Author Reading

Here’s a video of me reading the opening section of my surreal short story MIXED MEDIA. In it, the protagonist discovers that there’s something strange going on with the way he sees art.  Enjoy!


 

I wish that YouTube didn’t always choose the most awkward expression as the still video clip! 🙂


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.


 

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Revision: Wanna See How the Sausage Is Made?

DIY Book Covers, Fiction Template #17

Cover Design based on DIY Book Covers Fiction Template #17

I love the freedom of the first draft. The only thing I love more is revising the ever-living bleep out of the first draft. Today, I’d like to share the revision the first paragraph of my surreal short story, MIXED MEDIA. Originally titled REPRODUCTION, I wrote the first draft in 2008. The first draft is full of gory detail, bombast, and sins against English. I’ve chosen three examples of the first paragraph to illustrate my revision process. Now, let’s make some sausage!

Here is an exerpt from June 12, 2008:

My name is Mario Santa Maria.  On Tuesday I walked into a museum where all of the paintings were black.  In the bright foyer of the visiting exhibit, natural light fell upon black canvas after black canvas, making the uniform paint gleam and reflect dark rectangles on the honey-golden floor freshly buffed.  I read the names of the works:  “Surreal Forest,”  “Cloud Ninety-Nine (As Seen from Easy Street),” “Submissive Ocean.”  Each canvas was a straight hung, edge-on-edge perfect patch of night set flush to the walls, and none of them more colorful than a square or rectangle of deep-space pitch.   The brochure describing the exhibit extolled the sensuous representation of Nature, and how each painting (various media) had captured the essence of light and life.  I chuffed a bit under my breath.  What a statement, to fill an entire gallery with such a nihilistic representation on modern life or modern Nature!  It was, I decided, a gutsy if artless venture.

I warned you about the bombast and the sins, no? This paragraph is an Ouroboros, choking on  its own tail. I’ve gone beyond overboard with adjectives. The floor is not just “freshly buffed,” but also “honey-golden.” The paintings aren’t just on the wall, they are “straight hung,” “set flush,” and (ouch, this hurts!) “edge-on-edge perfect patch of night.” I think we all get it that paintings in a museum are hung in an orderly fashion upon the walls. Almost none of that description was necessary, and I may as well take a stick and poke it in the reader’s eyes: “You! Know what? Paintings hang on walls!” I used the word “chuffed,” because Steven King used it in a book; which book, I no longer recall. It’s a fine word, but overbearing and pompous in this paragraph. This paragraph is a “gutsy if artless venture!”

It was also the pinnacle of my ability at the time that I wrote in in 2008. I’d been writing three years, and for the equivalent of a literary toddler, it isn’t bad. Another thing that’s not bad is that I knew I wasn’t ready to publish, and I put the story aside,  took several writing workshops, studied, wrote tons more, completed my first and second novels, and then (then!) came back to revise.

Here is an excerpt from May 5, 2014:

My name is Mario Santa Maria. On Tuesday, I walked into a museum where all of the paintings were black. I walked the perimeter, pausing to read the names of the works: Surreal Forest, Cloud Ninety-Nine (As Seen from Easy Street), Submissive Ocean. Each canvas was a straight hung, perfect patch of night set flush to the walls. The exhibit placard extolled the sensuous representation of Nature, how the paintings captured the modern essence of life. It was gutsy, if artless, to fill an entire gallery with such a nihilism.

This is better. I cut entire swathes of needless description from the paragraph. I kept the first sentence and maintain that simple phrase was always the exact right opening for the story. I replaced the awkward double-quotes around painting names with uber-swank italics. I got rid of “chuffed.” I’ll have you know I actually, sadly struggled with that decision. “Chuffed” is a good word, not oft used. I wanted to bring it back. Or get it started, like a party. I cut it, though, and that was the right decision. Writing is funny, because as a writer, you fall in love with the strange bits you are pretty sure no one else will ever love. You really believe those bloated phrases like “straight hung, perfect patch of night” are simply misunderstood, and if people had sense (SENSE!) they would know what was good for them and LOVE it. Luckily, I have an editor. Her name is Jacinda Little. She doesn’t let me get away with atrocities against my readers. I sent her the version from May 5 for her to edit. I think you’ll agree that with her input, the opening paragraph turns into something that doesn’t make you want to gouge out your own eyes.

Here’s the final revision to the opening paragraph, from June 1, 2014, nearly four years after the first draft was penned:

My name is Mario Santa Maria. On Tuesday, all of the paintings at Vos Museum were black. The works in the visiting gallery had names like Surreal Forest, Submissive Ocean, and Cloud Ninety-Nine (As Seen from Easy Street). Their placards extolled the sensuous representation of Nature. The nihilism was gutsy, and I wondered why there hadn’t been a bigger media splash.

