Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Days 16 & 17 - "You Would Love Me More" and "Artwork"

You would love me more if I looked like Virginia Vallejo. You would love me more if I had hair the color of autumn leaves, a broken red with orange love. You would love me more if I had eyebrows thin and lips full, throat open for your mouth. I love you more now and more tomorrow. You would love me more if I never said that at all.


Van never collected. Anything. Baseball cards, stamps, comics, all the basics. Or anything else. On Free Comic Book Day, he happened to be at Scaller's Book Nook and Scaller, a man always laughing and smiling, gave him a comic book. Van read the comic, but mostly looked at the drawings. Artwork, Scaller, corrected him when Van told him he read the comic the next day. Artwork. Yes, artwork. Later that night, Van took out a piece of paper and pen. He wrote the word several times, two columns – artwork, artwork, artwork, artwork, artwork, artwork. The word looked strange to him when he finished. Clunky and strange. Artwork. He made a drawing under the list and put the piece of paper in a shoebox. And so it began.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 15 - Birthplace of a Hardcore Evangelist

Ten years old and I was at the edge of the pews watching the lights overhead reflecting off the pick guard of the Gibson Hummingbird like the light from God’s eye shining straight through the tiny building with its tin roof and curled wallpaper, soaking into the wood, my dad’s fingers moving like strands of wind-blown hair across the strings, that brooding and focused face always drawn down to the floor, never looking at the congregation or the other band members, always pulled down. Still-water eyes resting catatonic at a spot somewhere between the worn tops of his shoes and on through eternity, immortality.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 14 - Full

Only four of the mice remained, still circling the moist ground, their bellies dragging just behind their elbows, while the others had long sank beneath the familiar scent, full for now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 13 - Coming By It Honest

He learned to shoot from a high marksman. Oil like tears of joy and rags handled as delicately as a dove's wing. Banana clips and beer cans and the ring of shots, small snaps of thunder across the ridge, the only conversation. The hand that took his, fingers curved one over the other, an easy squeeze on the trigger, was his hand, was his future, shaky already at midday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 12 - Bad Blood

Evan stretched across the porch swing while Cal slipped limp as a dish rag in a rain and wind slapped rocking chair. The house had been the brother's for hardly a week. Long enough to stack some canned green beans in one kitchen shelf and a two-liter bottle of Coke in the refrigerator.

On the walls were the same pictures that had always been there. Crushed beer cans dotted the living room floor, tabs twisted off and flipped into darker corners. Neither had been upstairs. When the rooms became too small, drained of air, they moved to the porch.

Today a storm was coming. Sunlight pushed behind smudged clouds and a northern wind was constant through the hollow, climbing ridges and then dipping again into the valley between Elie's trailer to the south and Mitchell's house nearer to their own. The crackle of fall leaves from that wind already sounded like rain too thin yet to see.

After a time, Cal pulled himself out of the rocking chair, cornered through the open front door, and came back with the war picture of their grandfather. He placed it on the warped floorboards of the porch. It tilted momentarily, then came to rest. He looked to Evan who stared at the picture floored between them like a drunk in a bar fight.

Just before the best of the storm came, the two brothers stood and placed a boot each across their grandfather's face, clapped a hand across the other's back, and started stomping.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 11 - Take This

Take this – the cheese grader and the blueberry candle and the cheap painting from the dollar tree and the laptop. Take the shower curtain and the bathmat shaped like a surf board and the knives and the guns. Take my albums, like the stupid fucking one with the lion on the front. Take that and frisbee it across the house. Take the house, the car, the sun-raped yard and every last goddamn toy, the swing set, the plastic picnic table. Leave me the pictures to turn backwards on the walls. Leave me one shirt, a pair of pants, socks and the boots. I'll wear his boxers like razors across my ass.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wikiphotomicro Day 10 - The Decision Makers

(Note: This is getting tough. Just once I'd like Wikipedia to give me a random picture of something awesome. Okay, Wikipedia? Just once. I'm writing these on the spot right after I do the photo search, so if you could give me something just a little more awesome tomorrow, that'd be grrrrreat. Okay, no more whining. On to the project.)

