Thursday, December 30, 2010

Til Death Do Us Part -- A Look at Reading Cycles and Series

My books of 2010 post has got me thinking about something: my reading habits. And, more importantly, how my reading habits have changed. I only had one fantasy novel on the list. Which might be odd, considering I want to be an, um, fantasy novelist.

Now there's a few reasons for this. One is simply that my reading tastes are much more diverse and eclectic than they once were. In that regard, the balance is necessarily going to change. When I was young I read mostly fantasy, with smatterings of other things. Now I read mostly other things, with smatterings of fantasy.

Now, I think that breadth of reading is good for me as a writer (and human being), even as a writer of fantasy. ***Which is not to say that it would necessarily be good for every writer of fantasy -- just for me, at the least.*** And part of it, too, is that I don't find as much fantasy as I would like that satisfies the complexity I desire in a story, and meets character, style and swordfight quotient needs. Which, of course, is part of the reason I write the kind of stories I write, because I feel there might be something missing, and that other readers might feel this lack as well.

Yet I've been thinking about something else, as well, and that has to do with the physical form of fantasy itself -- the series. Because a lot of the great fantasy writers (particularly in epic fantasy) work in series. And often pretty long series. And when I was young this was fine, because I was usually reading a whole bunch of series at once. I might be in the middle of ten or twenty at any one time. And new books in the different series would pop up fairly regularly, keeping me in reading material as I rotated endlessly through the different series. And if there was a lull, I could always search out a new series or author, or use that time to enjoy one of the smatterings, one of the non-fantasy books on my reading list.

But as the ratio started leaning more to the smatterings than to the fantasy, something else happened. It wasn't just a change in taste, but a change in the patterns of my reading. I was now separated from that cycle of endless series, interchanging and handing me off from book to book. And I now find it harder to keep up with series.

I find, now, that I start some good series, but divorced from that cycle of reading I don't wait for the next book, don't search it out when it arrives - even if I fully enjoyed the opening of the series. Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie... these guys are worth reading more of. But I'm out of that series loop.

It's a matter of habit, I suppose. Tracking series, targeting the new books when they come out, a matter of developing a fluid reading schedule. You kind of tie yourself in to a commitment: I'm going to read a bunch of books by this author, with installments coming over a few (possibly many) years. The reading life partly planned out long in advance...

I find this harder now. My choice of reading matter now is very... whimsical? Mercurial? I don't know what I'm going to read, usually, until I pick it off the shelf. A matter of feel, of tone, of trying to satisfy some sort of amorphous need I can't pidgeonhole let alone describe. It's an ephemeral path that connects my books, that links together my reading life.

And yet I miss series reading, too. That sense of engagement that comes with such a long narrative, the sense of familiarity and comfort.

One of my goals for the new year is to read more fantasy/speculative fiction. Yet I wonder if I can succeed? I'm curious to see how ingrained my reading habits have become. And if I'm successful, how will it affect those habits?

What about you, Fellow Sophisticates? Have your reading habits changed? What's your experience of series and reading commitments?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

200th Post? Are You Kidding Me? Plus, Great Books

Yup, this is the 200th post here at the Alchemy of Writing. Does that mean we've been going well? Or slacking? Well, whatever it is, it's been fun. Thanks to everyone who's chipped in to the Alchemical conversation, and in particular to my amigos, Wanu and Bookworm, and the Fellow Sophisticates.

And it seems that for the 100th post I blurbed and linked 100 great books... so I thought Why not do it again? And then I remembered that post almost killed me. Yes, the long black tunnel, the shining light at the end... all the ex-girlfriends trying to shove me along.

Okay, it wasn't all of them.

Okay, it was.

So instead of 100 books, I'll just do some of the great books I read this year. Some people stick to the best books published in 2010... but since I'm perennially behind the publishing times in my reading it would look like I don't, you know, actually read. Which I do!

So just a collection of random great books I read this year. That should be enough. If not, I shall come and burn all your tinsel. And that stuff burns, baby. Won't need no yuletide logs, is what I'm saying.

Okay then.

