Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Free Crit on First 20 Pages from The Master

Moonrat over at Editorial Ass is celebrating half a million posts. Some lucky soul will win her editorial mastery on the first 20 pages. Will it be you?

Peace, Linda

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brain Food. Or Why those BK fries are soooooooo goooooood

Ho-Hos, nacho Doritos, Big Macs, frosties -- a slippery slope to compusive eating? Turns out when rats eat our favorite junk foods, their wee brains light up the same if snorting coke or shooting smack. Maybe this helps explain the obesity problem in American kids. Read more in NATURE.

If only lettuce and apples gave us the same high...

Peace, Linda

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Blues are Running

I walk the beach, south to the point. Waves tease the beach with a lazy roar, sea oats rustle from the dunes. Smooth as silvered glass, the sea melds into sky, endless horizon. Here, there are only two colors: sun and water. Hermit crabs scuttle before my shadow. The receding tide leaves foam memories. I walk. Sand squishes fine and smooth between my toes, polished for eternity by God’s rock tumbler. The pack bangs lightly on my back with each step. The sun settles an inch above sea’s edge. I look back to where I was and the memory is miniscule, my footprints swirled away.

Oh Daddy… remember?

Those mornings you fished, we always walked, my sister and I. She skipped ahead, seeking the next adventure and casting sideways looks at the sun-baked boys in their bleached cut-offs. While I, the slower, more serious one, kept eyes to the ground, seeking a starfish, an intact sand-dollar, a smoothed piece of colored glass. We walked and walked, chattering about everything and nothing, stopping to poke birds and beached jellies, diverting into the dunes to imagine forts made among the stilts of unoccupied beach-houses. Oblivious to time and distance and all that left behind. Until some sound, a keening tern perhaps, or maybe a red kite swooping from the sun, reminded us how far we’d come. We’d turn around, panicked that we’d strayed too far, that you’d be done with the fishing and packed up, ready to leave without us. We’d run back, mile and miles, chests heaving, toes digging into soft sand, until the jeep distinguished itself from the endless beach, and you standing by your poles, staring to the end of the world. Mom would sit in the front seat staring at the same spot you were, that faraway place, her knitting on her lap, the dog curled beside her where you sat. Our return animated you and mom, you would smile slow like you’d been asleep for a long time. We related our adventures, gave news of the beach beyond the point, displayed our treasures proudly. You laughed, indulging us, and mom unwrapped tuna salad sandwiches in hot dog buns, celery sticks, chips, all gritty from sand.

That was how it was, each day new and yet the same, finite and never-ending.

Daddy, I wish you were here now…

The tide’s coming in, and the water churns here at the confluence of sound and sea. I walk past the fisherman and their four-wheel-drives pocking the point. From a distance, they seemed charcoal smudges: a log, a boat’s broken hull, a beached seal or other detritus tossed carelessly upon the shore by a rogue wave. Closer, details emerged, rods stuck in sand, lines tight, silver filaments set to garrote the unsuspecting who pass by. Have you ever noticed how fishing lines, when taut, sing when the world spins away from the sun? They smile at me when I peek into their white buckets filled with the bluefish, silver-scales reflecting sky streaked orange. But when I look up, into their brown wind-carved faces, I see you. Waiting for the big one.

Daddy, the blues are running...

Seagulls and cormorants squawk and dive bomb into the writhing waves. Even pelicans gather, skimming low to the sea’s surface. The men reel in fast, rods and arms quivering. I sit at the dune’s base, back pack snuggled in the sand at my feet. I withdraw the box. It’s heavy, made of wood, I know the inside is steel-lined though I haven’t yet opened the lid. The sun taints the fish-covered beach in blood. I wait. The men load their buckets, their trucks, and soon all that is left are deep treads leading away.

The sun melts into the sea, shimmering like molten lava. The box feels lighter somehow. At water's edge, droplets of saltiness kiss my face, so many tears. The lid comes off easily. The wind wisps the dust and instinctively I reach but it’s gone, it’s gone, you're gone, and I reach inside, your fire-polished ash so fine in my hand, so much finer than the sand under my feet yet as timeless, and I toss the first handful intothe air. The wind shifts, carries the dustiness of you aloft above the waves… daddy, oh daddy… the blues are running, the blues are running, and the waves will carry you, carry you, so you will be one with them… oh daddy, you’re running with those blues…


Peace, Linda

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Small Press s-Press

A new but excellent blog noting books pubbed by indie, alternative, and emerging presses. Includes chapbook publishers, too -- more ways to disseminate our work.