"What am I looking?"

"A football stadium, sir."

"I know that, Winch. Dammit, I'm saying what am I looking at it for?"

"The target, sir. It's the target for next week."

Katch dropped the photo on the table. It floated across the slick surface for a second or two then came to rest. Winch followed him to the window of the conference room, stood close.

"We don't have to keep doing this, sir."

"I know that, Winch. Sonofabitch, I know that."

The city was a picture in the window. Not an overhead shot like the stadium, but Katch could feel the humming of people in the landscape, the same humming he felt when he looked at the surveillance photo.

Unsanctioned. Unchecked. They could level Detroit, if they felt it necessary.

"Maybe we should level Detroit."



Winch wrote a few quick notes on a pad cradled at his belly.

"I'll give the order, sir."

Katch said nothing. The landscape made for a good lullaby.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 9 - Breakfast at the Old Mill

Eggs, runny. Runny as your dropped lips, raw. Raw eyes, flatpan bacon and a glass of milk, untouched. Untouched for so long, all we can do is eat.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 8 - Empty Rooms

"Look at this place! It's a mansion!" – The White Stripes, "Rag & Bone"

Let's populate this place. A place like this cries for voices, footsteps, love-making, fighting, drinking, sleeping, reading.

Here is where ghosts become bored and disappear. Let's give them something to haunt about. Life, life, life! Live!

Or would we could just leave now and never look back, let the sounds of this place weeping stay with us the rest of our lives. Who wants that? None? All?

Okay, on my cue.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 7 - The Little Things

My uncle walked the railroad tracks on his hands. On his feet he could jump from one track to the other without falling.

Then one day he fell.

He didn't really fall, I guess. His foot just slipped off the side and he dropped into the gravel and chunks of coal and held his ankle like it was a wild animal trying to chew his leg off.

"Just took three-fourths the bark of my ankle, bub," he grunted.

He pulled his shoe off and peeled his sock down and there was the blood, blinding red, the color of a Christmas ornament or a drunk's eyes in the morning.

I'd never seen him fall before. Not on his hands or his feet. We walked on through the tunnel, my uncle limping, and didn't stop halfway through like we usually did to stand with our backs against the sooty boards while the afternoon C&O rushed past.

"I think it's broke," My uncle said when we got back to our street. "Luck. All of it bad and all of it mine!"

He forgot about all the times he didn't fall. I didn't remind him. And I should have. But we missed the tunnel rush, and in my own little way I was broken too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 6 - Teenage Prometheus Strikes Out

(Interior) Midday: Morton High School

HENRY: You remember the episode of The X-Files where the messed up monster Frankenstein kid is obsessed with Cher and putter butter sandwiches?


HENRY: Really?

BRENDA: No, not really. Freak.

Henry hands Brenda a peanut butter sandwich and returns to his desk, hands folded, a smile across his face like a cut.

BRENDA (munching away while staring ahead): Good sandwich.

HENRY (whispering to his math book): Wanna hear a song and have my baby?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 5 - The Runaway Finally Understands

Here is the same as anywhere. I traveled so far to know this, a bird in flight without a landing, and now the wind has changed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 4 - From the Ground Up

Get off the ground. Do I look like a woman who responds to begging? No, I don't.

That guy sitting in the other room? He's the Angel of Death. That's a capital "A" and a capital "D." Only thing is, he works really, really slowly.

Help him, and then we'll talk. Yeah, that's the deal. There's always a deal.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 3 - Splitting Up Hairs

Clive gave the interview after the festival gig and the other band members gathered backstage and talked about Clive while Clive talked about himself, and there was no music after that and Clive gave more interviews and sang less and less. When he talked after that he never said the word "band" and he always used the word "sacked" and before long everyone believed him.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 2 - Limp

I grew a flower, an orchid. Pretty color. A little lazy, this flower, hanging toward the ground like it might sniff out more water, but a nice flower.

She didn't say pretty when I gave it to her. She didn't say lazy either. Limp. That's what she said.

