The holidays are a wrap

Our traditional holiday season ends with my daughter’s birthday party (she’s a January baby), and 2018 was no exception. This morning, things are quiet as I recycle paper confetti and wash all the glasses.

The Yule tree branches are composted, and the trunk drying out for firewood.

It’s a cold, clear day, with a weather front developing, so I’ll be covering the outdoor furniture  and sweeping up the last few leaves.

I also buried Mr. Lukas’ ashes in the front, under the Emperor Japanese maple. Our neighbor asked for a portion of the cremains for her own yard. As a kitten,  Lukas liked to wander into their house and curl up on their couch. Later, when they acquired a Jack Russell terrier, Lukas would roll around on their sidewalk, ensuring the dog could watch from the window.

The ground was damp and cold. I covered him with handfuls of mulch and half-decayed leaves. In the spring, the tree will burst into crimson, and across the street, a frustrated Jack Russell will bark at nothing.

But we know better.

Some 2017 writing numbers

For you stats nerds out there, here’s how my writing year looks like:


Total: 31

Acceptances: 5 (16% – a new record!)
Form rejections: 17 (55%)
Personal rejections: 9 (29%)

Sales breakdown

Pro: 1
Semi-pro: 3
Donation: 1


Two of my sales resulted from personal solicitations from editors. One of those is a fundraiser (see Another anthology achievement unlocked), so that’s another milestone for me.

Works in progress:

Short stories: 8
Novella: 1

Overall, it’s been a pretty successful year. For 2018, I’d like to see more submissions, more exercise, better sleep, and less anxiety.

Guess I have some homework.

Awards Eligibility 2017

For 2017, I have exactly one professional publication, a flash fiction story, and it was one of the easiest things the Muse ever dropped on me.

If  you’re an Active, Lifetime Active, Active Family, or Associate member of SFWA you are eligible to submit a nomination ballot for the Nebula Awards (hint, hint). Not that I expect to win anything, but a few recommendations would do wonders to lift my spirits in these trying times. (remember to log in first!)

Besides, it’s a really good story. Trust me.

P.S. I also published two trunk stories this year in smaller venues:

Another anthology achievement unlocked

I’m happy to report that my story, “The Long View,” will be appear next year in a new anthology, Reading 5 X 5. The anthology is organized by the editor of Metaphorosis Magazine, with the proceeds going to support the Jo Clayton Clayton Memorial Medical Fund for SFF writers

The concept behind Reading 5 X 5 is five different genre story seeds (ranging from Hard Science Fiction to Contemporary Fantasy) that would generate a total of 25 stories (five writers per genre). I volunteered to write a story seed, and ended up with Hard Science Fiction. So that meant research.

This represents the second time I’ve been invited to contribute to an anthology, and the first time my work is supporting a charitable (and writerly) cause.

Feels good.

Lucky 22

(Updated 22-Nov-2017)

The folks at Viable Paradise Writing Workshop announced a new scholarship today. Good on them! I’ve thrown a few bucks in the jar from my last sale.

The outpouring of support from various graduates reminded me of the oath I swore that chilly day in 2012. I raised my hand and pledged that:

“…I will write

That I will finish what I have written

That I will send it out

To paying markets only

Until Hell won’t have it.”

In that spirit, I’m happy to announce my short story, “The Astrologer of the Fifth Floor,” sold today to the Abandoned Places anthology from Shohola Press. Twenty-one other publications rejected it.

Abandoned Places will be released on 9-Mar-2018 (coinciding with FOGcon).

Looks like Hell doesn’t get this one.

Viable Paradise +5

Friday lecture – “Secret History of Publishing,” I think.

Social media reminded me that I flew from San Francisco to Boston five years this morning. I remember that I’d spent the night at an airport hotel, and had dinner with my family and a friend. The kids were going to have a sleepover, but they agreed to see me off before my “grown-up camp.” I might have called it a conference, but I don’t think so.

“Boot camp” is how I described it to my co-workers. “A writing workshop” to my parents.

