged in your passion. Jazz musicians are masters of this trick. Poets too. Lately, I've been noodling with variations of this luring first-liner like an overzealous kid given an unchaperoned tub of Legos. It's good exercise. Better than dumbbell-curling or Chia Pet-grooming. Below you will find a few of my latest concoctions.

The New and Improved Lolita

Call me Humbert Humbert or Big Papi, but never, under any circumstances, call me Humperdinck don't even mention that lout even if you're in a lampooning mood because that greasy lounge lubber Jerry Lewis wannabe makes my skin crawl. I don't even like his superfluously-named superior that ho-hum composer from the 19th century with the kooky beard. Give me a book and a babe and I'll gladly shut my piehole.

Stop Whining Lot 49

Call me Mucho. All the swinging seƱoritas do while I'm spinning my set. You like Chuck Berry, the Four Tops? Got Vinyl? Meet me in the back of the Walmart parking lot and I'll take you for a whirl in my Dodge Duster.

Huck For Hire

Call me Huckleberry or Huck my homeslice Tommy often does. Can't ya tell this is my big break, my big launch and I'm gonna shine. You might recall I made my first appearance in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer some years back when I was still wet behind (maybe even dirty) behind the ears and that's kind of like how Spider-man got cooking. First, he appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 and then the focus groups and the comic-a-razzi gave him the big thumb's up and then boo-yah he got his own deal. You got a crib in Bushwick or Bed-Stuy I can crash in just till they front me my advance?

Jane (I'm Every Woman) Austin

Call me Jane or Zombie Queen. Nobody let's me sleep anymore. Frankly, if I may be so flippant, I feel like somebody turned me into a Seven Eleven. You might as well think of me as that lovable chameleon from Woody Allen's Zelig. I don't know how much of this morphing I can go through and where's my bobblehead and my bubblegum card? How can you say somebody is great unless they've had their picture plastered on a bubblegum card. Hmm.

That's all the noodling for now. See you at the local coffee beanery.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Welcome Back

Hello Sportsfans, We haven’t checked in for a while and we’re sorry for the hiatus. We’re going through a little transition and wanted to keep you cyber-posted. A lot has happened since we last clocked in and maybe that’s a good thing. We’ve still been writing and reading up a storm. And drinking lot’s of coffee. At some point, in the not too distant future, we are planning on releasing the follow-up to Shades of Luz. Fortunately, it’s not a sequel although there are plenty of monkeys in this adventure. The “Working Title” is “Disposable Heroes” and it takes place in an unknown Latin American country called Mamajuana. That’s about all the scoop we can share for now.The good news is that we plan on bugging you a bit with new posts. Soon. Hang onto your helmets. Sincerely, Slush Pile Editor #4

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Catching Up With Katherine Gilraine

Today my guest is the Distinguished Writer Katherine Gilraine whose first book of The Index Series was Runner-up at the Nashville Book Festival in the YA Category. Book 1 of her The Index Series made it into the 2nd Round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards back in March 2010. In addition to her amazing skill as an author, she is a talented graphic designer and music photographer.

JG: Katherine, thanks for agreeing to come back to my humble cyber abode. The last time you visited Paper Cut, you were putting out your first book of your series. Now you’re on Book 4. What’s that feel like to plow so far ahead?

KG: It still feels like I felt in college, when I was working on Book 1, that I had bitten off more than I could chew, in a certain sense. It’s just unbelievably huge to think that, in the past years, I’ve released a book a year, made some modest royalties, and had a very hands-on crash course in everything having to do with the publishing business. This series had changed my life in many, many ways, both as an individual and as a growing author, but every time I am wrapping up a manuscript, it feels just like the first time, every time.

JG: You’ve also recently launched your own company KG Creative Enterprises. What was the impetus behind that? Does running your own business cut into your writing time?

KG: I have a great number of creative skills, and everyone was always telling me, “Why not make money off it?” You know what – they’re right. And it doesn’t cut into my writing any more than my day job does; I offer writing/ghostwriting/editing services under the umbrella of KG Creative Enterprises, and I don’t see running my business as work. It’s something that feels very natural and right to me, like it’s what I’m meant to be doing.

JG: Where do you see The Index Series going? Do you plan on launching other projects?

KG: To film! I want it to go to the silver screen, and have started researching the nuances of screenwriting in order to re-template Book 1 into that form. In the meanwhile, I want to flex my short-story writing muscle. My editor, Gayle F. Moffet, had released an anthology of her short stories, and I got the idea of doing something similar, but encompassing my love of jazz.

JG: What have you been reading lately?

