“Skin Deep Magic” gets props from the Erudite Ogre!

John H. Stevens (known on Twitter as the Erudite Ogre) was kind enough to give a brief review of Skin Deep Magic on the Three Hoarsemen podcast hosted by SF SIGNAL. He says some nice about the collection. Check out the podcast, which also discusses Guardians of the Galaxy–both the movie and the comic series.

The Three Horsemen podcast.

Summoning and interacting with your Muse (writing advice)

Ah, the elusive Muse.

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Muses are the personification of inspiration and are artistically depicted as beautiful women, garbed in flowing gowns, igniting the Artist’s passion and guiding him/her to capture the images in their heads. The concept of the muse as a person or creature comes from Greek mythology, but the idea is entrenched in Western culture to the point that actual living people are retroactively assigned the role: I’m thinking of Wyeth’s Helga and Proust’s Albert(ine).  The Muse figure sparks creativity, and goads the artist on. There is a kind of possession that takes place, driving the artist to work at odd hours. She can helpful, a kind of fairy godmother, or a madness-inducing demon. And then there are times when the Muse is dormant. The Muse that cannot be summoned, and drags the artist to self destruction.

In my formative years, I syncretized my childhood imaginary friend with my muse. After all, my imaginary friend actually was female, and, in addition to having witchy powers, she was a writer.  I’d often joke that my muse was lazy, distracted, and mean.  But as I grew, I began to find the idea of being chained to Inspiration (which is the major aspect of Musedom), both as an idea and a metaphor for writing to be precious and limiting. Inspiration, of course, is very important. We’ve all been compelled to create at the drop of a hat, as soon an image or idea forms in your mind. But  the act writing (and other art forms) is mundane and craft-based. Inspiration tends to abandon you at the syntax level. Accordingly, I have changed my conception of the Muse.

Instead of being one person or figure, I make my characters my muse. And I include things like Setting, Mood, and Language as characters. I find that using these things as touchstones, I can (usually) navigate a particularly difficult patch of writing.  When you dialogue with your text, ask questions, make it a living thing that you interact with, it takes shape. Then you are no longer at the mercy of the temperamental whims of your muse.

Confessions of an Interstitial Author

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What type of author am I?

Sometimes, I’m marketed as a speculative fiction writer. Other times, as a black gay writer. When I self-published two stories, I cross-marketed myself as a M/M author (along with a dark fantasy tag). And there was the year when I marketed myself as a YA author dealing with the issues of bullying, racism, and homophobia.

Here’s the thing: I hate marketing myself. My preferred elevator pitch—I’m influenced by Tanith Lee, Toni Morrision, Flannery O’Connor, Kafka, Samuel R. Delany and Shirley Jackson—seems to confuse people. To me, even my ‘realistic’ fiction alludes to the fantasy fiction I love, and my fantasy/horror is deeply inspired and influenced by ‘real life’ issues like racism and homophobia. I hate the way gay fiction is often marketed—the parade of glistening torsos and six pack abs do not appeal to me at all and furthermore, doesn’t really reflect my work. I don’t want to be put in the “black/African-American literature” section of the bookstore; it limits my audience and besides my characters are not all POC (or gay, or men). My speculative fiction is ‘literary,’ and my ‘literary’ fiction has tons of allusions to spec fiction.

I think the best way to describe my fiction is Interstitial Fiction. Which only causes even more blank looks. My forthcoming book, Skin Deep Magic, can be marketed in a variety of ways. Allegory, satire, horror, magic, and Gothic forms are represented in the 10 pieces. Race and sexuality are thematic concerns. I can only hope that the book reaches its various audiences.

Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall”

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I finally saw The Fall, a 2009 indie movie by Tarsem Singh. Like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Pan’s Labyrinth, it uses the archetypes of fantastic, imaginative storytelling to mask a bleaker reality. In 1920s California, young immigrant orphan Alexandria is convalescing from an obliquely referenced illness. By chance, she runs into Roy, a stuntman who is convalescing from a suicide attempt. Roy spins fabulist yarns for the 5 year old child, full of whimsy and derring-do. In return, she unwittingly helps Roy with his morphine addiction. The real star is the gorgeous, surreal set pieces that reference paintings by Dali and De Chirico. An extra resonance to the viewing was that I was ill at the time, and needed some fantasy in my life.

Excerpts of ‘Variations’ Stories on Wattpad

I have excerpts from the two short stories in my Variations series of short stories.

Fur & Gold, loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, is here.

Liturgy of Ice, inspired by The Snow Queen, is here.

 


Both are dark and homoerotic. They were fun to write! Hopefully, the excerpts will entice you to buy them, (available in a variety of ebook formats).