It turned out to be all of those things, and more: a liminal journey. A rite of passage. An initiation into a cult. A gathering of the faithful.

It was the place where Shit Got Serious. But there was also Mandatory Fun.

I’ve written about the experience in other forums, so on this anniversary, I’ll highlight the main points.

  • After >10 years of marriage, my wife was tired of watching me fling myself against the wall with my writing. I had a process, and beta readers, but it wasn’t really working. I hadn’t sold a story in years. So she strongly encouraged me to apply.
  • I amputated the tip of the smallest finger on my left hand about a day or so before the flight, so one of the instructors surreptitiously checked my wound dressing for fresh blood in the morning. Also – all my lecture recordings feature the clacking my metal splint against the laptop.
  • My roommate was something of a ghost. We had completely different sleep patterns and schedules, and I found myself wandering about at night to debrief with my fellow writers.
  • I made friends who are still close to this day.
  • Smart instructors who called me on my shit, and encouraged me to stretch.
  • I learned a “metric fuck-ton” about the writing process, which made me realize I was damn ignorant and relying on ego rather than insight.
  • I wrote the fastest story of my life (to date) – a bit less than 12 hours. Finally sold that bugger, too.
  • I was the only passenger on the return commuter flight from Martha’s Vineyard to BOS. On the last flight of the day. I am forever indebted to that blue-collar pilot and her thermos of coffee, who took me on a leisurely tour of the island, politely ignoring my tears.

On this anniversary, I am working hard on two story deadlines, a pile of stories to review for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science fiction, and thinking about my next workshop.

There is an enormous value in finding your tribe, and taking the time to work on your art away from the distractions of mundane reality.

So raise a glass, VP XVI alums (“Fire Wombats!”), and recall fondly The Horror That is Thursday. I miss you.

Silly grin courtesy of sleep deprivation and overclocked frontal lobe.


Warm yourself by the Fireside

My flash fiction, “We Who Stay Behind,” appeared today in Fireside Fiction. I’m thrilled that this little story found a home with such a great publication.

Those of you familiar with my work may find this one a little different. It’s very short (650 words) and very serious.

I wrote the first draft in one quick sitting in a coffee joint in San Francisco on Martin Luther King Day a few years ago. I was contracting for Oracle, and rode the ferry to work, thinking about Patricia McKillip’s Moon-Flash. There’s a brief section in that book where we go behind the scenes at an First Contact station. I can’t remember the precise action, but we see some of the nameless technicians who are supporting the Terran scientists who are reaching out to the natives.

Turned out my office was closed for the holiday, and no one had bothered to let me know. So I was stuck there for a couple of hours until the first return ferry of the afternoon. I decided to fortify myself with a pot of tea and fool around with a POV story about those technicians. The ones who stay behind.

It’s one of my favorite efforts, and I hope you like it.

Death, the Medial Sinus, and Depression

I’ve been feeling  stuck the past couple of weeks, and then some. “Stuck” is one of those polite euphemisms for “the sharp teeth of another depression episode gnawing on my toes.”

The manager notices it. The wife notices it. Heck, even the teenage scion notices but is too enmeshed in her own drama to say anything.  (Fair enough – high school is a serious challenge, after all.)

So what gives?

I’m swimming through a particular confluence of things: three deaths in the extended family, the oh-so-damn slow recover from my last sinus surgery in December, and a lack of professional opportunity. (The last one refers to my day gig, not writing.)

Death: My aunt Pat passed away recently after several rounds of cancer. She is my father’s last sibling, so that basically leaves him an orphan at the tender age of nearly 89. I had the occasion to spend the afternoon with Pat last month because of a business meeting in nearby San Diego.

That is a lie. I had no meeting. I wanted to see my aunt before she died, rather than say my goodbyes at the funeral/celebration of life. So I told my manager I was going to take my bereavement leave “early” and flew down to San Diego.

Basically, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, or put any pressure on anyone. I simply wanted to pay my respects, bring her some flowers, and spend some time before the Reaper showed up.

