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!

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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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Finished!

creative flowering

The novel doesn’t have a name. The series doesn’t have a name. The feelings I have right now don’t all have names, but that doesn’t change the fact that I finished.

Yes, finished.

I’ve completed the first (full) draft of my second novel.

It is one-hundred and thirty-eight thousand words long, which is four-hundred and ninety-two pages. It took me two tries, with one near-complete rewrite. It took courage, because the people in this story are not kind. It took dedication, because this was a very long haul, and nothing about the story came easily or without destabilizing everything I’d already written. It took tenacity to forge through my doubts, and balls of steel to rally the nerve to try again, no matter how often the story unraveled.  It took over a year to get to this moment, the one just after typing “Austin, Texas – April 7, 2013” at the end of the manuscript. I am hopeful and tired and slightly in awe of whatever it is that compels me to put forth this much effort. I don’t know if I deserve this largess. I don’t know that I would have asked for it. Yet here it is – because of me, because I didn’t give up. No one can ever take this moment from me. The manuscript could be lost, it could be turned down by every publisher, it could get laughed at by everyone who reads it, but none of that changes the fact that I accomplished this. I finished my second novel!

This is worth every pre-dawn writing session, every missed party, every Saturday spent alone with my keyboard. I can’t imagine life without this, I can’t imagine me without this. Thank you to everyone who helped me move through the darkness, doubt, and story paralysis to reach the fullness of this blossoming, this becoming.

-aniko

 

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Silly Candid Video

The office is closed for Good Friday. A crazed dictator has my city on his hit list. I’d say there’s no better time to upload an old video I found in the dust of my camera’s SD card.

It is circa early 2012, and I am wearing my thrift-store find, grandpa style writing sweater. I am in my sun room, by the desk where all of my stories are born. Mr. Aniko is the off-camera voice.

“It’s possible to be emotive without being twitchy!”

 

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Mahalo, Kaua’i

Vacation is a magical word, conjuring images of palm trees, sunlight, and precision relaxation. I’ve just returned from a week in Kaua’i, the Garden Isle of Hawai’i. It was everything ‘vacation’ conjures.

Mr. Aniko and I slept when we were tired, ate when we were hungry, explored the island on foot and in our rented Ford Fusion. We spent a day in a covered cabana by the sea, alternating reading with looking out at the expanse of blue, blue Pacific. Most days, we took sight-seeing drives; there are no interstates, which I suppose is obvious, and there were few short stretches where the speed limit was a whopping fifty (mph). To put that in perspective, some of the roads I drive on daily in Austin have a speed limit of eighty! At first trying to go twenty-five in areas that looked like Texas-sixties was laughable, and it was very easy to creep up to forty and still believe you were crawling. Sometime in the second day, it clicked: you don’t need to go as fast when the distance is so short, and when the landscape is inexpressibly beautiful. There were many times we remarked that the most noticeable thing about Kaua’i was the intense unreality of it. The lush greenery, winds scented with plumeria and hibiscus, the perfect temperature that never demanded more than a light sweater, the sudden rains followed by brilliant rainbows: none of it seemed like part of our world. Star Trekkies, Kaua’i has got to be the genesis of Risa, the holiday destination in the stars. It is that perfect.

This is what vacation looks like.

I wasn’t expecting the wind. We get wind here in Austin, strong gusts that precede a distinct change in weather. In Kaua’i the wind was constant. It soughed through the palm trees outside, and fearless little tropical birds perched on the spines of palm branches. One little red-capped bird hopped onto our lanai, or balcony, and sang to Mr. Aniko. It was enchanting.

I’d read that it rains in Kaua’i almost daily, and I packed an umbrella. The umbrella was not equal to the winds, but it was better than nothing. The downpours tended to spring up without warning, and at dawn there was a curtain of rain that blew off of the sloped roofs in sheets of water. On the day we drove out to see the Waimea Canyon, the rains didn’t relent. We trekked up to one of the rainiest spots on the planet, in a downfall, smiling and laughing the whole time. Out on Po’ipu Beach, the afternoon showers would come in and feel so very chilly. You could tell the newcomers, who would scatter at the first drops, but everyone quickly learned that if you cover up with the orange-striped beach towel, you’ll stay comfortable and keep your book dry, too. The afternoon rains passed in a matter of minutes, and then the sun returned, baking us back to warmth as we enjoyed vibrant rainbows arcing through newly unperturbed sky.

rainbow!

Traveling, to me, is as much about experiencing cuisine as it is about sightseeing or relaxing. I drank coconut water from a coconut hacked open by a man with a machete. I ate a Hawaiian hot dog  which is entirely encased in the bun and seasoned with spicy mustard and fruit spreads. We shopped at Big Save and Sueoka’s grocery stories, picking up Hawaiian sweet rolls (in Hawai’i!!), sandwich meat, and breakfast provisions. We alternated granola breakfasts on our lanai, with scrambles at the earliest-opening breakfast joint near our hotel. The waitress there never remembered us, and often didn’t bring me what I ordered, but the kim chee scramble was really tasty, and came with rice instead of hash browns. Our most excellent meal was at Pizzetta, in Old Koloa Town. I got decadent white truffle-infused meatballs and pasta.  Prices in Kaua’i are out of this world expensive, with $12 scrambled eggs(!) and $35+ entrees at the nicer restaurants. Overall, the food in Kaua’i was better than what we had when we vacationed in Maine a few years back, but nowhere near as good as almost any restaurant here in Austin. However, Kaua’i had more wild chickens and crowing roosters than either Maine or Austin, and the charm and the breezes and the perfect temperatures more than offset the lackluster fare available for (somewhat) reasonable cost.

Would I hop on the next grueling flight back to the Garden Isle? Two days ago, I would have said yes. I’ll admit to crying when it was time to leave; being carefree, comfortable, and without stress is addictive. It is chilly in Austin now, still getting into the thirties (F) at night, and the traffic screams by on roads so fast there is no option of driving with the windows down and still enjoying a conversation. The predominant colors here are brown and gray, an ugly contrast to the greens, purples, yellows, and reds of Kaua’i. Even the airports on the mainland are less lovely, all enclosed and full of recycled air instead of open and allowing in tropical breezes like Kauai’s Lihue airport. Like I said, two days ago I would have said yes.

I'm holding a baby coconut!

Today, I’m not so sure. Some really overdue yard work reminded me that there is gratification in doing that can’t be born of lazing around. It is also nice to cook again; right now, I’m preparing Tuscan beans flavored with sage and garlic. That we can do our weekly grocery shopping for healthy foods  for just over what one day of eating cost us in Kaua’i is a definite plus. My dogs are happy to see me, and the little Yorkie is sitting in my lap as I write this, both of us snuggling together against the brisk and chilly breezes howling down the chimney. The most important thing about being home is the return of my sense of volition. When I am perfectly comfortable, as I was in Kaua’i, I have no impetus to create. Writing seemed like a silly thing to bother with when I could lay on a beach and let the island sing to me. Work? Ha! That seemed like a ridiculous thing to even consider when the wind shifted palm tree shadows across the lanai. Yet writing, tending my house, and going to work help me understand who I am. If I were to stay in Kaua’i, I’m not sure I’d be the person who could write novels. I’m not sure I’d still be me, and I don’t want to be someone else.

And isn’t that the real magic of vacation? To leave enabled me to return to daily life, glad to be home, and happy to be myself. Life may not always be paradise, but I need the discomfort of too fast cars, too busy days, and disconsolate brown landscape to spur me to creativity.

Mahalo,  Kaua’i, for reminding me of who I am.

 

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