Thursday, March 28, 2013

Random Thoughts: In Which I Ramble About Dragons

Recently I started writing a thing about dragons that will probably be long. It's one of those fiction projects that began as something short and blossomed unexpectedly on the page. I won't go into details about what, exactly, I am doing with this because it is incomplete and the plot has yet to become a fully developed. I am likely about six months away from a completed first draft if the story wants to be as long as I think it does. But... as dragons are the subject it got me thinking about them.

Majestic, mysterious, beautiful, and terrifying, dragons are creatures that have captured human imagination throughout time. Cast as villains or saviors, they are traditionally associated in folklore with wish-fulfillment, weather events and dramatic geographical features. My favorite dragon art usually features a dragon half-hidden in the clouds.

This particular type of imagery can be found in the art of the Sung Dynasty. This is from a series titled Nine Dragons by Chen Rong.

I think that what speaks to me about this type of dragon art is that it expresses mystery. It's that feeling of something rare glimpsed in the space between asleep and awake.

Fiction is filled with dragons, from the threatening Smaug in Lord of the Rings to the kind Falkor the Luck Dragon in the Neverending Story. Mean dragons and tame dragons and dragons that are part of coming of age stories. Of course we can't leave out the dragons from the Harry Potter series. With giant eggs, treasures, fiery breath and flight they are challengers or helpers in most tales. There are other things I associate with dragons. Hidden wisdom. Honor. Sadness.

I always think of dragons as being forced to hide themselves from the world of mankind for a host of reasons (including the tendency of humans to constantly be slaying them.) It's an idea that I know has a source in something I've read, somewhere, but I can't quite pinpoint it. I think a connection might be drawn between that idea (dragons in self-imposed exile) and how human progress has caused the extinction of certain species.

Anyway, this is the stuff knocking around inside my skull today. If any of you have favorite dragon art, I'd love to check it out.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reggie's Round Up

Francesca Lia Block's Elementals

What It Is: A novel about Ariel Silverman who goes off to college and is obsessed with finding her best friend. The best friend, Jeni, went missing at the same college a year before. Her mother is sick with cancer and she is facing a lot of change all at once. Her search leads her to an interesting group of people, which is where the book enters the realm of fantasy that readers have come to cherish from Francesca Lia Block.

Why It Is Awesome : It's no secret that I wear the squeepants for Francesca Lia Block's work. The tone of Elementals is slightly different from some of her other work at the beginning; the narrative takes a while longer rooted in realism before fantastical elements become apparent. But here's what's cool: the sensual writing she is known for is present on every single page, proving that she doesn't necessarily need magic to reach the heights of prose she so gracefully delivers. One of the things she manages to accomplish in everything she has written is to keep the reader firmly grounded in the emotional landscapes of her characters. These emotional landscapes are artfully woven in with the tactile details about the world her characters live in. Relationships are what drive everything, no matter how fantastical a turn her tales might take. I LOVE THIS ABOUT HER BOOKS. She makes myth real in ways that would make Joseph Campbell blush.

(more about Francesca Lia Block here)

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Howl

What It Is: A movie released in 2010, a biopic about the poet Allen Ginsberg. Howl the poem is presented with animation, James Franco plays Ginsberg in interview situations and the infamous obscenity trial of Howl is dramatized.

Why It Is Awesome: This one has been on my list for a very long time. I should have watched it sooner. Lucky for me it showed up in my "Suggestions For You" thingy on Netflix. I will be honest, I was not sure how to take the animation when I first started watching this film because of my familiarity with the poem. At a certain point I made the decision to shut off whatever expectations I had about that and let it wash over me. Once I did that, the film worked. Franco as Ginsberg turns out to be an inspired casting choice. His performance felt organic and natural, which I have to imagine was challenging work. How do you inhabit a cultural and literary giant like Ginsberg without being terrified or dragged down by the weight? Franco is effervescent. Dude gets some major props from me.

The film feels like a piece of jazz music, almost improvised. I mean this in a good way. When musical improvisation fails it is painful, but when it works it can be gorgeous, affecting and magical. The latter sense of improvisation is what I mean, here.

Like events in Ginsberg's life and like the poem for which the film is named, the movie leads you to explore your own thoughts on what it might mean to live in American as part of a marginalized group, what constitutes artistic merit and form, and what your stance is on censorship. One other theme that emerges in the screen telling is that even in the midst of pain, oppression and judgment, we all in one way or another seek love, and we all have the potential to find it.