I gave her the poem after the flower. And then candy. Unoriginal, cheap. A stuffed animal holding a ridiculous stuffed heart big as my fist.

The flower was the prize. The rest was garnish, afterthoughts, something you only think about when its standing. Right in front of you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wikiphotomicro: Day 1 - Family Wagon with a Broken Wheel

Mama couldn't get Poppy out of bed this morning for the big thing in town. The big thing is I don't know what, but Poppy doesn't like it or want a goddamn hot shit thing to do with it.

He shouldn't talk that talk in front of you kids, Mama says while she pulls us through the crowd. Her dress is old but clean and she smells like breakfast, butter and beans.

Her hair is pretty, too, but I don't say a thing. I just hold her hand in the back of the crowd and pull my sister's hand behind me, a little herd inside a bigger herd heading out to the goddamn hot shit thing that is I don't know what.

The Wikiphotomicro Experiment

I'm going to try something. The Wikiphotomicro Experiment. Here's how it's going to work:

I'm going to do the "random page" thing or whatever it's called at Wikipedia and, if that page has a photograph, the plan will be to use that photograph as a prompt to write a micro-fiction piece. I'll do this every day for (Insert number of days here) and I'll have fun doing it.

Now, here's the thing. I can't decide on how many days I'll do this. So, I'm going to take the first comment offered, if any, on this post and go with that.

Note: The Wikiphotomicro Experiment will not be a consecutive project. I'll post the other things I sometimes post whenever the time comes for that, but it will be included with the micro. I just confused myself a little bit.

Anyways, there it is. Give me a number, lovers. Let's get started.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Dead Father Spoke To Me And It Was Cool

My dad's voice was a guitar last week. Well, actually a song played on the guitar.

Here's how it happened:

My cousin, Gary, played a song early one morning last week. We were in his kitchen, post campfire session the night before, and he was plucking this tune on the guitar.

"You improvise as good as anybody I know," I told him. "Like Dad used to do. It's great, man."

Then it happened.

My dad, who died this past April, spoke.

Gary started a song, mid-neck on the guitar, a ninth chord, then a transitional run, then a thumbed pair of bass notes that led into a full chord followed by a run.

That was my dad's musical fingerprint – ninth, transitional run, thumbed bass notes, full chord, run.

I was looking away when Gary started the song and I kept looking away as he continued. For me, those notes, a song played on the guitar, that song in particular, is the exact same as my dad's spoken words. I closed my eyes and listened.

"Your dad taught me that one, bub," Gary said. "He wrote it."

Music and my dad are one thing to me, always have been. This song was my dad speaking up through the dirt and roots from his place on the hill in Wright's Bottom.

I thanked Gary and stepped out to the porch for a cigarette. My eyes felt heavy and salty and I almost cried. It would have been the first time. He died on April 21 and I played guitar, one of his favorites, at his funeral on April 23, my birthday. I spoke to him as best as I could that day.

But I didn't think I'd hear his voice again. It was nice.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

INTERVIEW: Stealing Some Time With Artist Cindy Ramey

Cindy Ramey has been drawing, making comics, taking commissions for as long as I can remember. Humble, soft-spoken and one of the hardest working artist I've had the pleasure to know, Ramey keeps her feet set and her eyes ahead, always working on that next project. Even more amazingly, she juggles this talent and the output that talent creates with a family and a full-time job that has little or nothing to do with her true passion. And through it all, there's always a smile, a kind word, a moment given to a fellow artist or writer to listen, truly listen. Ramey is that rarest of artists, maybe. The single talent in the room that can only be overhead praising the work of others and never her own. It was time to give her the chance to reflect on her own work. I'm so thankful she agreed to talk with me here.

Sheldon Lee Compton: We've talked a lot over the years about art and writing and that lovechild of all creative efforts – storytelling. But let's start with what it is that brings you to the work every day, day in and day out. Where does the need to create come from for you?

Cindy Ramey: What brings me to do this art day in and out is my need and want to tell a story about the characters that I have created inside my head. It's me wanting to be creative and share that creativity in comic/graphic novel form. Because telling stories with pictures is just what I love.

