A Sort of Sex/Wine Triumph

My editor, Jacinda Little, is amazing. Jacinda’s guidance in structuring MIXED MEDIA is responsible for the tension that makes the juicy bits all that more delicious.  Thanks to Jacinda, the protagonist of MIXED MEDIA discovers the sensuality thrumming beneath the surface of a still life.

Still Life with Figs by Luis Egidio Melendez, via Art.com

Still Life with Figs by Luis Egidio Melendez, via Art.com

An Excerpt from MIXED MEDIA:

An angel with a pixie cut, she sat at the end of a bench. She conceded a small, welcoming smile before shifting attention to her work. I wanted to swallow her whole, digest the miracle of her fixed stare. Instead, I took a place next to her and started drawing. Together, we created twin reflections of Melendez’s still life with figs. We caressed the sensual curves of the fruit; lovingly shaded the leavened bread; detailed the sweet-juiced slit of an opened fig. Sarah and I finished at the same time, a sort of sex/wine triumph.

I glanced at her. She laughed and said, “I never noticed how thoroughly sexual this painting is. Even the bread looks feminine.”

“Maybe it’s only erotic because we looked at it together.”

“Are you hitting on me?”

I closed my sketchbook, hiding the juicy fig.

“Don’t blush. I didn’t mind.” She extended her charcoal smudged hand. “I’m Sarah.”

 About MIXED MEDIA:

Story Blurb

Mario Santa Maria is an artist who has lost his dreams – literally. Insomnia, unemployment, and a failing relationship are his lot. Things are going badly, and then things get strange. On a visit to the Vos Modern Art Museum, Mario discovers he has the ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer. MIXED MEDIA is a surreal tale of masterpieces, Delphic sugar cubes, and the promise of new perspectives.

What’s hidden by what we see?

You can read MIXED MEDIA for free (PDF), or purchase it on Amazon (5.0 out of 5 stars). If you enjoy the story, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads.


The image included in this post is courtesy of Art.com, where you can purchase prints of this work, and thousands of others. Want some art? Click the Rafflecoptor button to enter for a chance to win a $25 (USD) gift certificate at Art.com!

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We Always Want to See What Is Hidden

Le Fils de L'Homme by Rene Magritte, via Art.com

Le Fils de L’Homme by Rene Magritte, via Art.com

Magritte’s Le Fils de Le Homme (The Son of Man) inspires a sense of dread. The blank water behind him, the obscured face, and the surreal placement of an apple all conspire to make you want to do one thing: see what the man looks like. In MIXED MEDIA, the protagonist Mario Santa Maria discovers he can only see artwork when he intercepts the communication between the viewer and the piece of art. The blank, featureless black that devours the paintings at the Vos Modern Museum is analogous to Magritte’s apple. Mario’s ability to see through the darkness is the equivalent of plucking that apple out of the air and exposing the features of The Son of Man.

You can read MIXED MEDIA for free (PDF), or purchase it on Amazon (5.0 out of 5 stars). If you enjoy the story, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Excerpt from MIXED MEDIA:

“What do you see when you look at that book on the coffee table?”

“A picture of a man with a floating green apple in front of his face.”

“Do you know what I see?”

She shrugged.

“Nothing. I see a black rectangle where the picture should be. Magritte, the artist who painted this, explained it by saying ‘everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.’”

Darla clutched the bear to her chest. “What does it mean?”

“I think it explains what’s happening to me.”

“What, Mario, what’s happening to you?”

“I’ve been chosen for something.”

“Chosen?” she repeated.

“You make it sound crazy.”

About MIXED MEDIA

Mario Santa Maria is an artist who has lost his dreams – literally. Insomnia, unemployment, and a failing relationship are his lot. Things are going badly, and then things get strange. On a visit to the Vos Modern Art Museum, Mario discovers he has the ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer. MIXED MEDIA is a surreal tale of masterpieces, Delphic sugar cubes, and the promise of new perspectives.

What’s hidden by what we see?


The image included in this post is courtesy of Art.com, where you can purchase prints of this work, and thousands of others. Want to help me celebrate publication? Click the Rafflecoptor button to enter for a chance to win a $25 (USD) gift certificate at Art.com!