As friend, poet and activist Dora McQuaid once said, "Love in the face of oppression IS the revolution."

(more about Allen Ginsberg here)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Meet Architect Justin Shaulis!


I have known Justin Shaulis for mumblesomething years. We were in college at the same time and met between classes at the coffee shop where many of the infamous Categories Players congregated.

(He may or may not have been witness to the evisceration of the chocolate bunny performed by Dennis Kalup and myself. I can't be certain.)

What I remember most about Justin is that no matter what he was doing he always threw his whole self into it. He has the rare gift of being really present at every moment. I remember conversations about architecture and his enthusiasm for it. He talked about his dream projects in such a way that I could practically see them taking shape as he spoke. It's great to be in touch with him again through the modern miracle of the interweb, but it's also wonderful to see him doing so well with the things he loved mumblesomething years ago.

You can find his architecture and interior design firm Justin Shaulis, Inc. here

If his name sounds familiar to you, that may be because he was the designer for HGTV's Home Rules. You can find out more about that here

Q. Boots or sneakers?
A. High tops!

Q. First thought when confronted with waking up?

A. Where is my coffee?

Q. Coffee or tea?

A. Coffee.

Q. What were you doing right before I started asking you a bunch of inane questions?

A. Designing a staircase.

Q. Can you describe a bit of what it was like to merge your expertise with television? How did that come about?

A. I learned quickly that designing for the camera is different than designing for life. Colors must be more saturated and complimentary - tone on tone doesn't show up. There also needs to be a balance of matte and gloss- otherwise it looks flat. Texture is integral to the lighting. It has taught me much and I have introduced those concepts to my work off-camera.

It came about through a great friend. I wasn't keen on the idea and she convinced me to do the interview. I am glad the TV Show happened. I worked with amazing people on a network that values thoughtful design.

Q. Are you an animal person?

A. A dog person.

Q. Favorite food thing of the moment?

A. Enchiladas. Steak. Lots of cheese.

Q. If you could collaborate on a project with anyone living, dead or imaginary, who would you choose?

A. Difficult question! On Pinterest, I came across the work of Jean-Louis Deniot. I would appreciate the opportunity to study his process of design first hand. Deniot's work is classic and refined yet also balanced with light-heartedness and an edge. I think his effect is what I will strive for on every project.

Q. Tell us about your current creative project/s?

A. It's a beach house on the Jersey Shore. The family has had a house there for two decades.
Zoning is different after hurricane Sandy and we are doing our best to pay homage to the memories of the previous house while still working to create something meaningful - all of while being mindful of potential future storms.

Just an aside- I will be published in two coffee table books soon! Panache is the publisher.
I am very excited about them.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Meet Artist Lee Howard!


Lee Howard rocks a union suit like no one else. He is another awesome Canadian and an artist. He paints and he builds these incredibly disturbing things known as the Quiet Room Bears. It brings to mind a thing I first heard from a David Foster Wallace interview, which is that art should "comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." (I am paraphrasing, I think. Also, this has long since become an internet meme. Also, he was applying it to fiction.) I think this is what the Quiet Room Bears achieve in an extremely visceral way. Fans of horror art and those who are not squeamish should love the Quiet Room Bears. Some childhood toys are scary even when they aren't meant to be.

My first experience with the idea that stuffed toys can be scary was in the movie E.T wherein E.T has to hide from the mom amidst a huge pile of Gertie's plush toys. The idea that something alive might be staring back at you from inside a bunch of inert, fluffy cute objects is terrifying. (Yes, I know that wasn't the point of the scene, but still, the strangeness of it stuck with me.) It is that uncomfortable feeling that the Quiet Room Bears tap into. Fear and horror and unease externalized. This kind of art offers catharsis, as can the horror genre.

...And so it is with admiration, pleasure, and a little fear that I bring you the mind behind the madness, the hands behind the brush strokes, Lee Howard.