Literary Fiction
Light Boxes, by Shane Jones. A weird and surreal modern fable in which February lets fall an endless winter on a small town, and nothing is permitted flight. Yet the town fights back, led by a community of balloonists. Yes, I know you want to read it. Please do.
Solo, by Rana Dasgupta. A strange novel in which stories are wound together, and what is story and what is fact becomes blurred. What sort of truth lies in the fictions we tell ourselves?
Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel. This is a beautiful and strange and stunning book, circling the Holocaust and coming at it obliquely - which happens to be both the theme and the subject matter of the novel itself. An absolutely brilliant book. I really liked Life of Pi, but Beatrice and Virgil is a better book. Perhaps a truly great one.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. I finally read it! And yes, it was brilliant. It took me awhile to get into it, but the ending (and the build-up to that ending) is fantabulously marvellous.
The Ecstatic, by Victor Lavalle. Another great book, and somewhat like Oscar Wao in its interesting and atypical protagonist. And it might be a more even and consistently good book than Oscar Wao, though it can't match the ending. More people should know about Lavalle.
Lost City Radio, by Daniel Alarcon. A riveting look at the end product of war and broken revolutions, tracked through the lost and missing - the empty spaces in the lives of those left behind.
Twilight of the Superheroes, by Deborah Eisenberg. Short stories! A wonderful and diverse collection by one of the best short form writers out there. Full of awesome.
Money From Hitler, by Radka Denemarkova. Talked a bit about this one here.
Black Dogs, by Ian McEwan. I read McEwan's newest book, Solar, as well, and while it was very good I much preferred this older, and less well known, of his novels, Black Dogs. I thought it was wonderful from the opening line. And the opening line is a beauty.

Toll the Hounds, by Steven Erikson. The latest (the 8th) in my favourite fantasy series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Like the others in the series, it percolates with madness, and its sheer size and scope and complexity is a little intimidating. But for depth of imagination, nothing beats it. Note to self: Read more fantasy next year.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley. Child protagonists in adult novels sometimes grate on me, but this fine mystery was an exception. Flavia's almost sociopathic tendencies made it an interesting read.
Sun and Shadow, by Ake Edwardson. How come the peaceful Scandinavians write so many great crime novels? A mystery, indeed. And we have another fine example here.
The Big Gold Dream, by Chester Himes. An oldie but a goodie. A fantastic black detective team in old-time Harlem.
I Was Dora Suarez, by Derek Raymond. A pioneer of British noir, and this is dark indeed. Brutal and heavy, but the writing is wonderful and the mood overpowering.

The Shadow of the Sun, Another Day of Life, The Emperor, Shah of Shahs, al by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Needless to say, one of my new favourite writers. A brilliant journalist, both in terms of his writing and his willingness and ability to observe from the ground. Shadow of the Sun charts dozens of large and small stories in Africa (and is the sort of book that reconfirms my desire to be a writer), while Another Day of Life charts civil war in Angola. Shah of Shahs follows revolution in Iran, while The Emperor deconstructs the court politics in Emperor Selassie's Ethiopia.
Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers. A wonderful book about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, but also about race and culture and pereception in America.
Dark Summit, by Nick Heil. If you liked Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, you'll like Dark Summit. A fascinating, and riveting, look at life and death atop the highest place on earth.
The Tiger, by John Vaillant. A strange story of vengeance -- a tiger's vengeance against the man who wronged him. And, of course, the aftermath, and the necessity of further death. An intriguing narrative.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Hasn't it all been said already? A little lacking in the depth and psychology I might have wanted in this scenario, but you can't argue with the author's brilliance at pacing and tension. A great read.
Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson. A classic, and deservedly so. I mean, you know things never end well for the dogs in these books. But the narrative is fascinating, and the voice is pitch perfect. Once hooked, I'd follow that voice anywhere. And the little brother pitching stones... makes me laugh every time.

So, that's it. Great books! A strange year has passed! Anyone else looking forward to the new one? I certainly am. High expectations! Optimism is surprisingly cheap. See you all on the far side of Christmas, sated with Turkey and pie and all manner of deliriously sinful chocolates. Plus, egg nog. Can't forgo the Nog. Right? Right? Who's with me?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Is Your Work in Progress a Mystery? (And I don't mean a whodunnit)

Do people know what you write?