KG: I’ve really started digging into other indie authors. I meet and network with fellow self-pubs every day, and 9 times out of 10, I would click “Buy” on their Kindle links. Of course, this means that I have a very, very lengthy reading list, and I’ve been plowing through it on my daily commute. Some of these authors, like Rachel Cotterill, S.R. Torris, Taylor Wilmering, Jessica Elliott, and many many more, are extraordinarily talented. I cannot tell you just how much talent is out there, waiting to get tapped by a reader.

JG: Through the grapevine, I’ve heard you have a coffee habit. Me too. Balzac was said to have drank ten cups a day.

KG: I’m with Monsieur Balzac on this one. I drink about 6 myself, and vary with tea for good measure. I love a good English tea.

JG: What’s your experience been like with Goodreads?

KG: Frankly? I like it. It’s a much more reliable review system than Amazon. With Amazon and the deluge of 5-star reviews, I have grown to ask, “What won’t I like, then?” and that’s not a good way to start off a new read. Goodreads is much more honest, and there’s a lot to gain from recommendations.

JG: Besides Amazon, Barnes &, where else can we get copies of The Index Series? Do you have any readings coming up?

KG: Unfortunately, no readings yet. I am also available in print via CreateSpace. As far as other e-distributors are concerned, I will be honest in the fact that after Smashwords had its recent debacle, I would much rather not host my work through them. I’m working on finding alternate means to get my books to the iBook and Diesel markets.

JG: Do you go to any readings? What are your thoughts on them? It seems there is so much attention on video and Social Media. Has the paradigm shifted for building a readership?

KG: I would love to go, but it’s just been insane lately, as far as time is concerned. And while the options for readership-buildings had expanded, I am hard-pressed to say that in-person marketing isn’t the way to go. I have great success in getting new readers when I go out to social events…whenever that is.

JG: If you could pick one book, story, or thesis paper to have written which would you choose?

KG: That is a very good question. I would love to write a thesis on the mentality of people in the Gilded Age of America (industrial revolution, turn of the 20th Century), because my inner historian would be happy. And I think I would have to do just that; grad school is back on the table.

JG: I really enjoy your Improvisations on Reality blog. You cover some great topics like writing about what you fear. You also wrote a recent post about reviewer’s etiquette. It takes a lot of guts for a writer to put their stuff out there and then listen to the praise and potshots. What’s your initial response to a review? 1) A “good” review 2) A “bad” review?

KG: Thanks, JG. In both cases, I have to thank the reviewer for their opinion, and if I get a bad one, I try to address their questions – sometimes, anyway. The thing is this: every time you put your work out into a public medium, you become fair game. Anyone can read it, anyone can dislike it, but one way or the next, it’s your work.

As I said in the blog post, there is such a thing as a “good bad review”. If I get one of those, I take it as a valid critique and put myself into the reviewer’s shoes. If their point is valid, I file it away, and improve on it. If it is a not-so-good bad review, I file it away and don’t think about it. In the end it’s my story vs. other people’s opinion. I hadn’t given a whit of a care for other people’s opinions of me in some time and hardly intend to start; if I would, I doubt that I’d write another word, and that simply wouldn’t do.

JG: Last time you were on Paper Cut you said Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was your favorite author. Has that changed? Who else do you dig?

KG: Still a Sir Arthur fan, and have gotten heavily into reviewing self-published authors. I mentioned some names above, and stand by them. Those are some awesome authors, and I look forward to their next installments.

JG: Do you write every day?

KG: I try, but it doesn’t always work. I make sure to write at least 3-4 times a week, under any circumstances, even if it means just a blog post or a scribble in a journal. Life has a funny way of interfering with the best-laid plans.

JG: What are you reading now?

KG: Right now, I’m digging into Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith. I’ve read the entire Leo Demidov series so far (Child 44, The Secret Speech) and I find his writing very engrossing.

JG: Any parting words, wisdom for aspiring writers?

KG: Research, research, and research. When I had first started out with self-publishing, which was just as it was beginning to catch on but good, I had a crash course in how important it is to research absolutely everything about the various publication options before you decide to go with one or the next. You need to know writing on the business side if you want to get ahead, because no matter how much writing is a calling or an art form, first and foremost, it is an industry and functions as such. It is very, very important to build yourself as a businessperson as well as a writer, because you will invariably find that one is lost without the other.

JG: Please feel free to share anything else I may have missed out on.
Well, you haven’t missed out on much.  I’m still busy as hell, still work in accounting, still chase jazz, and have picked up a penchant for buffalo wings. Life is good, thinks I.

