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 Perón. 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.

Looking back at 2022’s writing

My previous post talked about the things I published this year. Today, I wanted to look back at what I wrote — or tried to write — in 2022.

In 2021, I started working one-on-one with Cat Rambo (in addition to participating in her classes). When my kinda-sorta surprise bonus showed up, I decided to channel that cash into more coaching time in 2022. And then I added a goal: draft a new complete story every month. And write every day during November (the dread time of NaNoWriMo). No problem.

Narrator: It was a problem.

It wasn’t a complete bust, though. Thanks in part to hosting twice-weekly writing sessions on Zoom, I was able to draft and finish 10 stories. (There is, of course, the small chance I’ll finish something new this month but I’m going in for foot surgery soon and then the holidays descend. Let’s go with ten.)

Here’s what it looked like:

Stories completed in 2022:

  • Jan – Ruby Throat and Gold
  • Feb – The Antidote for Longing
  • Mar – The Great Contraband Race
  • Apr – For Better or Worse
  • May – Take a Leaf from the Bodhi Tree
  • Jun – Petition the Order of Compassionate Death
  • Jul – Last Cold Beer for 50 Miles
  • Aug – The Four Noble Truths/Monkey Brain
  • Sep – Lizzie McNeil and the Veil Between Worlds
  • Oct – (Classes)
  • Nov – Small Pleasures /NaNoNotSoMuch – WRITING EVERY DAY NO MATTER WHAT!
  • Dec – TBD (Classes)

Cat was in Spain for a month and there was a serious amount of fusterclucks going on at DayJob starting in October, so the year hasn’t ended strong. Oh well. But hey, there’s still stuff on the stove:


  • Duel
  • The Third Bell
  • Parley

Don’t forget revisions!

  • The Machine Mage of Umea
  • Petition the Order of Compassionate Death
  • The Four Noble Truths/Monkey Brain
  • Lizzie McNeil and the Veil Between Worlds

or leftovers – scraps and fragments

  • Pull the Red Cord
  • Not Sleeping Beauty
  • The Bone Fetcher of Alijah

Bonus section – future good news?

Antidote for Longing–Rewrite Request

Bodhi Tree —Second Round consideration

Between the Stars—Sent 10K sample; editor asked for the entire novella

Last Cold Beer for 50 Miles–Second Round consideration

Overall, I got stuff done.

(Now I just need a new DayJob.)

To everyone who’s come to the writing hangout, followed me on social media, and read my beta drafts. THANK YOU. Couldn’t do it without you folks.

December 2022

Eligibility Post 2022

It’s already that time again?

While there’s still a chance that something might appear in the wild, it’s safe to say everything that can be published this year is out there. So here goes:

I also had a reprint this year – “Burial Detail” (Strange Wars) – Not eligible for anything but a fine story and homage to a dear, departed friend.

Another box on Career Bingo

I added a new box to the Career Bingo card recently – “Lead story in a TOC” – thanks to my flash story, “The Last Best Day of Antonio Silveri, Ph.D.”

ON SPEC magazine table of contents

On Spec is a nifty little digest proudly published in Alberta, Canada. For the record, this is my sixth publication in that country, and every one has been marked by positive interactions with the editorial team. Plus, they tend to have cool cover art.

On Spec Cover

“Last Best Day” started life as a 500-word flash fiction contest entry. It didn’t win, but it gave me the general shape that I later expanded (a bit) and polished (a lot). So if you get a chance, check it out.

I think any story that infuriates your beta readers and makes the editor cry is a success.

Windy City Worldcon 80

So… it’s been a while.

My last in-person con was FOGcon in March 2020, when COVID was just starting to build itself up to the life-changing, death-dealing, absolute FUBAR pandemic that continues to run off-Broadway (and everywhere else).

My last Worldcon was #76 – San Jose (2018). The ones that followed were avoided due to finances /COVID (Ireland, New Zealand) and scheduling/COVID (Washington, DC). Which brings us to Chicago in 2022.

By this time, my daughter was starting her third year at Columbia College Chicago, giving the family an opportunity to travel together, get her new apartment set up, and maybe take in some panels. Thanks to a fellow Viable Paradise alum, we were able to snag another adult membership for $0. Huzzah!

We stayed for the entire length of the con (plus an extra day for me) at the Hyatt Regency, the event venue. In a suite. So there was plenty of time to sprawl and, later, host our first Cards Against Humanity game in, uh, about 4 years.

It was good. Weird, but good. My in-person event skills were rusty, to say the least. So many people! So many masks! The volunteers/staff all did a pretty fine job of herding the cats. There was an enormous, overwhelming amount of programming, offered in-person, online, and hybrid. So kudos to everyone who pitched in. I wished I’d had the time and energy to do more.

Hotel lobby

So what did I do, between getting my daughter moved in and trying to catch a few minutes to say hi to friends from the Before Times?

Thursday – Got our badges and attended the Opening Ceremony. The toastmasters, Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, acquitted themselves pretty well (although I will admit their shtick works better in online venues).


  • Tabletalk – Catherynne M. Valente. She was an utter delight and her stories of writing in These Trying Times™ resonated strongly. (Full disclosure – I had entered the lottery for two different author talks (the COVID version of the traditional Kaffeeklatsch) and had to bail on one. Sorry, Lawrence M. Schoen! )
  • Geeky Parenting: Raising the Next Generation
  • What’s With Chicago? Its Quirks, Personality and Charm – Hey, I learned some fun things about the Windy City
  • Improv Star Trek – Attended with my daughter. An absolute hoot.
  • Themed Readings: Fairy Tales and Myth – Spent a lovely hour listening to Elise Stephens and Jean Bürlesk. Quality writing and excellent performances in a small room so we could hear everything. We could have spent a few days just doing this.
The crew of the USS Sisyphus does the opening credits, TNG-style.


