1. I've made no secret of the fact that I owe Dan Wickett an unpayable debt for his support and encouragement over the short span of what I'm calling the Renaissance Age of my writing career (i.e., every good thing that's happened to my work since 2004). Dan and his Emerging Writers Network were there every combat-boot step of the way while I was deployed to Iraq; total strangers showered me with cards, care packages and--best of all--books. Dan published excerpts from my journal at EWN and was instrumental in linking me up with a renowned NYC editor. In later years, Dan invited me to join the roster of authors providing online manuscript advice for the Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions--a move which put me in touch with an outstanding, relatively-unpublished short-story writer Jon Horton (remember that name because you'll be seeing a collection of his lean, mean, macho stories about hard-bitten Western men at your local bookstore sometime in the future, I'm just sure of it). Dan edited Visiting Hours, an anthology in which one of my short stories makes an appearance (see link to the right). And, finally, Dan has been supplying me with some outstanding books of literary fiction (The Consequence of Skating, Pirate Talk or Mermalade, In the Devil's Territory, and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us are all bricks in my Tower of To-Read Books). That's why it's so wonderful to see Dan, Steven Gillis and Dzanc Books get their due in this article from The Ann Arbor Chronicle. Nicely done, gentlemen!
Marion Ettlinger is the undisputed champion of turning back-cover/jacket-flap photos into artwork. If I ever have an Ettlinger credit under my headshot, I'll know I've made the Big Time. The current photo I'm using sometimes feels like it oozes pretension and self-involvement with its gazing-into-the-horizon seriousness. Truth is, I rather like it because: a) it was taken by my wife on a cold December day while we were walking along a road near Bozeman, Montana; b) You can only see two of my three double-chins in it. So, for now, I'm keeping it. If you're in the mood to mock pretentiousness, however, and you've run out of snarky things to say about my photo, I encourage you to check out the gallery of Bad Author Photos over at Flavorwire. My favorite category? The Sophisticated Photograph (aka “The My-head-is-so-weighted-down-by-great-thoughts-it-requires-additional-support”): It’s the two-fingered peace sign of tourists. The “say cheese” of extended-family portraits. The pouty lips of Facebook users. The middle finger of punk rockers. Putting your fist under your chin does not come naturally to most people, but given the pose’s ubiquity amongst authors, it must be innate to those within the profession.
3. Speaking of heads: Charles Dickens has lost his.
4. And at the other end of the body: HiLowbrow has been doing a wonderful series of blog posts which "seek to determine the make and model of fictional footwear." The most recent entry in "Fitting Shoes" examines the golf shoes of Alfred Lambert in Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Fun stuff, if you're into that kind of fetish.
5. Danielle Steele says she is not a "romance author." Yeah, right...and I'm not a man (just ignore that dangly thing between my legs).
6. John Scalzi holds our feet to the fire in a pop-eyed, spittle-flecked sermon: "Writing: Find the Time or Don't."
....at this point in time I have really very little patience for people who say they want to write but then come up with all sorts of excuses as to why they don’t have the time. You know what, today is the day my friend Jay Lake goes into surgery to remove a huge chunk of his liver. After which he goes into chemo. For the third time in two years. Between chemo and everything else, he still does work for his day job. And when I last saw him, he was telling me about the novel he was just finishing up. Let me repeat that for you: Jay Lake has been fighting cancer and has had poison running through his system for two years, still does work for his day job and has written novels. So will you please just shut the fuck up about how hard it is for you to find the time and inspiration to write, and just do it or not.Bravo, sir, bravo!
7. The Millions ponders the return of the Big Book. Bricks, doorstoppers, free weights--whatever you want to call them, they're tangible proof that the book as a printed object isn't going away anytime soon. I have a love/hate relationship with Big Books. I love the way they feel in the grip of my fingers; I'm all but sexually aroused at the idea of those gazillion words shoulder-to-shoulder on the page--I mean, all that real estate between the covers! On the other hand, I'm a notoriously slow reader and entering a relationship with a Big Book means I'm committing to at least three weeks, sometimes longer. Just yesterday, I received an advance copy of Stephen Dixon's uncollected short stories (What is All This) from Fantagraphics Books. It clocks in at 563 pages and I can't wait to get to it. But then there's also Aurorarama (409 pages), West of Here (486 pages), Last Night in Twisted River (554 pages), Sunnyside (559 pages) and The Instructions (1,030 pages) waiting for me. My wrist already hurts, my eyes are starting to burn.
8. Kate Winslet does James M. Cain. At least, in one sense of the word. I haven't read Cain's noir landmark, Mildred Pierce, but I have seen the movie and I can tell you one thing: I will watch Kate Winslet any day of the week, whereas Joan Crawford* always gives me the willies. Joan Crawford couldn't act her way out of a paper bag; Kate Winslet is the paper bag. Kate Winslet eats Joan Crawford's shoulder pads for breakfast. Here's the trailer for HBO's Mildred Pierce:
*Okay, okay, I liked J.C. in a couple of things--The Women, Johnny Guitar, among them--but there's something so....harsh about her face. She scares the crap out of me, even when she's smiling. Especially when she's smiling.