I’m at the Steampunk CommuniTea Weekend!

I have to tell you, when David Lee Summers posted up about the Steampunk CommuniTea Weekend (https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/steampunk-communitea-weekend/), I was a little skeptical about my ability to get immersed into a virtual conference. I have ADHD, and I’m also a visual/Kinesthetic type, but it was free, and, to be honest, what the heck else am I doing right now (well, aside from writing and work, and pestering my kitties during their afternoon naps)? 

But, to my surprise, I am LOVING the conference. It’s my first virtual conference, and it is rocking. I love the discord panels best of all, but the Zoom events are so wild and fun as well!

Definitely would recommend that you all check it out! It’s a blast! And most of the events are free!

And, besides, it’s your kitty’s naptime. Stop bugging them, and come chat with us at the conference!

It’s today and tomorrow!

https://madame-askew.ticketleap.com/steampunk-communitea-weekend/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Brian Gene Olson

I spy with my little eye…something pink! It’s kidlit author (and speculative poet), Brian Gene Olson!

pink glasses (3) (1)

Willow Croft: In the dramatic world, there’s something called the “triple threat”—thespians who can not only act, but also sing and dance. You’ve almost achieved a “triple threat” status in the literary world in that you write AND compose music (such as the songs for kids that you’ve had accepted by Ladybug Magazine). So, what would be your third “threat” (aka talent) that you possess?

Brian Gene Olson: Oh man, I’d love to do just one thing really well! I still feel totally out of my depth with the songwriting thing, but that’s part of why it’s fun. I’m learning as I go. But I learned music theory from YouTube, so I won’t be composing my first symphony any time soon.
The speculative poetry is fun to write because I can be a lot more experimental and bizarre than I can with children’s poetry, which is more structured and regular in its rhythms. A children’s poem, at least the metered rhyming kind I write, is like a song. I think of an iambic poem as a song in duple meter, an anapestic one as a song in triple meter. A lot of my songs, actually, start out as children’s poems, but the rhythms are so bouncy I end up singing them in my head.
But another talent? I’m not sure I have one, unless the ability to annoy my family by tapping and slapping a drum beat all day long on whatever’s in front of me can be considered a talent.

Willow Croft: If you suddenly found yourself in an unexplored wilderness, what mythical creature would you like to meet?

Brian Gene Olson: It’s not a classical mythical creature, but there’s a tiny humanoid thing in fantasy author Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth called a twk-man who rides on the back of a dragonfly. He’ll give you information, so long as you have some salt to trade. I’d find out what’s in the wilderness, where to go, what sights to see, and how to avoid The Dying Earth’s flesh-eating deodands.

Willow Croft: What are you and your family’s “go-to” favourite meals/mealtime themes (i.e. Taco Tuesday)? Share up a recipe if you wish!

Brian Gene Olson: Yes! The food question!

Okay, so I was on kidney dialysis for ten years, and once during that time I ended up in the hospital because, I don’t know, my sodium was too low or something. And so I’m in the hospital for like a week, and they put me on this special restricted kidney disease diet, and, of course, all the food’s nasty–all except for this one awesome dish, this chicken veggie quesadilla with green and red peppers, onion, sliced mushrooms, jalapeños, black olives, cilantro, and just enough melted cheese to bind it all together, everything perfectly balanced, folded into a warm tortilla, with a side of salsa and sour cream. So good! Once I discovered it, I ordered it for every meal.
But then they take me off the restricted diet and put me on the normal one. And I order the quesadilla, but it’s just not the same anymore. All the veggies are gone and it’s just chicken with a thick layer of congealed cheese. I’m like, “Can you please put me back on the restricted diet?”
Anyway, once I got home I recreated the killer version for my family, called it a “Killer Quesadilla,” and everyone loves it. It’s one of those dishes you can customize to everyone’s taste, where you just cook up all the ingredients and lay it all out for everyone to assemble the way they want. You want more jalapeño, you get more jalapeño. You want more cilantro, you get more cilantro. And if it’s my wife, she gets a whole cilantro garden.

Oh, and I got a kidney transplant in 2019. I guess I should finish that part of the story!

Willow Croft: If you had a spaceship that could traverse both space and time, where would you go to first, and why?

Brian Gene Olson: I’d go to Paris on May 29, 1913 and witness the epically disastrous premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Then maybe I’d go check out Black Sabbath in the ‘70s.

