Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Taste Of The Novel

Just for giggles, here's a taste of the revisions I did today. All contents © Sean Craven.


The Ghost Rockers

I sat down on the walkway. There was no way to get comfortable on that cold metal grid. It ground against the bones in my ass. I leaned against the colorless stucco wall under a window and my eyes closed on their own.

It was the sound of heavy staggering footsteps that woke me. My neck was stiff and my butt was numb. When I saw the figure coming toward me I rolled to my feet and stamped to get the blood flowing again.

He – it – was only approximately human. It had two heads, one set centered on its shoulders, the smaller one crowding against it back and to the left. As it got closer I could see that the broad torso was actually two bodies fused together. One arm was normal, the other too big, with an extra elbow and a hand that had more fingers than I could count in a glance. It had a blanket wrapped around its waist, partially concealing three legs.

“Let’s just get out of here,” the little head said. It had short brown hair and a receding hairline. “We don’t know him, he could have a gun or something.”

“Tell you what. If you’re scared you can stay here and wait for me,” the center head said.

“You don’t have to be mean.”

“Well, you don’t have to be a little bitch.”

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey boy,” the front head said. “You must be lost, huh?” He grinned at me, big yellow teeth in a red face. He held up his small hand. “I bet you got lost and now you’re scared, right?”

The brown haired head was just visible over his shoulder. “I think I seen this guy somewhere,” he said.

Oh, shit. He was right.

“Shut the fuck up,” the blonde head said, then looked at me. “Hey, I do know you, don’t I?”

This was when a smart person would lie.

“Yeah, I think we ran into each other before.” I looked right in the blonde head’s eyes.

“Wait a minute, it’s starting to come back to me,” the blonde head said. “I think I remember some fuckin Nazi likes to throw people out their beds is what I think I remember. Fuckin little Hitler shitler thinks its fun to fuck with people just trying to stay warm. That’s you, right? You’re that guy? Fuckin fancy department store guy?” He stepped forward. His ugly hand dragged its clustered knuckles on the walkway, then whipped up to stroke his chin.

I kept my face still and my gaze steady.

“Yeah,” I said. “That would be me. Arnie and Jeff, right?”

What Is Twitter?

You should go check out Craig Dylke's Creative Spaces post. It's got gratuitous New Zealand!

I've been Twittering as seancraven for a while now. It started off when Thaumatrope showed up. I couldn't resist the challenge of a 140-character story, especially if it had the added difficulty of being SF/Fantasy/Horror.

At first it was just a matter of my spouting off into the void but I began to gather a few followers. I only know where a few of them come from... Most of 'em just showed up out of the blue. I have no idea how they found me.

As confused as I am by Twitter, it's grown on me, especially now that I have a few pals and there's a bit of give-and-take. It provides a good outlet for brief wise-ass remarks -- and more importantly, my prose has been improved by my work in such a concise format. Just for fun, here are my favorite early Tweets.

My wife's dreadful taste in radio made me long for classic rock, which made me long for death. I want a Boston album and a bucket of pills.

I picked up the latest Kick Ass today. Why aren't there more comic books about idiots in leotards beating the holy crap out of each other?

Sometimes these things come out of my mouth... "How do girls get to be such sissies? You've given birth! Nothing should appall you again!"

The missus picked up an electric anti-bark collar for the terrier. It's not going to work; I tried it and it just made me cuss more.

I just realized something. They were hooty and they blew and they were called Hootie and the Blowfish. That's actually kind of admirable.

Just invented my first mixed drink; the shallots make it kind of crunchy. I think I'm missing the point...

The optimist sees the glass as half-full, the pessimist sees it as half-empty. I hate glasses.

Oh my darling, oh my love, must you like The Breakfast Club? They have pills for that these days.

Overheard - some hippies on hearing B.B. King for the first time. "Man, this guy is good. He'd be great if he had a more positive message."

These words just ushered me into the singularity. "Invite Mail Delivery Subsystem to chat."

When I saw the Netflix envelope on the counter I had to take a peek. What do they watch? It was Norbit. Oh, god, I feel so dirty.

Best line from the writer's group: "About a third of the people with that mental illness kill themselves." "So the rest become writers?"

Only a pretentious jackal would make a cocktail with Laphroaig. I shall drown them in an artisanal orgeat syrup and garnish with mint.

