My first Nebula eligibility post!

I actually sold and published three stories in 2016 as an Active Member of SFWA.


Shocking, isn’t it?

That means that you, yes you, can recommend me for a Nebula award if you’re an Active Member of SFWA yourself.

Semi-professional publications:

  • “Comes the Tinker” (Metaphorosis Magazine) – A fun story to write, but it took a long time to find the right editor. See this post for more info. Read the complete story for free here. I was especially pleased by the cover art for this story. (Even if you don’t recommend me for an award, think about supporting the magazine’s tip jar. They’re Good People.)


  • “The Baked Bean Tourney” (Robbed of Sleep, Vol. 5: Stories to Stay Up For) – I wrote this dark & funny piece well before “Brexit” entered our vocabulary. My first anthology appearance!
  • “The Packrat Machine” (Perihelion SF) – I wrote the first draft many years ago in an obvious Jack Vance sort of mood. You can download a PDF version here.

I need this like another hole in the head

So there’s good news and so-so news on the medical front. Let’s start with the good:

My confident and suave surgeon repaired my deviated septum and tuned up both turbinates. Yes, that’s a thing. I spent a very uncomfortable week with my nose completely packed with foam spacers. I called them Lucifer’s Joysticks.

Sleep? Not so much. More like lots of napping. And snoring.

Two weeks after the procedure, everything is still tender but very functional. I feel as if there’s an additional 15% more air capacity at “the top end.” Very curious to see how that manifests itself with actual exercise.

So-so news: the tumor discovered during my surgery (hereinafter referred to as “Squatter”) is benign but aggressive. We don’t want it to trash the place, so we’re going to evict it with a second procedure.

If you have a Buzzword Bingo™ card, tick off endoscopic resection and maxillary sinus.

What’s next? A CT scan to determine the exact location of Squatter, then Christmas, then surgery and another week or so of convalescing while the rest of the family visits Paris. (I was planning on staying home anyway. Reasons.)

Better news: only the left side of my face will be affected, so I should be able to sleep fairly normally and perhaps get in some actual writing as opposed to say, Netflix.

Best news: all this will go on this year’s insurance deductible, so my out of pocket is pretty much maxed out.

Getting my head straight

After 10 months of dealing with a stuffed up head, I’m escalating my medical treatment to surgery. No more antihistamines and steroids.

What am I doing? Bilateral turbinectomy. Plus a bonus septoplasty.In short, I’m getting a nose job without changing my appearance. Wait a minute, what?

It was a tricky decision. There’s always a small risk when you get general anesthesia, and then you have the fun of the better part of a week flopping around the house with a combination of mouth breathing and drugs. But the end result should mean better sleep, fewer colds, and generally improved airflow thanks to wider, straighter passages.

So I’ll be out of it for a few days, maybe longer. I hope to get in some words, though that will depend on my recovery time and the side effects of the pain meds.

At least I have a healthy pile of books and an upgrade Apple TV.

Too bad I have to burn a week of vacation. Isn’t America great?

I would like to apologize in advance for any complaints that I post in the next week.

Joss Whedon was in my brain


Today one of my favorites trunk stories, “Comes the Tinker,” finally sees the light of (virtual) day in Metaphorosis magazine.

This story had its genesis with a theme: the traveling salesman.  I wanted to play around with that idea but in a SF context.  Specifically, what happens to that role in a future economy?

At the time I was writing this, I’d been diving into genealogy for my wife’s family.  She comes from English stock (she’s related to Thomas Hardy), and those early immigrants to this country bore some great names.  Those names led me to characters.

I had also recently watched my first episodes of Firefly.  Joss Whedon’s writing just smacked me in the face, and the show’s dialog influenced the cadence of my character’s speech.  (To be honest, I took inspiration from his setting as well.)

Finally, one of the catchphrases of Tom the Tinker was lifted from a bumper sticker celebrating the Ramones.

Enjoy this one.

Achievement unlocked: Anthology!

My dark humor short piece, “The Baked Bean Tourney,” appears in Robbed of Sleep, Vol. 5: Stories to Stay Up For (The Robbed of Sleep Anthology).  It’s out today in Kindle format.  The paperback should appear… soon.

Robbed of Sleep 5


Coming up for air

It’s been a few weeks since my mormor died, and apart from a lack of interest in the next day-job project (go figure), I think I can say that I’m back to normal.  Well, functioning.

