July Is On It’s Way, Gang!

If you live State-side, then you’re well aware that during this upcoming week, as we celebrate our long-ago decision to not be England, everything pretty much comes to a stop around here and it’s now all about cookouts and kayaking and canoeing and camping and FIREWORKS and bug spray…

Even though I actually love a lot of that stuff, especially camping (I know, I don’t seem like the kind of gal who would like that sort of thing, but I actually do) (and NO, it’s not because I like to have sex in tents, although that is a HUGE part of it), I will more than likely spend a huge amount of this upcoming holiday week working on revisions of the play, since rehearsals begin  in just a few weeks!

I also have a birthday in July, so sometimes July is also all about cake.

Re: camping, loyal readers of this lofty blog, who know my deep and often uncontrollable passion for dishes, will no doubt be in no way nonplussed to learn that my obsession with buying dishes also extends to dishes and cookware made specifically for camping.

It is RIDICULOUS, the amount of Coleman dishes and cookware I own, and I have not actually been camping in, I guess, decades at this point.

Since I’m ostensibly a “New Yorker,” the people I am friends with like to go off to the mountains and stuff, but only to stay in glamorous old mountain  inns and have incredible meals served in dining rooms that have damask table cloths & such. Maybe go on a little hike to take in the splendid vistas, but then go back to the hotel and get a massage.

I used to beg people to go camping with me and everyone was pretty much shocked and horrified to discover that I liked that kind of thing.

The last person I begged to go camping with me was Mikey Rivera, when we were still together and living in the teeming heat of NYC.

ME (super excited by the prospects of being alone in a tent with him, far from the madding crowd of Manhattan):  “Come on, Papi, let’s go up to the mountains and go camping!!”

HIM: “There’s bears up there, Boo.”

And that was the end of that delightful adventure!

Anyway, lots and lots and LOTS of people go camping out here in the Hinterlands. And tons of people go kayaking and canoeing.  Cookouts, bonfires.

I don’t do these kinds of things out here because a.) it seems like I’m always under a deadline for something these days; and b.) none of these folks are vegetarians. Not even close.  And the stranger the animal, the more likely they are to want to eat it.

The stuff that goes on, foodwise out here, can be emotionally debilitating for me, so I kinda steer clear of that.

I will, however, douse myself in bug spray and watch the fireworks from my porch because it has a clear view of the sky over at the ballpark. And I do love fireworks. God knows.

Well, work with Peitor yesterday on the micro-short video script was INTENSE. Man, this little video (8 minutes) is getting intensely complex. It’s too wonderful, really. Because the bottom line is that the premise is absolutely absurd.  Without doubt, completely absurd.

As I’ve said here before, there is very little dialogue in the video.  Perhaps a total of 2 minutes, tops.  And that part is the most absurd section of all.  And yet the entire (wildly brief) thing is, cinematically, an homage to Hitchcock, Bunuel, Bergman, Fellini, and Polanski.

It is just too intense and too fucking funny. And I think that he and I have seen way too many movies for our own good.

Okay!

Brighton did not yield much in the way of Instagram photos of Nick Cave’s Conversation there last night. There was one photo I really loved – I think he was leaving the stage at that point. And there was an interesting photo that Susie Cave posted of a little girl sitting on the edge of the stage.

And now we must find a new reason to go on obsessing, because his Conversations are on hiatus until late August, gang.

I got word last night that the final comments from the editor re: Blessed By Light won’t be arriving in my inbox until Tuesday.  So I seriously have to start focusing on the play. July’s presence in my world is imminent.

But I’m still having trouble disconnecting from one project and launching into revisions of another.

I still have not yet dealt with setting up the new laptop, either.  I’m really not sure what my problem is because now it’s getting sort of extreme — my aversion to doing this, even while I already know I love that new laptop.

Surely, this is not another one of those instances where I keep something that I love at arm’s length from me?? That would just be too easy, gang! There must be some other, less honest way to explain this dilemma with the laptop!

All righty, gang. I’m gonna get more coffee and take a look at the day and decide how I feel about being alive in it! (Pretty good, I think, but that’s just off the top of my head.)

Enjoy your Sunday, wherever you are in the world.  In honor of the upcoming holiday week, I leave you with some songs from my childhood, as put together by Mickey Newbury (but then made famous by Elvis): “American Trilogy.”

I’m guessing all these songs are politically incorrect now, even though one of them was written by a white woman from the North. But anyway. I still love this trilogy. Thanks for visiting, gang. I love you guys! See ya!

Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look away, look away, look away Dixieland
Oh I wish I was in Dixie, away, away
In Dixieland I’ll take my stand to live and die in Dixie
Cause Dixieland, that’s where I was born
Early Lord one frosty morning
Look away, look away, look away Dixieland

Glory, glory hallelujah
Glory, glory hallelujah
Glory, glory hallelujah
His truth is marching on

So hush little baby
Don’t you cry
You know your daddy’s bound to die
But all my trials, Lord will soon be over

Trad. Arranged by Mickey Newbury 1971

Good Morning All You Groovy Cats & Kittens!