SLC: I know that you work a full-time job and have a family and do most of your work late at night once things have settled. It's a familiar system for many of us and it is love that keeps us going on all fronts, I couldn't agree more. So, tell us about what you're working on presently during those stolen hours.

CR: Yes, after the kiddo is put in bed, the night hours are when I work. Currently these last couple of months have been spent drawing up paid commissions for folks in order to purchase some new drawing tools. During this time, I have also been collaborating a new story with an artist from Louisville. So far characters have been developed, as well as the setting and the plot. The script is currently being written.

SLC: Before I jump too far ahead, let's talk about your two main comic projects, STARFIRE AGENCY and NIGHTSHIFT. These are published independently and portray anthropomorphic characters you've been developing for years. With a background in a broad spectrum of art forms and the degrees to show for it, what brought you to work with comics and with anthro characters in particular?

CR: First lets look at why anthro? Anthropomorphic characters were always something I enjoyed drawing since I was a kid. I enjoyed TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) cartoons and comics, Darkwing Duck and Swatkats. Those three would have to be the main shows that kept me drawing these sort of characters for as long as I have. TMNT having the strongest influence on me as an artist. I at one time wanted to get myself into animation, but once I got into college and had a chance to meet with a person in the animation field, I was sad to learn that cartoons were changing from what I knew. Funny "furry critters" as cartoon characters were being traded out for more loosely drawn "humanoid" characters.

That same day after meeting with the animation fella, I got to talk to Amanda Conner, a comic book artist, who at the time was the penciler for Vampirella. She had positive feedback for me upon seeing the short comic that I had made on computer paper and colored pencils. And so I have to say she caused me to keep up with drawing my comics.

I'll talk about Nightshift first, since it was the first story and plot that I created back in grade school. It has evolved so much over the years and I suppose it is my favorite story since it contains a lot of my loves as I've evolved as well. It's a story about a group of cops that live in a feline world. They have to keep the city from going corrupt under the hands of the Big Claw. Not only is this a cops-and-robbers plot, there's a group of vampires tossed into the mix.

Starfire Agency is a newer storyline that was created in 2005 as like a "Hey, webcomics look like a cool idea." So I made up this handful of college kids that go out on investigations of the paranormal just to see how I could fair with creating weekly pages. Soon, I discovered that Starfire Agency was receiving fans. So I kept the story going these last five years. Like Nightshift, this comic is anthro-based, with a wide variety of animals.

What some people don't realize is I do have stories and character that are non-anthro and sooner or later, once I get the chance, I want to tell those stories as well. There's just not enough time in the day.

SLC: I know you do a lot of work with other artists and often collaborate on several projects while also continuing your own comics and paid commissions. Walk me through one of these collaborations and also maybe talk about how these paid single commissions come about.

CR: Collaborating with other artists to get a final project is something that I've been wanting to do for about a year now. I do love doing my own comics, but at the same time, that can get lonely. Being able to work with another artist helps keep creativity up and ideas fresh. The three artists in the past that I have collaborated with are from other areas, so what we do is use an instant messenger and the internet to plot out our comic scripts. We create characters and mix them into this big plot we've created for them and just roll with the story, most of the time in a "role play" sort of form. The role play is then broken up into panels and pages for the comic.

Job roles between us artists are different. Sometimes I may be the penciler, while another may be the inker or colorer. Being in collabs has its drawbacks as well. Someone you work with or even yourself, may get slowed down with real life and so the project may not go very fast. But if everyone is working smoothly, it's like a machine.

The commissions I do are for individuals out there in the world that want their characters drawn. Commissions are what usually help me buy equipment and art supplies to do my arts with. Commission work also helps me pay for tables and travels for conventions.

SLC: You have an active online presence. Tell me about that and how it compares to your print work.

CR: The nice thing about having webcomics online verses the print is that you can sort of create a sense of community with other people, if that makes any sense. I know which fans like which characters and stories. I feel that I get feedback more often, positive and negative.