Let’s say 80-85%.  Which is pretty good given the last few years.

The support of friends and family helped.

The tribe helped.  You know who you are.

The words helped.  Since Inga decided to shuffle off this mortal coil, I’ve sold a trunk story that I truly loved, and a short, nasty piece that echoes the worst fears of Brexit — written a year before all that shit hit the fan.

I re-read Scott Lynch’s great caper fantasy, The Lies of Locke Lamora.  I found myself caught up in the adventure, and actually laughing. I read Greg Bear’s master class in science fiction, Hull Zero Three. Plus, I fell down the rabbit hole of Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence.

And I joined The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction as a First Reader. C.C. Finlay is a gentleman. And obsessed with scorpions.

It’s also summer, so that means a few extra hours of light and evening walks, which also helps.

I remember to meditate, and contemplate, and avail myself of mental health resources.

Hey, I even started making my own filmjölk again.  So while things aren’t perfect, I can sit with a bowl, toss in some corn flakes and blueberries, and remember my grandmother.

Life goes on. Slowly.  Breathing. Writing. It goes on.

Cherish your Mentors – Part 2

My Swedish maternal grandmother (mormor) died today.  Ingrid Lilly Margareta Dandenell née Gerdner was born on Oct 1, 1910.  She studied four languages in finishing school (Swedish, German, English, and Latin), married a gentleman farmer, and served as matriarch to a mostly tight-knit and happy clan.

She was also a mentor. She wasn’t a writer, but possessed an amazing spirit.

Among other things, she taught me to eat leeks, to appreciate the imprecise recipes of her delicious baking, to drink dry & sweet vermouth (“mormor’s blandning“), and to listen to stories.

Ingrid (Inga) was the oldest person I knew, and one of the happiest.  She inspired me to embrace my culture and to sing even when I didn’t know the words.  (She herself was a fearless singer, and always knew the lyrics and the melody.)

She drove her own car until she had a series of strokes at age 95, but continued to live on her own well past the century mark.  Every summer, she made the pilgrimage from Jönkoping or Linköping to the west coast where the family maintains a house on Särdal strand (near the medieval city of Halmstad), taking up residence in her “apartment” while the rest of the family took turns crashing in the other bedrooms and sleep spaces.

It was her absence from the beach house these past two summers that told us she was truly slowing down.  It wasn’t the arthritis or the deafness or anything in particular.  It was just age. She was older than God. She outlived a husband and her youngest daughter.

Despite the immense love and light and energy and support of all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Inga simply drained her batteries. She’d reached the end today, and passed away, attended by her first-born son and a respectful coterie of relations.

I knew this woman for my whole life — more than half a century. But her favorite story about me comes from my first visit to Sweden, when I was about 4 years old.

Like many other children, I fell in love with the hampis — the stone quay that lies a short walk from the beach house.  The granite blocks of the hampis create  tide pools where you can fish for crabs using the time-honored technique of a bit of scrap fish and some string. I spent significant portions of my mornings filling up a plastic bucket with the tiny crabs, which mormor would then cook with mounds of fresh dill.  Hardly enough to eat, but that didn’t seem to matter.

On the day of our return flight, my parents called us down to breakfast and told us we were leaving.  According to mormor, I refused. “No!”  We could go home anytime, I said, but today we are fishing for crabs.

She always laughed when she told that story, and eventually I stopped being embarrassed when I heard it.

I have visited that beach many times since,  eventually bringing my fiancée, and then my daughter, Lilly-Karin — her namesake.

The next time we visit that beach, I suspect we will fish for crabs. And remember my mentor.

Photo credit: Anna Dandenell

Mormor Inga

Cherish your mentors – Part 1

Carolyn See, Ph.D., died on July 13, 2106.  That bastard cancer struck her down at 82. (For a more official appreciation, you can read Mary Rourke’s column in  The Los Angeles Times. This is my bit.)

Carolyn was a quintessential California writer, a literary sidhe of Topanga Canyon, and she was the first mentor who took me seriously, and more importantly, forced me to take myself seriously.  She stood at the front of a creative writing course at Loyola Marymount University and said “Oh my dear” — her students were all “dear ones” — “you can do better than this.”

She introduced me to the 1,000 words a day or 2 hours of editing rule.  She taught about the value of villains, of finding characters in the every day, and Getting It Done.

