November ghost story and a reboot of NaNoWriMo

My latest story, “The Poltergeist of Fastini Crater,” appeared on Sudden Fictions this week. I wrote the flash story based on a prompt (“haunting”) from the editor, R.B. Wood, in what was then a Halloween-themed submissions call. However, mundane reality™ got involved, delaying the project past the holiday. Still, I set out to write a little ghost story on the moon, and it came together in two quick bursts. It was definitely the most fun I’ve had at the keyboard in a while. (For those keeping score, it’s publication #9 this year. Huzzah!)

Sudden Fictions, Episode 39

Unfortunately, my dayjob situation tool an unexpected downturn (i.e., our project was put on hold and all the writers furloughed), so I decided to revisit the ghosts of Unfinished Short Fiction for my version of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to complete (or revise) 5 stories by 11-30-2023. It may not be as tough as 50,000 words but it’s enough of a challenge!

Let’s see what happens.

Crazy Eight

Today my flash story, “Ruby Throat and Gold” appeared in Wyldblood, marking my third appearance there and my eighth publication overall for 2023. Wow. Crazy. (Unlike my other work in Wyldblood, “Ruby” contains no demons in its 1,000 words. But there are wizards with agendas.)

This story came to life under the guiding hand of Cat Rambo. The title was suggested by Rosemary Claire Smith, one of my beta readers in the weekly writing group. She writes about dinosaurs and reviews books over at Analog.

And then there were three

Today the final part of my novelette, “The Antidote for Longing,” was released in the wild by the good folks at Metaphorosis.

three digest versions of Metaphorosis magazine
Metaphorosis Issues 91-93

An audio version, read by Thomas Baxter, can be heard here as well.

“Antidote” started out as an awkward 6,000 word story. It was too long for most publications, but rejected by markets like GigaNotoSaurus. Then the editor at Metaphorosis reached out with the idea of lengthening the overall story and breaking it into three mini arcs that all worked together. And was I interested in doing a podcast?

Six revisions later, “Antidote” came in just under 11K words. My daughter, studying at Bath Spa University at the time, introduced me to a fellow theatre major, Thomas Baxter. Thomas brought a welcome British gravitas to the production. Extra kudos to him for rising to the challenge of Scandinavian terms and proper names.


There and Back Again. Again.

So I did something foolish, which was to jump across the pond to spend a mere week in England while my wife participated in a conference. In retrospect, trying to work a few hours on DayJob tasks, rather than just taking unpaid time off was particularly foolish. (What was less foolish was traveling with my daughter since she’s 21 and quite familiar with the area around Bath and Bristol.)

The secondary reason for this sorta-kinda spontaneous trip was the acknowledgement/celebration of the spousal birthdays, which fall a week apart and bracketed the conference schedule. So we went. What $$ we saved on accommodations (we borrowed a friend’s backyard cottage for a few days) was certainly spent on some serious meals, tea, and an afternoon at a day spa.

Definitely a good tradeoff, and an important life lesson. While I’ve been enjoying working with the new DayJob writers, the possibility of another layoff, or “premature contract termination” has been nagging at me. Honestly, I didn’t think it was a wise idea to leave the country. But that created its own difficulties. Hence, the life lesson, which I tried to impart to my daughter:

Your job is important in that you have to pay the bills. However, these opportunities are precious, especially when they involve intimates or family. Don’t dismiss them out of hand.

Sure, the jet lag has killed my brain this week and I had to dig very, very deep to finish a story on deadline. On the plus side, I went to England. I saw Roman ruins. I ate amazing French food (ex-pats are the best); I drank a weird cocktail in a private drinking club on a rainy night. I did a truly cheesy comedy walking tour. I soaked in a giant copper tub.

I had exit row seats. And a cheery flight crew. Go, Virgin Atlantic!

I didn’t get COVID.

The bills will come next month and the entertainment savings account will be emptied. Oh well. For the moment, I am employed and Elizabeth is fully booked and we can save up more money. Maybe Worldcon in Scotland?

See you in the word mines.

Things are heating up

Cover of Stupefying Stories #24

No, this isn’t the Southwest, or the Midwest, or anywhere else suffering ridiculous summer heat. It’s just the cool, er hot cover for Stupefying Stories #24. And look there – a familiar name!

The editor/publisher, Bruce Bethke, has been an absolute gem, publishing my work no fewer than six times. That’s a happy record for me, and I look forward to continuing our relationship.

The latest story is “Krishna’s Gift” – a near-future SF tale about difficult family relationships and the cost of actual happiness. It’s more expensive than you might think.

Updating the Career Bingo card

It’s been a good week, writing-wise.

An Antidote for Longing, July 2023

Part 1 of my serial, “The Antidote for Longing” appeared today in Metaphorosis. This gives me three (3) new squares on Career Bingo:

  • First Serial Publication
  • First Cover Art
  • First Podcast Recorded by Someone Else. (Several of my stories have appeared on podcasts/Facebook, but in each case I did my own reading.)

Oh, earlier this week, I had a flash story (“For Better or Worse“) appear over at Stupefying Stories, which means I get a bonus square this time – Five Sales to the Same Publication. Woot!

