Here’s my bit of urban spookiness called “Fluorescence.” This short story appeared in The Harrow back in July 2008 (appearing now thanks to the Way Back Machine). If you like it, you might want to check out the others in Unquiet Dreams.
For some reason, I had not noticed before Peter Cook’s sister saying that their favourite childhood book was Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes by Harry Graham. It much reminded me of our childhood fave Shrieks at Midnight so I had to get a copy.
And of course it’s delightful.
While in Venice I went to an exhibit at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini on the isla San Giorgio Maggiore called ‘Mindful Hands’ which offered up a real feast of medieval manuscripts. If that’s not your thing you may yawn, but those who enjoy these beauties may swoon over the album here. A beautiful day, a beautiful location and such beautiful pages. It’s sad to see pages ripped from their original bindings but it was how they happened to be collected, so what can you do? At least no more violence should be done to them. There was also an excellent film showing how medieval manuscripts were made from goat to binding (:-o) which I thought would be great to show students — well, with some warning about the poor goat. I didn’t even realise how some of the colours were made. Things like lapus lazuli making blue I knew, but burning bones for black was news (oak gall is also used for black ink). So glad I got to see the exhibit: it was much more extensive than I expected.
Don’t you deserve at least one day to write?
Write 4 a Day is a series of monthly one-day writing retreats in upstate New York. There is:
Unplug. Write. Don’t write. Think. Daydream. Doodle. Outline. Come for the whole day or just for part of it; network, collaborate or write solo; wander the woods, hills, fields and streams of Universal Pathways for inspiration (bring sturdy shoes) or sit in a comfy chair and brainstorm. It’s up to you.
WHO – you! We haven’t had to limit attendance yet, but it’s getting to be a consideration. If you want to be sure to reserve a space, email me via the contact form.
WHY – because you deserve a day to devote to your writing (or daydreaming or sketching or scheming or knitting or…)
WHEN – 10am-5pm
2016: Oct 23, Nov 20, Dec 18 [2017 dates announced soon]
Bob Dylan: Nobel Prize Winner — bet you didn’t have a fiver on him. Nine years ago I had this tale published in the tiny lit journal Ephemera. Did anyone notice it was a bunch of Dylan lyrics somewhat altered mashed up with a little Marlowe? No, probably not. But it amused me. I have not read it now as I think it might be painful. But you can read it.
Tangled Up in Some Sort of Cerulean Hue
She was a beauty, all auburn curls, doe eyes, and hippie garments. But I think it was chiefly the eyes, moist and beseeching, that made me forget my usual caution and help her out of that sticky situation, but—like the man said—I guess I used a little too much energy to do so. What is it with some women? They cling to whatever wind blows the most hot air. She was with a jerk, I applied a little leverage and next thing I know, she was stuck on me. Not just stuck—glued, applied, corkscrewed into my entrails—she showed no signs of budging. Which was why I found myself standing in that solitary grove with books of Albanus and Bacon and a big old Latin bible that I could sort of read, inside a chalk circle, ready for conjuring.
Bobby swore it would work. I guess I should have considered the logic of that assumption, but I was too busy daydreaming of life post-hoc. I was an idiot. Gravity is the destiny of us all. Suckers.
The borderline separating my circle from the mundane should have been safe. Well, for that matter, the charm itself should have produced rather different results. I guess that’s where better reading knowledge of Latin would have helped, but it was never so easy for me. There were so many distractions: crickets rhymed shrieks back and forth while the trees’ limbs guffawed an obscene parody of their song. The stupid wind kept blowing the pages back and forth. For all I know, now that I think on it, I managed to conjure two different rituals into one.
I really just wanted to peel off that persistent drag. She was nice enough at first, but I never did take to the clingy types. As the sun descended like a slippery egg yolk down the cobalt sky, I was already picturing my new life, free from the eternal bondage—eternal since Tuesday—of that woman who wanted to keep hold of my shoelaces and drag along behind my sorry carcass for an apparently indefinite period. I knew I was in trouble when she fluttered those too long lashes at me and murmured in my ear how happy she was. I didn’t even blink, but I knew I had to start planning right then.
