2013 sum-up

Some people I know had a perfectly lovely 2013, and them I congratulate sincerely. I’m really very pleased for them, the fortunate shits. I trust their 2014 will be just as fine, stuffed full of delight and satisfaction, or even better.

In AX-land, though, 2013 was not a good year. AX-land being an apartment I haven’t been fond of for half as long as I’ve lived here (longer than any other single residence since moving out of my parents’ house), in a city that was never first choice, a state that in hindsight shouldn’t have been, and a climate that’s rapidly destroying any pleasure I ever took in the Change! of! Seasons! (a phenomenon native Californians regard with wonder and disbelief).

To speak plainly, for me 2013 was a miserable, sucking, grinding, tiresome, and destructive shitpile of a year, thank you very much, that wore on endlessly yet passed too fast, in which the rare bright moment was so utterly overwhelmed by the sodden dark I can barely remember it. Personally. Professionally. Financially. Mentally. Even physically—merciful and compassionate God, the incessant and interminable headaches. Merciful and compassionate God, I’m boring myself with this litany.

Bright spots.

Recentest first, because except for it November and December were the ghastliest two months of the ghastly twelve (I think—my memory isn’t what it was). Yesternight, New Year’s Eve, I finished a story! (I know!) A couple of hours before the midnight submission deadline. If, that is, the editors accept my midnight: the publisher’s in Australia. I like it. Today I like it. Next week, bets off. It’s a rare attempt to write about politics (not US politics), mixed into a fantasy involving a mythical sprite of Turkish and Persian folklore, a peri. It has a hashtag as a title, although I’ve never used Twitter: “#duranperi”—a take-off on a hashtag ubiquitous during the summer’s #occupygezi protests in İstanbul and across Turkey: #duranadam or #standingman. I started writing in the summer, during the protests, and got about a third down before prematurely deciding I’d bitten off a subject too big to chew. Over the next four, five months I’d poke at it now and then, because I really thought the idea a nice fit for the anthology and the other thing I was trying went even worse. Then, as the deadline loomed and a happy PayPal transfer allowed me to purchase cigarettes for the first time in nearly two weeks, I went to town: nearly every waking hour of 30 and 31 December. And done. And dispatched. We’ll see what happens.

The video above, produced by Turkish folkloric group Kardeş Türküler during the protests, is basically quoted in “#duranperi,” spurring a pivotal plot turn. It’s a lovely, powerful little thing.

2013 wasn’t nearly the worst year ever for finishing things, but not nearly the best either. Just two other stories: “Shep: A Dog,” written in March and sold to Cleis Press’s Best Gay Romance 2014, in which volume it will appear next month; also written in March, “A Portrait in India Ink by Harry Clarke,” which has already appeared in Lethe Press’s Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe.

Nor was 2013 either the worst or the best for publishing things. Two books, though neither was precisely new. Deprivation; or, Benedetto furioso: an oneiromancy in February, which received what is, to date, my favorite review EVAR, from Steve Donoghue at Open Letters Monthly.

Deprivation

In October, on a dizzyingly fast production cycle, erotic novella The Padişah’s Son and the Fox—or The Padisah’s Son at some on-line vendors, The Padishah’s Son at others (the last being the easiest for English speakers to pronounce correctly)—which also features peris. My friend Mr Damon Shaw of Lanzarote, Islas Canarias (lucky dog), who is largely responsible for my decision to publish the full-length version, said nice things about it at Amazon.

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And, oh, just by the way, if you happen to have an Amazon account and happen to have read and enjoyed any of my, or any other author’s, books, posting an Amazon review is a really nice thing you can do. Both for our fragile egos and for the actually quantifiable algorithmic benefit it can have for our placement, sales, and eventual royalties. Just a sentence or two and a star count. You don’t even have to have bought it there. Thank you in advance. (Says the hypocrite who’s never posted one himself. ::Makes note to improve ways::)

More 2013 publications: Stories. Besides “A Portrait in India Ink by Harry Clarke” there was “A Man Not of Canaan” at GigaNotoSaurus.org in July; “You Deserve” in Bad Seeds: Evil Progeny from Prime Books, also in July; “The Hyena’s Blessing” in Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages, also from Prime, in August; and “The Other Bridge” right here, also in August. Yes, I’m counting it.