It's a simple question, but maybe the answers are sometimes more complex than expected. I've been thinking about this for a bit, mostly on account of a couple of conversations with my friend Matt Rush. And I'll buy him a Vikings jersey if he minds me putting this here.

So the latter of those two conversations was a few days ago, when he mentioned that he didn't know much about my work in progress, and hadn't really felt like it was his place to ask, because I might be keeping the information close to the vest intentionally.

And the earlier conversation was a month or two ago, when Matt found out that I wrote (in terms of my WIP novel) epic fantasy.

Does that surprise? AT first I was surprised that he was surprised. And then I started thinking... about my blog and blog friends, first and foremost. What's on my blog? A lot of stuff about writing in general, as well as some of flash fiction -- which, as it happens, is all literary or literary magical realism.

So maybe other people would be surprised that I spend the bulk of my time writing epic fantasy? It's interesting to think about, as it involves trying to look at yourself through the eyes of someone else, wondering how you present yourself to the world.

I'm an eclectic reader, and somewhat of an eclectic writer, too. I write literary and fantasy, and a magical realist hybrid of the two (sometimes with other genres, like crime and mystery, leaching into those forms). But I think my goal has always been to be a fantasy novelist. My first love. And it was a love that implanted some sort of deep obsession. Novelist! Yes! Sign me up!

I also dabble in literary novels, but my professional goal focuses on becoming that weird and strange breed of madman, the fantasy novelist. Unless someone wants to offer me a huge advance for a literary novel. Just sayin'.

So here we have the fact that I spend endless hours flicking away at laptop keys, writing about sword fights and magic. And also there's the fact that apparently I don't seem to talk about it much. Which is odd considering I (and my buddies) have a blog about writing (and yes, they, at least, know what I write :).

Now, I usually don't talk about projects when I'm working on a first draft. This is true. I'm not sure if it's superstition or merely an idea of energy conservation -- I don't want to expend narrative energy anywhere except on the page. And, perhaps, I don't want opinions yet, either. I don't want other views trying to shape or influence either me or the work in progress. I simply have a vision I wish to follow, and I want a silent world in which to track that tricky monster through the snow.

But my WIP is long past the first draft stage. Heck, if someone gets me talking about it I might not shut up. So it's not that I don't like to talk about my writing.

But perhaps I see it as an imposition? Do any of you feel this? Like, if you start jabbering about the WIP you'll suddenly become that old guy at the bar mumbling on to everyone and no one about his one big thing thirty years ago and wasn't it so great? I suppose I don't want to push my story on anyone, if they're not interested. Maybe I know I won't shut up once started, so I'm merely saving myself from future social awkwardness and embarassment. For example...

Ink: "Should I buy that sequinned shirt that's supposed to be for men?"


Am I the only one like this? Do the rest of you secretly yearn for sequins? Oops, I mean, do the rest of you talk about your works in progress? Do people know what you write? Do you have rules for discussing your writing?

And if people don't know what type of things you write... what would their guess be? And would they be surprised to learn the truth?

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Hey, just wanted to mention that my story Reunion is up over at The Novel Road.

Toot toot!

(The sound of me tooting my own horn...)

(Jeez, I kill me)

(Okay, I'll stop now)


Friday, December 17, 2010

Life and Death Through the Eyes of a Child - The World in Miniature

by M.A. Leslie

Life and Death Through the Eyes of a Child

The walls were blood-red brick, the building seeming treacherous despite its goal of healing. The young man held his wife’s hand tight, the removable baby seat carrier in his other hand. Together they strode forward to face the battle for their two-month-old daughter’s recovery, a daughter that they had only known for days but loved their whole lives.

An internal battle of red against white as the blood cells tried to fight it out. And there they were, inside of the hematology and oncology ward, looking for reinforcements.

Yet the young man was beginning to feel guilty about his daughter’s ailments. She had a disorder a problem, and while she would suffer a transfusion and treatment, she would get better. However, there were other young soldiers around. Little ones with wide eyes, sad faces, and no hair were battling a worse enemy. How could he pity himself?