Q. What’s the best/worst piece of advice you’ve ever received about making art?

A. For the Worst advice, I have had a couple people (mostly when I was a kid, maybe some as an adult) say that there is no future in art, or that you can't make a living with art. Which I believe is super horsesh...uuhhh, horse-poopy. The proof is that there ARE artists in the world who live off of their art, so that proves it's possible. I also just read that apparently when George Lucas was a kid, his parent told him the same thing. And I think he's doing alright these days. As for BEST advice, I think that goes back only a few years ago when a friend of mine, who is also an artist, a guy named Mark Patton (who I made friends with through facebook....& who also happened to be the lead in Nightmare On Elm Street 2, my favorite movie when I was 10, & which introduced me to the world of horror) passed on advice HE was given when he was young, which was "Think BIG". It sounds simple enough, but up until then, I don't think I was 'thinking BIG' when it came to art or what I wanted to do with it. He's been a huge inspiration and good friend.

Q. Warhol or Bosch?

A. Damn, that's a hard one. Warhol's stuff for me, is obviously so iconic and just simple, visually bold images that kind of BOOM, jump out at you, which leaves an immediate impression, but Bosch's work is SO CRAZY looking. There is so much going on, and it's so weird & chaotic. Argh! Do I have to decide? I can't! You can't make me!! I enjoy both of them!! Okay, Bosch.

Q. Fork, spoon or spork?

A. Neither. I ALWAYS use my home-grown utensils called MY HANDS! Especially with soup! It may take over an hour to eat a bowl of it, but the satisfaction when you're done is as rich as a deep mahogany.

Q. Painting wardrobe?

A. Depends on the day - sometimes just jeans, in the winter I was wearing my red onesey-pj's (with built-in footies and the bum flap!), but I can tell you this - literally 75% of all my clothes have paint on them somewhere.

Q. What were you doing right before I started asking you a bunch of inane questions?

A. I had just woken up (yes, at 11:30 am - I didn't fall asleep till 4am, as I was makin' art and stressing out about life. Thank god for Star Trek the Next Generation on Netflix. It always helps guide me to sleep like a sweet, sweet lullaby). So I guess the answer was : waking up, stretching, scratching body parts, making coffee, going pee-pee, checking messages on my phone, turning on the computer, getting mad that I forgot to hit the ON button on the coffee maker, turning on the computer, and here we are!

Q. What’s on your easel right now?

A. I actually don't use an easel! I have before, but my 'station' is me on my couch, and the painting in front of me on this big foot stool (which is COVERED in paint). Right now I am working on a commissioned portrait of a relative, then I'm going to do a personal nerdy piece for me (I always have to balance out personal pieces in between commissions. Just for balance). Also surrounding my painting station is a BUNCH of in-progress Quiet Room Bears & their pieces. I bounce back and forth between working on paintings at the same time as the Bears. I literally just never let myself stop making art, if I can help it.

Q. Favorite food thing of the moment?

A. Favorite Food thing is the MAGIC BULLET! I'm back to an 'eating really well & getting in shape' thing & the Magic Bullet is a goddamn miracle. I've never ingested so many veggies & fruit in my life & I lost like, 8 lbs and feel amazing. Now I ACTUALLY am as enthusiastic & bewildered as all those jackasses in the infomercial. Now I AM one of those jackasses.

Q. Indoors or outdoors? Why?

A. I really like both & I need to make more of an effort to be outdoors. I have become a bit of a hermit in the last year or so, so I want to get out doors. I may even try to get a tan this summer! ahhh, dare to dream!

Q. What is the most gratifying part of the art process for you?

A. Without a doubt, it's the reaction of people when they either see or receive their piece. I have had, like, a dozen people cry when they pick up their commissioned pieces that would be of, say, a relative or a pet or something, & when I can actually SEE the reaction & it is THAT emotional...oh's that moment right there that honestly makes me feel like I am on the right path in my life. Also, I love seeing people's reaction to the Quiet Room Bears in person, especially if they have never seen them before....holy's priceless. Curiosity, fear, intrigue, confusion, happiness...sometimes all at once, it's hilarious and amazing. Even if it's a bad reaction & they don't like them, it's still a reaction, and art should always get a reaction to be successful.

Q. I you could collaborate on a project with anyone living, dead or imaginary, who would you pick?

A. Ohhh MAN, this is a hard one for sure. I have a couple - Vincent Van Gogh (but only at the time of his life when, in Doctor Who, the Doctor & Amy go back, meet him, help him fight a monster & bring him to the future to see how his art changed the world. Which also makes me cry every time.) I would also love to go back in time & meet/help out Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster draw the first issue of Superman. I think that would make my heart explode. I also love the art of Clive Barker & it would be AMAZING to collaborate with him on something. He's a horror genius.