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Wisdom Tooth in the Belly of a Worm

The difficulty with having a mystical experience is that no one is going to believe you. You probably won’t believe you. Insanity seems like a better answer than discovering you’ve got some special access to the truth underpinning reality. I put Mario Santa Maria, the protagonist of my surreal short story, MIXED MEDIA,  in the situation of being called to an extraordinary purpose that also happens to be unbelievable. His girlfriend, Darla, thinks he’s lost it and wants him to get help. Mario himself isn’t sure what to make of it all. I chose The Scream as the perfect painting to represent the terror, shock, and apparent insanity of Mario’s new abilities.

You can read MIXED MEDIA for free (PDF), or purchase it on Amazon (5.0 out of 5 stars). If you enjoy the story, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Mario Faces Darla’s Doubt

The Scream by Edvard Munch, via Art.com

The Scream by Edvard Munch, via Art.com

An Excerpt from MIXED MEDIA:

“I haven’t lost touch with reality.”

“Then what is this?” Darla spread her arms, indicating the coffee table, the mess, me.

“I’m sorry I’m such an inconvenience for you. I thought you understood why I had to quit that job. Retouching prints with cheap paint to give it an ‘authentic texture’ was perverse. It killed my inspiration, and then stole my dreams.” I finished shading a wisdom tooth in the belly of a worm, and tossed the sketch book onto the coffee table.

Darla’s lower lip quivered. Her nose whistled, a high-pitched reminder of the all the coke she’d done. “You need help,” she repeated.

“Thanks, but I’m fine.” I passed her the Vos bag. “I got this for you.”

She pulled out the bear and adjusted its tiny shirt. “Do you really think you can fix this with a stuffed animal?”

“No. There are postcards in there, too.”

Darla tucked the bear under her arm and fished in the bag. She shuffled the postcards. Escher and Munch appeared and disappeared in exquisite detail. When she set them on the table, the images morphed to black. “Should these mean something to me?”

About MIXED MEDIA:

Mario Santa Maria is an artist who has lost his dreams – literally. Insomnia, unemployment, and a failing relationship are his lot. Things are going badly, and then things get strange. On a visit to the Vos Modern Art Museum, Mario discovers he has the ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer. MIXED MEDIA is a surreal tale of masterpieces, Delphic sugar cubes, and the promise of new perspectives.

What’s hidden by what we see?


The image included in this post is courtesy of Art.com, where you can purchase prints of this work, and thousands of others. Want a chance to win $25 at Art.com? Click the Rafflecoptor button to enter the giveaway!

Click to enter!


 

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DUSK AND SUMMER, by Joseph Pinto

I met Joe through friends of writer friends. He is a contributor to the esteemed Pen of the Damned writing collective, a friendly commentor on my blog, and has the sweet charm and humor found most purely in horror authors. He asked if I would host him as part of a blog tour to announce and celebrate the publication of his newest book, DUSK AND SUMMER, and I agreed because I like Joe, and I enjoy his work with Pen of the Damned. I didn’t know what to expect of DUSK AND SUMMER, but what I got was a new perspective on aging, life, and learning how to live with the specter of mortality.

If you haven’t read Joe’s guest post, please do! If you haven’t read DUSK AND SUMMER, you can puchase it here:

Amazon: US |UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | India | Brazil

CreateSpace | Smashwords

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes (Apple)

Joe is donating a portion of the proceeds to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Pancreatic Cancer

Please leave a review for Joe on Amazon or Goodreads!

xoxo,

-aniko


DuskAndSummerThere are two types of coming of age stories. The common one, with which we are all familiar, examines the psychological and emotional landscape of a boy becoming a man. The less common concerns the next great leap, a transition for which we have no name, but which happens when our parents pass away and we are left to understand a world in which we are the elders, the guardians, the guides. DUSK AND SUMMER, a novella by Joseph Pinto, is of the latter type.

In the forward, Pinto reveals that he lost his father to the ravages of pancreatic cancer. DUSK AND SUMMER is Pinto’s tribute to the man who loved, raised, and inspired him. It is a beautiful elegy that transcends the personal nature of the content to reveal something essential about life: DUSK AND SUMMER shows us the unselfish nature of love. Love, in Pinto’s narrative, is about shared moments as much as it is about knowing when to let go, and intuiting the wholeness that only death can restore. Eons ago, Epictetus advised  “never say about anything, I have lost it, but say I have restored it.” People of faith have ritual and community to guide them to acceptance. If there is a hereafter, then Omega is Alpha, and the only reason we cannot recognize that in the same dry, factual way in which we recognize the elements in the periodic table is because we are limited – locked into – our Now, our Here. The challenge of discovering faith in a “beyond” is the hallmark of this second, nameless coming of age. DUSK AND SUMMER is the story of moving to the acceptance that what is lost, who is lost, is restored to wholeness in a way we cannot rationalize, touch, or mentally conceive.

