KZine is a British publication specializing in science fiction, horror, fantasy, and crime stories for Kindle. It’s now also offering paperback editions on Amazon, including issue eight, which features one of my stories.
The reviewer at Wizzley Magazine wrote that he “was impressed by the high quality of all eight stories” in that issue, and had this to say about my contribution, “Spell Check”:
“Jordan has accidentally created a creature that has invaded her house. She turns to an old customer, Floyd, for help. This is a quaint magical story, a little bit sad and a little bit scary.”
“Mike’s story is great; very clever, well-described, and quite creative, about an unwitting conjurer. Then I read the whole issue. Really impressed with the quality of the stories here. I liked them all, but also especially remember “Pickman’s Motel.” I’m an HP Lovecraft fan, and this story did a great job building on Lovecraft’s ‘Pickman’s Model.’ “
Last night, the Charlotte Film Society screened a fascinating movie titled Woman at War. It’s the tale of a music and yoga teacher who’s determined to sabotage an aluminum plant in the Icelandic wilderness.
Halla, the protag, wages war against a noisy, smelly, and sprawling collection of gritty metal cubes and towers unnaturally plopped onto the mystical Icelandic grassland. Add in the aromatic hydrocarbons and mutagens the plant belches out, and it’s easy to understand why a person who cherishes nature would take up arms against such a monstrosity. Business leaders and the government see the plant as an economic blessing; Halla sees one of William Blake’s dark Satanic mills.
Despite the film’s issue-packed premise, it doesn’t preach. Halla ranges the Icelandic grassland like Artemis with her bow, fulfilling her self-appointed role as the modern-day protector of nature. As is appropriate for a Greek goddess stand-in, she’s followed by a chorus that not only reflects her emotional reactions, but also provides comic relief.
The film is much more than a plea for clean air. Nearly surrounded by the police, Halla is rescued by a gruff farmer who becomes her accomplice. The two quickly realize they’re most likely related. So the movie’s primary conflict is between those with deep ties to their land and foreign investors who care only for the raw materials the land can produce. It’s the local and ancestral versus the global and rootless.
Woman at War was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival but failed to snag an Academy Award. If it comes to a local art cinema, check it out. It’s a hidden gem that deserves a wider audience.
“The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth — not a different truth: the same truth — only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.” Shelby Foote, author and historian
Writers, says writer and iron-pumper Ross Mcindoe, often express their craft through the sports they play. Think: Hemingway and boxing, Mishima and karate, John Irving and wrestling. Oliver Sacks, says Mcindoe, found challenge, fulfillment, and self-expression in weightlifting. Like boxing, weightlifting reflects many characteristics of the craft and discipline of writing. Says Mcindoe:
Lifting is at once highly solitary—a solo sport in which most of your time is spent in competition with yourself—and highly communal. Even as each person pursues their own interior quest, the weight room makes everything public.
Sound familiar? We can attend writing workshops, go to critique groups for advice, meet with beta readers and benefit from other people’s expertise, but the act of getting the words right and putting them down is a solitary act. And yet, it’s communal, too, because our ultimate goal is to communicate something meaningful and personal to others.
More important, the lifter or boxer or runner cannot help but compare themselves to others. This can be instructive, but it can be a trap, too, not just for the athlete but for the writer:
When we look at the person lifting next to us, all we see is the weight on the bar and how easily they can move it. We get a rough, visual sense of how their size compares to ours but we don’t see how long they have been training in the sport or how intensely. We don’t see the other factors in their lives—work, health, money—which can contribute or detract from their success.
It’s the same in writing. We see only the results, not the work: snapshots of success with all the necessary failures left out beyond the frame.
Admit it (I will!) — we see other writers and wonder why we can’t get published. Why did such-and-such get a lucrative publishing contract while I can’t even get a poem published in a non-paying literary magazine?
That’s when the sports connection comes in. When you feel that you’re not succeeding, you need to remember that the real contest is the old you versus the you you’re becoming. Like Oliver Sacks realizing he had only fooled himself about what he thought was his best effort in weightlifting, the writer should strive for nothing more than to make himself better than he used to be. Failure is NOT having your manuscript rejected; failure is when you stop trying.
As Sacks realized, there’s always something new we can explore. Try a new genre, read a book on improving your writing style, sharpen your grammatical skills. That’s winning, and there’s nothing quite like discovering how many ways there are to win.
“It has been said that if the protagonists of Hamlet and Othello were reversed, there would have been no tragedy: Hamlet would have seen through Iago in no time and Othello would not have hesitated to kill King Claudius.” – Barbara Tuchman, from The March of Folly, p. 231