Q. Tell us about your current creative project/s?

A. I have a BUNCH of future painting projects - I had done that series of 14 different 'horror' versions of famous Breakfast Cereal Characters & now I am going to continue that with Mascots (fast food, Kool Aid, etc), I plan on continuing the series of MUSICIAN Portraits, as they have done really well, I still get a lot of commissions as well. And keeping SUPER busy with making the Quiet Room Bears, as their popularity this year has been going bonkers & they are selling as fast as I can make them on average. I am also writing a script for a movie based on them called The Quiet Room, and I also want to find time to work on a project that I've been on and off with for about 15 years, which would be a storybook/graphic novel called Johnny Longfingers which I will also write and illustrate.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Meet Actor Nick Smyth!


Nick Smyth is an actor who was born in the 1980s. He hails from the Great White North and confirms my belief that all things Canadian contain at the minimum a modicum of awesomesauce. The fact that he is an adult who was born in the 80s makes me feel like an old lady, but we won't hold that against him. You know why? Because all I have to do is drink this whiskey right here and I will soon BELIEVE I was born in the 80s, too. Everybody wins.

(I particularly win because I have long been looking for an excuse to use the phrase 'at the minimum a modicum' in a sentence. Shut up. I know.)

A working actor since high school, he's done projects with the CBC, Much Music, and a whole bunch of other stuff you can find out about here.

You can watch examples of his work here.

I know him tenuously through similar internet tastes (okay, taste.) We share an interest in brilliantly terrible 80s fashion (okay, some bad hair from one video he shared on Twitter) but I also internet-know him through artist Lee Howard.

Most recently there was a trailer released for a film short titled Anatomy of a Sunbeam that he appears in, which looks amazing. Moral of the story?

Wear the squeepants for Canadians in general and Nick Smyth in particular.

Why? Because he is here, at the Spotty Blog.


Q. How do you use awesome sauce?

A. Whoah! Hey, my Mom is reading this ...

Q. Stool or podium?

A. Depends on the day ... it's not always podium ... but most of the time it is haha.

Q. What’s the best/worst performance advice you’ve ever received?

A. I don't know about the worst performance advice I was ever given because that would be hard to narrow down probably haha. But I DO know the worst advice I was ever given in life (well it's pretty up there anyway) I remember when I was in grade 8 I was in a 2nd year french immersion program and I was doing pretty badly with it ... I was struggling with the language and courses and my Social Studies teacher Mrs. Carson pulled me aside and told me that I was just not doing very well and I should drop out. I felt horrible about this because I really wanted to continue with it, I was determined - so I looked up at her in her eyes and asked 'If I REALLY buckle down and give 100% - do YOU think I can do this?' and she looked right back at me and said in a clear tone - 'No .. I don't.' This is what a grown woman in a power position said to a child looking for guidance and inspiration. I ended up ignoring her advice on giving up and followed through with the program and graduated/finished with it on my own. It was just such a metaphor for life where people who are supposed to know better are telling you to throw in the towel and you just plain refuse, you push on and if you want it bad enough - you succeed. That's life. A lot of my life has been like that .

Q. What were you doing right before I started asking you a bunch of inane questions?

A. Buying Christmas presents - gotta beat the rush!

Q. Winter or summer? Why?

A. Both. I think most people are all about the Summer and I love the sun, vacation, patios, the cottage, the beach, cold beer, sea-dos and swimming. But I like a little cold air in my lungs too - it's what makes us Canadian!

Q. Aside from the obvious, what are some of the biggest differences between live performance and film work?

A. I really haven't done a lot of theater ... but I did do quite a bit of Stand up when I was a teen and in my early twenties and I think the common thing said about live performance is that the prize, the reward is instant - the audience is right there in front of you and you feel it and experience their energy AS you're doing it. With film you do a movie and you wait a year (sometimes more) to see how people respond, etc. But I love the process of film a lot, it's experimental, and you try different things and it's this big collaboration. I always think of it as going into this science lab and adding a little bit of this and let's see what happens when we add that. That's the freedom you have with different takes. With theater you only get one take, you flub a line, there's no director to say cut. Which is why I have a lot of respect for stage actors - it's a tough gig.