Jesus motherfucking christ. I'm forty-five years old and I just realized that 'poor social skills' are what some people call 'street cred.'

When the cat's away, the mice will commit criminal acts of such magnitude as to render the concept of punishment meaningless.

I am a man of the arts and letters, not to be called poor white trash. The term you're looking for is impoverished Caucasian refuse.

Whenever I work in pencil these days I get anxious after I've worked for a while. Because it's been too long since I've saved my work.

You ever get the feeling that human beings start out as sexually-transmitted tumors and then go downhill from there?

I need a new outfit. Clothes say something about a person and mine say, "Don't cross the street unless an adult is holding your hand."

I have purchased black slacks, a tweedish sports-coat, a white shirt, and a tie. The overall effect? Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.

Last night, in reference to me: John - "How did you know he played bass?" Danny - "Just look at him!"

To gracefully endure altruism can be an act of genuine and necessary charity. God damn it.

Again, I am troubled. The packet in the fridge says, "200,000 Nematodes." The packet is greasy. Greasy! I am troubled.

Shakespeare had his seven ages of man. I am a simple fellow and three will suffice for me: Yoot, brute, and coot.

I sold out! I sold out! It turns out that my soul is worth what is best described as just barely three figures.

Oaf - "I put the seat up even when she's gone - I am so..." "You aren't P.W.'ed," sez editor, "you're the most valuable man on the planet!"

The missus is enraged by ties and Herb Alpert. I bet that if I start exploring my inner square I could really get on her nerves.

Water skiing: I will never again use a device powered by internal combustion to give myself a public enema unless I get tips.

Why does my giant lubber grasshopper smell like very old soy sauce? Should I lick it to see if it's salty?

Non-threatening sexlessness in a musician is kinda like those mantises that look like orchids.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Creative Spaces 4: Familiar Faces

Well, we're starting to see a little Creative Spaces action! Our Overlords from the North have kicked in -- check out Glendon Mellow's Swiss Army Knife of a closet and Peter Bond's new monitor!

Glendon suggested that I do a meme-style shout-out to those who I want to participate. I thought that was swell. Then I realized that I've already sent out emails to everyone who I knew who had a blog and seemed likely to participate. Okay, Homework Club and Art Evolved! Get of your butts and show us the goods!

So today there's even more of my studio. I could actually keep going like this for an indefinite period. Now, I read the Velveteen Rabbit when I was a kid. It made me cry and taught me a valuable lesson. Inanimate objects are just like people -- they will break your fucking heart if you give them half a chance. So I try and avoid anthropomorphizing objects. But that's kind of tricky when those objects have faces. Here are some of the wacky cast of characters keeping me company here in the studio.

I did this at a Day of the Dead party at my sister's place. There were a bunch of blank skulls and everyone got to paint there own. It's very slightly a self-portrait -- I get that look on my face all the time.

This is the synthesist and electronic percussionist for the band. You know his name; when he works with us he goes by Quarter-Inch Jack. Why is he wearing safety goggles? Because that's how hard we fucking rock.

(Anyone know anything about putting MP3s into a blog post?)

Time to blow another legend out of the water. Back in the day I heard Deadheads claim that the Residents were Deadheads and would even show up at Dead shows in costume.

Tell you what -- my suspicion is that there are a bunch of Deadheads who like the Residents, but not a lot of Residents enthusiasts who go for a nice twelve-hour Dark Star jam.

(Favorite Deadhead moment? The Oaf: You've played Sugar Magnolia eight fucking times today. I can put up with the fucking Dead but at least play different songs! The Deadhead: But they are all different songs! They were done at different shows! Sounds of distant gunfire. An ominous cough.)

When I began my association with my band pal, I found out that there was a kernel of truth to the story. Prick up your ears and attend, my friends.

One year in high school, the Hon. Richard Talleywhacker, guitarist and gentleman, decided that he would dress as one of the Residents for Halloween. He found the experience salutary, and felt that Halloween wasn't enough scope for an outfit that was radioactive with cool.

We all have our objectionable characteristics. I myself am an unpresentable monstrosity. Well, Mr. Talleywhacker was -- and quite possibly is -- a Deadhead.

So he started wearing his Residents outfit to the occasional Dead show, and the legend grew from there.

