Hello, readers! Welcome to my first blog entry of 2020.
I’m aiming to blog a bit more frequently this year, hopefully posting at least once or twice a month (as opposed to my approach last year, which was basically, “Oh shoot, it’s a major holiday/Danzig’s birthday, I better say something to mark the occasion”).
I’m also changing up the format a bit – talking more about the writing process (my least favourite thing to do), as well as showcasing other people’s work (my favourite thing to do). Let me know what you think!
Here’s what you can expect in this entry:
- Adventures in writing
- Two new poems
- A salute to Neil Peart
- January music recommendations
- 4 poems and flash fiction pieces you should check out
A not-so epic adventure in writing
On January 7th, I completed my first short story of 2020 – not without incident.
The story was written specifically for an anthology submission call with a really rad theme. I first came across the call in December, wrote about 500 words, and set it aside until the new year. After all, the deadline wasn’t until January 20th – I had tonnes of time!
Except when I double-checked the submission guidelines after Christmas, I discovered that the deadline was not the 20th. It was, in fact, the 7th.
So that was problem number one.
Another issue was that, over the course of the writing process, the story morphed into an unholy hybrid of the (very specific) genre it was supposed to be, and eighties-style sword and sorcery. (I watched Conan the Destroyer over the holidays after going on a Robert E. Howard kick in the fall, and my brain got stuck on the genre).
The good news was, once the story got going, the actual writing proceeded at a decent clip – at one point, I even worried I was going to blow past the word limit.
And so, after several evenings of locking myself inside my apartment with heavy metal and a pot of tea, I submitted the story a full eight minutes before the deadline…
…and woke up to an email informing me the file I’d sent was corrupted.
New poem: “on discovering a tin of lucid dream tea”
The first poem of the year was…less of a process.
Here it is, inspired by a series of recent nightmares and the discovery of a type of tea that would undoubtedly make them much worse:
Another new poem: “Kingdom of Shards”
This mystical poem appears in the fairy tale-themed seventh issue of Twist In Time Mag, where it went live on New Year’s Day.
Read it here.
Remembering Neil Peart (1952-2020)
On Friday, I was shocked and saddened to hear that Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart had passed away on the 7th.
Rush songs have been part of the soundtrack to my life since I was a teenager, and Neil’s lyrics, about liberty and integrity and disillusionment and hope, have had a really profound impact on how I view the world.
Although I love 2112 top to bottom, I think my favourite Rush album is their final one.
Clockwork Angels (their first true concept album, I believe) is the steampunk odyssey of an idealistic young man who takes off for a glittering futuristic city, cavorts with circus performers and terrorists, is framed and betrayed, and flees to seek his fortune in the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. He concludes his adventures a hardened cynic, but by the end of the album he’s let go of his bitterness and found contentment in his own life and legacy.
It’s an incredible record that showcases the entire band at their best, and features some of Peart’s most poignant lyrics. Despite the otherworldly setting, the album also feels very personal, especially knowing the tragedies that befell Peart and the way he found some solace on the open road. So when I heard the news that he was gone, I immediately listened to “The Garden,” which has Peart’s protagonist reflecting on a life well lived:
Rest in peace Mr. Peart, and thank you for the music.
New Music Round-up
Ozzy Osbourne – “Ordinary Man”
This Friday, Ozzy Osbourne released the title track from his upcoming album: the Elton John duet “Ordinary Man.”
A piano ballad reflecting on his troubled past, it reminds me a bit of No More Tears closer “Road To Nowhere,” with a hint of “I Don’t Wanna Stop”-style rebellion. There’s regret here, for sure, but Ozzy still manages to be a little defiant (“The truth is, I don’t wanna die an ordinary man”).
I’ve been loving everything he’s released so far (have you guys seen the Jonas Åkerlund-directed video for “Under the Graveyard?”), but this one may be the best of the lot.
William Prince – “Always Have What We Had”
William Prince’s sophomore album Reliever is due to be released this year, and based on what we’ve heard so far, it’s sure to be a treat. Lead single “The Spark” was released in late 2019, and he’s been including other unreleased songs in his setlists for several years.
On January 8th, the JUNO-winning folk singer debuted another new track from the record: tender ballad “Always Have What We Had.”
Written in the aftermath of his break-up with the mother of his son (you can read his account of the song’s inspiration here), the song is quintessential Prince: thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics (there’s regret here, but no bitterness) and understated arrangements that highlight his powerful voice.
Some Literary Recommendations:
“Wolf-Lieberman” by Stuart Buck (Fevers of the Mind Press)
I enjoyed reading this apocalyptic poem by Stuart Buck on New Year’s Day. The opening lines are immediately gripping, combining a pop culture reference with the sense of impending doom, and the piece builds up to a gory crescendo that fuses connection with disintegration.
Read it here.
“Possession” by C. Aloysius Mariotti (Neon Mariposa Magazine)
Everything about this poem is perfect: the motion, the diction, the way the words sound against each other, the mix of futuristic imagery with the wasted landscapes of nostalgia.
Read it here.
“Night Driving” by Jane Fleming (Moonchild Magazine)
Jane Fleming’s melancholy flash story vividly conjures the sights, sounds, and feelings of late-night odysseys along deserted highways.
Read it here.
“Dollar Pizza” by Ben Fitts (Bizarro Central)
The Beatles make a cameo in this strange story of from bizarro author Ben Fitts.
Read it here.
Tell me in the comments:
What are you working on in 2020?