Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Release! Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown

Look guys! New book!

One of the best parts of a writing life is the opportunity to try new things. I love writing something unlike anything I've written before. That's part of why I enjoy writing for anthologies. It's a chance to explore new styles, themes, and subject matter.

So when the fabulous Dave Higgins put out a call for this anthology, asking for stories about what scares clowns, I was intrigued. Though I enjoy reading and watching horror, I'd only tried my hand at it a couple of times.

The resulting story, "The Gleewoman of Preservation," played off a news story that circulated in North Carolina a year or two ago.

Mysterious clowns were spotted all around the state, hanging out in the woods near playgrounds. No one seemed sure what they were up to: trying to entice children, just standing there being creepy?

Whatever it was, it had the kids at my middle school all atwitter.

So, as I do for many a story, I began with "what if?" What if the clowns were there to protect people from something else?

The anthology releases this Friday, Friday the 13th, of course, during the same month that the new It movie released. So, if you can't get enough horror with clowns, I hope you'll check it out! Myself, I can't wait to see what the other authors came up with.

Here's a teaser for you, a bit of the beginning of "The Gleewoman of Preservation."


“CREEPY CLOWN HAUNTS LOCAL PLAYGROUND.” The headline screamed across the page in twenty point gothic font. Maggie snorted. This codswallop was news? Honestly! Across the breakfast table, her husband looked up from his phone. “What?”

Maggie turned her newspaper so he could view the lurid headline. “A little over the top, don’t you think?” 
Her husband reached for the paper and she let him take it, picking up her coffee and taking a sip. It was still a little too hot and burned her upper lip. She touched the sore place with her fingertip. Not too bad. It probably wouldn’t even redden that much. George always did make the coffee superheated. She joked it was because his heart was just that cold. This is what it took to defrost him. 
He was back on his phone now, apparently in an active chat. She sighed, wondering why she bothered to get out of bed to have breakfast with him anymore. It wasn’t like they talked. They might as well be two strangers on the bus. Maybe it would be better when he retired too here in a couple more years. Maybe it would be worse. Time would tell. 
Suddenly, George stood. “I’m going to have to go,” he said, shoving his arms through his suit-jacket sleeves. He knocked his phone onto the floor. 
Maggie glanced at the clock as she moved to pick it up for him. It was still only six-thirty. “So early?”
George took a gulp from his still steaming mug, unfazed by the tongue-searing heat. “Things are already on fire over there.” 
Maggie held out the phone, startled to see a group chat labeled “Gleemen.” The last message said, “EMERGENCY. Here. Now.” What was the man up to? 
 George pocketed the device, leaned over and gave her kiss on the cheek, lips still warm from the coffee. “Lunch today?”
Maggie nodded, pulling her bathrobe tight around her. 
As soon as George was out of the house, Maggie went to the bedroom and pulled on her retirement uniform of yoga pants and a voluminous blouse, ran a comb through her gray and brown mop of hair, and grabbed her purse. What in the world were Gleemen? 
Crackpot theories went through her head. She’d heard stories about women her age finding out they’d been living a lie all these years, that their husbands have secret lives they’ve known nothing about. Mistresses. Gay lovers. Shady business ventures. Dark hobbies. She had to know what George was doing. It was the surest way to shut down her hyperactive imagination…


Check out the anthology for the rest of my story, and the works of the other twelve authors. Happy Spooky Season!

PURCHASE LINKS:
Amazon 
MOBI: https://smarturl.it/DeadmanHumourKindle
Paperback: https://smarturl.it/DeadmanHumourPrint

Kobo
EPUB: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/deadman-humour

Barnes & Noble
EPUB: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deadman-humour-dave-higgins/1133387783
Paperback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deadman-humour-david-r-higgins/1133395385

iBooks
EPUB: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1478619815

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

IWSG: Where Would I Write?



Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 4 posting of the IWSG are Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantiner!

And the question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?
______________________________________
Over the years, I have learned to write anywhere. I've written in moving cars (not while driving), on the Mom couch at krav maga lessons, standing in the kitchen, sitting in bed, and hiding in a bathroom, among other more comfortable places. I'm good at blocking at distraction, too--which matters when you're trying to fit your writing life in the edges of an already full life. 

That's not to say that's what I prefer. It's just what I've adapted to. 