And: a coming out. Outcoming? Gah, I thought I was done with that decades ago. Anyway—my editor and dear friend Steve Berman is likely to chide me for this but…also in Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages appears what’s billed as the first publication of one Adam Morrow, “The Wedding of Osiris,” a very short story about Hadrian and Antinous. In his bio, “Adam Morrow” claims to be an expat of Boston living in Andalucía with his husband. His husband, unnamed in the bio, is Ziya Sinan: the narrator of The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam. Which I wrote. In short, Adam Morrow (the writer, not the character) is me. The bit about living in Andalucía is a subtle teaser for Abode’s maybe-never companion volume, The Nation of Love: Ten Stories for Ziya. I talked coyly about the story back in November 2012 when I wrote and sold it, and promised one day to reveal the secret. That day is today. Now I just have to list it with all the other stories.

Forthcoming work: stories. In addition to “Shep: A Dog,” February 2014 will  see a novelette, “The Oily Man,” third (to date last) written of my tales from the Kandadal’s world, in Handsome Devil: Stories of Seduction and Sin from Prime Books. Officially released in February, although I’m told to expect a contributor’s copy within the week. And about time, I say: I completed and sold the thing, yikes, in August 2012. It was in composing “The Oily Man” I began to comprehend the place the Kandadal, that mad saint, holds in his world. And that’s it for stories contracted and scheduled for 2014. So far.

Forthcoming work: book. Not actually contracted, except by verbal handshake, nor scheduled, because I haven’t quite firmed up the table of contents, a second volume of wonder stories—Not Here. Not Now. This one will probably contain ten stories, as did You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home, some new(ish), some old, some ancient. Sometime in 2014, maybe summer, from Lethe Press.

Now for the writing downers. No, I didn’t complete a “final” revision of The Unexpected Thing and send the damn thing to market to make my fortune. Nor did I get much further with The Cat in the Moon, the novel?novella? from the Kandadal’s world which I gave pride of place on the in progress page last winter. Let’s not even talk about the stupid list of unfinished stories I said last year at this time I would complete in 2013. Not a one. Not a one.

Let’s talk about the stories I started in 2013 but didn’t finish:

  • “Cool Air” This was meant to be a collaboration (my first!) with my friend/client/patron/bucker-upperer/familiar genius Steve Berman, and a true-blue horror story (my first!). Didn’t work out, no blame to either party, and unlikely ever to work out.
  • “Lamp Night” A monstrous novelette or maybe novella (13,000 words so far), begun in May, a tremendous amount written during one of the lacunae when I couldn’t afford internet access, and then bam! coma. I poke at it often enough, 500 words or so a month. It’s got some excellent stuff in it but the thematic foundations are kind of, uh, shaky and keep knocking me off the scaffolding. A young Turkish-American painter, serving time as a barista, in contemporary Rhode Island. Ramadan. Angels. Heresy. Good stuff. Dammit.
  • “A Room Like an Eggshell” A tale from the Kandadal’s world that, as I wrote in November, I know practically nothing about although it nags at me. It nags.
  • An untitled story begun in August, the other thing I ventured to meet last night’s deadline but couldn’t get to work. (Thank merciful and compassionate God for “#duranperi.”) This one nags, too. I very much like the situation and the characters. Damn damn damn.

Is that really all? I though there were more. Looks even more pathetic than I believed. Well, there were thoughts, concepts, for stories I might have liked to try for one or another open call but that never got even so far as creating a new Pages file before the deadline passed. It was a bad year. I told you.


Bright spots glimpsed from under my other professional hats.

Tom Cardamone’s brilliantly peculiar post-apocalyptic novella Green Thumb, which I was proud to nurture and prune and pot up and print as BrazenHead’s second release, won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror in June. Yay, Tom! If you haven’t bought/read it yet, do so now. (And post a review at Amazon.)

BrazenHead, by the way, is not dead. On life support, maybe. Submissions were few and far between last year. Writers of queer speculative fiction are on notice. Here are the guidelines. What are you waiting for? Damon? ’Nathan? Steve? Somebody?

I copyedited or proofread or developmental-edited quite a few books for a couple of different presses in 2013. Several were delights. (Several have been consigned to the deepest, dankest, slimiest pits of amnesia, but that’s how it goes for the working editor.) I won’t try to list them—that would be invidious—but the most recent (I haven’t even returned the MS yet, must do that this week) was a particular treasure: the fourth Book of Astreiant, Fairs’ Point, by Melissa Scott. What a joy to walk the streets of Astreiant with Nico Rathe and Philip Eslingen again. (Also? Puppies!) Coming from Lethe Press in May, with another spectacular cover painting by Ben Baldwin.

FP_rough

I designed and laid out just a bunch of titles for Lethe Press and its imprints. I can’t even count. The designs page is woefully out of date: must do something about that. Soon. But it won’t include 2014 books already designed until their release, one of which is the recent design I’m proudest of. Not the most complex, possibly not the most handsome, but the most personally satisfying. Everything just worked. That would be Cub, a new novel from maestro of the romantically perverse, or perversely romantic, Jeff Mann. Due from Lethe’s Bear Bones Books imprint next month. Coincidentally also bearing Ben Baldwin cover art.