Q. What is your current favorite escapist pleasure?

A. What kind of interview is this? Is this for Hustler?

Q. Tin foil helmet or paper hat?

A. Tin foil all the way. I don't want the aliens knowing my Facebook password.

Q. What qualities attract you to a script?

A. Two things off the bat - is this something that I think would challenge me? Is this something that would force me to go into emotions and scenarios that might be hard for me to tackle? Because to me that kind of material is engaging and I want to tell stories like that. It's always hard to say what you're going to respond to though ... If I read something that touches on things I've experienced or can relate to, that's absolutely a story you want to be a part of as well. There's definitely a bit of me in everything I do so if you can relate to characters, feelings, scenarios - that's a tool you will use too. But that being said what I look for more than anything else I think is something that's truthful, will people be able to relate to this OR even just see the reality in this? That's what actors are I think, conductors of truth - whether that's in a realistic way or an abstract way.

Q. If you could collaborate on a project with anyone living, dead or imaginary, who would you pick?

A. Michael J. Fox - his book had a HUGE, HUGE impact on my life. I read "Lucky Man" (his autobiography) when I was 18 years old and it just inspired me so damn much, it was magical. He had a very similar family life and his story and outlook just really hit home with me. When I moved from home to Toronto for the first time I remember I had his book tucked into my jacket near my chest because I was terrified. I was scared as hell being 20 and moving to the big city to pursue my dreams but his book really did give me strength. I haven't read anything like it since - no other book touched me like that.

Also - Jim Carrey. He was such an inspiration to me so early on. Not just his work but his way of looking at the world and life inspires me even now. His story is incredible.

Q. Tell us about your current creative project/s?

A. It's been a really exciting year - There's a lot of stuff on my plate right now, working on several films as well as constantly taking meetings for great stuff coming up! I still stop into Much Music from time to time to do Video on Trial as well so stay tuned!










Monday, March 11, 2013

Meet Composer Paul Shapera!


I have known Paul Shapera since the 90s times. We served coffee, drank a lot of coffee, drank a lot of beer and I suppose, after all those beverages, we peed a lot. (Never at the same place or time, to the best of my knowledge.)

The coffee place we worked at together had a piano and I remember a lot of people asking him to play Billy Joel. Paul was our own personal Piano Man. (I totally expect to get smacked for saying that, by the way. )

Here's the thing, though. His skill at playing Scenes from an Italian Restaurant is just a tiny needle jump on one song of his eight-sided vinyl record of musical knowledge. Or, uh, something. I don't really know if that metaphor works. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that his musical breadth is as ridiculously large as computer disc drives in 1983.  (Can I get a shout out for the 1980s film classic, War Games?)

To give you a more concrete idea, he is a font of knowledge on all things progressive rock, he's worked on hip-hop and electronica projects as Mochalab and I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Cthulhu: The Funksical. Currently working on the Dieselpunk Opera, he recently returned to his home in Serbia after workshopping the Steampunk Opera in London. (No typos or fabrication there, kids. Paul Shapera is truly a citizen of the world. )

In search of other perspectives in describing Paul Shapera, the human, like other social media junkies, I went on Facebook and polled my friends. Combining the responses, according to our mutual acquaintances, Paul Shapera is "an enthusiastic bitch who just wants to mop and mop."
(Of course, I am paraphrasing.)

Want more Paul? (I'm still wearing my Incredibly Effective Hypnosis Pants, so your answer is yes.)
You can find him here .

You can purchase The Dolls of New Albion, A Steampunk Opera, the album here

And as you go on to read the interview, you can listen to the Steampunk Opera Overture.

...because really, when you are writing about music it's best to let the music speak. But I guess we can let Paul talk as well since he made this stuff.


Q. Boxers or briefs?

A. There can only be one: Boxers.
Q. Space opera or space junk?
A. Space opera with a percussion section of clanging junk. This is actually how my operas sound.

Q. Favorite fabric?
A. Favorite... fabric.... what the fuck is this?!?! I don't know what kind of fabric a single piece of clothing I own is. I don't even know what my damn jeans are made out of. Jeans? Is that the fabric? Denim? That's not even my favorite fabric, it's just the only one I know. Cotton. Can you even get pure cotton anymore? Doesn't the old testament tell us we can't wear clothes that mix fabrics? Wtf is up with that? WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THIS QUESTION?!?!?