I’m feeling lots better today! No new bruises during the night, so I’m just gonna go with that and feel happy!

Before I forget, starting Monday, July 1st, as part of the annual Summer Sale, all the eBook titles that I publish with Smashwords will once again be free to download, in all eBook formats, for the entire month.

There are no new books included in that download. Twilight of the Immortal will be included in the free download, but other than that title, all the others are graphically erotic and not suitable for all readers.

I will post the complete links on Monday.

Okay!!

Only a couple photos out of Brighton last night. I’m guessing it’s another one of those things where people are following the rules and not using their phones. Because there were photos from before & after the actual Conversation with Nick Cave and everyone loved it. They are back to calling him God, btw. I forgot to mention that.

Oh, I also want to follow up on the new Raconteurs album that came out last week, Help Us Stranger. I’ve listened to the whole thing now and I really like it a lot.  Sort of mid-60s-Beatles-esque throughout much of it.  Just a very happy album with really catchy grooves.

I’m still not warming up to the new Stray Cats album, though.  They should have just saturated the fuck out of it with reverb and yet they did not! Of course it could sound better as vinyl, and I’m only listening to it as an MP3, which usually changes the sound a lot. But it’s that lack of that specific sound quality that’s bothering me. Not the songs themselves.

To me, rockabilly isn’t just the rhythm as the overall sound. I don’t care if I can’t understand the words, either. I just really want to hear that noisy reverb chaotic sort of mess, along with that incredible rockabilly rhythm.

With this new Stray Cats record, I can actually understand every single word, so I find that all I’m doing is listening to every single word. And, you know, rockabilly songs are not exactly profound, or anything – I would really just rather feel the overall sensation, and for me, that’s missing.

Other types of music – the kind of songs that God writes, for instance (aka Nick Cave) – if I can’t understand every single solitary word I go insane.

And speaking of words…

Today is Saturday, which means another phone marathon with Peitor in Los Angeles to work on the current micro-short video script.

It’s really amazing to me, gang, how it’s taking shape.

It’s dark & absurd. With the truly absurd part coming in the 5th segment (naturally, my favorite part). There are a total of 6 segments, and the  whole video is under 8 minutes, total. It’s a cross between Ingmar Bergman and Bauhaus photography, although most of it is in color.  (The title of the video is actually in Swedish, with an English subtitle.)

Anyway, it’s super fun, but it is also a heck of a lot of tight brain-focusing and a lot of fast typing, because Peitor starts getting on a roll, forgetting that I’m over here, typing.  Or trying to.

Still no edits/comments from NY on Blessed By Light, but I have to get to work on Tell My Bones, regardless.  Just make myself switch gears however I can. Probably won’t start today, though.  I’m actually kinda really, really worn out over here.

I keep forgetting to mention how amazing the fireflies are out here this summer. Just thousands of them. They are so pretty. Prime viewing time is at about 9:15 pm. They are all over my backyard then.

I just watch from the huge kitchen window. Because the mosquitoes out here are nasty. I can’t set one foot outside in the evening if I’m not covered in bug spray. And I hate being covered in bug spray.

I also have an amazing spider in the upper corner of my kitchen porch. You should see the amount of webs this guy builds, and how quickly he does it. Once they get all raggedy looking, I wipe them all down and get rid of them. But by sunset, he has them all back in place. It’s staggering, really, how quickly he works and how elaborate they are and how much space they take up. And when the sun’s all the way down and it’s truly nighttime, he just sits there in the middle of it all. He’s pretty big. I can see him really easily because there’s a streetlight on the corner across the street.

And a pigeon has built her nest in the rain gutter above my kitchen porch. Yes, the same gutter that I had gotten all tidily repaired last fall because the starlings did so much damage to it by building their nests there. (I won’t even tell you all the damage the starlings have done to the gutters over my back door. And all the various other birds’ nests sprouting out from gutters in other areas of the roof – plus, a ton of tiny little maple trees growing like crazy in a couple of the other gutters. It’s a bit of a mess. I used to feel guilty about it until I noticed that all my neighbors have the same thing going on.)

Okay, well. That’s it for the nature talk today. I’m gonna get going here. Grab some more coffee.  Take in this gorgeous morning before it’s time for the phone call.

I hope you have a wonderful Saturday, wherever you are in the world! I leave you with my breakfast-listening music from today.  “Palaces of Montezuma” from Grinderman 2. Thanks for visiting, gang. I love you guys! See ya!