A few times, though, I got spoiled by getting to go on a writing retreat. I've been to the mountains and the sea, with other writers I knew and with strangers. The most valuable part for me has always been the temporary dropping of all other responsibilities and being *only* a writer for a few days in a row. The location is secondary. I feel as though a retreat almost anywhere would work for me, though it does help if there's easy access to good walking and scenic views. 

The very best such experience I ever had was the Week of Quiet and Writing through RCWMS, an experience my husband found for me as a gift one year that still ranks as one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received: basically you pay around $100 a night for a place to stay with walking distance beach and wetland access inclusive of meals! It may sound "churchy" but I'm not an outwardly religious person, and I felt comfortable and welcomed. 



It's not fancy…in fact it feels a bit monastic: a small, plain room with only basic furnishings (bed, desk chair, dresser) and simple dining hall meals at prescribed hours. Myself, I liked that, I found it focusing, narrowing my non-writing world for a few days. The very plain simplicity of it really helped shield me from distraction. 

Pelican House is a wonderful place for focus, and sitting in the cupola there, up the spiral staircase, with the window open so I could feel the sea air and hear the waves crashing while I wrote is my writing-related happy place. I'd write there every year if I could arrange it!

How about you, readers and visitors to my blog? Where would you go to invoke your muse for your own endeavors, given your druthers? 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Submitting My Work: The September Submission Challenge


I've written a lot more things than have made it into print. I'm learning, as I work to build a writing career, that submitting your work is another part time job.

I'm working five jobs now, by my reckoning:
  • Full time middle school teaching
  • Full time mothering teenagers and a rescue dog, and running a household
    • This part is getting easier now that my girls are older; and I'm lucky in having a hands-on partner, too. 
  • Part time writing
  • Part time marketing my already published writing
  • Part time submitting my writing (or preparing it for indie publishing: I'm working on my first all-indie project now!)
Whew! Starting to wonder when I'm going to sleep. Still, I love all these jobs and I'm not-so-secretly a work-aholic, so this is a very "me" kind of schedule.

Another writer (Ray Daley) laid down a gauntlet this September, proposing a September Submission Challenge, in which you submit one piece of your writing every day this month. He even made a calendar of suggested venues to submit, too, and since he's a speculative fiction writer like me, I'll be giving a lot of these a try.

So, here on Labor Day, I'm one ahead! I plan to update this post as I go as a way to track what I've done.

Sunday, September 1st: I sent my science fiction story, "The New Guy"  (3172 words) to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. According to my Duotrope stats, they have rejected six of my short stories previously, four of them with personal comments/critique. (That's a big deal, and encouraging from a larger venue like this one).

Monday, September 2nd: I sent "Gifts of the Mag-Eyes" (7577 words) to Clarkesworld, Ray's suggested venue for today. Clarkesworld has rejected five of my short stories previously; they don't generally give personal commentary, but they do have fast turn around, so they don't leave you hanging.

As a bonus, I sent "The Urgings of Ravens" (1652 words) to Lackington's special issue on Birds. I happened to run across the call in an email from Authors Publish with themed publication calls, and took that as my impetus to finish a story I started quite some time back (2015, I think).
  • Rejection: Uncanny: "Under an Orange Sky" (4980 words), submitted on August 29 (so not technically part of this challenge). 
Tuesday, September 3rd: Ray's suggested venue was Speculative City, a new one to me. I worried I didn't have a suitable story since their call is for "provocative works that are centered in a cityscape" and this month, they specifically ask for a theme of "industry." Then, I realized "The New Guy" is a good fit for that and, um, luckily? it was just rejected by F&SF today, so it's available. 
  • Rejection: F&SF: "The New Guy" submitted on September 1st. Told you these guys are fast!
  • Rejection: Clarkesworld: "The Gifts of the Mag-Eyes" submitted on September 2nd. I think I felt the breeze when that one went by. Bullet train fast. 
NOTE: The speed of rejection is actually a relief. Too often in the publishing world, your work languishes in an in-box somewhere before it even gets the first-level glance. Though it always stings to have a story rejected, I'd rather it come quickly and leave me free to try another venue!

Wednesday, September 4th: Daily Science Fiction has rejected seven of my stories in the past five years. Looking back, two of those stories weren't up to snuff. The others, I still believe in and hold out hope of placing. I've been a longtime reader of DSF, and they publish quite a variety of stories. Here's hoping "Chamber of Delights" (584 words) is the first one of mine they like enough to publish.

