January 30, 2018

The word Love means someone takes you
in your old clothes, your face too bare, too open,
when someone fastens the buttons on your coat
as if you’ve fallen back through sixty years to be
a child again, when someone takes you onto the path
holding you by the arm, your feet not knowing what
they used to know, your feet in rubber boots stumbling,
blind to roots and stones, when someone takes you
to the ocean, the water also in the air raining down
its saltless weeping, the word Love means someone
takes you to the rocks, rain too heavy for the gulls
to fly, three bobbing like windless boats, all sails
and heartbeats, Love leaves you there, no words
for it now, you and the gulls and the ocean
that moves as far away from you as it can go.

Lorna Crozier

essential detail

January 30, 2018


When in doubt, cut

One of my mentors in grad school was famous for dispensing pretty much just one stock phrase in the margins of stories: could cut.

All told, this guy’s students probably learn as much from him as they do from anyone.

That’s because beginning writers tend to be verbose. We can’t tell the difference between an essential detail and an inessential one. We’re like golden retrievers romping through Storyland, and pretty much every damn thing we see is a squirrel.

But push this advice too far, and again, you’ll get stuck writing mediocre fiction. Because sometimes the things that don’t work are actually important. They don’t work not because they’re the wrong things, but because they’re the hard, ambitious, at-the-very-edge-of-what-you-even-know-how-to-say-things, and the only way to land them is to dig deeper, work harder, and sometimes even (god help you) add rather than cut.

Susan Defreitas
The Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice You Will Ever Hear (and Probably Already Have)


January 30, 2018

Why should a novel seek for a tidy closure? Novels are inherently rather messy. They use time very differently from drama. Beginning-middle-end isn’t obligatory. They can wander through a whole lifetime, or follow a great circle like Lord of the Rings, or go right on from what seemed a closure (as happened with Earthsea — my mistake!) I have nothing against endings, but I do write in a form that doesn’t take them too seriously.

Ursula K Le Guin
Interview with Lev Grossman

The hardest part with these memoirs is the effort to be honest – there is too great a divergence between my relatively unstained thinking, ideas and emotions, and my real treason, flight and the squalid, cowardly and ugly things I did to people in moments of panic or rage.

Robin Cook (Derek Raymond)
The Hidden Files

love with claws and teeth

January 30, 2018

Girls love each other like animals. There is something ferocious and unself-conscious about it. We don’t guard ourselves like we do with boys. No one trains us to shield our hearts from each other. With girls, it’s total vulnerability from the beginning. Our skin is bare and soft. We love with claws and teeth and the blood is just proof of how much. It’s feral.

And it’s relentless.

Leah Raeder
Black Iris

try my hand at a novel

January 30, 2018


I was always into horror when I was a kid – the old American International pictures, the big-bug movies, then the Hammer stuff. And of course the books, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll, Frankenstein, Shirley Jackson’s novels, and the great pulp writers like Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, and Richard Matheson. I even briefly liked Lovecraft, though I find him utterly unreadable now. When I decided that I wanted to get out of writing for magazines try my hand at a novel, King and Straub and a number of other really fine writers were already well into their stride and I was reading them a lot, and the movies had become a lot edgier and in-your-face, with stuff like The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the like, and I thought it was a very exciting period to be writing horror. So it was natural that I gravitate there with my first one, Off Season.

Jack Ketchum
Interview with Rob Hart for Litreactor, 27th April 2012

All day with nothing on my mind, the soft old couch,
the heating pad, a book of Tennessee Williams’s letters,
tea, camembert, beer, soup, dozing, speaking in tongues
off in my drowsing mind, invoking this or that god, thinking
of raising my fortunes, thinking of all of this swimming forward
without me someday, this bag of small wishes, the greatest
sorrows indelible and indistinct in the afternoon’s haze:
I cannot remember who said that our salvation must come
from a turn within our own nature and that there are no turns
and there is no nature. Oh, it was so dark inside the wolf said
the little girl with the basket after the hunters had killed
that beast who had eaten her, after they had cut him open to
let her out, although you don’t hear that version so often anymore.
Surely this is significant. Who hasn’t lodged in the belly
of something, who hasn’t been devoured? Do you remember?
Maybe it is something for you like an old tune that haunts you,
that makes you so suddenly sad when you see a place where
the carpet is coming up or where the screen door is sagging
on a desperate hinge. Unbearable, this material music dissipating
the neighbourhood around you into nothing. How does one rise
from this torpor and say, I don’t know what to do anymore?
Outside the trees have sneaked above the line of the neighbour’s
wall. How did I not notice? They make a tiny forest along
our city driveway. They are as dark and deep as it gets here.
I am still trying to rise up from the loveliness of dying objects
into the loveliness of whatever it is they point to. I’m trying
to get at just how things are, to adjust to that, but then I start
shaking. Isn’t that how it is with you? It was so dark inside,
but that’s not the whole story. They are leaving something out.
I can feel it in the sleepless night when I run my hands over
the openings in doorways. I can feel it when my own heart
delivers all my secrets to my enemies. I can feel it when
the poem doesn’t turn, but heads for the bottom with a hook
in its mouth or when the sky runs to the colour of tin and
the sparrows disguise themselves as leaves in the hedge waiting
for their moment. Isn’t that how it is with you?

Frank X Gaspar

fabio leone - galadriel's mirror

Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,’ she answered, `and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?

J.R.R Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
(The Mirror of Galadriel)

years after I’m dead

January 28, 2018

Well, anyway, here is Pearl. And I, personally, believe it will stack up with Stendhal’s Waterloo or Tolstoy’s Austerlitz. That was what I was aiming at, and wanted it to do, and I think it does it. If you dont think it does, send it back and I’ll re-rewrite it. Good isnt enough, not for me, anyway; good is only middling fair. We must remember people will be reading this book a couple hundred years after I’m dead, and that the Scribner’s first edition will be worth its weight in gold by then. We mustnt ever forget that.

James Jones
Letter to his editor, Burroughs Mitchell of Scribner’s, October 30, 1949

this dull world

January 28, 2018

Faeries,come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.

W B Yeats
Extract: The Land of Heart’s Desire