Their names were called and they went to the back room, escaping the stares of the children.

He took a seat next to his wife and they waited in the room with the door open and he eavesdropped as a young girl spoke in the room across the hall. “Good afternoon, doctor.”

“Well how are you today, Ms. Sarah Morley?” a seasoned doctor said in a joking voice.

The young man got up from his seat and walked to the doorway to see the little girl. Her hair was just stubble on top of her head and a light glowed from her blue eyes. She seemed happy and despite a thousand reasons to frown, she smiled.
The doctor pulled out her four inch medical chart and opened it to the recent pages. Sarah gave it a quick study and asked, “Do I have the thickest chart in the files yet?”

The doctor shook her head at the girl’s persistent competitiveness and said, “No, not yet. There are a few more with thicker.”

She replied, with a cunning and beautifully wise smile, “At least I still have a chart.”

Bonus Announcement: My friend Susan Quinn is having a fabulous contest for charity! Check it out here. Who's your llama?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alchemical Transformation - From Interviewer to Interviewee

I love interviews with writers.

I love reading them, and would recommend that every writer reads the Paris Review Interviews, Volumes 1 to 4. (Must read! Must read! Must read!) And I've also enjoyed intervieweing writers, both on my blog and elsewhere (including a wonderful one I had published with the Canadian writer Daphne Marlatt). I'm endlessly fascinated about the uniqueness of each writer, and also with the common bonds that tie us together in this strange and interesting pursuit.

But, recently, and for the first time, someone interviewed me. Very strange! Odd to wear the other hat, as it were. And it was also a fun experience, and I want to thank Doug Morrison for the opportunity. If anyone's interested, you can find it here.

And check out some of the other interviews while you're there: writers like Dale Brown, Tawna Fenske, Kennedy Foster, Sean Ferrell, Robin Becker and Brian Haig, as well as other industry experts.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Creative Control

A question: how many of you out there are intrigued by creative control of your book as a product?

What with the grand advent of self-publishing, I've been wondering about this a bit. In traditional publishing you don't really have much say. You get the words in line, the publisher handles the rest. Why let a writer have a say, when it's possible they don't know what they're doing?

But with self-publishing writers can gain control over many of these aspect. Paper and font and design and, of course, the cover. Because writers are creative people, and will often have other creative interests, like art, design, computer graphics, etc. But even without those skills it has to be tempting...

I think a lot of writers have such clear images of their stories, and these images translate into ideas and desires about the book itself, about the book as a physical object. They can picture a cover, how their name is printed, whether it's glossy or matte...

So what about you? Do you ever have that urge to do it all yourself? My friend Renee did this, and I think she enjoyed finding the images, deciding what she wanted the cover to be like... but with this came all the little details that are a headache, most likely, without an expert. Page layout, file formats, embedding images...

So what do you think about creative control?

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Had Trouble in Getting to Brooklyn, It's True

Mad props, as always, to my fabulous co-writer, Dr. Seuss. An absolute pleasure to work with, I must say.

I Had Trouble in Getting to Brooklyn, It’s True

I was real happy and carefree and young
And I always wrote stories using the theories of Jung
And nothing, not anything ever went wrong
Until… well, one day I was writing along
And I guess I got careless. I guess I got messing
With adverbs, not seeing what I was stressing

And that’s how it started.
Zot! What a shot!
I stubbed my big brain
On a very hard plot
And I flopped in the chair
(Oh so, so, so pale)
And I sprained the main bone
In the tip of my tail!

Now, I never had ever had
Troubles before.
So I said to myself,
“I don’t want any more.
If I watch out for plots
With my eyes straight ahead,
I’ll keep out of trouble
Forever,” I said.

But, watching ahead…
Well, it just didn’t work.
I was watching those plots. Then I felt a hard jerk.
The complete lack of an opening hook
Sneaked up from in back and went after my book!

And I learned there are troubles
Of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead
And some come from behind.

