Of Caribbean Gothic and Observing One’s Own Life from the Outside

“People build something that works. Then circumstances change, and they have to tinker with it to make it continue to work, and they are so busy tinkering that they cannot see that a much better idea would be to build a whole new system to deal with the new circumstances. But to an outsider, the idea is obvious.” ~ Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett

I’m stable enough to start writing full time again. This doesn’t mean that I’m healed or cured or anything that fun—my illnesses are chronic, so we just have to learn to live with each other. By stable, I mean that I understand my ailments enough to know how much I can push and for how long. That’s as good as it gets (for now). There are days when my feet and hands hurt so much that I can barely concentrate. The same goes for the left side of my back, and my stomach.

But the pain no longer takes me by surprise. I’ve learned to identify the signs, to ready myself for the nasty kicks. When the pain is bad, but not quite killing me yet, I watch television in bed with my Piano Man, do house cleaning, blog, play with my books, complain, and do other fun things that don’t take tons of brain power. I use my good days for editing, rewriting, and for doing other bits that require concentration.

During one of my really good days—while battling with two storylines that didn’t seem to like each other much—I realized something: at the moment, my immune system and I don’t have enough consecutive good days to deal with the stress involved in independent publishing. So I started revising the novel I wanted to self-publish next year, in order to make it as agent worthy as I possibly could. The more I worked on it, the more I knew that I didn’t want to change anything about it. I got frustrated. After lots of arguing with myself, I set the novel aside and reread some Pratchett. I laughed really hard when I got to the quote at the beginning of this post. I took the words as a sign from my Knight Writer.

So yesterday, I asked Facebook friends to choose between Caribbean Gothic, Mythical Circus and Mythical Realities. I didn’t say why—but since I have super brilliant friends, they deduced that I was talking about stories to be written. The winning choice (by a rather healthy margin) was Caribbean Gothic. I had three ideas for new novels in my head. But like any word-mother, who loves all her children equally, I couldn’t pick one. Thank you for the help, my Wicked Luvs.

I shall start putting pen to paper (all right, fingertips to keyboard) on the morning of the 28th. I haven’t met all the characters yet. But I know the story’s beginning, two of the main conflicts, and most of the ending. And yes, I know the setting—a Dominican Republic (real and imagined) bursting with wonders, beauties and horrors.

There will probably certainly be mangoes, wild witchery, fighting, loving, and furious dancing.

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Hard Times Require Furious Dancingdetail from the cover of Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, by Alice Walker

Eccentric Discredited Diseases, Thirteen Hallows, and Mabel Bunt’s Mouth

I’ve spent the last week or three studying questionable diseases, watching a maniac decorate other people’s houses with the dwellers’ innards, and smirking with a generously breasted wench with a whip for a mouth. Aren’t books just the best things in the world?

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases, edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts is a hoot. The “Enthusiastic Introduction by the Editors” is funny, the “Reluctant Introduction by Dr. Lambshead” is hysterical, and the details about the diseases have made me laugh until my gut hurt. One of my favorite illnesses is the Third Eye Infection, a malady that produces “trance-like states… [that] resulted in the publication of many philosophy Master Theses in the mid-1970s. Numerous artworks were attributed to it, as well as the creation of… Meta-Infectional Fiction, literature intended to spread itself as an infectious mental illness.” And to my never-ending delight, the Neil Gaiman story is signed by the author… a fact that makes me all giggly and stuff, since I paid less than a dollar for the collection. Go me!

The Thirteen Hallows, by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman, narrated by Kate Reading (one of my favorite readers) has been a glorious surprise. I started reading it under the impression that it would be some lighthearted young adult dark urban fantasy—I was introduced to Scott’s writing, via The Alchemyst, a young adult novel. Well, what I’ve read of this tale about old magic running wild in a modern city is very grown up… and bloody. The mythology weaved within the tale is quite magnificent. And the imagery is startling at times. This bit stuck: “…the dots of her unconcealed freckles were connected with dried blood. Her eyes were deep in her head, black smudges edged beneath them…”

Mabel Bunt and the Mask of M’selle Moppet, written by our own R. Collins and B. R. Marsten is a dance between sharp swords and Mabel’s witty bantering. I’ve been laughing (and nodding) at so many of the things that come out of Mabel Bunt’s mouth. The woman tells it like it is, and the telling is hilarious. Like when she tells her co-protagonist, “If [he] kills me, bury me arse up so people know where they can kiss.” I mean, who doesn’t appreciate that sage sentiment?

And that’s what I’m reading right now. I’ve also finished a handful of books these last few weeks, of which I highly recommend Sparrow Hill Road, by Seanan McGuire. If you like ghost stories and old urban legends made deliciously new, then you might enjoy this one. What about you, my Luvs, what tales have you been delighting in these days?

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases
from “Diseasemaker’s Group”, by Neil Gaiman

She Will Mourn in Darkness Nevermore

Fear oozes through the skin of her palms and makes her hopes clammy. She breathes… The scent of passionflower dances into her thoughts, calms her into taking a tiny first step towards the door. The studio is too dark for her to see the deadbolt or security chain, but the echoes of their laughter bites into her bones. Tears feed the gloom, and fill her vision with vintage rage.

in the dark,
anxiety and dreams
wish to fly

Anger begins to brew in the hollow of her throat, it consumes her wails, sharpens her teeth, roses her cheeks. She eats the distance between fear and the door, magics the darkness away with a flick of a switch. The foyer mirror shows her a face beautified and bolstered by the kicks of Fate’s steel thorned boots. She breathes… twists the deadbolt and unchains her safety cage.

sunlit soul
tasting tomorrow
in the bones

Hurt is too dark or too bright energy that squeezes much too tight, she breathes her thoughts into the world… she flies.

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the wee notes…
– Partly inspired by the following Terry Pratchett quote, in The Wee Free Men: “…anger was better than fear. Fear was a damp cold mess, but anger had an edge. She could use it.”
– Written for the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads (Weekend Mini-Challenge – Trying “No More”), Sanaa’s Prompt Nights (Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is Art.), Expanding Bits of Fiction and Poetry into Haibun (12), and for Rereading My Pratchett.
– P.S. If you’ve yet to join May Monster Madness, 2016, you should take a look-see. 😉

Mourn, by Magaly Guerrero