Willow Croft: And, lastly but not…leastly?, we all know how weird cats can be, sometimes seeming that they are from some another planet. What’s the strangest (or funniest) thing your cat Pharoah has done?

Brian Gene Olson: Definitely the strangest thing he does is eat plastic bags. Grocery bags, thirty gallon lawn bags, whatever, he doesn’t care. Those and plastic needles from fake Christmas trees and wreaths. We can’t have a real tree or a fake tree because he’ll eat the needles, so instead we have to have this reusable stick-like structure that’s vaguely in the shape of a tree with lights built into it.

Fly on over to Brian Gene Olson’s website to discover more: https://briangeneolson.weebly.com/  !

Or say hi to Brian on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BGOwriter.

Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Author/Musician Ben Fitts

I switched things up a bit this week! Enjoy the awesome “Six Things Saturday” interview with author and musician Ben Fitts!

Willow Croft: Bizarro as a literary genre is still somewhat new to me (but I’m working on remedying that!). What appeal does the Bizarro genre hold for you as a writer, and, if you were looking back on it years from now, would you classify it as a literary/artistic movement, a subculture movement, or both?

Ben Fitts: Bizarro first appealed to me as a reader because I’ve always loved offbeat art and entertainment, especially when it came to comedy, so bizarro essentially felt like a more extreme version of something that I already knew I liked. It was kind of the same way I felt when I first heard Black Flag as a teenager after years of already listening to the Ramones. But the thing about bizarro that really appeals to me as a writer is the sense of absolute freedom I have when writing. Not only do I feel no pressure to make sure that everything feels believable as I do when writing more realistic fiction, but I’m free to revel and find humor in intentional lapses of logic, paradoxes, and general unbelievability. When all of that is on the table, then I’m really free to make just about anything I want happen in the story. Regarding the last part of that question, I’d call it a literary movement more than a bonafide subculture, because it’s not really linked to other artistic practices or self-identity the way full-fledged subcultures are. You can read punk authors like Kathy Acker and John Cooper Clarke, listen to punk bands, dress in punk fashion, call yourself a punk and more, but you can only really do one of those things with bizarro, at least as of now.

Willow Croft: How would you see the punk rock movement and DIY mentality persisting into the year 2021 and in the current/next generations?

Ben Fitts:  I think music and art in general is starting to become more genre-fluid, and punk is no exception. With the internet and streaming services, it’s way easier to come across new music nowadays, especially the more underground stuff. Because of this, young musicians are coming across and are influenced by a far wider range of different musical styles than many musicians from past generations have. A lot of those really niche genre labels you hear floating around nowadays, like blackgaze or hypnagogic pop, come from people having to come up with ways to market their music after the fact. So I do see punk rock musical and cultural influences persisting in DIY music scenes, but I also see it continuing to blend further with outside influences and with more and more microgenre labels popping up, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Willow Croft: What’s the most “Bizarro” i.e. surreal, humorous, and strange situation you have found yourself in, in real life?

Ben Fitts: I went to a rural college where we had lots of parties deep in the woods. These woods parties were a ton of fun, but it was often difficult to find your way out of the woods late at night, and I often got lost when I decided it was time to head home. When leaving these parties, I on two separate occasions accidentally stumbled upon a bonfire around which a bunch of furries were having an orgy while fully in their animal costumes. I’m guessing these furries were probably students who did this sort of thing in secret, but since everyone had their masks on, I guess I’ll never know for sure. 

Willow Croft: How do your music projects (your bands Capra Coven and War Honey) tie into your writing ventures? Are they complementary of each other, or separate?

Ben Fitts: They are pretty compartmentalized for me. Music is what I went to school for and how I pay my bills as an adult, while my writing started out as a casual hobby that ended growing more serious than I would have anticipated at first. So my musical endeavors end up taking up more of my energy and add to my stress levels, while my writing is more like a playground for me to have fun and be creative without really worrying about marketability too much. 

Willow Croft: One of the little bits of me that I still feel is a little bit “alternative” is that I despise the standardization of the educational system, which strips kids of any sort of individuality in some insane quest to be perfect—perfectly conformist—and deprives them of any opportunity to explore all the selves they might want to be. Personally, I see you as a great role model for kids in regards to living a creative, exploratory life, so what would you say to kids and young people as they begin to take over the fucked-up world we’ve left for them?