“Palaces Of Montezuma”

Psychedelic invocations
Of Mata Hari at the station
I give to you
A Javan princess of Hindu Birth
A woman of flesh, a child of earth
I give to you
The hanging gardens of Babylon
Miles Davis, the black unicorn
I give to you
The palaces of Montezuma
And the gardens of Akbar’s tomb
I give to you
The Spider Goddess and the Needle Boy
The slave-dwarves they employ
I give to you
A custard-coloured super-dream
Of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen
I give to you

C’mon baby, let’s get out of the cold
And gimme, gimmme, gimme your precious love for me to hold

The epic of Gilgamesh
A pretty little black A-line dress
I give to you
The spinal cord of JFK
Wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligee
I give to you
I want nothing in return
Just the softest little breathless word
I ask of you
A word contained in a grain of sand
That can barely walk, can’t even stand
I ask of you

C’mon baby, let’s get out of the cold
And gimme, gimme, gimme your precious love for me to hold
C’mon baby, come out of the cold
And gimme, gimme, gimme your precious love for me to hold

c – 2010 Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, James Sclavunos, Martyn Casey

My Coffee NEVER Arrives Like This!!

I always have to go down to the kitchen and get the coffee myself, and in the process, try not to trip over hundreds of scampering cats who can’t stand me.

Okay. Perhaps I exaggerate – there are only 7 cats here who can’t stand me.

But I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve never had this sort of announcement when the coffee was ready. Least of all, by a guy who wore a seriously nice robe such as the one pictured above! (And I guarantee you; I have had plenty of nightgowns that looked like hers, so that can’t be the issue here.)

I guess it’ll just remain one of those eternal mysteries, gang – why it is that vintage advertisements never seem to reflect the life I’ve lived.

Still awaiting comments & edits from NY on Blessed By Light. In the meantime, I’m trying to sort of urge my mind into the Tell My Bones groove. The play could not possibly be more different from Blessed By Light if it tried, so I seriously have to find a way to steer my mind away from one creative track and onto another.

It feels like that “changing horses in midstream” kind of thing. My mind doesn’t really feel ready to let go of Blessed By Light, but it has to. It is almost July and rehearsals will begin in a few weeks, and the director wants to see all my revisions for the entire play before we get started. (The rehearsals, though, will primarily be for the staged reading version of the script, which is only a 30 minute condensed version of the whole play.)

Loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that I went through a lot of stress, creating that staged reading version of the script back in January/February, and made significant changes to the storytelling at that point that haven’t been incorporated into the overall script yet. So I have to tackle that. And of course tackle it as the heat of July approaches.

But I actually do okay, writing in intensely unbearable heat. Sleeping in it is where I have serious problems.

Okay!

Yesterday’s post, curiously enough, yielded lots of traffic from Russia that I don’t usually experience – and none of it came through the WordPress Reader. Indeed curious, right?

Freaked me out just a little bit, I have to say. But on we go.

The last few days have yielded another sort of interesting development.

Even while being incredibly happy with finishing the new novel, and really happy with how it reads as a completed book, I’ve had these weird physical things that have started to perplex me. Relentless and usually overwhelming fatigue is an ongoing issue. Now pain issues. And now bruises appearing from out of nowhere that I can’t explain.

Yesterday evening, I found several more bruises. But you know, that sudden out of body experience I had while meditating yesterday morning felt really profound to me.  That idea that it was futile to go on because there was too much “nature” out in front of me, and yet that feeling of peace about being right where I was, because everything was so beautiful right where I was.

Obviously, I don’t like seeing these bruises.  And yesterday, I found 4 more.  I like to believe it’s just some weird byproduct of being a vegetarian and maybe not getting enough of some sort of vitamin. Still, whatever it ends up being, that sense of peace came over me again yesterday and it was profound. I felt totally okay with everything.

I’m so happy that I finished the novel, and I know I’ll finish the play, and I feel certain I’ll finish Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse.

I have several other projects that I’ve already started – 3 plays, another novel, and a memoir; and then TV adaptations for 2 of my older novels. But yesterday, it suddenly felt like, well, if I don’t complete those projects for whatever reason, it’s okay. It’s these 3 primary ones that are front & center right now that matter most to me and I know for sure I’m going to finish those.

It’s a type of thinking I’ve never really had before, but it all felt really, really good to me. Like absolutely everything is all right, no matter what path I end up finding myself on.

Plus I think that the people that I love in this life know that I love them. And that’s really important to me.

Loyal readers of this lofty blog know all about Greg, the boy I fell in love with when I was 11 years old and he was 12; and I stayed in love with him until he was killed in an accident the summer I was 14 and he was 15.  And then all sorts of horrible things began to unravel in my world after he died. And I never got a chance to tell him that I loved him. I was a child, you know?  Throughout that whole relationship. Even though we had a ton of sex. I was still a child, really. I was overwhelmed by all the feelings I had for him, but it would never have occurred to me to say “I love you.” It just wasn’t part of my emotional landscape yet.

And I don’t think anything ever felt worse to me than having him suddenly be gone, forever, without being able to tell him that I loved him.

But ever since then, boy, I’ll tell you. I try to express how I feel towards people as best I can. Even though on so many levels, I am a really self-involved person, I do actually care deeply about people. Obviously, readers here know that I have this life-long processing of physical abuse and rape issues that I still deal with many decades later; things that have caused me to have intimacy problems that I try to process in the most productive ways I can. Still, it makes “relationships” very hard for me to maintain. But underneath all the drama, I still care deeply about people.