So I said to myself, “Now, I’ll just have to start
To be twice as careful and be twice as smart.
I’ll watch out for trouble in the front and back sections
By aiming my eyeballs in different directions.

I found this to be
Quite a difficult stunt,
But now I was safe
Both in back and in front.

Then NEW troubles came!
From above!
And below!
Point of view at my neck!
Punctuation down low!
And now I was really in trouble, you know.
The plots! And the hook!
They all need a shrink!
I had so many troubles, I just couldn’t think!

There I was,
All completely surrounded by trouble,
When a chap stumbled up all covered in stubble.
“Young fellow,” he said, “what has happened to you
Has happened to me and to other scribes, too.
So I’ll tell you what I have decided to do…
I’m off to the city of Brooklyn, it’s true,
Where they make beautiful books, red, white and bright blue,
And they never have troubles! At least, very few.

“It is not very far.
And my Volvo is strong.
It’ll get us there fast.
So hop in! Come along!”

I jumped in beside him. Then all through that day
The Volvo rolled on in a Volvo-ish way.
The road got more bumpy, more rocky, more tricky.
By midnight, I tell you, my stomach felt icky.
And so I said, “Mister, please, when do we get
To that wonderful town? Aren’t we almost there yet?”
“Young fellow,” he told me, “don’t start in to stew.
At sunrise, we’ll drive into Brooklyn, it’s true.
And you’ll have no more troubles. I promise, I do.”

But, when dawn finally came and the darkness got light,
That wonderful city was nowhere in sight.
Instead of the city, we ran into trouble.
The manuscript got sick and it started to bubble.
Fearing contagion, “Out! Out!” said the man with the stubble.
So there, there I was in a dreadful position.
My book sure needed a bookish physician.

Now, doctors for books are not often seen.
Especially on roadsides. They’re far, far between.
But I pulled that old book and set out to find
Some doctor, while dragging my hopes out behind.

I pulled, pulled and pulled. Then the next thing I knew,
I was pulling the book and a long sequel tome, too!
“Now, really!” I thought, “this is rather unfair.
It’s hard to sell one, and worse for a pair.”

“This is called teamwork,” said Shelton B. Faking,
“I’m an agent, I swear, and you’re a star in the making!
I’ll pick the best roads, tell you just where to go
And we’ll find a good doctor more quickly, you know.
I’ll just take your last paycheck, whatever you’ve brung.”
And he bossed me around just because I was young.
He told me write big. Then he told me write small.
And that’s what he told me all spring and all fall.

Next winter we located Dr. Sam Snell,
Who knew all about thrillers and cozies as well.
Our manuscript, he said, had a bad case of leaks
And should be edited at Bread Loaf for at least twenty weeks.

I was tired. How I wanted to crawl back in bed!
But the book doctor sent me away and he said,
“Your troubles are practically all at an end.
Just run down that hill and around the next bend
And you’ll come to the happy MFA, my good friend.
The Iowa Workshop leaves at 4:42
And will take you directly to Brooklyn, it’s true,
Where they make beautiful books, red, white and bright blue,
And they never have troubles. At least, very few.”

The workshop was there. And that part was just fine.
But tacked on a stick was a very small sign
Saying, “Notice to writers perusing our fame
We are sorry to say that our teacher, the blighter,
Just won a pullitzer and spurned all his new writers.
So, until further notice, the workshop (don’t sue!)
Cannot possibly take you to Brooklyn, it’s true…

But I wish you a most pleasant journey by query.
Iowa President, Horace B. Wary
So I went on by query, thanks to Horace P. Wary.
And that Horace B. Wary almost ruined my query!

A hundred Nays later
My heart was so sore!
THEN, wouldn’t you know it!
It started to pour!

I was critiqued to the skin (with a red pen just mark it!)
When a fellow washed up with the Publisher’s Market!
The Publisher’s Market came early this once,
“But offers no hope to us writers, you dunce!
Any fool would get out! So I’ve packed up my things
And I’m off to my granddaddy’s, out in Palm Springs.
Take cover!” he yelled. “Use my book if you wish!”
Then he grabbed up his bottle and drank like a fish.