Ben Fitts: First off, thanks for saying that! I hope I’m a good role model to the kids and teenagers to whom I give guitar lessons, but it’s obviously something I worry about sometimes, as I think everyone who works with kids does. My main advice to kids is to question everything you’re told and to keep your critical thinking skills sharp. Between school, parents, belief systems, and other institutions, we have a lot of information and opinions dumped on us as we grow up. Some of it is helpful and some of it is bullshit. Part of becoming a capable and happy adult who contributes positively to the world around you is sorting out all of the bullshit you absorbed as an adolescent, and then adjusting your worldview appropriately. 

Willow Croft: To end things on a lighter note, I’ve included my usual food-based question! I noticed that your Goodreads profile mentions “you put too much hot sauce on everything”. So, please share, what’s your favourite form of liquid torture (aka hot sauce)?

Ben Fitts: I do like hot sauce! There’s a great brand from Pennsylvania called 22 Peppers that I love. 

Keen to know more? Visit Ben Fitts at his links below:

Swimming Away From the Current…

I had planned to use this shutdown time to write article pitches and submit them to magazines. Good intentions, right?

I began to realize that I wasn’t current enough on what’s trending write articles for some of the places that I’d hoped to draft pitches for. That, in fact, I’d never really been that up-to-date in terms of pop culture and current trends and the like, barring a brief period as an uber-cool (*cough* pretentious little snot) goth in the early 90s. So I was stuck trying to get ahead of a different non-pandemic-related curve.

But I realized was fine with not being trendy. I mean, sure, I spent way too many years trying to be the cool kid in the room, instead of the quiet nerd in the corner who had closet dreams of playing D&D and collecting comic books. And, as an adult, I spent too many years trying to conform so I could just “get a job.”

Not that getting a job isn’t important. I couldn’t write without my day job, even though I still struggle to support myself on that income. But I’ve conformed and worked hard and been outstandingly tenacious in my quest for a decent-paying job, and I still have nothing to show for it.

And, at risk of downplaying the importance of an author platform, or, even more importantly, the amazing and loyal followers that support the author, I realized that I don’t have to be current. There are plenty of talented writers out there that have their finger on the pulse of society, are on top of trends in movies and pop culture and even in writing, and they write it well.

In light of that it’s my responsibility as a writer to find my niche. (Which writing-tips articles galore also cover, of course!) But more than finding a niche is finding yourself. After all, what is writing for but a way to explore all the parts of yourself that aren’t seen in your day-to-day interactions with people.

For a few years after I overcame past conditioning and allowed myself to write (and even now, on some days) I wanted so badly to make up for all the time I lost in the thirty-some years that I didn’t write. And that’s where I could have sank and not swam.

Oddly enough, most of the development I’ve undergone in the past few years has been through a cyclical process of elimination–a whirlpool that gets tighter and cleaner as I get closer to the core. (I wrote a poem about this process, which was also inspired by a recent experience at a local convention. I’m not even sure if the poem is still posted on my blog or not.)

And that it’s perfectly acceptable to like classical music and comedies and outline by hand and write the first draft out by hand and have refillable pens and pencils or even a quill pen and (recycled) paper and get lost in the past and prefer tiny, cozy kitchens in old homes over culinary expanses with gleaming stainless steel appliances.

So, I’m exploring more old-school ideas and approaches to networking and mailings and establishing an author platform which may not even be trending at best, or at worst, be an utter failure, but that’s okay too.

We don’t all have to be trending.

We just have to be successful at ourselves.

And, for me, right now, that’s writing horror.

What’s your “you” right now, during this time of potential reflection and reassessment? Share if you wish to, in the comments.

 

 

 

Torrent Rising…

 

Torrent Rising

The bass of the speakers

makes my heart change rhythm

and I am old, and uncomfortable

with crowded people

hurting me with their rudeness

and sharp elbows.

So I find a quiet spot

where I can hear the music

de-obnoxious-fied.

I wonder why I’m even here

and I’m answered when

the band starts playing

blued, and blue notes

but it’s only for one song

as crisp lightning shatters the sky.

And then, it’s just you and me

and a handful of young girls

who all want your attention,

and I don’t want to be them,

but I don’t want to leave,

for I, too, still have dreams.

And so I dance up into the sky

with the memory of a song

not played

and the storm makes me beautiful enough

for me.

–Willow Croft

The Storm Within