And I guess in some ways, even though this sounds sort of lame or even like an emotional cop out, my writing is always about human emotions and the emotional complexities of “being here” and the messages we give each other by “being here.”  I do care very much about the human condition, the human heart, and I try to put all of that into my writing and hope that it continues to affect people positively.  Even when there’s a lot of sex going on in what I’m writing, the human heart is always the central issue for me. That struggle for the heart to connect while it’s still here.

Love people. Help them feel loved. Let people know they’re not alone. Life is the same innate journey for all of us, even while we experience it each in our own unique way. I really believe there is an undercurrent to all of it that is exactly the same for all of us, and it comes from love.

Okay.

I still did not set up the laptop. I have some revisions I need to make by tomorrow to the micro-short video script that Peitor and I are working on, so I will probably avoid the laptop yet again and focus on that today! Or at least this morning. And then avoid the laptop by doing stuff like washing my hair, doing yoga, finding something to stare at and then stare at it. Study Italian. Play the guitar…

I so don’t want to deal with that laptop, and yet I also can’t wait for it to be ready for me to use!! What a conundrum!

All righty!

The Conversations with Nick Cave continue in Brighton for the next couple nights and then will completely disappear from the landscape for a couple of months, wherein I’m certain he will have all sorts of private (lower case ‘c’) conversations and wear whatever he wants to wear! Instagram will somehow survive and continue to get all clogged up with all sorts of things that may or may not mean anything.

As usual, we shall see!

The breakfast-listening music was a little sad today – one of Tom Petty’s many “divorce” songs before he finally got up his nerve (basically) to divorce Jane. It’s a song I’ve posted here numerous times over the years just because I really love the darn song: “Only A Broken Heart.”

(You know, if you like Tom Petty and have never read either his official biography, Petty, by Warren Zane, a really good book and a NY Times Bestseller from 2015; or Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo, a phenomenally good book from 2006; you should read them. He talks about pretty much every song he ever wrote and why he wrote them and what was going on in his life when he wrote what he wrote, as well as songs that might mean a lot to you that he barely even remembers writing because it meant almost nothing to him. Even his huge hit “Wildflowers,” a really gentle little love song/folk song, he says was actually a song he wrote for himself; because he knew he was unhappy but that he deserved to be happy and he needed to get a divorce… It’s just all very, very interesting if you like Tom Petty.)

Okay, enjoy your Friday, folks. Wherever it takes you! Thanks for visiting, gang. Please know I love you guys so much!! See ya!

“Only A Broken Heart”

Here comes that feeling I’ve seen in your eyes
Back in the old days, before the hard times
But I’m not afraid anymore
It’s only a broken heart

I know the place where you keep your secrets
Out of the sunshine, down in a valley
But I’m not afraid anymore
It’s only a broken heart

What would I give, to start all over again
To clean up my mistakes

Stand in the moonlight, stand under heaven
Wait for an answer, hold out forever
But don’t be afraid anymore
It’s only a broken heart

What would I give, to start all over again
To clean up my mistakes

I know your weakness, you’ve seen my dark side
The end of the rainbow is always a long ride
But I’m not afraid anymore
It’s only a broken heart

c- 1994  Thomas Earl Petty

All Good Things

I had one of those out of body things during my morning meditation today.

I was suddenly standing on the side of a huge hill that was absolutely covered with huge drifts of untrodden white, powdery snow. The sun was coming up at the top of the hill and the snow became blindingly white.

It was really beautiful. I was the only person, anywhere.  I decided not to try to make it any farther up the hill, and I turned to the right, and kept walking in that direction, until I came to the edge of a precipice and the view was astounding. A great divide. A canyon of some kind.  Surrounded by enormous snow-covered cliffs for as far as the eye could see.

And it felt futile to try to go on. There was simply too much “nature” to contend with, yet at the same time, it gave me a true sense of peace about being exactly where I was, because everything was so beautiful.

And then the meditation music ended, right then. And I came right back & opened my eyes (to a very warm and sunny morning).

It was, I guess, a good way to start the day. I do feel like I’m in a new era now, because the novel’s done.

I read it from start to finish last evening. It took about 4 1/2 hours. I did find one typo, but I’m still awaiting the official edits/comments from NY.

I was kind of overwhelmed by the book – in a good way. Although I’m not happy with the second to the last line. So I’m going to look at that today. And then try to really get a grasp on the whole thing, the complete picture of it, you know? It is such a strange novel. It’s beautiful, though.

I woke around 4a.m. today and felt a little sad because the book was over.  Gradually the birds started singing, and that pulled me out of it. It’s not like my life is over. I’m excited to get to work on the upcoming play. And once those revisions are done (for the time being), I can get back to work on Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse. It should be fun to write hardcore erotica in the overwhelmingly oppressive heat & humidity of deep summer!!

I’m sure I will keep you posted…(in between cold showers).

Okay. Truth be told, I still have not completely set up that new laptop, so I will probably make some time to give it my complete attention. It’s really a wonderful laptop and it’s stupid to not be using it. But I just hate migrating all the old stuff into the new stuff and finding out what’s not going to upgrade or which passwords I’ve hopelessly forgotten, or which software I have to reload, and how to get all my favorite URLs back in my browser, etc.