SLC: Do you have a routine when working, any certain things that you must have to spur creativity?

CR: I don't really have a routine anymore. Hah! When you have a kid, you draw when you can, which kind of goes back to the drawing at night. I do actually prefer to sit in front of the TV and listen to some sort of sci-fi show or mystery while I draw...though Spongebob or iCarly is usually on the TV screen now a days.

SLC: Here comes the stranded on an island question: If you were stranded on a, well, you know, what three comics or books or paintings, etc. would you like to have with you?

CR: If I were stranded on an island...I would hope to be marooned with a few boxes of bic mechanical pencils and a case of cardstock paper that miracleously did not get wet. So then I can create my own art and stories to help pass the time away and keep me busy.

SLC: Scenario: You have made it. Your work has been awarded and praised and has now found its place among the greats. What now?

CR: Easy...keep creating more stories, cause that's what I love.

SLC: How important is it that people close to you support your work?

CR: Its very important that my hubby and daughter support me. My hubby may not always understand what the heck I'm rambling on about half the time, but he's wonderful in helping out with proofreading, helping out with convention stuff. He supports me in my art, never once thinking it was just a waste of time for me. My daughter is supportive too, only being four, she understands just to give me a bit of time to complete art before we bake cookies or play a game together.

SLC: What's next for Cindy Ramey?

CR: Well, tonight? Once I'm home from work I'll be completing a freelance job and a commission. And starting in November, I will be hitting a new story Nox Prophecy that a good friend of mine and I are working on. It's a bit different from my other stories in that the main characters are humans and not anthropomorphic. So it will be a challenge and a good change.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Post That Starts With Structure Then Loses Focus

My friend and fellow writer xTx has a forthcoming chapbook. Find out more here. It was the first thing I thought of this morning, even before I flinted up my first cigarette.

Also, for whatever generous reason, Keyhole Press has an offer right now at their site that if you tweet about Matt Bell's new book HOW THEY WERE FOUND you can then download a PDF version of the book. I want the book in my hands, but I was so very eager to read it, I tweeted the shit out of that (which I would have anyways) and downloaded the PDF. Some good reading in store for me today.

I will put my a part of my liver or a kidney up on the black market or to anyone interested in order to attend AWP in Washington, D.C. Just keep it in mind. I drink pretty often, but I'm sure the liver is only dented at this point and not entirely broken. Kidney's good. Spread the word.

I recently had the pleasure of contributing to Amber Sparks' Ancient City project at Necessary Fiction, offering a short story called "Textbook" and she said good things afterwards at her blog that reminds me I might be human after all. I'm going to fall headlong into self-serving behavior and repeat her kind words below:

"Sheldon Compton has written one of the most realistic and sad and touching and hopeful and just all-around great stories about teen pregnancy that I’ve ever read. This is not really surprising, as Sheldon roots for the underdog in pretty much everything of his I’ve ever read. He’s got the empathy, the humor, the realistic optimism, and the eye for the hidden and scraped-out-of-sight in society to truly write on behalf and about those who are disenfranchised in some sense from the rest of society. His stories always make me want to go find the characters in them and give them a giant hug and tell them it’s going to be okay, even if it very clearly isn’t. Sheldon’s great and happens to be a writer I’ll read anything of his I can get my hands on."

Amber is talented and generous and lovely and I feel honored to have her speak highly of my work.

Oh...I'm about 30 + pages into a novel. I'm giving it one year and no more and this will be the last time I mention this longer project until I've either finished it or abandoned it.

I haven't washed my hair in three days.

My dog, Joe, shivers all the time like he's scared something is going to eat him. I tell him he's okay all the time, but dogs don't understand when you speak to them. He's a beagle – small dog, big heart. He has a cut on his left ear.