I ran in the house and I fell in a heap.
I needed my rest, but I just couldn’t sleep.
Did you ever sleep, when your words were like ice?
And your story was about three owls and a gay cockatrice?
I listened all night to the growls and the yowls,
The chattering teeth of four fiendish fowls,
Thoughts of the Publisher’s Market churning my bowels.
I tossed and I flipped and I flopped and I flepped.
It was quarter past five when I finally slept.

Then I dreamed I was sleeping on billowy billows
Of soft silk and satin bestseller-stuffed pillows.
I dreamed I was sleeping in Brooklyn, it’s true,
Where they make beautiful books, red, white and bright blue,
And they never have troubles. At least, very few.

Then I woke up
And it just wasn’t true.
I was crashing downhill in flame war and flood
My email light blinking and mouth full of crud.
“That’s my story you’ve stolen,” came the bright shiny howls,
“of a gay cockatrice and three charming white owls!”
And I said to myself, “Now I really don’t see
Why troubles like this have to happen to me!”

I blogged for twelve days without toothpaste or soap.
I practically, almost had given up hope
When someone online shouted, “Here! Use this trope!”
Then I knew that my troubles had come to an end.
And I typed out that trope, calling, “Thank you, my friend!”

I went to hit send. But it wasn’t a friend.
And I saw that my troubles were not at an end.
A long email with ALLCAPS scared me out of my wits.
It bellowed “Us writers are going on a self-publishing blitz!

“There’s a war going on! And it’s time that you knew
Every scribe in this land has his duty to do.
We’re marching to battle. We need you, my boy.
We’re about to attack, we’re about to destroy
The Perilous Publisher of Pompelmoose Pass!
So, get into line! You’re a Private, First Class!”

They gave me a pencil
And one little lead,
Which was not very much,
If you see what I said.

Then they yelled, “Get that Publisher! Attack without fear!
The glorious moment of victory is near!”
And the glorious novelists led the advance
With a glorious swish of their pens in a trance
All while wearing old pajama-plaid pants.

Then we charged round a corner and found that, alas,
There was more than one Publisher in Pompelmoose Pass!
And the self-publishing email shouted out to the men,
“This happens in war every now and again.
Sometimes you are winners. Some times you are losers.
We never can win against so many book choosers
And so I suggest that it’s time to retreat!”
And the writers raced off on their pajama clad feet.

There I was!
With more angry Publishers than I’d ever seen!
There I was!
With one little pencil and too little green spleen!
There I was!
And I thought, “Will I ever get through
To the wonderful city of Brooklyn, so true,
Where they make beautiful books, red, white and bright blue,
And they never have troubles, at least very few?

I had terrible trouble in keeping up face
Then I saw a big sign that sang out “Create Space!”
I didn’t have time to find out what that meant,
But the sign had a link. And the link’s where I went.

Well… that link where I went
Was a sort of a funnel
That led me down into
A frightful black tunnel.
The traffic down there
Was a mess, I must say,
With billions of books
Written all the wrong way.
They bumped me with bios,
And banged me with fan fiction.
I ran into thrillers
With all sorts of bad diction.
I skidded on verbiage
And fell on some porn.
Troubles! I wished
I had never been born!

I was down there three days in that book-filled-up place.
At least eight thousand times, I fell smack on my face.
I injured three chapters, my prologue and climax,
My action got sloppy and so did my syntax.
What’s more, I was starved. I had nothing to read.
My eyes were all swelled up and started to bleed.

Then, just when I thought I could stand it no more,
By chance I discovered a tiny trap door!
I popped my head out. The great sky was sky-blue
And I knew, from the authors, I’d finally come through
To a place where they make books, red, white and bright blue,
I couldn’t be far, now, from Brooklyn, it’s true!

There it was! With its glittering towers in the air!
I’d made it! I’d done it! At last I was there!
And I knew that I’d left all my troubles behind
When a chap in a suit that shimmered and shined
Waved me a wave that was friendly and kind.