As a bonus submission, I also sent "Starving Artist" (222 words) to Scum, a magazine I've been interested in for a while. They're open to submissions during the first seven days of each month and I thought of them when I was looking through stories for something to send to DSF.
  • Rejection from Lackington's for "The Urgings of Ravens." Sad. They did mention that their birds theme is open until September 15 . . . (off to look through my unpublished pile for anything applicable)
Thursday, September 5th: Trouble Among the Stars is a new venue for me. I appreciated that they have an issue or two available to read for free. It helps give a feel for what kind of stories and themes they like. So, I sent them "Under an Orange Sky" (4980 words). Wish me luck!

As a bonus, I revised and expanded a story about harpies to give Lackington's another try, hoping that were intending to encourage me to submit again from the wording of their rejection earlier. "Boy Chick" (1529 words) is now under consideration. I'm feeling very pleased with it right now, but the "ink" is still fresh on it, so we'll see :-)

Friday, September 6th: The suggested venue tonight was Asimov's, a prestigious science fiction magazine that has rejected four of my stories in the past. Looking at what I have available right now, I don't think I have a story that's a good fit for them (I have the impression that they like their scifi harder than what I usually write, and they've already rejected the hardest scifi I've written thus far), so I went to my submission opportunity calendar (just a sub-calendar in my google account where I record publication opportunities I run across and have interest in) to see where I might submit instead.

I found Claw & Blossom, a magazine with a focus on the natural world. I sent them "Persistence" (232 words) a bit of flash fiction I wrote last October and haven't yet found a home for, though I think it's among the more sadly beautiful things I have written.

I also had publication news today! Dave Higgins announced the release date for Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown, appropriately enough next Friday, a Friday-the-thirteenth!

I wrote "The Gleewoman of Preservation" specifically for this call, which was for stories about what frightens clowns. The cover is quite disturbing and I'm anxious to see what the other authors included came up with!

Saturday, September 7th: It's nice to get to this earlier in the day. Hurray for weekends!

Today's proposed venue is Analog Science Fiction and Fact, a professional level magazine (SFWA qualifying) that I'd love to see my work in. Since earning membership in SFWA is one of my personal goals, I've been submitting to this tier of magazines more frequently, though I have yet to have any work accepted by them. Higher, faster, further, baby!

Analog has rejected three of my stories previously.

I sent them "Gifts of the Mag Eyes" (7577 words) today. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, September 8th: Flash Fiction Online accepts stories between 500 and 1000 words, and "She Cries in the Night" is 999 words. That's got to be a sign, right? Guess we'll find out! FFO has rejected two of my stories in the past, so maybe this is a case of "third time's a charm."

No rejections in a few days, but no acceptances either. Having so many pieces out at the same time keeps me from spending much mental energy worrying over any one of them. An odd side effect of this challenge is feeling relieved when something gets rejected, because then I have it in my list of options to resubmit later in the month. My brain is a weird place.

Monday, September 9th: Every Day Fiction has rejected one of my stories and apparently I've only tried them the one time. I sent them "Rorschach's Ceiling" (593 words). It's a little more straight literary than what I usually write, but it looks like they publish quite a variety, so we'll see what they think.
  • I must have jinxed it by saying "no rejections" yesterday. Lackington's declined "Boy Chick" today. 
Tuesday, September 10th: Interzone was today's suggested venue. I hadn't actually heard of this one, though a little research tells me I ought to have. It's got a long and prestigious history. In my reckoning of the relative quality of all of my unpublished work, "Adam of the North" (7801 words) stands out. I'm proud of it and think it has potential to "make it big" so that's what I sent them.

Though I have never submitted to Interzone, poor Adam has had a rough go of it so far. He's been rejected by six other magazines, all of them bigger, SFWA-qualifying venues. Two of those came with comments (getting a rejection with comments is quite a compliment--many places just don't do that at all, and those that do, do so sparingly and a sign that the story was an "almost"), and I have revised a bit with those in mind, so here's hoping!

Wednesday, September 11th: The proposed venue tonight is Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Unfortunately, they clearly ask for stories with a strong secondary world feel, and everything I have ready at this point is more "real world with a twist."

So, instead I sent two short horror stories to an anthology call I read about in a Facebook group I follow for such things (Open Call, which BTW, is also where I found Ray and his September Submission challenge). Horror for the Throne wants 500-2000 word horror stories ("toilet read" lengths). They're offering $20 for reprints, so I sent them "Contamination" (502 words) and "Michael's Miracle" (1528 words), two stories previously published in magazines.