Just tedious, mind-numbing, potentially frustrating stuff.  And I’ve noticed that lots of people use stealth browsers now and I’m not sure if I want to start doing that — go into some brave new world, or just stay here on the old browser where it’s beautiful & happy.

I do have one stealth browser that I use if I’m going on Yandex or something, because the one time I went to sites through Yandex, boy, did my little laptop become a target for stealthware, or whatever you call it.

I don’t want stealthware on my laptop, but I honestly don’t care if the Russians are spying, or anything like that. I expect the Russians to be spying. And I expect us to be spying on them, too.  It’s just how we are, I guess. NYC, in the 80s especially, was full of spies, from all over, not just Russia. I dated a couple of spies and they were both exceptionally interesting men. Talk about fearless, you know? Jesus.

The Russian spy was a race car driver from what we once affectionately called “Yugoslavia.” He worked in tandem with some communist Chinese spies (always very, very nice to me), and he had quite a few illegal Irish girls spying for the Russians, too (they were sort of wretched, unhappy creatures, though). He was always trying to get me to spy for the Russians. I was very noncommittal about it.  I was in such a strange place in my life back then.

A very good friend of mine was on leave from the Marines at one point, and came to stay in my apartment for a few days. He found issues of Guns & Ammo in my apartment, and that’s never been the kind of zine I was known to have read.  Ever.

We were eating bowls of cereal, watching PeeWee’s Playhouse on the Saturday morning cartoons, hanging out in bed in our underwear; easy -breezy.

HIM (noticing the magazines): “What are you reading Guns & Ammo for?”

ME (somewhere in the clouds): “Oh, some guy I’m dating wants me to spy for the Russians. Wants me to learn how to use a gun.”

HIM: “Are you out of your fucking mind???!!! You get the death penalty for that, Mare!! It’s a capital offense.”

He then made me call the guy and tell him that I wasn’t going to see him anymore – and why. ME (on phone): “Because I don’t want to get the death penalty.”

(I actually said that, gang. The guy accepted it, too. He said something like, “Okay. I get it. No problem.” And I didn’t see him anymore.)

But anyway.  I don’t know that I want to commit to a full-time stealth browser because I kinda like being tracked (by non-Russians) on the Internet! It helps me get right back to where I was before. 1700 less things to try to remember.

I guess we’ll see.

Okay.

Not too many photos out of Liverpool last night, but still getting some really wonderful photos posted to Instagram from Nick Cave’s Conversation in Nottingham, 2 nights ago. I don’t know, it just looks like it was a cool show.

Of course, on Instagram, they all look like the exact same show. They honestly do. If you saw all these photos I save on Instagram, you’d think I was out of my mind, because they all look exactly the same. However, sometimes, you just get the feeling that one show or another was particularly amazing. Just judging from thoroughly identical Instagram photos, I still think the Luxembourg show seems like it was off-the-charts special.

Okay. I’m gonna get going here gang and try to fix that 2nd to the last line of the novel and see if I can’t sign off on it and move forward into some sort of new era of my sometimes wonderful, always engaging LIFE.

I leave you with the breakfast-listening music from this morning, “Time to Move On.”  It was wistful. I did not cry, although I kind of wanted to. Mostly, I guess I’m just willing to walk into the future, come what may.  I hope I’ll see you there! Thanks for visiting, gang. I love you guys. See ya!

“Time To Move On”

It’s time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goingBroken skyline, movin’ through the airport
She’s an honest defector
Conscientious objector
Now her own protectorBroken skyline, which way to love land
Which way to something better
Which way to forgiveness
Which way do I go

Time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

Sometime later, getting the words wrong
Wasting the meaning and losing the rhyme
Nauseous adrenaline
Like breakin’ up a dogfight
Like a deer in the headlights
Frozen in real time
I’m losing my mind

It’s time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

c- 1994 Tom Petty

Shame by Iris N. Schwartz Q & A

Hi again, gang!

It’s time for another Q &A with author Iris N. Schwartz, my long-time friend and colleague, who has another book of micro and flash fiction out,  Shame & Other Stories, from the Hoboken-based publisher, Poets Wear Prada.

As I mentioned here earlier this week, Shame & Other Stories has been short-listed for Top Summer Reads over at North of Oxford. [If you follow the link, scroll down for their summer reading list.]

Image result for shame by iris n. schwartz

Long-time readers of this blog probably recall that Iris is a prolific writer of fiction and poetry.

My official disclaimer re: Iris’s work is that I have been publishing and editing her writing since 1998.  We met during a reading at Barnes & Noble at Astor Place in NYC, and have been friends, and colleagues, ever since.

I published her poetry repeatedly on my website, Other-rooms.com, and included her works of short fiction in several of the anthologies I edited over the years, including in Stirring Up A Storm: Tales of the Sensual, the Sexual, and the Erotic (Running Press), a book nominated for 2 Pushcart Prizes for short fiction.