***Spoiler Alert! Some plot points are revealed in the next paragraph, but the true magic of the myth is preserved. You’ll love the way Pinto brings it all together, so get the book!***

Pinto presents his theory of this transition as a myth. Myth is the most natural means humans have to absorb ideas that exist outside of reason. DUSK AND SUMMER leads the protagonist, an intentionally unnamed Everyman, on a mystical  journey from the symbolically laden memories of the Tolten, a sunken ship, to the concrete locale of 141 Sea Cargo Drive. His dying father sent him there, with instructions to do what must be done. A woman of otherworldly beauty meets him on the beach. The protagonist understands, with a soul-shock, that he is tasked with helping her guide his father’s soul to the other side. Initially, he fights the idea of his father’s departure. This is the vestige of the child in him, crying and gripping his father’s trouser leg. It is this sentimental attachment that must give way to unselfish acceptance in the second coming of age. His father gave him everything he needs to enter the second stage of adulthood, and to honor all his father gave, the son must let go. The son fully takes on the strength which was in the father, and uses it to carry his father across the threshold to a new life. The end of a life, and of DUSK AND SUMMER, is bittersweet. The myth is completed, and the narrator arrives in the next phase of his maturity. DUSK AND SUMMER is a beautiful tribute, and a salve for all psyches battered by the loss of a beloved parent.


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The Writer’s Doldrums: A Guest Post by Joseph Pinto

 
 

Joseph Pinto, author.

Joseph Pinto, author.

Joseph Pinto is a speculative fiction author, a member of Pen of the Damned, and author of the modern myth, DUSK AND SUMMER. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to introduce you to Joe. His post, about curing the writer’s doldrums, is followed by cover blurb and purchase information for DUSK AND SUMMER. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of DUSK AND SUMMER are donated to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. 

-aniko


Cleansing a Writer’s Drain

A writer’s doldrums – we all get them.  They’re sneaky little critters, too, coming in all sorts of guises.  Latching on to normal everyday life, they sink their grubby claws into you just when you least expect it – and even if you did, it’s always at the worst possible time.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  A hectic schedule, stress from your job; even if you’re lucky enough to be a fulltime writer, the panic of meeting a deadline.  Responsibilities as a parent or spouse; the list is endless.  With life happening at the speed of…life, how does a writer keep their brain sharp, focused and uncluttered?  Is it even possible?  There may never be a reasonable or foolproof answer, but I’ll share something that’s worked for me: I turn into a plumber.

Say what?

Yes, a plumber.  Now please, don’t tell my wife because I can barely unclog our kitchen sink if need be, but there alone I’ve revealed my trick – I view my mind as though it were a drain.  I need to keep it filtered and free-flowing.  At the first sign of a clog, I’m all over it.  But trust me, it took a long time to figure out how to use my ‘mental plunger,’ and it’s not always the easiest thing to do.

It starts with an escape.  I’m fortunate to work from home, and my office serves as my sanctuary.  Those sneaky little critters (yes, those critters, oh how they love to cause a back-up!) detest any sign of routine cleansing.  I shake them off at the door, but it never comes without a fight.  As I said, once they sink their claws in, they’ll do all they can to distract; to detract.  If you suffer from critters as I sometimes do, shake them off, pull them off; hell, snap them off at the knuckles if need be.  If you can’t find salvation in your office or writing nook, then go for a walk, a drive, maybe even exercise.  Anything to step away from what might be attracting those critters in the first place.  You’ve got to get that proverbial water in your sink and flowing through your pipes; if it’s still going down slowly, then it’s time to figure out the true size of your clog.

Some clogs are an easy fix.  Once I rid myself of those critters, a few deep breaths while sitting in my office are all I need to get myself focused.  Yours might just be that walk or that drive.  But what if it’s not?  Critters can be awfully persistent.  Some have even evolved to survive beyond a ‘mental plungering.’  Those are the worst of the lot; attracted not to your daily trials and tribulations, but born from within, feeding and gnawing from deep inside your gut.  Those sneaky little critters are now something much worse; they’ve become parasites, infecting every ounce of you, downright malicious and destructive.  Sneaky little critters?  Oh no, not anymore…now full-fledged monsters of self-doubt.  A writer’s worst nightmare, believe you me.  A horribly slow, cruel death of your prose awaits if you don’t act.

Ahh, that’s when I employ my spiritual jetting.