“Welcome!” he said as he gave me his hand.
“Welcome, my son, to this beautiful land.
Welcome to sweet, sunny Brooklyn, so blue,
Where they never have troubles.
At least very few.
As a matter of fact, they have only just one.
Imagine! Just one little trouble, my son.
And this one little trouble,
As you will now find,
Is this one little trouble they have with our kind…

“For there’s only one room left to rent, yes it’s true,
And the price is too high for our likes, me and you.
They left me a notice right here on the floor
Evicting me last Tuesday at quarter to four.
Since then, I can’t open this door any more!
And I can’t burn the notice. It’s very bad luck
To burn any notice, and that’s why we’re stuck
And why no one gets in and the town’s gone to pot.
It’s a terrible state of affairs, is it not!

“And so,” said the writer from Brooklyn, so blue,
“My job as a novelist is finished. I’m through!
And I’ll tell you what I have decided to do…

“I’m leaving,” he said, “leaving Brooklyn, it’s true,
Where they make beautiful books, red white and bright blue,
And they never have troubles, at least very few.
And I’m off to the City of Angels, so tall,
Where they never have troubles! No troubles at all!
Come on along with me,” he said as he ran,
“And you’ll never have any more troubles, young man!”

I’d have no more troubles…
That’s what the man said.

So I started to go.
But I didn’t.
I did some quick thinking
Inside of my head.

Then I started a new novel
No owls -- one, two, three…
I know I’ll have troubles
But now I’ll be free.
I’ll always have troubles.
I’ll, maybe, get bit
By porous plot holes
On the place where I sit.

But I’ve bought a new moleskin.
I’m all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
To have troubles with me!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Kid Chompers - The World in Miniature

by Hollister Ann Grant

The Kid Chompers

“The woman next door to us has claws,” Cassidy said when her father
came home. “I saw them under her coat.”

Her father put his briefcase down. “Oh, big fingernails?”

“I didn’t say big fingernails. She has claws on her feet.”

“She can’t have claws, sweetheart,” he said.

“She does so! Big, thick claws like some kind of a horrible animal.”

“She had on a costume then,” he said and moved to the kitchen.

Cassidy followed him. “You’re not listening to me, Dad. She has claws
on her feet.”

“It’s Halloween weekend.” Her father opened the refrigerator and took
out a Heineken. “Everybody at work was in costume today. The secretary
was dressed up like a pirate, and I saw a Frankenstein in the library.
The woman bought her claws at some shopping mall.”

“Oh,” Cassidy said. Hot tears of relief welled up in her eyes. “I
thought they were real. They were just awful.”

He laughed and ruffled her hair. “She was going to a party, Cass, or
she just left one. I know everything’s been hard on you lately, losing
your mother, the move, dealing with all these boxes.”

“I’m okay, Dad. Really.”

He put his arm around her shoulders. “I’m going to tell you a story.
You’ll like this one. When I was ten years old, just like you, the
roof of the house next door was right outside my bedroom window, and
my granddad told me that the Kid Chompers lived in the chimney.”

She smirked. “The Kid Chompers.”

“He said the Kid Chompers would come out at night -- not every night,
just when the moon was out. The Kid Chompers were like genies in a
bottle, and they’d get bigger and bigger and look in the windows for
kids. That’s why kids should never crawl out a window because the Kid
Chompers will chomp down on them. They control the kids who climb out
on the rooftops. They eat ‘em up and nobody ever sees ‘em again.” He
laughed. “I was so scared I slept with the blanket over my head.”

“You’re making fun of me,” she said, smiling in spite of herself.

“No, you’re my best girl. You’re my all-time favorite.”

“You’re my favorite, too, Dad.”

Cassidy woke up in the middle of the night. The windows didn’t have
curtains yet and mysterious tree shadows swayed across the bare wood

She’d been dreaming about Kid Chompers, but the dream began to fade
the more she tried to remember what it had been about. Something about
Kid Chompers scratching at the window, trying to get inside.

The cat lay on the end of the bed. Everything seemed to be fine.

Just in case, though, she crept to the window. And sure enough, their
neighbor was out there on the roof of the porch. I knew she was out there. I knew it. She ducked down and then dared another peek.

“And she’s still wearing her party claws,” she whispered.