Steely Dan, New Notebooks, and Other Dark Sarcasm

Let me start by saying that I’m listening to a lot of Steely Dan as I write this, so if it comes off as rambling, dark and sarcastic, I apologize.  Every time I put on a Steely Dan record, I find myself thinking why am I not spending every minute of every day listening to Steely Dan?  Becker/Fagen are to my 30s as Morrissey/Marr were to my 20s, a constant, reassuring soundtrack.  Every time I listen to an album, I discover something new to love about a song I’ve heard a thousand times before. (How could I forget about “Caves of Altamira?”  Was “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” always this brilliant?).

Matthew & I saw our third Dan show at the Beacon on Wednesday; last time we saw them play Gaucho in full and when they played “Josie” I thought my heart would explode.  The first time we saw them, they busted out “The Second Arrangement.”  And I’ve seen Donald Fagen play with the Dukes of September Rhythm Review, as well as seeing fellow Dukes Boz Scaggs & Michael McDonald on their own tours.  (Also, I am kind of in love with Donald Fagen and wish he would write a charmingly sleazy song about me, more “Slinky Thing” than “Cousin Dupree.”)

But Wednesday night, they opened with “Black Cow” (one of my favorites) and played “FM,” which made me so insanely happy that I screamed.  They played “Josie” too, and “Peg,” and “Black Friday.”  If they had played “What a Shame About Me,” I might have died of happiness.

In addition to the show, Matthew and I took a few days to work on some writing.  The way I’ve been barreling through notebook pages, I’m on Dutch’s last signature, and he’ll only last another week, at most.  And Gail, hale and hearty as she is, is nearing the end of her line, with only a signature left before she’s retired to the bookshelf.

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De-Stem Your Prose: Writing Advice from SIDEWAYS

“They didn’t de-stem, hoping for some semblance of concentration, crushed it up with leaves and mice, and then wound up with this rancid tar and turpentine bullshit.” Miles  (Paul Giamatti) Sideways.

This is my favorite way to describe over-wrought prose.  Back in college, writing “leaves and sticks and mice” in the margins was a shorthand among my friends to cool it on the adverbs and get back to the action.  Too many writers use miles and miles of description to give their story some semblance of depth, when in reality, the character has spent the first three pages getting dressed.   Yes, description is important, but leaves and sticks and mice do not good wine make.

(A variation on this comes via Nick Mamatas, genius; “I’ve seen more first pages ruined by socks and coffee than I care to count.”)

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On Triathlons and The Myth of ‘Wasted Words’

628x471One of the coolest parts about my job as a reporter is that for all the meetings I attend and hard news I write, I also get to do a whole host of feature stories, which means I get to meet a lot of interesting people.  And last week, once again, I got to dip into my email and pull up Olympic triathlete Sarah True’s (formally Groff) contact and email her congratulating her on qualifying for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.

Sarah, like her sister Lauren ( NYT bestselling author of Monsters of Templeton and the forthcoming Fates and Furies) are Cooperstown natives, so whenever they do something awesome — which is seemingly all the time — I get in touch and write a story.

And as I looked through photos of the qualifying race, I thought about what it takes to compete in a triathlon.  I ride my bike into town to get coffee, sure, and I can run to catch a bus pulling away from the curb, maybe swim a little in a hotel pool when I’m on vacation, so seeing someone like Sarah kicking ass on the course just blows my mind.  And she got there by practicing her butt off, swimming Otsego Lake as a teenager, and getting up every day to ride and run and swim some more.  You don’t get to the Olympics twice by playing video games and eating chips all day.
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Keeping a Notebook Pt. 2

Let me introduce you to my papercraft creations:

The Book of Crows: My first!  The spine is a mess, but it’s still got a cool look to it.  I went a little crazy in the papercraft section of Michaels, hence the knob on the front cover.  HOWEVER, the knob makes it impossible to lay the book flat, which is a mistake I won’t make again.  I use this notebook for writing weird fantasy stories, and thus it is filled with skeleton stickers and cut-out panels from The Goon.  This one also has a built-in bookmark, which is its own lovely little piece of artwork.