Cat M. Valente doesn’t talk about her SEKRIT PROJECT, but pretty much anything else
  • Let Me Tell You About the Very Alien: They Are Different From You and Me
  • Getting the “Cyber” Part Right
  • Best of the Year – Listened to a top-shelf panel of anthology editors, including Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who overcame all manner of obstacles to reach Chicago. Pleased to finally meet him in person after following his social media.
  • Dealer Room – As the last part of my belated birthday celebration, I bought a couple of prints in an auction, and acquired several tee shirts and books.
  • Cards Against Humanity in our suite – our intrepid band included four (4!) Fire Wombats, plus family and friends, two of whom had never played. Much horribleness ensued.
Archival prints: “Saving Throw” and “Snake Eyes”


  • What makes The Good Place Work – a fun, philosophical panel devoted to the themes and characters of the meme-worthy sitcom. Got to meet one of my Canadian editors, Andy Dibble!
  • Themed Readings: Humor-A – Listened to another Fire Wombat, Alex Shvartsman, read from his new novel, The Middling Affliction. Found a copy later in the Dealer Room.
  • Hugo Awards Ceremony – watched the stream from my suite because the reported COVID numbers were starting to creep up.
VP 16’s own Alex Shvartsman

Et cetera

Our suite didn’t have a kitchenette, or even a microwave (boo, Hyatt) so we stocked up on Whole Foods groceries and gave the local restaurants some business, as long as we could get outdoor tables. Special mention goes to FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar around the corner at the Radisson Blu hotel. There we encountered The Primordial Pretzel. Two pounds of salty, bready goodness. With sauces.

Why did we bother with entrees?

In summary

I’m glad I went, even if it felt particularly awkward at times. My one wish would have been more time just hanging out with people and buying them drinks. It was very, very good to see my fellow VP 16 alum, and some of my favorite writers and editors.

More writing time (or writing brain) would also have been good.

And yeah, I didn’t take enough pictures (or good ones, at least).

View from our suite on the 29th Floor.

Airport return – required meal

Significant Dates and Anniversaries, Part 2

Ten years ago, I attended Viable Paradise 16, where I met many fine folks and learned a lot, especially how little I actually knew about writing. Up to that point, I’d been running on ideas, ego, and caffeine. (The official term is “pantsing” but you already knew that.) Sure, I’d attended a moderately competitive and stupidly expensive MFA program, but my primary advisor didn’t really grok “fantastic literature” and my utter lack of life experience didn’t help.

Since having my words dissected, inspected, and cheered on by 23 other students, 6 instructors, and 3 awesome house elves, I am happy to report (and a little surprised, honestly) that I’m still doing this thing. And I’ve made friends. Thank Buddha for the interwebs, for apart from a few cons and weekend writing get-togethers, most of my interaction has been online. Zoom, of course, is a game-changer (as was Google Hangouts before that). Most weeks I get to see at least a couple of friendly faces who understand what it means to grab a pick and shovel and head into the Word Mines.

(*Actual dates Oct 8-12)
Mostly VP 16 – Fire Wombats

Doing a very unscientific review of my fiction efforts (thanks, Submissions Grinder, you’re the best), here’s what I came up with:

  • Stories accepted since VP: 25
  • Total all submissions same period: 357 (approx)
  • Fewest submissions to sale: 1 – Tie: “The Long View” and “Jizo Rides the Bus”
  • Most submissions to sale: 23 – “The Astrologer of the 5th Floor”
  • Most submissions without a sale: 44 (and counting) – “Schadenfreuders”
  • Stories in submission as of today: 10
  • Stories abandoned to the trunk/did not finish: 6
  • Stories in progress: 8 (some of which will probably be trunked)
  • Public readings: 5 (including podcasts)
  • Total $$ to date: Don’t go there.

Next week is Worldcon in Chicago. It is my sincere hope that I sit down with some of my fellow Fire Wombats and raise a glass to 10 years of serious mining.

Significant Dates and Anniversaries, Part 1

So… I woke up this morning another year older, as such things are measured. Not thrilled to be reaching such a high number, but as wise people have noted, it sure beats the alternative.

This year, I permitted excessive decorations.
This is Fred, a dinosaur, which in no way is a comment on my taste in music or impending extinction.

To help me celebrate, my spouse and daughter bestowed upon me a number of gifts that shows they do, in fact, understand me:

  1. Single malt scotch from Skye
  2. A package of edibles (“the relaxing kind, not the take-a-trip kind”)
  3. A bit of pottery: a Felis domesticus fighting off a band of garden gnomes
  4. An open gift certificate to acquire something fun from the Dealer Room at Worldcon next month
Whisky and cannabis, breakfast of champions?
Apex predator battle

Tonight will feature Indian takeout and something with dangerous levels of chocolate.

For my part, I acknowledged the event by getting a deep-tissue massage, a chiropractic adjustment, and braces. Yup. Braces. I’ve never liked my smile and hide it in most photographs. (There were also some long-term issues with my front teeth that will be addressed at the same time.)

By the way, when you see this well-known brand:

(Wow, her teeth were white before the procedure!)

it’s important to note they don’t mention the appliances need anchor points, so that procedure makes you feel like this:

(You know the Night King is running his tongue over the plastic edge ALL THE DAMN TIME)

I also participated in DayJob today because I wasn’t brave enough to call in sick. Yeah, bad choice.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of paying a mortgage. That fun won’t end anytime soon, although we’re accelerating our payments to try to put a stake in it ahead of schedule.

And it’s been 10 years since I was accepted to Viable Paradise (which took place in Oct 2012!). More thoughts on that later.

Now I must return to planning meetings. A heartfelt thank you/tusen tack to You Who Read the Blog.

You’re the best.