So I did, and managed not to lose it. It’s hard seeing people when they’re sick. And terminal cancer is sick. (Special thanks to my Best Man in Irvine, Dan Malcor, for driving down to hang with me for a few hours before my return flight. True friendship, that.)

A few days later, I learned that my uncle (by marriage) Bob had passed away. He lived near my parents and was an absolute character. He went into the hospital for a procedure and the Reaper punched his card.

And the third death: Ratrani, our long-suffering middle cat.

So my dance card is pretty full on that subject. Moving on.

Sinues: I had two nasal surgeries last year. Normally, the recovery time for an intranasal procedure is about 6 weeks. Maybe 8. However, I’ve been dealing with the aftereffects for five months. Either I’m one of those lucky folks who don’t heal fast, or the benign tumor left behind some friends. My next followup with the surgeon isn’t until July. In the meantime, I feel like it’s Allergy Season all the damn time around here. Which puts me in a less-than jovial mood.

Work: Finally, I made the decision to change jobs, which is turning out to be much harder than I thought. I have my vacation booked for the summer, but after that, I’m ready to move on. There’s no growth potential here (even my manager agrees) and more to the point, the level of  dysfunction is hard-wired into the company’s DNA. They won’t change, and I don’t want to settle.

Unfortunately, despite the local heated economy, the only nibbles I get are for contract gigs, or regular jobs down in San Jose, which is a commute of epic proportions.

And then there’s the craven Republican congress trying to make life hellish for all of us. Let us not speak of that.

So now what?

The first step is acknowledging the Big D. I see you, Mr. Gray.

Next is ticking the boxes: food, water, sleep, a good book.

Then reaching out to friends.

Then remembering that I sold a pro story recently, and have loads of stuff in the WIP file.

Then sitting down in zazen, or with a cup of tea, or a cold vodka, and breathing.


Still here.

Okay, I can do this.

Thanks for listening.

4-star weekend

It’s spring, which means Paradise Lost (7, in case you’re counting). This was my fourth attendance, so my badge bore witness to it.

We had quite the variety this year: one-star retreat only folks, dipping their toes into the alcoholic punch of neo pros; five-star veterans, and of course, the founder, Sean Patrick Kelley, carrying around seven stars like the blessing of some demented deity.

This weekend happened to coincide with Fiesta, a 2+ day celebration in downtown San Antonio in which thousands of raucous folk clog the sidewalks (and parks and plazas and hotels) as if Mardi Gras and an Oakland Raiders Tailgate Party had a child and raised it south of the Rio Grande.

So it was, ah, busy. And loud. Fiesta apparently draws a lot of competition for its events: Loudest Continuous Car Horn Exchange (1 AM division), Weirdest Electric Parade Floats, and Highest Number of Unlicensed Street Grills.

Fortunately, we had several catered meals at the event, and plenty of space in the lovely Drury hotel to hang out between scheduled lectures and critique sessions.  There really wasn’t much need to go outside, except to forage supplies for the Social Suite bar.

My new contribution to the suite was NOLA from St. George Spirits here in Alameda. The coffee liqueur got many positive reviews. (“I’d have this for breakfast!” –Chris from Chicago) Absinthe and Buddha’s Hand vodka also made return appearances.

Since this was my fourth year as a critique participant, it felt less like a bacchanalia and more like a family reunion. I met some new writers, some of whom will probably become friends, and reconnected with many good souls from Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox.

I received great feedback on my submission short story, listened to excellent lectures (and very funny anecdotes) from Jaye Wells, Mary Anne Mohanraj, DongWon Song, and generally recharged.

There was, however, no traditional game of Cards Against Humanity. This year, people seemed more inclined (on Saturday, at least) to break into small groups for quieter conversation.

Well, a lot has happened since 2016, especially since October.

There were other things, of course, plot-breaking and games of Werewolf, free books (!), surprise guests, gift exchanges, and tearful farewells.

I’m proud and very happy to call these folks my tribe, and they help keep me sane, and keep me honest, and inspire me to be a better writer. And a happier one.

What more could you ask?

See you next year, Buddha willing.

(Can you find 6 Fire Wombats in this picture?)

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.