Tiger’s eye is a protective stone, one that heals issues of self-worth and self-criticism.  It encourages creativity and positive energy.  I have two such stones carved and shaped as skulls atop my desk.  Actually, they rest just below my computer monitor.  Cheekbone to cheekbone they touch, infusing one with the other’s energy, staring out at me.  Before I write, I make sure to touch them.  Sometimes, I even place them against my chest for a minute before positioning them carefully back to their guardian positions.  My tiger’s eye skulls have helped cleanse those monsters from inside me, and from the moment I owned them, my drain has flowed smoothly since.  You can believe me or not, that’s up to you.  But sometimes you need to bring in the big guns.

I know that not everyone can get their hands on something created from tiger’s eye, and not everyone will be affected the same way I am by it, if at all.  I’m very open to it, and so for me, it’s worked.  But self-doubt is a terrible thing.  I suffered from it for a very long time and have no one but myself to blame for allowing it to hold me back.  There comes a point, however, when you need to learn and practice various little tricks to eliminate it – to take back your own power.  Those sneaky little critters are exactly that for a reason – they’re clever.  You need to outsmart them.

Me, I turned into a plumber.  It’s all about cleansing a writer’s drain.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Aniko, I greatly appreciate the opportunity!

You’re welcome, Joe! It was my pleasure!


DUSK AND SUMMER

DuskAndSummer

Does Heaven await beneath the waves? One man needs to know.

When his dying father whispers a cryptic message to him, he has no choice but to summon his courage and begin the quest of a lifetime. It’s a race against time to realize his father’s wish and fulfill his own destiny; it’s a discovery of the unbreakable bond between father and son. It’s a journey of the heart that unfolds where only the Chosen exist – in the moments between Dusk and Summer.

“A poignant, metaphoric conversation between son and father. A story that will warm your heart.”
–Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., bestselling author of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

The author will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Pancreatic Cancer

Dusk and Summer is available at:

Amazon: US |UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | India | Brazil
CreateSpace | Smashwords
Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes (Apple)

Ourselves, Perfected

Copyright: aberration, via 123rf.com

Copyright: aberration, via 123rf.com

I love to walk. Quickened blood bathes my brain, carrying fresh oxygen to fuel my imagination. The unexpected sights and encounters of a walk can’t be planned; wooded path or city block, something will be revealed.

Walking is a primary component of my life. I have three dogs that clamor for their exercise. I also work a mile from the commuter train, and I walk that route ten times a week. There is joy to walking. It’s so simple, yet no two steps are identical, even when you walk the same route for weeks, months, years. Every walk is an encounter with the edge of the unknown, a direct entry into the future.

I have a pair of Docs, with Air Soles. I got them my Junior year of college (1998). My Docs have carried me across the beautiful bridges in Brugge, over the haunted, brick-laid walkways of Mary Washington College, and through the busy streets of the living, beating heart of Austin. I didn’t wear those Docs in Australia, Boston, the wilds of Maine, or Hawaii, yet in spirit, somewhere in my metaphysical reality, they were there. The Docs are the archetype, the Platonic ideal. All of my shoes are participants in the ideal of the Docs, carrying me forward. They were with me as a young girl in Budapest, tasting and breathing my ancestry. They were with me the night I went to the Blue Ridge mountains to see the meteor shower. They were with me in Kauai, a place that resonates with the depth-less soul of life.  In some future, I may walk in Italy or wander Kyoto. The ideal of the Docs will be there, too, always with me as I walk.

Walks transport not just the body, but also transcend time. I do not walk in some singular “now.” Every walk reminds me of some other walk, the same way strangers in an airport look familiar. I’ve been in LAX, DFW, O’Hare, and so many more I can’t remember, and in each of them I see the shades of former co-workers, friends a decade lost, the dead. The experience of strolling an airport concourse alternates between exhilaration and terror. There is a chance, however small, that you will see someone you know – unexpectedly, and possibly from beyond the veil. Airports are a concentrated nexus of paths, a place where all of us are take flight from walking, and “unstick” from that which literally grounds us in our humanity.