Wait! Okay, I got an answer. In the movie The Hunger, there's some flowing curtains at some point. Those curtains are AWE-some. I have no idea what they're made out of, but whatever they're made of, that's my favorite fabric.

Q. First thought when confronted with waking up?
A. "Is there anyway around this?"

Q. Best/worst experiences as a musician during a live performance?
A. The best aren't really interesting. They just involve me blissing out to people who are really into it. The worst are vastly more entertaining. I once spent a summer playing piano (digital keyboard technically) on the street of a little eastern european town for money. One afternoon I had to punch a guy who was stealing me tips. He just fucking walked up, stuck his hand in the box and started taking it. I caught two other guys at other times before that, one of whom I chased and caught, but by the time this motherfucker tried it I was not going to put up with it. He was drunk, went down, then scurried away so for the rest of the afternoon I had like, Bruce Willis testicles.

Q. Favorite keyboard?
A. I don't care about keyboards. My studio work involves triggering sounds from a hard drive. My main go to instruments are: Omniverse, BFDrums and Kontakt 5. I use Sonar X1 as my DAW (for those geeky music types who understand what i'm talking about).

Q. What were you doing right before I started asking you a bunch of inane questions?
A. Finishing my new staggering work of towering genius.

Q. Most influential composer?
A. I don't know if I can answer this. Bands I listened to in high school and college as well as some musicals from that time are the most influential since that's when you're a blank slate still finding your voice. So... Pink Floyd... at 16 all I wanted in life was to grow up and make something as epic as The Wall.... Genesis (old, bitches), Yes, Marillian, Sondheim (came a bit later but hugely influential to my musical storytelling) and Les Mis. Oh... Superstar. Yeah, that was a biggie. Since then I am influenced in very small ways by a thousandfold things.

Q.  What foodstuffs and beverages best sustain you through productions?
A. CHAI TEA. Sweet, sweet chai tea. Every now and then I have a little cookie stash behind the computer.

Q. If you could collaborate on a project with anyone living, dead or imaginary who would it be?
A. Wow. I have.... no idea. I.. look I just want to see my Steampunk Opera (and eventually the following two) go up in biiiiiiig theaters. I will basically blow whoever can make that happen. But I don't think that's quite what the question is... who would I want to.... you know, the truth is, there's no one in particular I've been dreaming for years to work with. The better question is who in history I dream of getting drunk with. THAT is a list I can pull out. And I'm not sure you have enough room on this blog to fit it.
Q. Tell us about your current creative project/s?

A. I'm finishing up the recording of a dieselpunk opera. It's the second in a trilogy. The steampunk opera has proven to be a big online hit. Dieslepunk comes next and in 2014 year we will finish with the Atompunk Opera. You can listen to the steampunk opera here:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Meet Writer RJ Keller!

RJ Keller is one of the creative brains behind Inside the Writer's Studio.
(You may have read me mention this hilariawesome thing in yesterday's interview with Kristen Tsetsi. Here is the link again:
A coffee guzzling professional and an author to be reckoned with, you can find out more about her work here:
I know her in cyberland to be warm, witty, smart and fun. I have her novel, "Waiting for Spring," next to my bed, which I just now realized is weirdly appropriate given how much I have been grumbling about my desire for winter's end. Spring cannot come soon enough to my Pennsyltuckian mountain. Maybe this interview will help usher it in sooner. If anyone can bring it, RJ Keller can! You go, girl!
Q. What’s the best/worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
A. Best: Take your writing seriously, but not yourself. Books are important, but writers are only people like everyone else and nobody likes an arrogant ass. Also, don't skip your coffee break. It's the most important meal of the day.
Worst: The idea that I should keep on plugging away on a book that I'm not feeling and/or that isn't working. Sometimes that's good advice, but not always and I spent years working on and reworking a novel that I am completely blocked on. I've gotten to the point where I hate it. I'd punch it in the face if I could. Finally, about a month ago, I decided to put it away temporarlily to work instead on a book I started during last year's NANOWRIMO. The new book is pretty much writing itself. It's making me remember why I loved writing in the first place. After I'm done with this, I'll probably tear apart the other book and start from scratch and see what I can make of it.

