From the mind of Megan Arkenberg

June 18, 2019

What I'm Working On: Summer 2019

Posted by Megan Arkenberg with 41 comments
Most of these will look familiar. I still have a thing for angels, apparently.

"The Ten Thousand Houses of Irene Domovika" (Started: August 2018) - Fresh from her bath, Irene Domovika lounges on a Louis XVI settee in the spacious ballroom of her house on South King Street. Her damp hair lays coiled over one shoulder like a streak of white paint. The sofa is short and square, its back and arms all of a height, the moss-colored upholstery two shades darker than her silk robe. In that white, cavernous space, the upholstery and the silk are the only soft things.

“Rampion" (Started: March 2017) – Never mind how I came to B----. It’s a small tourist town in the Canadian Rockies. My previous experience of mountains had been the Ozarks, the Blue Ridge of Tennessee--nothing on so grand a scale. I signed the book as Crowchild, as I’d planned to since I saw the name on a street sign out of the airport. “Laurence,” said the woman at the front desk, “that’s an odd name for a woman.”

“The Devil’s Verse” (Started: August 2016) – I’m thinking it’s finished. I'm driving north through the toy city of Sausalito, houses perched on the hills like doll's cottages just out of reach, and my hands on the steering wheel look like someone else's, nails too long and knuckles blue with tension. My tattoos strike me, as they often do, as if they belonged to a stranger. Her book is open on the passenger seat beside me, one of those novels where something terrible happens in the middle.

“Rockettown: A Haunting” (Started: 2014) – For the rest of September, into October, the skies were empty: bare slates of dry blue, untouched by a shred of cloud. The silence gave my mother headaches.

“The Resurrection Dogs” (Started: 2013) – When I took the job in S-------berg, it had been eighteen months since my father died, and six months since Rainer kicked me out of our shared apartment.

“The Shadow of Thy Perfect Bliss” (Started: 2013) – The gamblers show up around midnight, pestering Theophile to take the angel out of its cage.

“Waxwidow and Tallowbride” (Started: 2012/2015) – It was a sailors’ story first. Come back from a year and a half at sea, come back to your wife or your lover or the bosom friend at your hearth, and find that something is amiss.

“Hail Horrors, Hail Infernal World” [alt. title: "That Dismal Clime"] (Started: 2012) – Deborah Milton wakes to find the angel reading her papers. Deborah is not the daughter of the poet, although perhaps if she didn't share his name and her name she would not be where she is now, at a large research university in the middle of a small rural town, stalled on a dissertation about Paradise Lost. Maybe she would be working for the phone company like her mother, who does not share her name with a poet. In any case, she would not be staring now into the mouth of the angel, at the black throat behind its double rows of teeth.

“Hollow Engines” (Started: 2012) – The exorcist is sweating blood on the church’s front steps. Pinkish semicircles of damp blossom beneath her arms and her white tee-shirt clings to her spine in a blade-like triangle of rust. Tendrils of indeterminately dark hair plaster themselves to her forehead. She is looking out over the valley, past the red dust road, the clear snowmelt creek and the train tracks, down into the sea of yellow birch and alder trees and wispy clouds curling up like smoke. The angel Baraquiel rolls slowly through the mountains, a thundercloud with blue lightning at its heart.

"The Maiden Without Hands" (Started: 2011) – No first line yet. The Seven Years' War, with Nephilim.

“The Dead Women of Bajos Court” (Started: 2010) – Four dead women live in the white houses at the end of Bajos Court. The stucco in their walls is old and dry, lifting away from the cool brick underneath, and the fountain in the middle of the courtyard leaks through its fresh coat of blue tile and cement. If you were to look down at the court, the leaking fountain and the flaking stucco, you might find it hard to imagine that you stood only a dozen feet away from dance clubs with blacklights and saltwater aquariums, music pulsing until four in the morning, when the first trace of sunlight is glinting over the Mediterranean. The whole city is like this: Old and new abutting. Creatures nesting wherever they can find room.

“The Unbinding of Artemis O.” (Started: 2010) – No first line yet. A magician, her apprentice, and the escape artist she's married to conduct an unorthodox experiment.

January 31, 2018

January 2018 (O the mind, mind has mountains)

Posted by Megan Arkenberg with 43 comments
It's easy to fall into the trap of believing your answer to the question What did I do this month? is required in order to justify your consumption of oxygen (or perhaps your carbon footprint) over the previous thirty days. It's not.

That being said, here's what I did in January 2018.
  1. Revamped my Introduction to Literature course at UC Davis to emphasize analysis over argument. Graded the first set of papers for said course.
  2. Completed a draft of my paper for INCS 2018, "Plotting the Brain: Arthur Machen's 'Unbroken Material Succession." Submitted an abstract for RSVP 2018.
  3. Completed and submitted "A Nearly Beautiful Thing" (previously titled "Ninshubar")
  4. Completed drafts of "The Oracle and the Sea," "It Is Not So, It Was Not So," and "Frankincense and Myrrh" 
  5. Completed outlines of "Swallow (The Captured City)" and "Hunger Lake" [working title]
  6. Read an excerpt of "It Is Not So, It Was Not So" with Fig + Axle at the Avid Reader
  7. Reformatted to fix broken links and put fewer mouse clicks between you and my short stories
  8. Sent out seven reprint submissions and queried two publishers about forthcoming publications
  9. Reopened Mirror Dance to poetry submissions
I'm spending less time on Facebook and Twitter these days. I can't say I regret how much effort I poured into social media throughout 2017; the sense of community support, or at least mutual outrage, kept me going when nothing else could. But eventually your feet hit the seafloor again and you can loosen your grip on the life preserver. I hope that's where I am.