Editorial and design hats are often worn successively, or simultaneously, or get thoroughly confused. I critiqued most of the stories in Steve Berman’s forthcoming collection Red Caps even as they were being written, copyedited them before they went out on submission, copyedited them again once collected, and then designed the book. Actually, the design isn’t complete: the stories are illustrated and not all the illustrators have turned in their work. Two weeks, people! Three max. Official release date is Valentine’s day, dammit. I am possibly too close to this book for my opinion to be valid—one story is dedicated to me! and I borrowed the eponymous Red Caps, a band, for “Shep: A Dog”—but it is valid: I love these stories individually, and even more collectively. They’re damn fine.

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Personal bright spots? Hmmm. A few, I guess.

My unknowing muse, Israeli superstar Ivri Lider, released his second live CD in September: Live, With the Revolution Orchestra. I listen to it on repeat. Gorgeous, gorgeous. The sole brand-new track (though the orchestral arrangements of older songs are so revelatory they count as new), “Blah Bla Blah,” isn’t really typical of the album, but I love it so.

I discovered a new Middle Eastern band to obsess over. More lovely songs (not enough yet, though) with lyrics I can’t understand. Arabic, in this instance. Mashrou’ Leila, from Beirut. I downloaded their third release, Raasük, yesterday, to soundtrack the last few hours working on “#duranperi,” but the studio version of this track, “El Mouqadima / Habibi,” appeared on the second, the EP El Hal Romancy. Which, by the way, they’ll let you download for free at their website. (I encourage you to pay for it, though. Artists gotta eat.) This live version is from a DVD recorded at the Baalbeck Festival 2012 which, God damn, I want to own but I can’t find anybody selling it. The kindly gentleman who posted the video embedded below has the rest of the concert up at YouTube as well but it’s a trial to get them in order and the gaps are irritating. Nevertheless, my God, Hamed Sinno’s vocals, Haig Papazian’s violin—the whole package, actually. And all seven of them are so freaking sexy. Multiple pornstaches aside.

There’s also, on YouTube, Mashrou’ Leila’s entire concert at the Paléo Festival 2012 in Switzerland in one file, which I embedded in September when I first wrote about them, as well as the band’s exceedingly clever promo videos for studio tracks, but the setting of the Roman ruins at Baalbek is so spectacular.

I read some books that weren’t paying work, in MS, on screen. Not enough, by far. Apparently depression does a number on my attention span and ability to get carried away by literature. Three 2013 releases I thoroughly enjoyed. Wrote about two of them: Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

I intended to review the third, both because the author is a kindly gentleman who has written nice words about some of my work and with whom I’ve shared a couple of tables of contents, and because I like his book: Light, the first novel of ’Nathan Burgoine. It’s delightful: assured and clever and often funny, often romantic. Excellent cat, too, and pretty good dog. Really nice cover, as well (something of a surprise  from his publisher), though I’m not entirely convinced it’s tonally appropriate to the novel. But I couldn’t get a handle on my review (this was in the depths of that mens horribilis, November) and now, what with my poor short-term memory, I’d have to reread it to make another attempt. Which I will do, reread Light that is, but probably not for a year or more. Sorry, ’Postrophe.

My cats were…my cats. Miss Jane Austen seldom throws up more than twice in one day. Miss Charlotte Brontë will not tolerate having her dreadlocks combed out. I long ago gave up hoping they’d ever, you know, like each other. They like me, and don’t actually fight, so it’s all good.

One author whose books I’ve designed did two very kind things for me in 2013. In late winter, Mr Jeff Mann, to thank me for not making a wreck of his book of poems The Romantic Mann, bought me a new pair of sheepskin slippers. My feet were cold! In November, in gratitude for the job I did on Cub, he bought a new wireless router. Which I haven’t set up yet because I’m lame. But when I do, I’ll be able to move my working hours into a room I can heat to a comfortable level—that is, higher than the landlord is willing to set the thermostat. Thanks, Jeff. You’re a gentleman, and a Bright Spot™ in AX’s ghastly year.

[Note to Lethe Press authors: Not a contest. I’m paid for the work, and I take pride in it. You won’t get a nicer or faster layout by bribing me.]

And then there was Little Stevie B. Well, but he knows already. We suffered miserable years in parallel.


And now, after a nap, I’ll make a vast cauldron of minestrone (with rapini, because bitter like my heart) in anticipation of a nor’easter and twelve inches of snow tomorrow. Tonight, raspberries with custard and rosewater. İnşallah, it’s a good start to the year.

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