Q. Alliteration or onomatopoeia?
A. Onomatopoeia, for sure. BAM! POP! SQUISH! How can you not love "squish"?

Q. Would you describe yourself as a writer who plans or a writer who explores?
A. Sort of both. I find I do best when I start a project with no concrete idea of where the story is going. It's fun to just create a character in my head, then give him or her a character to butt heads or other body parts with, and let the plot develop from there. Once the story starts to gel, I'll stop and make an outline, then keep going.

Q. Writing wardrobe?
A. My pajamas. I don't know what I'm gonna do if I have to get a job that requires me to actually get dressed and run a comb through my hair.

Q. What were you doing right before I started asking you a bunch of inane questions?
A. Looking under my armchair for a curtain rod bracket. My cat pulled the curtains out of the wall this morning and one of the brackets is still missing. Using Occam's razor, I've deduced that she must have eaten it.

Q. What’s on your desk right now?
A. A cup of coffee, a water bottle that I probably need to refill, a dirty coffee cup, my notebook and three pens. Also a broken ponytail holder. Where the hell did that come from? My hair hasn't been long enough for a ponytail for years...

Q. Favorite beverage of the moment?
A. Fireball cinnamon whiskey. And Country Time pink lemonade. But not at the same time.

Q. E-shopping or brick and mortar?
A. Both. I love, love, LOVE shopping at bookstores, especially those that are locally owned. (Shout out to Bull Moose in Bangor Maine!) I love everything about browsing through books on a shelf. However, e-shopping is not only convenient, but a real money saver when you live in a poor, rural area - like I do - where the nearest city is a forty-five minute drive, with gas prices being as high as they are. Brick and mortar stores that haven't opened themselves up to e-commerce already should really get on it.

Q. Argyle or plain white socks?
A. I like mixing argyle with stripes. It reminds them who's boss. (The boss is me.)

Q. If you could collaborate on a project with anyone living, dead or imaginary, who would you pick?
A. My Impossible Dream would be to work on a book with Australian writer/poet Luke Davies. I'd sit there quietly and fetch him coffee and fresh pens if that's all he needed me for. Also, it would be SO cool to snag John Green for a cameo in a Paper Rats video. And I would love it if Nathan Fillion would sit on my couch while I'm writing. I'll bet he smells really nice. He could fetch me coffee and fresh pens.

Q. Tell us about your current creative project/s.
A. I'm working on a novel that is tentatively entitled Winging It (the odds are good that this will change). It's about a single mother in her late thirties who is struggling with Empty Nest Syndrome after her only daughter moves to New York to pursue an acting career. It's filled with humor, sex, angst, and Wikipedia Article Envy.
(...sometime later)
UPDATE: The curtain rod bracket was lying on top of my sneaker.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Meet Writer Kristen Tsetsi!


I first became aware of Kristen Tsetsi through the Paper Rats on youtube. She and RJ Keller do this absolutely hilarious thing called Inside the Writer's Studio. I stumbled across it when I really needed to laugh and to find a bit of empathy for the writing life. If you are a writer and you are reading this, you need to be aware of this hilariawesome thing.

Seriously. Hilariawesome.

Of course this made me curious about her writing and as part of my b-day present to me this year I bought and read her book, Pretty Much True.

It is with crazy fangirl squee-glee that I present to you Kristen Tsetsi!

The Interview

Q. What’s the best/worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

A. Best: "Write what you know." This is a controversial piece of advice, but it makes sense when you step away from it and don't apply it to every little written item ("I've never been in a spaceship! Does that mean I shouldn't write about spaceships!?"). What I think it means is, "If you've never experienced unrequited love/real panic/loss/longing/homesickness (homesickness for a town can be turned into homesickness for your planet as you wander through outer space), passionate love/battle, you won't be able to write about it believably, or with the emotional and psychological complexity the subject deserves."
Of course, the advice only applies if you're trying to tackle any one of those themes. If the story floats more on the surface of things, it won't matter as much.

Worst advice: When, how much, where, or why to write advice from any writer. Especially "why." One author writes
"You must want to write so badly that it hurts not to. If you don’t write today, you ought to feel guilty. If you don’t feel guilty, you aren’t meant to write.”

Says you.

Technique advice, I'm all for. As for the rest, you do what works for you; I'll do what works for me. And don't presume to know what makes anyone but you a 'writer.' (More on this here.)