The Book of Crows

The Book of Crows

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The Book of Crows — Interior

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Galley Copies

UglyCryMy galley copies of The Big Rewind arrived yesterday and…wow.  They’re incredible.  To actually hold my own book in my hands, to see my name on a cover is such a thrill that I lack the words to describe it.  For the whole night I kept picking it up and turning it over in my hands, thinking this is really happening.  That’s my name!  On the cover of a book!  Those are my words, my sentences, my scenes all laid out in actual, book-like form!  Eee!  It doesn’t seem real.

And yes, I cried when I opened the box.

And the best part is that my husband, Ian, who hasn’t read the book in any form, is devouring it.  Not just because I wrote it (he’s very honest which stories of mine he loves and which ones aren’t his thing)  but because he’s actually enjoying the book.  I had to banish him to the other room last night because I wanted to go to sleep and he couldn’t put it down.  That might be the best endorsement I’ve gotten so far!

 

The Big Rewind….Cover Reveal!

Here it is, the cover for my debut novel, The Big Rewind!

 

The Big Rewind Cover

I am beyond thrilled about this.  I had gone back and forth about it, choosing colors and such, with Chelsey (my editor) & Jim (my agent), who are the two most awesome people in the publishing world, but until now, the cover was still top-secret to my friends and followers.

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Farewell, PANK

SWAG, BABY!

SWAG, BABY!

PANK announced today that they would be closing down at the end of this year.  This is a drag on multiple levels.  One, they always had the best buttons at AWP and two, because being published by PANK is an awesome experience for any writer.  I would know — they picked up my story “Hotel Jesus” in March 2011.

“Hotel Jesus” was one of my turning-point stories where I began to see that I could play with form and format.  I allowed myself to explore the narrative voice rather than dictate it.  It’s a story driven by language and image, rather than plot, and it allowed me to start looking at characters who exist in the grey areas of morality.

It’s also hopelessly fucking sad, and I can’t remember what sort of terrible nonsense I must have had going on when I wrote it.  But I haven’t written anything like it since, which is too bad.  It’s a fascinating little piece.

Fare thee well, PANK.  You will be much missed.

On Keeping a Notebook

I got back into using notebooks a few years ago, when I cracked open a beautiful, untouched leather journal Jason brought me back from Italy as a present for my 23rd birthday.  It took a lot to write in that journal because I, like most writers who are gifted with beautiful journals, panic “It has to be perfect if it’s going in such a beautiful journal!”

But I got thinking about the notebooks I kept when I was living in New York City, these wild things filled with magazine clippings and pictures and fold-out pages of articles I wanted to save.  I thought about how good it felt to physically write, pen on paper, how much I enjoyed going back through old story notebooks from high school and after college, reading false starts, pithy observations and scenes that didn’t make the final draft.  I could trace the what was going on in my life through those notebooks even better than I could my own diary.  Fragments like What is a poem to a creme brulee? told me what I was thinking and feeling at an even greater depth than scrawling I love a man who will not tell me he loves me in my journal.

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BOOK GIVEAWAY UPDATE

I’m packing up writing craft books to ship out Monday, but I still have a few left to give away.

If you’d like one, just find me on Twitter (@libbycudmore) or leave a note in the comments section.  US only, please.

 

Cory Doctorow, Content

The College Handbook of Creative Writing, Third Edition (my favorite)

Writers Digest “HowDunIt” Series,  Cause of Death

BOOK GIVEAWAY

In the continuing purge of stuff from my father-in-law’s basement, I came across a box of writing craft books from when I was first starting out.  I love craft books even though I rarely use them anymore; their pages stuffed with knowledge and promise and possibilities.

But just because I’m not using them doesn’t mean they won’t have value to someone else.  So I invite you, dear readers, to find me on Twitter or leave a comment if you see one from the list below that you would like.  No charge, no postage; if you want to trade me a book or a mix CD, I probably won’t say no.  First come, first serve.  The books are:

P.D. James, Talking About Detective Fiction

Cory Doctorow, Content

The College Handbook of Creative Writing, Third Edition (my favorite)

Writers Digest “HowDunIt” Series, Scene of the Crime and Cause of Death

One per person, please, and I’m sure I’ll post more soon.