Traumador, if you see this I want you to know that there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for my possession of a severed Carnotaurus head. It was self-defense and some other dude did it anyway.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Creative Spaces 3: Decor by DeFault

I don't see myself as the decorative type. However, a lifetime of gifts, yardsales, and thriftshops has wound up accumulating into a rather distinctive style.

If you click on this image and roam around a little bit, you'll have a fair notion of what it's like inside my skull.

Of course I have bowls of dead bugs sitting around. No, they're not for snacking.

Of course I have random piles of carrion scattered about. No, they are not the result of snacking.

I saw this in the grocery store some twenty years ago and I knew that some day I was gonna run across a turkey that needed lifting. I'm ready for him.

Yes, that's a sickle and a mask. Everybody needs a hobby.

It's funny -- I picked up the Poe and Van Gogh toys on two consecutive weekends at two different yardsales. Paid fifty cents for one, a quarter for the other. They're both important figures to me. (Shit. That's a pun, isn't it?)

But just remember, oafboy, you want their drive and their talents. Not their fucking careers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Here's another one of those dreadful little anecdotes that makes me look like a thoroughly horrible person. When it slipped out last night at Homework Club, I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to make a blog post out of it. Well, I'm done early with my editing for the day (another forty pages off to the Monday night group), so what the hey. It's not like my reputation consists of anything but tarnish.

Quite a few years back, the missus took an online IQ test. Well, since she did it, I had to do it too. But it was time-sensitive and toward the end I had to get up and pull the hounds off the UPS guy, which screwed me up so badly I only scored a 158. Man, I was moping about that one for weeks afterward.

(You would not believe the ridiculous horseshit I mope about... I am a sulky fellow.)

Anyway. While I was moping a thought started growing in my enormous brain. A bad and wrong thought.

It wouldn't leave me alone. I had to do it.

I waited until the missus was out of town so as to avoid having to deal with her being all judgmental about the fact that I'm a fucking self-destructive idiot. I found a good, solid, reputable on-line IQ test affiliated with a major university. And I set two conditions for myself.

First off, I wasn't going to allow myself the luxury of thought. If I had to devote any effort to answering a question whatsoever, I'd either guess or skip it.


My breakfast on that day consisted of two twenty-two ounce bottles of Maximus IPA and a half-pint of Wild Turkey 101. This was somewhere in the neighborhood of twice as much booze as I'd normally down. I wasn't going for a buzz -- I wanted to take this test hammered.

So once I hit the appropriate blood alcohol level, I sat down and ripped through that test. Got to say, it was a blast. If a question gave me any sense of doubt? Made me feel as if I wasn't smart enough?

Well, I wasn't smart enough and I didn't give a shit. Fuck you, IQ! Next question!

When I was done, I hit the button and got my results. And they were chilling.

By strictly adhering to a game plan of drunk and lazy, I scored an IQ of 98.

This is the average American IQ!

That, I said to myself, explains everything.

Creative Spaces 2: The Workstation

So you may ask yourself: What does Metron, one of Kirby's Recording Angels, have in common with the oaf? The answer is simple. We're both all about the chair.

Here's the deal. My back is bad; I can't sit or stand too much without experiencing elevated levels of pain. Too much can put me down. So I needed to create a workstation for myself that would let me work comfortably. This meant laying down. My first was based on a laptop, a media cart, and a homemade chaise lounge.

But the laptop got old, and I found myself unable to do art on it. So when I came into a small inheritance a few years back I decided to drop some bucks on a new setup. This is the single biggest investment I've made in my life and it's paid off for me, so far. This is my guilty secret -- I do a lot of poor-mouthing for good reason, but when I had money I spent thousands of bucks for one of the nicest workstations I know of.

A few years back I had a stay in a hotel room that included a recliner. During that stay my levels of pain were reduced considerably. The recliner was better for my back than any other furniture I was familiar with. So I knew I wanted to work from a recliner -- but how the hell do you do that? I got a vague mental image of what I wanted and hit the internet.

So here's the computer. Yeah, I'm a Mac user -- when I started off you needed to have a Mac if you were going to do graphics.

The biggest problem I faced was mounting the monitor. I searched diligently for monitor mounts and stands -- and when I found this one I knew it was the way to go, since it offered me the option of mounting the computer itself on the same stand. It's quite stable, knock wood, and it lets me get the monitor exactly where I want it. It's a Mack Bailey product. Can't recommend it enough.