Iris’ s writing is tight, deep, emotional, and to the point. Dysfunctional people and the eroticism of food tend to be her calling cards – though not always, and not always in that order.

For me, it is a personal treat when Iris has a new book out because I love her writing, so it was a pleasure to be able to talk to her recently about her current collection, Shame & Other Stories, published by Poets Wear Prada.

So. Iris! How do you feel about your writing these days? Have your feelings changed much since your last book, My Secret Life with Chris Noth, came out in 2017 [also from Poets Wear Prada]

I am taking more risks — with, for example, theme, story length, point of view. I hope my writing is better. Have my feelings changed? I’m not sure how to answer. I know that in this Age of Trump, I am angrier; more determined, too. This no doubt bleeds into my writing.

When you say “more determined,” do you mean more determined to get more writing out there? To express yourself differently? 

I mean more determined to do what I can in my small way to grab back our democracy. That includes reading and writing impassioned, raw, questioning work. I also mean I am more determined due to some physical limitations to nonetheless write and publish more, and become a better writer. 

Do you have a favorite piece in this collection?

My favorite story in Shame? At the risk of hurting the feelings of my other, deserving offspring in this collection, I have to go with “Dime-Store Bandits.” I sense Lenore and Imogene in my bones — in my marrow — and they possess a kind of salty innocence that makes me smile. “Nickeled-and-Dimed” is another story in Shame involving these sisters. I intend to write more about them.

I can easily see an entire collection of flash and microfiction revolving around those two sisters. I think my own favorite is “Franklin Is In,” a story about a man who is intensely OCD, with, of course, one of your customary “stop you in your tracks” type of endings – can you tell us a little bit about that piece and what inspired it? 

I’m glad you like “Franklin Is In!” Poor Franklin. I really feel for him. He’s very intelligent and very wounded, and because he’s bright, he’s keenly aware of his limitations. Franklin is probably one-eighth based on a person who volunteered at a mental health center where I also volunteered while in college, one-eighth based on other people I knew, and the rest (sixth-eighths) fabricated.

Am I correct in feeling that the stories included in this new collection draw less from your own personal, life experiences than the pieces included in My Secret Life with Chris Noth?  

You are correct, for the most part. Some of the stories, however, have a kernel or two based on my own experience.  

As you said, Imogene and Lenore come up twice in this collection.  They are young Jewish sisters living in Brooklyn; are they autobiographical characters? 

I consider them semi-autobiographical.

Can you talk about what makes it “semi” autobiographical?

Some events are taken from real-life experiences, some not. Regardless, they are different after I write them — as I write fiction (not journalism).  Hence, semi-autobiographical. “Fiction!” 

You’ve included a number of microfiction pieces this time. I love how you can capture such depth of character in such a tight word count. Are you writing more microfiction, in general? Do you find it more challenging, and/or more satisfying than writing flash fiction? 

Yes, I am writing more microfiction these days, though I still write flash. And thank you. I love the challenge and excitement of writing brief pieces. And, after all, every word is supposed to count. This might be more apparent when reading a one-hundred- or fifty-word story. 

I’m curious about the microfiction piece titled, “Yellow,” and the title’s connection to Lillian’s being Jewish and the story’s overall connection to hair color. Any comments about any underlying message to this particular piece? 

“Yellow,” I hope, speaks to the outsider in all of us, at any time: the lone Jew in a mostly Christian town; the gay boy taunted by his classmates; the only African American living in an apartment building where other renters consistently ask if he is the plumber, the “wheelchairer” in a crowd of walkers. 

With all the microfiction you’re writing now, do you still get inspired to write poetry? Any upcoming poetry publications we should know about? 

I haven’t written poetry in a long time. I may return to poetry, but for now, flash and micro do it for me. Or to me. Or with me. Oy.

I hope you do go back to writing poetry because your poems are wonderful! I found “Fur” an intriguing story – where an older woman is hallucinating in unusual ways about cats. Is there any specific background to what inspired that piece? 

Thanks re: “Fur.” I am an “older” woman who likes cats — and dogs, and horses. I use fantasy, dreams, and whatever else comes my way.

Are you making any kind of statement, though, about the woman’s aging process and her seemingly joyful life involving cats? When I read this piece, I felt that her life of loving cats and perhaps her imminent death were intertwining. 

The woman is “older,” but I wasn’t thinking of her mortality. She is lonely, but opening to new possibilities, maybe love again. 

You have a third book in the works with Poets Wear Prada – is this correct? A title yet? An approximate publication date? 

Yes, I will have a third book coming out with Poets Wear Prada, Thank you, PWP! I don’t know when it will be available, but when I know I will certainly tell you. The title? Brisket for One, and it has another cast of quirky characters. I mean, my lovely if sometimes troubled “children.”

Again, can you update us on the various ways that readers can find you on the web? 

My website should be ready soon.  [www.irisnschwartz.com – coming soon!]

Also, see my Amazon Author’s page.

And please visit my publisher, Poets Wear Prada.

Marilyn, thank you very much for this opportunity to discuss Shame, as well as for your astute questions!