She told her students to write thank you notes to editors, even when they reject you.  She encouraged us to go to book launches, and even slipped us the occasional $20 if we couldn’t afford the hard cover.

When I was a struggling, unfocused underclassman at LMU, Carolyn gently pushed me to apply to the Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California.  Unbeknownst to me, she also submitted one of my stories to John Rechy, one of the writers in residence.  I don’t remember the exact cover note, but it basically said, “Keep an eye on this one.” (To this day, I’m not sure if she meant “encourage this guy” or “this one is trouble.” Probably both.)

John Rechy returned the story to me —with a wink — during my first graduate seminar.  He eventually became my thesis advisor, despite his acknowledgement that he “didn’t do ‘fantastic fiction.’ ” (That was a polite lie.  He wrote amazing literary fiction, but not science fiction or fantasy.)

After I graduated, I kept in touch with Carolyn, and had the delightful experience of transcribing the first chapters of her collaborative novel Lotus Land (written with long-time partner John Espey and daughter Lisa See).  I will always cherish the memory of sitting at Lisa’s house, typing up the hand-written drafts.  I’d never seen writers actually write before.  It was alchemy.

Over the years, Carolyn and I met occasionally when she passed through town on a promotional tour, and she was a tireless supporter of my fiction, always ready to give me firm but gentle feedback on my writing.   She also gave me valuable advice during my brief tenure as an English teacher.

Her notes and book inscriptions often included the phrase, “To Karl, my almost-son.”

Goodbye, almost-mother.  And thank you.



The tribe grows – Paradise Lost VI

I’m back from the latest meeting of Word Tribe, and of course, I’m a bit late posting this.  Normally I rake together some thoughts at the airport, but thanks to an extended game of Flight Cancellation and Rescheduling, I didn’t make it home until late, and then the whole Work Thing grabbed my brain and refused to give it back.

Not that I feel any rancor toward Southwest.  Their service and spunky attitude have made air travel almost bearable for many years, and will do so in the future.  This time, however, they had to take a jet out of rotation for mechanical issues, and the resulting schedule shakeup reminded me of a bad French farce.

So… Paradise Lost VI.

I came armed with a humorous submission story (“Phunny Phantasy” as one instructor described it), 2 bottles of Hanger One vodka, and a sample of St. George absinthe.  Yeah, it’s that kind of weekend.

My critique group (A – The Awesome) consisted of two pros (Walter Jon Williams and Fran Wilde), plus 7 students.  Why the organizer assigned me to Mr. Williams after the infamous limoncello spit take, I can only guess.  Still, the pros and the students all had very positive reactions to my story, and there was universal agreement that the ending… didn’t deliver.

At least I know what I have to fix.

We also had a second critique group B (aka The Heathens) run by pros Ken Scholes and Jaye Wells.  I hadn’t met either of them before this event, and both gave excellent lectures on issues ranging from Managing Your Muse to Mastering the Scene.

(Ken, it should be noted, gives off the vibe of a jongleur, but in reality he’s an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.  And his novel Lamentations is turning out to be ridiculously good.)

Paradise Lost has become annual meeting of The Tribes – Codex and Taos Toolbox and Viable Paradise were all represented.  I was jazzed to see three four other alumni from my own class at VP16 – Fighting Fire Wombats.

In addition to the usual critiques and lectures, we had our open social time, which consisted of booze, chocolate, Cards Against Humanity, bawdy songs, more booze, dramatic readings of appallingly bad porn, and general commiseration about parenting, writing, editors, and the state of democracy.

I added new friends to my social media, new writers to my TBR lists, and recharged my hug battery.  It has to last until new year, after all, when Paradise Lost VII invades San Antonio agin, bringing another bunch of folks together to revel in that thing we call genre writing.

You folks are the best.

With gratitude,



Paradise Lost VI – The Unusual Suspects

“Packrat Machine” is now archived

Get it while it’s hot – “Packrat Machine” is now live archived at Perihelion SF. (Download: packrat-machine.pdf) (The original title was “The Packrat Machine,” but the editor prefers not to begin story titles with that particular definitive article, so there you are.)

I’ve already talked about the challenges I faced in this story’s exposition here.

For now, I’ll just say that this story wandered the desert for quite a few years, and I’m happy it’s found a home.  Early reader responses have been very positive.

It was a fun story to write, and a bear to edit.  Enjoy!