Category Archives: writing

War and (Inner) Peace

The anthology Strange Religion launched today, the companion volume to Strange Wars (which debuted last week). I’m pleased to say that in addition to assisting with first reads (i.e., slush), I contributed one original story and one reprint to the project.

(Some of you may remember my appearance in the first volume in the Strange series, “Supply and Demand Among the Sidhe” in Strange Economics. So I’m 3/3. Huzzah!)

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“Burial Detail” is a reprint (with minor edits/updates) from The Word Count Podcast. It’s lovely to see “Burial Detail” in print, though it was published not long after the death of my university partner-in-crime, Dr. John A. Maynard. Our conversations about his military service helped inform the story.

“Jizo Rides the Bus” was a much more difficult story to write since it was the first new fiction I attempted after the death of my father, Frank Schlosser. I learned about Jizo, a bodhisattva popular in Japan, during a practice offered at the San Francisco Zen Center. Jizo is the patron of travelers and children who die before reaching adulthood. An unusual bodhisattva, Jizo vowed to avoid Nirvana until he could accompany all beings to safety, even those trapped in the hell realms.

Statues of Jizo are common in Japan, especially in graveyards, and are often decorated with red hats and scarves, since the color is often associated with protection from evil.

After I completed the practice period, I decided that Jizo would make an excellent POV character for a story about grief and samsara set in Silicon Valley. I hope you enjoy it.

For the next few days (May 7-11) Strange Religion is available as a free Kindle download. Please have a look. It’s a big volume with a lot of ideas.

2021 Writing by the Numbers

I thought it might be interesting to look at my 2021 writing stats, courtesy of The Submission Grinder:

Note: this includes only those stories that were sent out and responded to during the calendar year.

Overall

Accepted4
Never Responded7
Pending Response9
Rejection, Form41
Rejection, Personal16
Withdrawal1
Grand Total78

Accepted stories

Burial Detail (reprint) – Forthcoming in the anthology Strange Wars
Jizo Rides the Bus – Forthcoming in the anthology Strange Religion
The Stones of Särdal (reprint) – Little Blue Marble
Final Exam – Wyldblood Press

Interestingly enough, both reprints started as original audio productions in The Word Count Podcast.

Withdrawal

I pulled one simultaneous submission after the story sold elsewhere.

Rejections

If I assume “Never Responded” as a tacit rejection, that brings my total rejection count to 64, breaking my 2014 record of 42 rejections in a calendar year. WOOO!

Success rate?

About 5 percent. At that rate, I would need to make at least 100 submissions this year to beat the sales number. Or write better stories/find more compatible markets.

Let me get on that.

Eligibility Post 2021

This one’s easy:

A Halloween Tale

My story, “Final Exam, Demonology” started out as a contest entry for 500-word stories.

It didn’t win, legitimately. I wasn’t able to create a believable world and enough characterization while staying within that limit. Once I opened things up to full flash length, the story felt complete. The editor at Wyldblood Press thought so as well.

Enjoy!

Heja Sverige

Today my story “Stones of Särdal” appears in Little Blue Marble, edited by one of my Canadian friends, Katrina Archer. (An earlier version of “Särdal” appeared on The Word Count Podcast as part of their “Humans of the Future” series.)

Little Blue Marble is a beautiful and fascinating publication that showcases fiction, poetry, and news related to climate change. I’ve wanted to place something with them for a while, and was thrilled that Katrina chose this reprint. Her minor tweaks and insightful questions brought the story into sharper focus and resolved some minor issues that I hadn’t noticed. Good editors are a blessing.

The story was inspired by my clan’s summer home (above) located on the west coast of Sweden. As a bonus, the story’s featured image is a sunset I captured from the Särdal beach this past August. (In a happy bit of synchronicity, the acceptance email for “Stones” showed up on my phone as I was clearing passport control on my way to Sweden.)

Enjoy!

Writing year in review – 2020

In spite of *everything* I published some fiction. And poetry. Considering where I was in 2019, this is pretty impressive.

The reality is that only one writing project was new. The others were either rewrites or waiting their turn in the publisher’s queue. Still, they made it out of the trunk, fought their way up the slush pile, and saw the light of readers’ eyes.

Started off with “The Carpetbaggers Ball” (Stupefying Stories Showcase – Book 1) – Feb 2020 – I was very happy to be included in this new imprint from the folks at Rampant Loon. One of my early cyberpunk efforts, given a new coat of paint.

Seven Cups of Landfall” (Dreams & Nightmares Vol. 115) – May 2020 – My first SF poem!