Release date for Book 4 is tentatively slated for May 13th, 2012.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Honoring the Maze Maven, Jorge Luis Borges at 112

Find your way out of maze as we celebrate the 112th birthday of Jorge Luis Borges. I’m sure he has had a tremendous impact on your writing. I know he has on mine. When I was introduced to his stories, more than a dozen years ago, I’d found my mentor. The very idea of sneaking hardcore philosophy into literature with such mathematical and narrative precision was an awakening for me.

Reading his brilliant stories, I realized it was imperative to tackle the unknown and deepen one’s prose with academic quandaries while still keeping one’s finger on the human pulse. Borges did this better than anybody I know. We think of HG Wells as the godfather of Sci-fi, Poe the high priest of the bizarre, and Sartre as the Prince of Philosophical lit, but Borges mixed these into his own unique stew.

I’d caution writers to read, but not emulate his style. It is too difficult to master and Post-Modernism has led to very mixed results. Then again, tapping into magic realism’s sly genius is great counterpoint for most of the realistic, hardboiled fluff we leaf through nowadays.

All I’m really saying is this, treat yourself to “The Dead Man”, “The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths”, “The Circular Ruins”, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”, really, anything you can get your hands on and don’t let a day go by without toiling over the nagging itch of writing. Grope for it like “The Book of Sand” or pinch for a single grain. One a day, mind you, will get you through the daily toil.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Interview with Robin Stratton

Today my guest is Robin Stratton. She’s the Editor-in-Chief of the fabulous Boston Literary Magazine.

JG: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Boston Literary Magazine is a wonderful journal. How long you been running BLM? How did you originally get involved?

RS: I started Boston Literary Magazine in 2006 after spending a week in Virginia at a writing workshop. I didn't know anything about the on-line community until then; came home, checked it out, and decided to become part of it by starting my own, and then sending my own stuff out.

JG: I thought it was originally called Boston Literary Review. Was there a name change?

RS: No, but we are often called that!

JG: What other journals have you been a part of?

RS: Only Boston Literary. One is enough!

JG: You have a few different categories of stories and poetry. What distinguishes them? How did you decide upon these particular categories?

RS: In the beginning we considered everything... but the longer pieces were just taking up too much time... I get hundreds of submissions a week, and if someone sends in three short stories that are 3000 words, it just gets to be too much. We now have a word limit of 250 words.

JG: Tell us the difference between dribbles and drabbles?

RS: Dribbles are EXACTLY 50 words... Drabbles are EXACTLY 100 words.

JG: Are dribbles and drabbles a BLM invention or do other Flash Journals have something similar?

RS: Drabbles have been around for a long time... I think there's a Wikipedia article about them... one of our editors came up with the name Dribble for 50 words, but I have also heard that genre called a Half-Drabble.

JG: What do you look for in a piece of fiction? What do you look for in a poem?

RS: I always look for a strong sense of character... I love feeling as if I am meeting someone whose fate interests me. I think it takes a lot more skill to craft scenes that show dynamics rather than a piece of writing that explains/analyzes characters.

JG: What turns you off?

RS: Anything titled "Untitled." Instant pass! I don't like when a pivotal line is in a foreign language— my rule is that I refuse to google anything... I don't have time for that. I pass on material that clearly makes a lot of sense to the writer, but no one else. This is just a personal preference, but I usually pass on stuff that's very global— "love is this" or "life is that" – and I also got tired a long time ago of stories/poems about characters from Greek or Roman mythology. And as much as I love a good deathbed scene, I've gotten so many that I've had to start passing on them.

JG: What impresses you?

RS: When I send someone feedback about how I think their piece could be stronger, and they rewrite it and turn it into exactly what I was looking for, and they say how much better it is now... I love when writers are open to comments... that tells me so much about them. I have a hard and fast rule that I never ever send a form rejection - every single person who writes gets a personalized reply - and I love when someone writes and thanks me for that... some have the grace to thank me even when I have passed on their work. That means a lot to me.

JG: Define story.

RS: Character, conflict, and satisfying resolution.

JG: Besides BLM, who else is going places in the Lit Mag World?

RS: I wouldn't even know where to begin! There are soooooooooooo many great mags out there!!

JG: Who is your readership? How large?

RS: What a great question— I wish I knew the answer! What I do know is that I've had to start taking breaks from submissions, which I didn't have to do for the first three years... we close for a month and a half after an issue comes out. Gives me a chance to go back to my other life. We also just started putting out a print issue, which has been a real blast!!

JG: How many souls in your staff?

RS: I have the most amazing webmistress who ever lived, and another editor who offers feedback from time to time. So three.

JG: How many submissions do you get a month? What is your acceptance rate?

RS: We get well over a thousand a month... probably 1500 or so... our acceptance rate is low... about 15%. We're fussy.

JG: Do you and the other editors ever clash about which pieces should be published? How do you resolve your differences?