Also, since the last year and change has been a raging pit of despair a bit difficult, I failed to report on a new publication: "But Thou, Prosperpina, Sleep," a story about Swinburne and Nyarlathotep, in A Breath from the Sky: Unusual Stories of Possession. If you've liked anything I've written before - because it's queer, because it has strong liquor preferences, because it's a little too obsessed with poetry or Great Lakes geography - you'll like this one.

November 1, 2017

And then, the first line meme

Posted by Megan Arkenberg with 60 comments
Hello, beautiful people. How are you? I hope you're well. Let's pretend I never left.

I’m getting back in the fiction-writing saddle with another attempt at NaNoWriMo. Thirty days: 50,000 words: as many short stories as it takes to get there. Here’s the grand list of Works-in-Progress, with the approximate dates I began writing them and the first lines of the current draft.

“The Devil’s Verse” (Started: August 2016) I’m thinking it’s all over with, that it’s ended here--me driving north through the toy city of Sausalito, my hands sweating on the wheel, my tattoos striking me, as they often do, as if they belonged to a stranger. One of her books is open on the passenger seat beside me, one of those novels where something terrible happens in the middle.

“The Oracle and the Sea” (Started: 2010) – Kashmai hates the sea. For a long time, she thought it was the only thing she hated.

“It Is Not So, It Was Not So” (Started: February 2017) – When she was twenty-one, Mrs. Voss visited a Tarot reader at one of the festivals they used to hold at the lakefront on weekends in early summer. It had been a hot day, tremendously hot for the season: she can’t remember the future but she remembers the heat, the sleeveless aubergine blouse she wore and how the sweat plastered it to her spine, how the cards stuck to the Tarot reader’s wide, brown, ring-heavy fingers. 

“The Night Princes” (Started: 2012) – “I’m going to tell you a story,” she says, "and when the story is finished, this will all be over.”

“All in Green Went My Love Riding” (Started: 2015) All of this happened that summer we played the love games.

“Waxwidow and Tallowbride” (Started: 2012/2015) It was a sailors’ story first.

“Resurrection Dogs” (Started: 2013) From the German border, I took a decommissioned school bus—pale powder blue, like the ones I had ridden every morning in primary school—up a freshly-paved road through nearly forty miles of empty field.

“Rockettown: A Haunting” (Started: 2014) – For the rest of September, into October, the skies were empty: bare slates of dry blue, untouched by a shred of cloud. The silence gave my mother headaches.

“The Dead Women of Bajos Court” (Started: 2010) – Four dead women live in four white houses at the end of Bajos Court.

“The Unbinding of Artemis K.” (Started: 2010) – Between the sagging tents and peeling sideshow posters, past the rainwater sheeting down the carousel canopy and the Big Wheel gondolas creaking in the heavy air, the black umbrella wound its way. NB: This sentence will die a well-deserved death as soon as I figure whose POV this story belongs in.

"The Improbable Library of Asmodeus Foster" (Started: 2010) – Rosamund found the body in a footnote on page 217.

“Hollow Engines” (Started: 2012) – The exorcist is sweating blood on the church’s front steps.

"The Maiden Without Hands" (Started: 2011) – No first line yet, but an epigraph from M. R. James: "The other interested himself in questions to which Providence, as I hold, designs no answer to be given us in this state: he would ask me, for example, what place I believed those beings now to hold in the scheme of creation which by some are thought neither to have stood fast when the rebel angels fell, nor to have joined with them to the full pitch of their transgression."

“The Shadow of Thy Perfect Bliss” (Started: 2013) – The gamblers show up around midnight, pestering Theophile to take the angel out of its cage.

“Hail Horrors, Hail Infernal World” [working title] (Started: 2012) – Deborah Milton woke to find the angel reading her father’s papers. NB: I still like this opening, but I don’t think this story is about Deborah Milton anymore.

“Dorian” [working title] (Started: March 2017)  –  The next morning, I woke to hear her rummaging through her backpack for a lighter and a box of cigarettes. Something cold and damp and heavy lay on the sheets between us, stinking like blood and shit. “You’re not much of a monster,” she muttered—at me, presumably, although I hadn’t opened my eyes.

“Ninshubar” [working title] (Started: August 2017) – When you asked, it sounded like a simple request: “Don’t leave me with the dead.”

“A Life, Together” (Started: September 2017) – Valerie sits on the ottoman in my living room, jingling her car keys from hand to hand. She’s said she should go ten, fifteen times already—taken the keys, ornamented with a tiny plush elephant, from the compartment at the front of her backpack, tossed them between her hands, then tossed them back in the bag.

"Three Dangerous Tales" [working title] (Started: October 2017) – The first one begins on a beach, with a king and the man who loves him.

Telling Statistics
Serial killers: 5
Angels: 4
Fairytales: 4
Deities: 3
Charismatic cult leaders: 3
Midwestern settings: 1.5
Californian settings: 3.5
Gay AF: 5
Queer AF: 19 –Yes, that's all of them.
Self-loathing first person narrators: 10
Haunted or otherwise unheimleich houses: 10

November 13, 2016

Now we see through a glass, darkly

Posted by Megan Arkenberg with 32 comments
In the midst of everything, I never got around to updating this blog. Friends, it's not good news. My father died at the end of September. Life goes on, but it's difficult. Be excellent to each other.