Inhuman Swill | Blog | William Shunn
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Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Almost fall

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Squirrels chasing each
Other up and around trees
Like on Benny Hill

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I have my breakfast stop to thank for another little gem this morning. The 31-year-old father at the booth next to mine (I know his age because it came up in his conversation) was summarizing news stories from the Sun-Times for his two young daughters, and I was listening in with half an ear over my eggs and coffee as I read Then We Came to the End.

Both my ears perked up when he mentioned Brigham Young University. You may have seen this A.P. story already:

Apostles, not apostates: BYU paper's ungodly typo
Thousands of issues of Brigham Young University's student newspaper were pulled from newsstands because a front-page photo caption misidentified leaders of the Mormon church as apostates instead of apostles....

The caption called the group the "Quorum of the Twelve Apostates." The mistake happened when a copy editor ran a computer spell check and apostate was suggested as the replacement for a misspelling of apostle....  [full article]

I almost sprayed coffee all over my book as the father transmitted the gist of the story. After he had explained the meaning of "apostate," one of the girls asked, "Did someone do it on purpose?"

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Haiku

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sleeping puppy feet
pressed against my human toes
twitch in doggish dreams

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Full chapbook cover

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An Alternate History of the 21st Century
Mattias Adolfsson has posted his full original cover art for my upcoming chapbook in his blog:

Great stuff! And John Klima has some nice things to say about both the art and the chapbook itself over at his blog.

The chapbook should be coming in about a month's time. Don't forget to pre-order your copy for just five bucks.

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Cast in cold type

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I've sold a book! Well, half a book, anyway. A dark fantasy novella, to be precise.

According to my records, it was over four years ago that Derryl Murphy dropped me a note that said:

I've had this idea rattling around in the back of my head for few months now, but the starts have been all false, and a little voice has been telling me for a while now that I should contact you. You interested in doing a short story together? It involves photography and spirituality, sorta, which might make for a nice blend between us.

I had never collaborated, except for one quite short story almost a decade before, so I had some reservations but decided to give it a try anyway.

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I have cast a new novella, "Cast a Cold Eye," written in collaboration with and at the instigation of Derryl Murphy, out upon the postal waters. Sail, little ghost story! Sail swiftly to your destination, and on those leeward shores find fertile soil in which to put down your pulpy roots and bring forth blossoms. Sail, and thrive!

Man, I really need to get out of the office today.

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Winter haiku

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Snowflakes ride updrafts
in Brownian reels outside
my twelfth-floor window.

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Casting a not-so-cold eye

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I don't often post about my writing progress here, because usually it inches along with such dismal slowness. I have been unusually disciplined working on projects over the past few months, though, and am feeling good about it all this morning.

My normal writing routine, even most weekends, is to get up at 5:00 a.m., fire up the laptop, pour the coffee that is automatically brewing for me, and try to write for as long as I possibly can before the needs of the day force me to stop. I have for years paid lip service to this schedule. The times I've managed to stick to it have been the overall (though not overwhelming) exceptions.

Part of it is that, though I usually do my best work if I can get started first thing in the day, it's always hard for me to get up at that hour. I have a lifetime's practice at ignoring my alarm clock, and Laura gets justifiably annoyed at the expectation that she will kick my ass out of bed at five. Thank goodness for the BlackBerry my in-laws gave me for my birthday in August. For some reason, its alarm gets me up almost without fail.

For the past three weeks or so, I've been working on a fresh draft of this ghost story Derryl Murphy and I have been tossing back and forth like a cold potato for probably three years now, "Cast a Cold Eye." He may be terrified to learn that it has just this morning edged into novella territory. I regret that a bit myself, but I am thrilled to report that since five this morning I've done about 2,400 new words. This, for me, means I'm well into the stretch and racing toward the tape. I should wrap up this draft tomorrow or thereabouts and toss it back to Derryl.

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It didn't actually turn into a riot two weeks ago at Iridium, but it looked like it might for a few minutes there.

The first indication of trouble came early, though we didn't recognize it as such as the time. My brother Lee and his wife were in town from Stanford. They wanted to see a jazz show while they were here, so we made reservations to see saxophonist Lee Konitz play at Iridium. The evening was part of a week-long stand at Iridium in celebration of Konitz's 76th birthday. (Konitz was playing in Miles Davis's nonet way back in 1949, so it's not a small matter that he's still around and blowing.) Lee and Emily specifically wanted to see the Iridium show because guitarist Bill Frisell was playing with Konitz, and they're both huge Frisell fans. Rounding out the quartet would be Gary Peacock (perhaps best known for his work in Keith Jarrett's old trio) on bass and Paul Motian (who played in the Bill Evans Trio in the '60s) on drums.

However, there was an extra enticement to the Tuesday night shows. The Iridium web site proudly trumpeted that, for one night only, the set would feature SPECIAL GUEST ELVIS COSTELLO. We were quite happy to be able to secure three reservations for the first set of the evening.

Doors would open at 6:30, so I arrived at Broadway and 51st nice and early to queue up to secure a good table. I was fourth in line outside Iridium, in fact. A portly, hale fellow arrived shortly after me, and the line was not much longer when Lee and Emily got there and butted in line with me.

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