RS: No, I am the only one who makes those decisions.

JG: Besides literature, what is your second greatest passion?

RS: Science... music... the internet!

JG: Any parting words?

RS: Advice to anyone wanting to be published by BLM or any other magazine... I can't stress this enough: Read the Submission Guidelines!! It's such a huge waste of when someone sends in something that's not suitable (non-fiction, a novel excerpt, stories that are longer than 250 words.) It's a waste of their time, too!

Robin Stratton is the editor-in-chief of Boston Literary Magazine. You can check out their Spring 2011 issue which is available now

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hail to the Guitar Heroes

I just saw the Guitar Heroes exhibition at the Met and it got me thinking about craft again. How you like them apples? When you look at the beautiful ebony fingerboards and the spruce body you get that strumming sensation. What really surprised me was that much of what is considered modern guitar-making owes its shiny frets to some of the most hallowed luthiers like Stradivari and Guarneri who are often most noted for their exquisite violins. The care and attention given to each instrument was unparalleled.

But as much as I wanted to draw a profound connection between word-building and guitar-making it became apparent to me that I should consider the art of bookbinding. That was the ticket. Of course guitar-making has more in common with bookbinding than writing. I’d been the exhibits at The Center for Book Arts in Chelsea so I’d seen some of it firsthand. They actually have courses in bookbinding. Their exhibitions are a treat. I’ve had the privilege to check out a few of their special events. If you love machines, cool implements and have a penchant for parchment this might be a fun way for you to kill some time. They have a collection of over 2000 books and a healthy archive. So if you’re one of those worrywarts who think paper books are doomed you’ll be pleased to know these special museums will keep cloth and binding alive.

What did strike me as interesting was that bookbinding doesn’t seem to have legacy of famous craftsmen. We know certain locations that produced great work like Nag Hammadi in ancient Egypt and that the monks during the Middle Ages spent a lot of time binding codices, but generally speaking the artists aren’t singled out. Writers have always seemed to play second fiddle to musicians even when classical music rocked the house. Naturally musicians get more hype, but the instrument-makers were also revered. Take a look at a Christie’s auction. Watch the movie Red Violin to get a taste. I’m sure you’re familiar with the names Stradivari and Guarneri. And if you’re a rocker you’re gaga for the genius of Monteleone, D’Angelico, and D’Aquisto (which are a bit more obscure) although you have probably heard of Gibson.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Paper Chase

Paul Auster tells the heartbreaking story of running into Willie Mays’s as a little kid and asking the legend for an autograph. The pint-sized Auster didn’t have a pencil to his name and Mays didn’t have one either. After several minutes of frenzied pocket-rummaging, Auster came up with nothing but lint and an empty gum wrapper. He was so stunned he couldn't even cry. He loafed there flatfooted with his t-shirt untucked, one block from the old Polo Grounds and his childhood hero turned the corner and disappeared. Little Paul vowed always to carry a pencil everywhere he strode. The tragedy would become a triumph years later. That episode bore the right of passing for a great New York Author.

Now where fact meets fantasy I’m not sure, but as Auster has pointed out that experience taught him a valuable lesson. To always, always be prepared. Of course, the pen, the pencil, the Crayon, the bloodied finger: all suffice as writing tools.

I’m pretty good about stocking writing ammo. My Achilles Heel is in the scroll. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a loss for paper when the magic moment hits me. Fortunately, I’m blessed with the resourceful gene. I’ll use a napkin, a flyer, a takeout menu. This happens quite a bit. Believe it or not, I use newspapers. The mad scribble gets a bit messy, but it does the trick. Sure it looks really strange, but it's better than letting my thoughts slide out of my creative ether. Transcribing becomes a bit of a mission. The jumble of words takes on a Sanskrit-type look, which isn’t so bad. It makes me think of the monks and what they must have went through when they were engaged in their own transcription.

Do I recommend this for the casual free-write? It’s not a terrible exercise to undergo, but I wouldn’t want you to make a habit of it and don’t get me wrong this isn’t my chief M.O (modus operandi).

Ideally, I stock a handful of scrap paper in my back pocket, jacket pocket, the side flap of my shoulder bag, and under the sole of my shoe. I’m loaded to the gills with paper. You remember the 80’s shoulder pad fad? Okay, I don’t go that far, but I lose track of some of my storing places which causes its own problems, but I can’t be blamed for being idle. The goal is to keep cranking out genius. I tend to rip up most of what I write. So much for genius. Much of my scrap paper happens to be printouts of earlier drafts of stories, novels-in-progress, and a hodgepodge of other whatnots. It’s nice to see where things are going and be a little bit green at the same time.

Scrap on.