Ahhh, isn’t that better? There are specific details to ground you in the scene, both the painting names and the name of the museum. I no longer try and painfully describe that paintings hang on walls (!). I also finally tell you why the fact that this is gusty matters to Mario or to you, the reader: no one else has noticed or mentioned that there is an exhibit of paintings that are just black canvases. It immediately gives you the interesting fact that Mario alone is remarking upon this particular phenomenon. I’ve also clued you in that Mario is in the museum on a day when most grown-ups are working, and possibly you wonder what’s up with that, which would be great, because a reader with a question is a reader who keeps reading to find the answer. Perhaps I could have come up with shorter names for the paintings. I think they’re clever, and Jacinda didn’t object, so they stay. I hope we can agree that the removal of “chuffed” improves this paragraph.

May your sausage making be guided by an excellent editor!

xoxo,

-aniko


 

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.

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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!

Click to enter!


 

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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!

Click to enter!


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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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Groovy Escher!

Welcome to the second installment of the launch jubilee for my surreal short story, MIXED MEDIA! 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.

And now… the jubilee continues!


I was in college when I was introduced to Escher’s work. His mazelike, self-referential images expressed the way my dual studies in Physics and Philosophy intersected in my mind. One insight always fed into another, and often at unexpected angles. Mario Santa Maria, the protagonist of MIXED MEDIA is in a similar mental state as he learns to navigate his new ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer.

Mario and The Girl Who Wore Docs

 

Drawing Hands by M.C. Escher via Art.com

Drawing Hands by M.C. Escher via Art.com

An Excerpt from MIXED MEDIA:

A pair of women’s shoes appeared on the cracked pavement. They were heavy Doc Martins, the sort Darla would never wear. I drew myself upright and leaned against the cool Plexiglas of the bus stop.

“You good now?” she asked.

“Can I show you something?”

“God, not another perv! I will spray your dick with Mace.”

“That really won’t be necessary.”

“You’ve been warned.”

“I just want to show you a postcard.”

She raised an eyebrow. Her buzz-cut hair was glorious, Manic Panic pink. Cars flowed past us, more colors, but none as bright as her hair. I plunged my arm into the bag and retrieved a card. “Please, look.”

“I’ll probably regret this.” She turned only her eyes toward the postcard, paused, then swiveled her whole body towards it. “Groovy Escher!”

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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Brighter than a Technicolor Dream

Welcome to the launch jubilee for my surreal short story, MIXED MEDIA! This is the first in a series of posts to celebrate publication, and no celebration is complete without a door prize! Click the Rafflecoptor button to enter for a chance to win a $25 (USD) gift certificate redeemable at Art.com!

Click to enter!

Mari Biella, my friend and author of THE QUICKENING and LOVING IMOGEN,continues the launch festivities on her blog. In my guest post, I discuss the inspiration for 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?


Welcome to Vos Modern

Excerpt from MIXED MEDIA:

In this passage, Mario discovers that he can no longer see any art in the gallery when he is by himself. He has just emerged from the Visiting Exhibit, stunned by the nihilism of a display consisting of several canvases apparently painted black.

***

The Contemporary Art exhibit was in the next room; it was well-lit, and the floor creaked with familiar goodwill. Color exploded from the canvases, brighter than a Technicolor dream. O’Keefe’s southwest yellow-orange-red swelled near Rothko’s angular green-blue-brown. It was all as I remembered it, as colorful and mind-expanding as I remembered — and then it wasn’t. The encroaching black slid over the Contemporary masterpieces. The yellow-hued Ashley to my left went blank. There was no yellow on the canvas. No yellow, no red, no green-blue-brown, not even a pastel. Just black.

 

Blue, Green, and Brown by Mark Rothko via Art.com

Blue, Green, and Brown by Mark Rothko via Art.com

Mellow Yellow II by Erin Ashley, via Art.com

Mellow Yellow II by Erin Ashley, via Art.com

Red Amaryllis, by Georgia O'Keefe via Art.com

Red Amaryllis, by Georgia O’Keefe via Art.com

Author Commentary:

The Vos Modern Art Museum isn’t a real venue. This allowed me to  gather the pieces that spoke most deeply to my story under one (imaginary) roof. I chose the Rothko because there is something about the shading in the blue that leads me to imagine distant pine trees shrouded by a midwinter night. The brown and green beneath promise Earthy rebirth, and this symbolizes Mario Santa Maria’s situation. Mellow Yellow II invokes thoughts of ripe wheat fields, and the idea of harvest. This, too, represents Mario, specifically his quest to understand the purpose hidden in his strange new ability, which first manifests just after the passage included in this post. O’Keefe’s flower conveys a sensual richness that represents the flowering of Mario’s understanding.

 Read MIXED MEDIA for free here:

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The images included in this post are courtesy of Art.com, where you can purchase prints of these works, and thousands of others.


 

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