Also, I discovered the key to happiness. Sleep.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A-Minor: Dzanc's Best of the Web nominees

I'm pleased to say that I've nominated the following A-Minor stories for Dzanc's Best of the Web 2011:

"The Shell of Reflection" – Eric Beeny

"Traveller" – Nora Nadjarian

"Finales" – Hugh Fox

Best of luck, folks.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Birthmonth, Bent Country

This blog turns one year old this month. Strange. I've been looking back at my early posts and they're a little weird. But then I looked at some of my more recent posts and, well, they're sometimes weird, too. Besides, I like weird.

There's a mouse or a rat or a something in my bedroom. I've only heard it, a scratching and small thumps from the corner. It could be a clawed snake or anything else for all I know. All night last night I was up and down, throwing random things within two to three feet of me into the corner – a small alarm clock, a pair of basketball shorts, something that felt like a hat but could have been anything. Basically, I spent most of the night tossing half-known objects at an unknown animal in the corner. I got up this morning and felt like I'd pitched fourteen innings for team Animal Planet. I'm tired and a little punchy.

One of the blog posts I scanned across earlier was from last year when my uncle was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by New Southerner. I read this and had to smile. It's a little cool, because a few days ago Emprise Review nominated my story "Go Get Your Honor" for a Pushcart. I haven't talked to him yet but I'm going to suggest we visit Food City later today and have them make us a Pushcart cake. Also, I'm going to suggest we refuse to explain to the bakery employees what a Pushcart is, that we just act very nervous and rush them, ringing the bell, asking for a time-frame on when this cake will be done. I'm going to suggest that we do this while pushing shopping carts back and forth in front of the display case, a little makeshift Pushcart Derby where we are trying to get around one another.

Lately I've been more and more tempted to open spam in my email inbox. They're getting good at this, or I'm just growing more pathetic by the hour. A few have been made to look as if one of my ex-wives (don't ask) sent the message. That's pretty good. Bravo, Spammer Nation.

I've rambled a little. Like I said. Punchy. But suffer me this day, friends. It is Sunday and, after all, I have a one-year-old to take care of.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I've mentioned elsewhere that I read Mel Bosworth's Grease Stains, Kismet, and Maternal Wisdom on a bus ride to Washington, D.C. That's a ten-hour ride from my neck of the woods in Kentucky.

After I finished reading, I still had nine hours left before D.C. That alone says something, as I do not read quickly. I read very slowly and deliberately. Always have. I just forgot to while reading this book. The pages just kept turning. David and Samantha kept popping around corners and then coming back and taking my hand and pulling me along. It was a rush.

I read the book twice more during the trip and each time found something else to appreciate. As is often the case with Bosworth's work, there is a lighthearted tone even in the most serious moments and the same can be said of more or less everything else of his I've read over the past couple of years.

A quick breakdown of my overall impression after each of the three readings are basically: David and Samantha = love. David and Samantha = fate. David and Samantha = a reminder that hope was never alive or dead or anything to begin with but was always there, present at the time of creation, perhaps, never born in this moment or that, but looping always with love and eternity in tow.

And then, aside from the overall feel of this tightly woven novel is the introduction of two characters drawn to one another through the confines of the fictive world in which they exist and also their near-holy ascension outside the realm of the narrative itself. Events are important but we're always reminded that getting to the next scene is almost secondary. The journey is truly the thing with this book. Destination steps aside. And when that happens, we have a man and a woman and all else is backdrop.

Bosworth gives us us an innocent voice in David and a strong force, a careening wind or cresting wave, in his Samantha. That's how I thought of Samantha while reading. David's Samantha. I imagined extra scenes in my head where David would introduce Samantha to other characters by saying, "This is my Samantha."

And when I did this, I was reminded of Bosworth's ability to inject the dramatic and deeply moving into his wit and humor and talent with a turn of phrase, his quirky characters. Just when you're reading a bit of dialogue that made you laugh aloud to someone on a ten-hour bus ride, you stop and think of Samantha or of David and you relax back into your seat and put a hand to your chest. There it is, you think to yourself. A flutter just behind my breastbone. A place I'd forgotten about while laughing, a place Mel Bosworth always keeps in mind and enters into carefully.

Yes, I googled myself. But look what I found!

I googled myself yesterday. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. I have a busy online life and so I like to see what...