Take a peek. Doses delivered daily by --> DAILY s-PRESS

Peace, Linda

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ides of March

In the passing headlights, gnarled branches look like hungry fingers reaching down for me. It’s late, past seven, I’ve been running along Mem Drive, over the Longfellow and back but Phoebe’s hurt eyes chase me down the streets. Jesus, one lousy birthday card and it’s over.

My feet make soft, slapping sounds on the brick pathways. At the campus perimeter, I veer left through the Quadrangle past the chemistry building and hit black ice. My knee wrenches, it hurts like hell, and I almost cry, this day is such a goddamn disaster and, for a nanosecond, I toy with the idea of heading to Dunster, to score some Vicodin. For the pain, of course. But I banish the idea, I’ve been good, so good these last three years.

I sprint up the landing and into the foyer, dig in my back pocket and find the forgotten mood charts folded in the wad of ones. Three bucks buys me dinner: Hostess Ho-Hos, nacho Doritos, and a can of full-octane Coke.

In the animal facility, it’s humid but the sweetish scent of rodent piss and cedar shavings calms me. My six subjects swarm my hand when I reach into the glass cage. I pick up number 43, a black, brown-eyed male identical to thousands of his siblings populating this lab.

“Hey you.” My thumb strokes his neck. “Hope you had a better day than me.”

The mouse snuffs my wrist, wriggles up my sleeve. I pull him back by the tail and drop him into the cage.

I pull down the plastic feed container from the upper cabinet, refill the water, then lean against the wall to observe my subjects eat their dinner. My ‘practice’ mice, the animals I feed, inject with placebo, watch for reactions, then inject with three different anticonvulsants, giving them the maximum exposure to the study agent. One day, soon I hope, I’ll remove them, unsuspecting, from their glass house, guillotine them, and make carpaccio-thin brain slices to view under the ‘scope, and puree the rest of the grey matter, chromatograph the mess, and write up the experiment. Then, Tien and Doctor L will give me the expensive guys - six identical rodents genetically-modified to lack the glutamate-inhibiting protein – and I’ll repeat the laborious process again, this time for real.

My stomach rumbles. I haven’t eaten since the morning cupcakes. I leave the animal room and ascend the stairs. The burnt-match smell of propane fills the lab. A couple of pre-docs slump over their benches, extracting compounds in gallon-sized Pyrex beakers. They nod as I pass through and down the hall to the closet of an office I share with four other undergrads.

No one’s here, even though the single computer whirs and the bald fluorescent tube strobes an irritating ice-blue. The flickering intensifies my caffeine-withdrawal headache. God, I hate these headaches, they last all day and nothing touches them. I crumple in the wood chair, tilt back with my feet on the desk, and down the now-warm Coke in three swallows. A thought pricks - I’m forgetting something - but it flits away, so I open my neuro text and flip to Chapter Five. Antipsychotics. The cake dissolves in my mouth, too sweet, the disgusting faux chocolate waxes my tongue, and as I chew I sing ‘Happy Birthday to Me’ in my head, over and over again.

I hate my goddamn birthday.

Thioridazine, prochlorperazine, perphenazine, olanzapine. All these fucking ‘zines. Nasty names. Nasty drugs, these mind numbers. Thank God I’m not schizo. The chemical structures blur, so I try to remember them by pharmacologic class – phenothiazines, thioxanthenes, butyrophenones – but my eyes twitch from the headache. Jesus, I’ll never get these blasted drugs straight. Wish I could ask Phoebe, she’s a whiz at the drugs.

When I rip the bag of chips, tiny brown balls bounce along the desktop. Mice turds. Disgusted, I sweep them off with the back of my hand and remember seeing similar pellets yesterday on the kitchen counter, near the half-eaten loaf of stale bread. I gotta clean up my place, it’s been a shambles since finals. Like me.

Then, it hits me, a miracle; all these disparate threads on antipsychotics and cleaning and winning back Phoebe converge. Time to purge my house. My self. Time to clean up.

I jump up, brush rodent shit and phosphorescent orange shards from my lap. My cell buzzes. I’m so excited about my new course of action I ignore it, but then I think maybe it’s Mother telling me she deposited the tuition money today, oh, and happy birthday son. So I grab the phone, glance at caller ID but it’s not New York, it’s local. Althea. And then I remember what I’m forgetting - my own birthday party.


The Ides of March is a big day for me, bigger than green beer day. It's the day I defended my dissertation, the day I got engaged, the day medical students get matched to residencies. The Ides is also my character Ben's birthday, a day almost as lousy as Julius': betrayed by a friend, dumped by Phoebe, and a head session so angst-filled he fires his shrink. This, the hereafter...

Excerpted from Brighter than Bright, a novel of loss and love and taking your meds -- or not.

Peace, Linda

(Yeah, yeah, I miss you flashers... the mountain top gets lonely...)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Looking for a Home?

For all your ditties and poems, but wish you had a better feel for litzines' editorial sensibilities?

Jim Harrington's nifty blog SIX QUESTIONS FOR provides just that. Great stuff coming up on some of my fave literary abodes, including Right Hand Pointing/Left Hand Waving, jmww, Word Riot, Press 53, The Shine Journal, and sooooooo much more.

Check it out.

Peace, Linda

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Mountain

Moved to a new mountain. This one near the mythical North Hebron, New Hampshire. Ben's hiding out here, and so am I.

Just passed the halfway mark.

Peace, Linda

Monday, March 08, 2010

Fear of Love

There is, I think, a fear of love.
There is a fear of love.

I write in my mountain monastary, and read.

If this is the last book I ever read, I shall die fulfilled. Love, loss, grief, redemption, set against the once formidable skyline of The City. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. My brass ring.

Small celebration... Two poems from last April's Poem A Day (PAD) Challenge, hosted by Writer's Digest Robert Lee Brewer, made Top 5 poems for two of the 30 days. Over the course of the month more than 1,000 poets contributed nearly 25,000 poems, so making it through that slush feels just super. Since then, the Day 18 poem When a Bowl Hits a Tree comfortably cohabitates at Tattoo Highway. Day 27 poem Longing for Hades is making the literary journal rounds under an alias.

Okay, back to the Drambuie and the laptop... Peace, Linda

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Good Housekeeping?

The steel no longer stainless,
the bowl tidy no more.
Spic and span my counter – not,
the dust mice a thundering herd.
But this page? Pristine,
despite hours of dirty words.

Words elude me. At least words specific to the BIG picture.

See that mountain over there? That tiny blip of a blot? There, on the ridge? That's me. Got my laptop, my spirals and notecards, pens and pencils. High-octane java, a bottle of Drambuie, some chili-infused dark choco. I'm hunkering down for a spell, a right long spell, and not climbing down until I bust past THE END on PURE. There's deadlines, you see.

When I do come down I hope I look like this.

I'm gonna be scarcer than usual.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Truths and Lies in the Ivory Tower

Truth is strange as fiction. And no where else do lies and truths inextricably comingle than in the hallowed halls of academe. Big thanks to super Vispoetess and prose spinner Melissa, aka Windspirit Girl, who honored me with the Bald-faced Liar Award. You can tell six outrageous lies and one truth, or six outrageous truths and one lie. I'm mixing it up a bit -- all seven are truths, but six belong to myself -- or to Dr. Benjamin Carandini, my PURE MC. You might remember him -- he's the dude whose mice commit hari-kari after ingesting investigational drug JM-25. Can you pin the truths on the right academic?

1/ The day before my wedding, a graduate student presents me with a bouquet of roses -- thorns picked off. Later that night I find a large serrated knife buried among the stems.

2/ Three fellow graduate students die in a single year -- two from the same rare cancer and the third from self-inflicted gunshot.

3/ A colleague hurls epithets and a textbook at me at a faculty meeting.

4/ Not one but two graduate student friends get 'A's and pregnant by the same (married) professor.

5/ The day the World Trade Towers collapse, a colleague says with a smile, "At last, the chickens have come home to roost."

6/ A supervisor fails to give me a raise because I am "too happy" every morning when I "sing coming out of the elevator."

7/ A 'mentor' refuses to provide a letter of reference for a grant proposal unless I switch advisors and sleep with the mentor.

I'll drop by a few blogs and pay it forward later this week -- seems everyone's gotten dubbed.

And from Paige in Paradise Valley, warm fuzzies. Send some her way -- she needs some extra loving... damn economy.

Live hard, write harder... Peace, Linda