And the monitor itself is a real indulgence. It's a Cintiq, which lets me use a stylus directly on the screen. I'd hoped it would let me ditch paper entirely; this has not been the case. But the Cintiq has become an important part of my workflow, especially when it comes to 'painting' and making selections. Saves me a lot of time and produces superior results.

After shopping around and test-sitting a number of different recliners, this is the one I settled on. Interestingly enough, it's called a Perfect Chair. It's disturbingly comfy. Unfortunately, the company's a bit of a pain to deal with -- very, very slow in delivery. In fact, I'm still waiting on my foot support extension.

But this chair has changed my life completely -- I'm easily five or six times as productive and my chronic pain has been greatly reduced. Without this I wouldn't even be able to consider full-time work. (Which I don't have. Which I want.)

And here's the finishing touch. I have small tables mounted on the sides of the chair to hold a split keyboard from Comfort Keyboards. This allows me to touch type in an ergonomically acceptable fashion. Got my little Wacom on the right side and I'm good to go.

So you want to know the secret of my productivity? The most comfortable place in the world for me is my workstation.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at some of the decorative touches that make my studio disturbing. Won't you join me? There'll be dead bugs and straight razors!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Creative Spaces: Ascending The Lavender Staircase

I'm always fascinated by the workspaces of creative types. The factories of the culture industry, the monastic hives of the culturally isolated, closets and couches as well as studios or arts centers.

Here's mine. I actually helped build the place, believe it or not. My only real construction experience but I had a good time with it.

Just give the bell a ring and I'll come down and open the gate for you.

Yeah, the garden is something, isn't it? Remind me to show you the back.

The missus was a sculptor when we met; eventually, hand and shoulder strain ended her lovely love affair with ceramics. Over the last few years she's found herself obsessed with the cultivation of succulents and the creation of these miniature landscapes.

She complains that she's not an artist anymore.

I beg to differ.

So here's Karen's studio. This is where she does her thing, which is teach therapeutic exercise classes and perform bodywork.

Pink, isn't it? Karen specializes in pregnant women and new mothers, and I think that particular development must be blamed on the essentially uterine nature of her workspace. I mean, being in this room is like being back in the womb but not in a good way.

(That is the oafish reactionary perspective; the intended audience seems quite pleased with the ambience.)

Stay on the rugs or she'll shit kittens.

And the pink is bad enough but check this out. To get into my studio you got to ascend the lavender staircase! That ain't right.

Of course, this is no ordinary staircase. I've had it tuned to play Pop Goes The Weasel when drunks tumble down.

Here's the spot where the atmosphere changes. The air is warmer, moister. And is that a hint of stale beer you smell? Perhaps just a whiff of dirty ashtray?

What's that at the top of the stairs?

Oh, brother.

I don't think we're in the uterus anymore.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Here we go, the Creative Spaces banner. Kinda cheesy, but that's how I roll.

So Glendon Mellow, of internet fame, and myself have been talking for some time about having some sort of meme or blog or carnival or... or... thingie of some sort where we'd encourage artists and other creative-types to share their workspaces with the rest of us.

I volunteered to do the banner fairly early on, thus establishing the kind of long-standing bottleneck that Swill readers and contributors have come to know and love. Alas, my period of procrastination has come to an end, just in time for Glendon's computer to go all wiggly on him. So things are a bit up in the air now, but I've finally finished this. Time to figure out the next item on the list... Probably Allison's manuscript.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Oh, Yeah -- Swill Reviews!

Here's the initial photograph...

... and here's the finished image.

By the way. If you still haven't gotten around to reading the new issue of Swill, you might be interested in a pair of reviews that have been posted recently. One is by Chris Cornell on his coreKnell website, the other by Catherine Schaff-Stump of Writer Tamago. They're both going to be at Viable Paradise in October; man, I can't wait.

(For some reason, when I first ran across Writer Tamago I assumed it must have something to do with the old Zappa number Rat Tomango. This does not seem to be the case -- so far as I can tell, a Tamago is a Japanese omelet.)

Logo: Still Sucking

The colors are horrible, the lettering is difficult to read and poorly spaced, and I screwed up going back and forth between programs and files in a variety of ways that thoroughly degraded the quality of the image.

The basic idea seems workable, though. Let us try again.