It only took a few days to assemble the necessary materials. Thank the gods for the internet, which I mean to say, thank science—or technology or whatever. I don’t know how it’s done. It might was well be magic. But I found local shops with the needed ingredients—even dog tongue, which turned out to be some kind of herb. That was a relief. I might be able to hurt a woman, but never a dog! Damn, they’re innocent creatures. Not that I meant to hurt her, just kind of discourage her, turn her off. Give her something else to worry about and let me go. Now she’s just going to think I pissed off and left her. I guess that would be irony.
It seemed so perfect. I felt like some medieval Merlin, necromantic books before me, the world under m spell. Bobby said he’d had such successes with his chanting and such. Surely it would work just as well for me. It’s all in the book. Why would it matter who said it? Yeah, sure, I know what you’re thinking—pronunciation. Yeah, maybe—then again, maybe it was the wind and those pages. The back pages of the book were pretty thin and the wind kept blowing like it had it in for me from the start. It wasn’t possible to tell at first whether it worked or not. It’s not like I would have seen her disappear like some cloud of smoke. There was no clap of thunder or buckets of rain descending. But it wasn’t too long before I knew that I had got my signals crossed and all was not well. Beware of Latin—dead languages don’t care who they screw.
From the indigo darkness, something hit me from below. Never did see what it was—some creature lacking shape or natural order—but its impact was immediate and bruising. Knocked me clean out after seeing stars that were not part of the navy canvas of the night sky. Gone, over and out, no balls, no strikes, just error—good night, nurse.
I woke up on the side of the grove, flies droning around my head. I knew something was wrong because the sound made me hungry. Everything looked a lot bigger and before I could give myself a stern talking to, I was beginning to realize that things were worse than mere failure. So here I am, stuck. In my present state I can’t even touch the books I read. What’s the likelihood anyone will stumble across them and read just the right spell? What’re the odds that anyone will listen to me in present state? What I wouldn’t give for her to be so determined to find me that she comes out here, calling “Jimmy, Jimmy,” and recognizing me and restoring me back to what I was. I wouldn’t even leave her then, no, I’d be an honorable man after that. Really, you have to believe me. If you see her, you know, maybe if she hasn’t gotten over me, hasn’t begun to curse my name and all my sex, well, maybe give her some hope. She might be living there in my cruddy old apartment, thinking I forgot all about her. It’s not true. She’s all I think about now—well, her and the damn crickets. They turn out to be pretty tasty. But if you see her, you can tell her that now. I’d love to have her come find me. I want her to want me. I want to be me again, even with her hanging on me all the time. Hell, I’d welcome it. Tell her.
And if you see a toad, say hello. It might be me.
Apologies for dropping out of things lately: insanely busy trying to catch up. Lots of ways to entertain you, however. Example: read this wonderful review of Drag Noir that came out when I was literally on my way out of the country. Thanks, Plenitude Magazine and Latonya Pennington. The process of finding your audience can be slow, but when you do find them it’s so gratifying.
If you’re interested in crime writing at all, check out this issue of TEXT magazine: Crime Fiction: The Creative/Critical Nexus, edited by Rachel Franks, Jesper Gulddal and Alistair Rolls. I am very happy to have my close analysis of Dorothy B. Hughes’ The Expendable Man [PDF download].
But you want pictures, right? The whole album can be found here, but let me show you a glimpse of this amazing city (click pictures to embiggen). And there’s still the manuscript exhibit to upload!
I’ll be joining a bunch of local authors including my fellow Mavens of Mayhem AKA the Upper Hudson chapter of Sisters in Crime for a gathering at the East Greenbush Library. We’ll have books to sign and sell and plenty of time to chat.
Join us 3-4pm at the East Greenbush Community Library!
I will have copies of HOW TO BE DULL with me as well as whatever else I have around here…