Even my daily walk from train station to office reminds me of other places. The columns on the Event Center evoke my brief time as a Physics grad student at Old Dominion University. The bridge crossing the Colorado reminds me of a river in Bangor, Maine and a larger bridge near Dahlgren, Virginia. The building I work in, from a distance, reminds me of another building on a hill, another job. There is an arrangement of trees that reminds me of Paris; the wrong type of tree, of course, but just as all my shoes participate in the Docs ideal, these trees participate in an overreaching, spiritual tree form. They are as unique as our stories and our souls, but vibrate with a shared harmony. Everything is perfect when it is itself, except possibly people. Our will and our greed and our envy make us less perfect, but we have the gift of walking. We can calm our acquisitive monkey-brains and get perspective when we walk. Walking reminds us we are a part of something vast and incalculable. When we walk we can simply be, simply breathe, simply move: ourselves, perfected.

 

As ever,

-aniko


 

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Reading Feeds the Writer

I finished reading an amazing book. It was one of those reads, the sort that embeds in your psyche and leaves you changed. The narrative techniques employed were startling, surreal, and just exactly what I needed to read.

You see, I was stuck.

Editing, that is. I had a story that was true to itself, but flat. It didn’t resonate the way it should. This story touched only the word-receptors in my brain, but gave nothing to the mythology-receptors in my psyche or the truth-receptors in my soul. In short: it didn’t move me.  The story deserved better. My readers deserved better. But what to do? The answer, as always, is to pause. Read someone else’s work. Partake of the fruits of a writer I admire. I never know what I’ll read that will help me lift a lifeless story, but I have faith that I will find what I need. And I did! Shirley Jackson’s HANGSAMAN.

You can read my review on Google+. Here’s an excerpt:

HANGSAMAN is a bizarre, nightmare trance. I came up from reading it feeling deeply affected, infected. The prose warped my mind. I found myself thinking like the narrator reporting Natalie’s musings; it was disturbing. HANGSAMAN is not a book for anyone on the brink of a mental breakdown. It is a dangerous beast. It will swallow you whole. It is frightfully unique, and one of the most masterful novels I’ve experienced.

HANGSAMAN gave me the answer to my problem with my story. I needed to change my narrative voice! I’m attempting (bumbling) to use a few of the techniques I identified in HANGSAMAN. This approach, to identifying and then practicing with different techniques, is the most valuable writing lesson I absorbed out of all of my writing seminars, workshops, and classes. I owe thanks to the Writers Studio in NYC for that – it has changed my writing for the better. The trick, of course, is to practice until I find my own way of employing the technique; my goal is not to be a pastiche of other writers. This is one of the more advanced narrative personas I’ve ever tried to employ. I’ve spent nine years honing my craft, and you know what? I’ve grown! I can aspire to (bumble at!) using Jackson’s techniques. The writer I was in 2005 couldn’t even have attempted this, and probably couldn’t have identified the technique, although surely I would have felt the tingle of rightness in HANGSAMAN. Reading feeds me as a writer, and practicing my craft allows me to feed you, my readers. My lifeless story is being revived. I look forward to sharing it with you later this year.

Now, though, I have a big announcement about a different story!

Announcement!

MIXED MEDIA, my surreal short story, goes live on JULY 17th!! It will be free to read as a PDF from my blog – always! If you want the convenience of Kindle Whispernet delivery, it’ll cost you .99 cents. Please support me by reading, sharing and reviewing!

DIY Book Covers, Fiction Template #17

A Surreal Short Story, with a Cover You Helped Design!


The Blurb

Mario Santa Maria is an artist who has lost his dreams – literally. Insomnia, unemployment, and a failing relationship are his lot. Things are going badly, and then things get strange. On a visit to the Vos Modern Art Museum, Mario discovers he has the ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer. MIXED MEDIA is a surreal tale of masterpieces, Delphic sugar cubes, and the promise of new perspectives.

What’s hidden by what we see?


Schedule of Launch Events

JULY 17: Launch day!!! I guest post on Mari Biella’s blog to announce the official release.
JULY 17: Brighter than a Technicolor Dream, a post on my blog about the influence of O’Keefe, Rothko, and Ashley.

JULY 24Groovy Escher, a post about the influence of M.C. Escher, a surreal painter after my own heart!

JULY 31: Wisdom Tooth in the Belly of a Worm, a post describing why I chose to include THE SCREAM, by Edvard Munch.

AUG 7: We Always Want to See What is Hidden, a post examining the HUGE impact René Magritte’s work had on MIXED MEDIA.

AUG 14: A Sort of Sex/Wine Triumph, a post about the Melendez painting (with those feminine figs!)

AUG 21: Want to see how sausage is made? This is a post about revision. I show you how the first paragraph changed throughout my editing process.

AUG 28: Author Reading, a video of me reading the opening scenes of MIXED MEDIA.

xoxo,

-aniko

 

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