You are so welcome.  Congratulations on the new book. And, gang, be sure to check out Iris’s Amazon Author’s page to check out all of Iris’s books to date!

Thanks for visiting! See ya!

Jubilation!

Yes, I completed the revision of Chapter 2 in Blessed By Light last evening and sent that and the revision of Chapter 1 off to NY to be re-edited by the editor!

I think I’m really happy with the changes. I’ll know for sure when I get started here this morning. But if I feel the same as I did last night,  then I think the rest of the read-through will just be looking for stray typos and such.

Even though the last 5 chapters have not come back from NY yet, I know that I at least liked the chapters and they won’t need any major overhauls.

That makes me feel so happy, gang. Because now I can finally just take in the whole novel and see what the hell I’ve written! Finally. I have not read this whole novel straight through, ever.  I was putting together the TOC last evening, writing out the chapter titles, and with some of them, I was literally thinking, Hm. I wonder what this chapter was about… I only have a vague recollection.

And the chapters are super short – the whole novel is super short. It’s only about 148 pages. And yet it still took me 10 months to write it.

I know I did a ton of script work in that time frame, too, but when I wrote Twilight of the Immortal, back in 2010, it only took me a year. That was a 600 page novel. And I was still writing a lot of short stories back then, too.

Blessed By Light has just been the strangest writing experience I’ve ever had. And, of course, it’s been my favorite.

When I think of the  research that went into Twilight of the Immortal, and how I labored to capture every personality, every historical individual, spell everyone’s names correctly, make sure all the dates & places matched up with what history has documented about those people’s whereabouts at that time, etc.  Put together the bibliography, and the “Cast of Characters” – short bios on everybody in the book, and that alone was something like 30 pages. And I did all that in one year, while meeting numerous deadlines for short story sales in France & Spain.

Blessed By Light is in that weird 2nd person POV. And there is no real place identified. Los Angeles is implied. But never outright stated. He does talk briefly about Paris and NY. He talks about experiences in London from 40 years prior. He talks a lot about growing up, but never says where it was. His best friend is named George, and when his sister was 15, she dated a guy named Joe. But no one else in the book has a name!

The main character has no name. The woman he’s talking to throughout the book has no name. His  previous wives have no names, though he talks about each of them in great detail. His daughters have no names. There are parents, grandparents, siblings, previous love affairs, band members – no one at all has a name. And we don’t know where anyone’s from.

And yet the book is primarily about fame.  Yet, no names.

And even though George is really the only main character who has a name, through at least half of the novel, George is dead. Presumably killed by an overzealous, unstable fan, but we never really know that for sure. She might have been his lover. She might have known him really well.

And it’s only about 148 pages total, and still took me nearly a year to write! Even though I didn’t have to document or research anything at all.

It has just been so strange. But so wonderful.

On an entirely different note!

There was a different suit in Nottingham last night!

Yes, Nick Cave was wearing a different suit.

At first, I felt sort of guilty. Like, somebody told on me, or something.

THEM: “There’s a 12-year-old writer in Crazeysburg who keeps complaining about the suit. Maybe you could wear a different color tonight.”

Anyway. It was funny – a little startling, but funny. It was definitely a brown suit. Or at least, it looked brown in the 2 color photos that were posted to Instagram last night. Some sort of dark color.

And then, me being me, I had to obsess for a little while over the validity of that, and check through all the photos I’ve saved of his Conversations in the UK to make sure that, yes, previously, he had been wearing the same grey suit every single night… And Nottingham yielded something entirely different.

God only knows why I get so obsessed about the weirdest, stupidest things!  Leave it alone, Marilyn. That way, madness lies…

So I did some yoga, studied Italian. Tried to behave like (my version of) a normal person.

Overall, I had really just a great day yesterday.

So I’m gonna get started here, gang.  It’s another gorgeous day but we are in the beginnings of a heat wave here. Nothing too severe (I hope) that will last for the next week.  So here’s hoping that by this time next week, I’m still pleased as punch with my continuing decision to not get central AC installed in this incredibly old house! Even though the new furnace and all the new duct work is primed and waiting!!

Methinks I’m probably playing with fire to be so cavalier about repeatedly putting it off, but I guess we shall see.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, wherever you are in the world, gang.  Thanks for visiting. I love you, guys! Ciao, baby!!

Voglio andare in biblioteca!!

Yes, indeedy! I want to go the library!

I actually might say this while I’m in Italy, gang!!

We are at long last inching our way into the ballpark of things I can see myself possibly saying while sequestered in Villa Monte Malbe in Perugia.

We shall see! But the important thing is that I’m still really enjoying the Mondly app. It’s really fun. I do real well on my quizzes, which is remarkable. They are throwing so much stuff at me every day,  only a fraction of which I am retaining at this point, because my primary focus is on revisions of Blessed By Light and then, of course, revisions of Tell My Bones. So why I score well on the quizzes is a complete mystery to me.

I guess it means that somewhere, deep down inside me, Italian is making itself known to me and that this time next year, when I step off the plane in Rome and open my mouth, fluent Italian will spring forth!