Q. Rhyming or free verse?

A. Your question tempts a little rhyme, but I'm at work and have no time. I like them both, I guess, but then - it really all comes down to when. Some poems beg for bouncing sound, and some don't, so much. Maybe the content itself isn't so "tidy" as to fit into a rhyme.

Q. Safety features or Safety Dance?

A. The dance sounds like more fun.

Q. Writing wardrobe?

A. Warm feet and loose pants, when possible. Cold feet are distracting, and legs move around a lot when you're sitting for hours at a desk.

Q. What were you doing right before I started asking you a bunch of inane questions?

A. Transcribing an interview I did with a woman who runs an animal sanctuary for an article I'm writing.

Q. What’s on your desk right now?

A. My phone, copies of interviews my editor wanted me to read for an upcoming series, a pen & highligher-holder coffee cup, my ever-present ice water, and animal sanctuary fact sheets and catalogs.

Q. Favorite food thing of the moment?

A. It is, has always been, and shall forever be pasta.

Q. Indoors or outdoors? Why?

A. Indoors. Don't get me wrong - I'm into flowers and trees and all the smells and birdsongs, but I love the coziness of inside. And that's where my cats are.

Q. First thought when confronted with waking up?

A. Confronted!? I love waking up! It excites me. Some nights I can't wait to go to bed just so I can get up for morning and coffee.

Q. If you could collaborate on a project with anyone living, dead or imaginary, who would you pick?

A. Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullen, Newlyweds, Nice Guy Johnny, etc.). 1. I love movies, enjoy screenwriting, and have always wanted to have the access necessary to have a screenplay produced, so he'd obviously be helpful in that capacity. 2. I love Burns' characters, the relationship tension he introduces, and the ease with which he with tenderly explores uncomfortable situations while simultaneously making fun of them. I'm a huge fan of uncomfortable situations, flawed characters, and maybe most of all, putting love under a fluorescent (rather than rose-colored) light. Getting to collaborate with him on the writing of a screenplay would be dreamy.

Q. Tell us about your current creative project/s.

A. Currently, my novel Pretty Much True... and my short fiction collection Carol's Aquarium are available for readers everywhere. I'm not working on anything creative at the moment because work-writing takes up too much of that energy. But I have high hopes for the future.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Categories Player Interview the Thirteenth: Hearstar Indigo Lovetouch


Heartstar Indigo Lovetouch is a creature out of legend that is larger than legend and much, much larger than miniature ponies. The champion, mascot, and savior of the Categories Players our favorite flying unicorn has agreed to give us a tiny glimpse of the gargantuan mind behind the horn. Words cannot describe the joy I felt at reading the words, "I am a big fan of Spotty Blog's work, and honored to be featured."

I believe I felt the Lovetouch for which thou art named, Heartstar Indigo Lovetouch. I am aglow.


Q. Flying or galloping?

A. Flying, as it is a much more majestic way to make an entrance. Generally I gallop around the house, though.

Q. Current profession?

A. Ass-kicker and champion for the downtrodden.

Q. Favorite color?

A. Indigo, natch.

Q. First thought when confronted with waking up?

A. Will today be the day I finally gore Dick Cheney with my magical horn?

Q. Are you a lover or a fighter?

A. A fighter for sure, but my strength comes from the collective love of 12 year old girls and gay men everywhere, so...

Q. Favorite Categories thing?

A. Mark Boltz's insane obsession with yam salve.

Q. What were you doing right before I started asking you a bunch of inane questions?

A. Preening my fantastic and impressive wings.

Q. Can you elucidate on some of your unique ass-kicking powers?

A. I discover new ones every day! But I am a trained in the art of tae-corn do, which is a unique brand of mma for unicorns. I have various magical powers that are only revealed to those whom I fight... so hopefully you never find out what they are.

Q. Favorite food thing of the moment?

A. Baked hay casserole with truffle oil.

Q.  What are your thoughts on the subject of yam salve?

A. If Mark Boltz knew what it REALLY was, he wouldn't be slathering it around so generously. (I am also omniscient)

Q. Tell us about your current creative project/s.

A. Currently I am working on a book called "Unicorns: The Truth Behind the Horn" which will expose a lot of misconceptions, half truths and downright myths about winged unicorns. I also have a 7 octave range and am working on a concept album with Enya.

Heartstar Indigo Lovetouch can be found ass-kicking all over facebook here: