The first issue of NEAT. is now live!

Hellooooo all of my beautiful followers. I promised you yesterday that I would have news about NEAT. Well, lo and behold, we are LIVE.

NEAT. started as a conversation in the beginning of July between myself and my friend TM Keesling. We asked each other: How can we create something that we will be proud of? What’s missing in the current literary marketplace? What can we contribute? And NEAT. was the answer.

The past couple of months have been full of fantastic reading, inordinate amounts of coffee, head-desking, and an embarrassing learning curve where eBooks are concerned. And now we have a polished first issue that I believe is worthy of your time to read, digest, and talk about with friends and strangers. We have a hundred pages of poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction, and photography waiting to be devoured. And damn, is that PDF beautiful. (I worked really hard on it, okay?)

Check out our first issue here.

Writers’ Retreat: A Lesson in Happiness

A thing that I wrote at the beginning of August about the most informative/fun weekend of my summer. Yes I know it’s idiotic that I have waited until now to post it.

I spent the weekend hanging out with some crazy/awesome/creative folks at the Post Mortem Press Writers’ Retreat in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was a party, all right. Ten to twelve (who counts?) horror writers together in the same place? I’m surprised the time-continuum didn’t explode. Or something. We spent Thursday – Sunday at this weird old place called the Yellow Springs Motel. We had the whole place to ourselves, which was good because, I mean, horror writers. Loud drinking. Debates about why, exactly, we write (“Because Fuck You!”). If we hadn’t been the only ones there, we would have been by the end of the first night.

Anyway it was four days of writing and talking about writing with some pretty sweet folks — including my Post Mortem Press boss, Eric, and his wife, Stephanie. I serve mainly as a book editor for PMP, though that status will change soon (more on that to come), so it was interesting to see how the writers in our “stable” interact with one another and with us. But honestly, even though I was there as an employee of the press, I considered myself more of a participant on the writing side of things. For the most part, I consider myself a genre writer, and here I am, in the same breathing space with a bunch of genre writers. It was a great opportunity to pick people’s brains and to tell myself “Hey, look, they do it, so can I.”

On the two full days we were there, Eric facilitated discussions centered around our field. It was interesting and informative to get the opinions of people that have been in the field for a long time and also of newbies who have just broken into this crazy novel writing world.

I can’t stress enough how liberating it was for me to spend this time with genre buddies. In a graduate fiction program, sometimes I feel like there isn’t room for genre, or that my fantasy fiction may not be taken seriously by the more old-school members of the faculty. More often than not, it’s just my paranoia that’s the problem–genre fiction is actually a lot more accepted by my graduate program than some. But that paranoia fell away this weekend as I spent time with these weirdos. And that was awesome.

I Am a Horrible Blogger, a story by me

I realize I haven’t posted since July. I hope everyone will forgive me (because I know you’re all on the edge of your seats waiting for every word I say). The beginning of a new semester means it’s time to WORK WORK WORK AND NO SLEEP FOR YOU HAHAHAHA. I promise I will post more when I can. There are actually a couple things in my drafts that I apparently was too lazy/busy to finish. You’ll start seeing those soon.

I will also have news about NEAT. coming up before the end of this week, I think. Maybe even today.

Thanks for sticking with me even though I am a horrible blogger.

-Liz

After a Hiatus, I Present to You . . .

I would like you all to know that I haven’t died. Yay, right? I took a long break to go on vacation with Husband and do fun things like mountain biking and hiking and all sorts of other things that end with “-ing.” Also did quite a bit of writing, so maybe you will see some of that in the near future.

But now I am back, and would like to introduce a project that my friend TM Keesling and I have been working on for the last month. We have crafted our own online publication, which we are affectionately calling NEAT Magazine. NEAT is an online quarterly magazine devoted to  Midwestern writers and readers, and we are currently accepting submissions!! Please visit our website, and if you like what you see, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We’ll be updating those pages with info about submissions and anything else we find interesting in the writing world. We are two grad students looking to read good writing and get it out there for the public to consume — I’m sure we can all get on board with that!

Please let me know if you have any questions whatsoever. I hope to read submissions from every single one of my Twitter and WordPress followers!!

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Novel excerpt — Prologue

Here is the opening to my fantasy novel project, which I am calling (thanks to a friend in my cohort at school that is waaaaaay better at titles than I am) THE BLOOD OF THE WINDMAKER. Any feedback is appreciated!

Heave.

The slow, heavy intake of breath sounded like wind whining through blasted rock; ragged windpipes searched for air until flayed lungs could expand no further. The man shuddered, like an icy breeze had just assailed his bare shoulder blades. In reality, the shiver was anticipatory. He waited for the moment to come when his lungs would cease to take in air. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. Mount willing, soon.

The quiet heaving of his chest was like the movement of the deck of a ship. Erratic, yet slow and mellow. No storms here, just a quiet struggle for balance, a struggle against the pull of the waves. This feeling sparked memories of easier days that reminded him of the sky.

He didn’t want to open his eyes. Every day was the same: darkness would greet his gaze whenever he ventured to peek into the cold cellar where they kept him. Every day, the darkness loomed impenetrably around his tired body, but sometimes he imagined he could see the ceiling, high above in this underground sepulcher. Imagination was a funny thing.

The symbol carved into the inside of his wrist burned, but that was nothing unusual. Nothing he couldn’t push to the corner of his mind. However, the glowing chains caressing his body also lanced his skin, and those lacerations were harder to ignore. The fetters that bound him to the stone floor in a spread-eagle position were the only covering for his naked body. The burns snaked across his chest, shoulders, arms, thighs. Another everyday occurrence. The pain never really went away.

Another breath snaked into his throat, down to his lungs. With it, he felt the ship, weaving in and out of the waves. His ship. The current buffeted him to and fro on the wind. His chest tightened as he felt that one breath consume him, control him. The chains glowed brighter for one hot second, and he bit back a scream. No one would hear him, but the vocal admission to his pain would prove that they had won. His mind strained as he struggled to keep the ship connected to him steady. A storm was coming, but so was she.

Hurry, woman, he willed silently, still grimacing in pain. The chains still glowed. So bright, like light shimmering from a blue sky he tried to remember.

Story of the Week #7 — “The Proposal” by Amelia Jane Nierenberg

In the spirit of having been published this week by Burningword Literary Journal, I figured I would review a story in the July 1 issue. This flash fiction story by Amelia Jane Nierenberg hits rather close to home for me.

Read the story here.

This fantastic little piece manages to capture the essence of my entire childhood in less than 300 words.  I had imaginary pets, little boys were meanies to me, and I “got married” during recess in the second grade. Maybe this is the life of all little girls. But in any case, reading this gave me a bad case of nostalgia (or good case — it wasn’t a terrible feeling), and to me that is a marker of success. Eliciting an emotional response from a reader is one of the hardest and most rewarding things about fiction.

Another thing I like about this piece is how visceral the language is:

“Yum, yum, yum,” he said, gnashing his pearl-white teeth together around the necks of my dogs. “Your dogs are delicious.”

The image of the little boy gnashing his teeth at the narrator is grotesque, creepy. Like a bad dream come to the front of your mind. I can’t get over how emotionally stirring this is for me. It goes from cutesy to creepy in the span of a sentence, which is exactly how my childhood looks to me through the lens of old(er) age.

Each time I read this piece I see something else I like. Check it out!

[Insert Pinocchio voice here] “I’m a real boy!”

Well folks, as of today, I am a published writer! The lovely folks over at Burningword Literary Journal have seen fit to give two of my poems a home in their July 1 issue. I literally squealed when I opened the email.

Part of my excitement comes from the fact that these two poems are probably my favorites of the ones I have written. The first, “Swallowing sounds like boiling water,” started out as a response to remarks that I should “settle down” and learn how to be a good little housewife (I’m paraphrasing a bit). However, it became something that I have needed to say for some time but that I hadn’t found the words for: an explanation for why I don’t want to be a mother yet and a response to the pressures that come with that wedding ring. I read it at an open mic not too long ago, and my poetry professor from undergrad, a woman whose work and teaching abilities I respect ten thousand fold, told me that it needed to be published. The universe listened to you, Kelly!

And the second, “Farmland,” is another one of those poems that began during a drive, this one between home and school. It’s full of some of those same feelings as the first, but it’s more of a personal letter to a loved one than anything.

These two poems are incredibly personal and raw — I hope you like them. Now excuse me while I go jump up and down excitedly for a bit.

Five Sentence Fiction: “Betrayal”

Here’s another Five Sentence Fiction. The one-word inspiration for this week: “blades.”

Betrayal

Seri lowered her sword, glaring at Rian with eyes hard as onyx. “Why would you even think about working for that monster?”

He smirked. “Mainly because I’m bored, but also just to see that look on your face.”

Seri, heart throbbing in her throat, screamed and rushed at him again.

Poem: I Haven’t Slept in Days

I wrote this poem a few months ago and I don’t know what to do with it. So I will leave it here for now.

I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN DAYS

It is the kind of winter
where hands bleed from
proximity to the radiator,
positioned at ten and two
as the midnight drive persists.
It is the kind of drive
that wants for alertness,
where sleep is just over that hill,
or through this wall of rain.
It does not matter that
you have not slept in days
or that a crumpled car
would make a terrible mattress.
Or perhaps the best kind.
It only matters that the car
sings with the radio, that
the cold that has seeped
into your bones cannot be fixed
with blasting heat.

Is it here that you lose your way?

I tend to write a lot of poetry about driving — I probably have at least nine or ten poems either about transportation or that were started during one of my many, many drives (and I don’t write much poetry, so that’s a good amount!). Do you notice certain patterns in your work, perhaps themes or objects or environments that tend to stick around?

Story of the Week #6 — “With Human” by Carol Guess and Kelly Magee

Apparently I’m on a pregnancy/babies kick the past couple of weeks. I read this a while ago and just remembered that I wanted to talk about it. My friend pippicannotread over at tumblr posted it saying that one of these lovely ladies was a professor of hers in her undergrad. Read the story here. My friend’s words: “It will leave you feeling ferocious.”

Ferocious indeed.

I’ve read this multiple times now, and each time, I get chills all over  my body from the sheer frankness of this story. The authors have an incredible mastery over emotion and craft with this piece. It never comes right out and says anything, but the reader can parse together the pieces. Plus the language is wonderful, leaving us with gems like this one:

The little human baby snowballed inside her, colder and harder, collecting sharp stones.

Everyone should just do themselves a favor and go read this.