That’s the goal, anyway.

Okay!

Gosh, it’s a lovely day here today, gang. Just unbelievably pretty out there.  Last evening we had – yes, more rain! – but it has made for just a really, really nice day today.

I watched the final episode of season 6 of Endeavour last evening. It was really good, although I do have to say that it had some very tidy “happy endings” all the way around, for all the characters. But, still. It was nice to know that everything is back where it needs to be and all set up for a killer season 7 next summer!

It’s amazing how quickly I get addicted to that show. And they only do 4 episodes in a season.  In the old days, back when it first came on and I would actually watch it on a television set, I used to DVR it and re-watch each episode so many times. But now I just don’t have time. I’m lucky to watch it once. But, wow, do I love that show.

For some unknown reason, after I watched Endeavour down in the kitchen last evening, I suddenly decided to wash the downstairs bathroom floor. This is the floor that had Daddycakes’ footprints on it. After he died, I was unable to bring myself to clean the floor because of his little paw prints being there on the tile.

It’s been over 2 months now since he died, and even though there were still traces of his  paw prints on the bathroom floor, what I really actually had, was a very dirty bathroom floor.

So I tried not to get sad and I finally mopped it. I have to say, it certainly looks a lot better.

But I really miss that cat.

Okay.

Well. Nick Cave is in Nottingham tonight. And, yes, for all you Americans who, like me,  grew up on the story of Robin Hood, it turns out that Nottingham is an actual place.

Of course, I’ve known for a very long time that Nottingham is an actual place, but I remember how strange it seemed, when I first learned that it was indeed an actual place.  It just sounded so intensely mythical.

Plus, there are connections between Robin Hood and some sort of folk-hero bandit  type person who indeed lived in Sherwood Forest.

All that stuff just fascinates me.  How myths, and legends, and stuff get handed down through storytelling.

On my birth mother’s side, I am partially of Scottish descent, and that particular last name on that side is Hood.  On my birth father’s side, as I’ve detailed here on the blog, I have connections to quite a few interesting historical people, including Daniel Boone and Chief Blue Jacket. And I’m also a cousin to Louisa May Alcott.

But, on my birth mother’s side, the relatives were a lot humbler in origin. But I tell people that the family name on that side was Hood, and that I’m a direct descendant of Robin.

You’d be amazed how many people actually believe me when I say that. It’s all in how you say it, you know?  Especially if you’ve been throwing around names like Daniel Boone and Chief Blue Jacket.

Anyway. I digress.

We’ll see how it goes on Instagram tonight, but I’m noticing that people who aren’t supposed to be taking pictures with their phones during the Conversations, wait a day or two, and then suddenly the photos they weren’t supposed to take start getting posted to Instagram.

There was one photo of Nick Cave posted last night, in black & white, from Scotland that was just beautiful. So we’ll see.

I guess I’d better get to work here on the revisions of Blessed By Light. I decided to do a significant overhaul of Chapter Two, so that’s on my plate for today. And for some reason, I’m looking forward to this and not freaking out.

I leave you with this, gang. And, yes, I know, I’ve left you with this before. But yesterday, I drove into town to get groceries. On the way back, I was going my usual 95 mph. No one else on the highway.  A bit of atmospheric rain, making everything intensely green again all over Muskingum County for as far as the eye could see. I was listening to the “Wildflowers” CD for the first time in a long time, and when this song came on, I punched the REPEAT button and totally cranked up the volume.

It’s a really sexy little song, gang. A great groove.  But for some reason, when you’re driving in the rain, and this song is playing REALLY loud, and you’re sailing along super fast because you’re in Muskingum County which means that the Sheriff is never too worried about what you might be getting up to in your going-very-fast vehicle; well, then the sexiness of the song gets amp-ed up and — I don’t know — it just makes you really want to have sex.

(I know. It doesn’t take much to make me really want to have sex, but this is just, I don’t know, I guess, yet another one of those endless things that make me really want to have sex. Before you stoop to mocking me, though, you should get in your car, drive fast through Muskingum County in the rain, and crank this song, and see if it doesn’t do it for you, too.)

All righty! Thanks for visiting, gang! Have a terrific Tuesday, wherever you are in the world!! I love you guys! See ya!

[Come on, now, play it A LOT louder than that or it won’t work! – Ed.]

“Cabin Down Below”

Come on go with me, babe
Come on go with me, girl
Baby, let’s go
To the cabin down below

I got a radio
Put it on soft and low
Baby, let’s go
To the cabin down below

Well, I’ve had my eye on you
For a long, long time
I’m watching everything you do
Baby, you’re gonna be mine

Come on go with me, babe
Come on go with me, girl
Baby, let’s go
To the cabin down below

Time’s been moving slow
Since we both got here
Come on slide a little closer
Let me whisper in your ear

Well I got a radio
Turn it on soft and low
Baby, let’s go
To the cabin down below

Oh, baby, let’s go
To the cabin down below
Baby, let’s love
In the cabin down below

c – 1994 Tom Petty