Now I just have to finish drafting a new story. And revise, uh, several others.

The work continues. It’s good to take a moment to acknowledge the victories.

Back to work, you

Karl Dandenell by Richard Man
Hey, wanna buy some fiction?

For those of you following my employment interregnum, the saga takes a new turn next week. Pending final paperwork, I’ll be jumping into a short-term contract at a large utility company. Technical writing! Documentation! Manuals! This should be a regular 40-hour gig (as opposed to the piecemeal stuff I’ve been doing since April).

May marks five (5) months of active searching and interviews. In fact, I had an interview the afternoon I returned from the Nebula Awards conference. (See teaser photo above.) While that role didn’t materialize, I received a firm (and better) offer from another company. Huzzah!

I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve taken on a serious project. Let’s just say that my last quarter at Previous Gig were not the most intellectually challenging. They didn’t really grok my skill set (and were struggling with their own internal processes, but that’s a much longer story).

The conference, BTW, was the first in-person SFWA event I’ve attended since the Before Times. It was held in Southern California, right across the Disneyland. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Attendance was about half as many (physical) attendees, although there the usual plethora of excellent panels. Perhaps I can watch the recordings for those I missed. As always, the time went by too quickly and just saying hi to folks proved to be a challenge.

The event did give me a chance to spend time with an old friend and give him a signed copy of The Science Fiction Tarot. I’m particularly pleased with my contribution, “The Schadenfreuders,” and will be joining other authors this weekend to read selections from the anthology. If you decide to buy a paper copy, ping me and I’ll send you a signed book plate.

Writing continues. Naps may have to be curtailed for a while. The cats will not be happy.

Getting around to it

Sadly, I am never going to catch up on book (or short fiction!) releases, and therefore resign myself to read things when I can get around to them. Having acknowledged that truth, here are the intentions:

Intention #1 – Read things I want to read, not what I should read.

Intention #2 – Post reviews and boost authors, especially folks I know and folks who could use the support.

Intention #3 – Find a way to retire so I have (fewer) excuses not to write.

Piece of cake.

Galley ho!

I received my galley proofs this week for The Science Fiction Tarot: Luminous Symbols of All the Tomorrows to Come, which features my story about aliens with strange eating habits, “The Schedenfreuders.” This will be my fourth appearance (!) in a Kickstarter project associated with TDotSpec and the lovely folks at the Toronto Science Fiction Fantasy Writing Group. (Previously, my short fiction appeared in Strange Economics, Strange Wars, and Strange Religion.)

Who are Schadenfreuders? Why, just your average Little Green Men who relish the experience of human suffering like a hipster relishes kombucha and cold brew coffee. And they’re willing to pay a fair price for it. Well, a reasonable price. Talk to their lawyer.

Here’s a sneak peak. I think it’s the one who calls himself Pol Pot. Or it might be Eva PerĂ³n. It’s hard to tell with aliens.

Available for pre-order now, and generally out in the world on April 30. Get some fun fiction for your eyeballs!

Catching up after a week of SNAFUs

There is a great irony in being Between Gigs. You have no money but lots of time. Then Tasks and Urgent Matters dance on stage, blowing trumpets and hauling your ass out of bed. You need to look for work and you want to write. Then, hey, the physical objects in your previously employed and relatively comfortable life begin cracking, groaning, and downright breaking.

Some of it was inevitable: an 12-year-old iMac that couldn’t support recent software updates and therefore, could not run critical web-based software; an electric kettle (3 years) with a worn power switch; a printer (5 years) with an intermittent power glitch; a router (8 years) that kept losing Wi-Fi connections; and another iMac (5 years, but upgraded) with a bad microphone and a hairline crack in the display. Plus, the Pocket Panther was behind on his regular vaccinations because the reminder notices were caught in the Spam filter.

We are replacing things (thank Buddha for emergency savings), the cat is healthy, and the lovely folks at the state Employment Development Department (i.e., Unemployment) have released some overdue benefits after I convinced them that I was not, in fact, part of an organized crime heist to plunder California.

I have been writing. And submitting. Which means more rejections. And a few sales! In fact I was able to add a new square to my Writer Bingo: 2 sales in one day. Both were flash stories and you can find them at Stupefying Stories here and here.

There are two lengthy Revise & Resubmit projects underway, and I’ve completed final edits on my contribution to Kickstarter project: The Science Fiction Tarot. I’m very excited for this project, first because it’s a cool concept and second, the preliminary was, well, very cool.

I continue to work with Cat Rambo, whose insights and gentle ass-kicking keeps me on deadline. I’m also trying to beef up my reading of contemporary fiction (so much good stuff!) and re-visit some old friends. Kurt Vonnegut’s prose still delights. Ursula Le Guin is a master. Daniel Keys Moran reminds me that very good books are too often derailed by publishing travails and general life challenges. And so it goes.

Thanks again to the small but merry band of writers who join me in the Interwebs. Some days I don’t know how we manage to light the headlamps and ride the creaky elevator down into the word mines, but we do.