The Stones of Särdal (The Word Podcast) – Episode 100, Season 10 – Nov 2020 (story begins at 14:30) – I committed to contributing a flash story for this editor, and tried to do the whole thing in one go.

Sullied Flesh” (Speculative North, Issue 3) – Yes, I wrote a Hamlet story – Dec 2020 – My first publication in a Canadian magazine.

So my total is 3 stories and 1 poem, with another story going through final edits for a January 2021 release.

If you downloaded, purchased, or reviewed any of these publications/podcasts, THANK YOU!

This would be a lot less fun without readers.

The Artistic Tradition of Theft

My story “Sullied Flesh” is out.

Given that Shakespeare is considered one of the greatest writers in the English canon and Hamlet is one of his most-quoted works, it was inevitable that I would borrow liberally (or steal entire passages) from that play at some point in my career.

Here we are.

I sketched the bones of the story years ago. I think my brain said, “What if the only way you could get a theater acting job was to be a meat puppet for a famous actor’s performance?” Not an interpretation, or homage, or imitation, but the closest possible clone of that performance? You know, like having it plugged into your brain?

Of course, as a former English major I had to choose Shakespeare, which meant Hamlet. When I was a lad, the Big Three roles were Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. But you can only do the Danish Prince when you’re relatively young, so it’s the place to really boost your career. That’s where I put my main character, Girard.

My own experience trodding the boards is limited to some high school hijinks, and a few spear carrier roles in The Merchant of Venice. Still, I’ve spent enough time behind the scenes to see the potential for er, drama, and thus was born “Sullied Flesh.”

The story had a long, long road to publication. It was too long, the conflicts weren’t well presented, and as one editor noted, it required “an in-depth knowledge of Shakespeare to appreciate.”

I’ve had worse critiques.

Fortunately for me (and you), the lovely folks at Speculative North took the time to give me some on-the-nose feedback and several strong suggestions for a revision. Despite all the challenges thrown at us by Mundane Reality 2020 Edition, everything came together. “Sullied Flesh” escaped the trunk.

The whole issue (Vol #3) is free to download TODAY (Dec 19, 2020), so hurry yourselves on over and get some new words.

Enjoy.

November musings

For a lot of writers, November is National Novel Writing Month. The timing is challenging, to say the least. Hello, Thanksgiving? This year, we also had the twin delights of Pandemic Brain and The Election That Never Ends.

I had other plans for the month, which were sadly derailed. Back in the before days, I had contracts for two short stories to be published at this time. Unfortunately, the other human beings involved had their own schedules and travails, so Mundane Reality™ decided I would have only a podcast this month rather than new print stories. Those would have to wait until December.

My month, then, was focused on writing. Not a novel (that’s another conversation) but writing. Specifically, writing every day. And I did it! I even managed to crawl over the 10K finish line, which is my best stretch ever.

Because of various life events this past orbit (child going to college, pandemic, father’s death, work stupidity), I had a fairly large number of open files in my WIP folder. I decided that I would tackle as many of those as I could (with a target of 4 Complete Things).

I finished Four Things, too. Three of the stories had been languishing in the WIP folder, and the fourth was a completely new idea that occurred during the month.

Special bonus: On December 1, after I declared my self-defined victory, I gave myself permission to take the night off. So what did I do? I wrote a brand-new flash story that was pretty darn good. It’s sitting in the submission queue of a magazine, along with three November’s stories. The fourth — the longest — needs some moderate editing. I was throwing down words hard and fast at the end and I suspect that several key scenes will be removed or replaced.

Bottom line: I managed to complete Five Things in 31 days. Not sure if they’ll find Forever Homes but at least they’re not sitting around here, eating my snacks and messing up my Netflix queue.

New fiction is coming soon. Really.

The Word Count Podcast 100

Humans of the Future

The Word Count Podcast – episode 100

Today marks the final episode of The Word Count Podcast, and I wish to thank Mr. RB Wood for giving me an opportunity to contribute a story to his 10-year project to bring free fiction to the masses. The stories are written from a monthly visual prompt and read by the authors. This month’s prompt (above) was “Humans of the Future.” (Earlier months covered humans of the past and present.)

“The Stones of Särdal” is flash fiction, a bit under 1000 words, and around 5 1/2 minutes of audio. My story is third in the queue and starts at 14:30.

As an experiment, I tried to write the whole thing in one quick burst. I think 95% of that draft made it to the final version.

My own inspiration for “The Stones of Särdal” comes from my family’s summer home on the coast of Sweden. I took certain liberties with the actual history and architecture because hey, it’s fiction.

Enjoy!

P.S. You can find my earlier story, “Burial Detail,” on Episode 82.