Thursday, September 12th: Three Lobe Burning Eye Magazine has previously rejected one of my short stories. I sent them "Boy Chick" because their submissions page says, "We like voices that are full of feeling, from literary to pulpy, with styles unique and flowing, but not too experimental. All labels aside, we want tales that expand genre, that value imagination in character, narrative, and plot." Sounds like they might like it.
  • Rejection: "Adam of the North" was rejected by Interzone with a simple, but friendly form letter. Poor Adam. No one loves him like I do. At least not yet.  
Friday, September 13th: Busy busy night here at home. And I'm ahead on number of submissions, so I let tonight go. No submissions. And hey, also no rejections :-)

Saturday, September 14th: Today's proposed venue is Electric Spec. I sent them "Wonderboy's Last Flight" in late June and haven't heard back yet (their own estimates on the website say: "This can take a few days, or, up to three months."). The submission guidelines specifically ask that you only send one story at a time (which is my general policy anyway), so I can't send them anything right now.

So, I went to my own calendar of publication opportunities again and found Shenendoah. I'm intrigued by their enthusiasm to publish excerpts from novels-in-progress: "NOVEL EXCERPTS under 8,000 words will be considered with great enthusiasm. Beth plans to publish an excerpt from a novel-in-progress during each issue of Shenandoah, with a note from the author about their process and what it’s like to be in the middle of a big project. She knows writers at this stage need support, and would like Shenandoah to be a place where they can get some." I sent them some of The Architect and the Heir, my current WIP, a gothic romance novel.
  • Rejection: "She Cries in the Night" was politely declined (form letter) by Flash Fiction Online.
Sunday, September 15th: Halfway through the challenge, I sent "She Cries in the Night" to Not One of Us, a venue looking for explorations of the problem of "otherness." As of today, I've sent out 18 submissions (some of them the same story rejected and sent back out), and received six rejections.

Monday, September 16th: Today's proposed venue is Strange Horizons, a magazine which has previously rejected four of my short stories. I'd tried my longer work on them in the past and noted today that they while they accept stories up to 10,000 words, they state a preference for stories under 5,000 words. So, I decided to send them something shorter. "Moondance" (1502 words). Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 17th: The Future Fire is a new venue for me. Their submissions page "welcomes submissions of speculative fiction with progressive, inclusive and socially aware disposition. We are particularly interested in feminist, queer, postcolonial and ecological themes, and writing by under-represented voices." I sent them "Urgings of Ravens." Let's see what they think of it. 
  • Polite rejection from Horror for the Throne, salving the wound by talking about the large number of submission received. 
Wednesday, September 18th: Chrome Baby is another magazine I'd not yet encountered. I read a couple of stories as I poked around the site trying to decide what among my own work might appeal to them. My quick reconnoiter suggests that they prefer their fiction dark and angsty. I sent "Black Birds at Dawn" (696 words) a piece I ran back across when looking for something else in the past few days.

This challenge definitely has me combing through old documents seeing what I've got that I never did anything with. For that alone, I value this work, though of course I still hope that at least one of these submissions will come to fruition.

Thursday, September 19: Instead of Ray's proposed venue for tonight, I went to my personal submissions opportunity calendar and found The Furious Gazelle's Halloween contest. I'm a huge fan of Halloween (hence my 31 days of Halloween posts last year) and had a few different stories I thought might do well.

The contest allows for up to 5,000 words in whatever combination you'd like up to five pieces. I sent four flash fiction pieces: "Element of Surprise" (593 words), "The Captain's House" (249 words), "What Geraldine Saw" (1419 words), and "Cure for Pain" (266 words).

Three of those began as part of #nightmarefuel a flash fiction prompt writing event I often participate in during October. "What Geraldine Saw" had felt unfinished to me when I last revisited it, so I worked on it tonight before sending, adding about 700 words and bringing it to a much more satisfying ending place.

Friday, September 20: The proposed venue today is Syntax & Salt, a new venue for me. The tone of the submission page is maybe just a bit, well, salty. I like that, so I went digging for something to send them. I found "What I Can See" (711 words) which hopefully strikes that balance of "speculative fiction with a literary bent" they asked for.

At this point, most of my previously submitted work is back out there being considered, so I'm pushing through work that has been languishing in my Finished? folder (literally the name of the folder: where I put stories that I "finished" but haven't spent the time to work over and make publication ready, or stories I have doubts are actually finished and plan to come back to some day). So, that's a bonus for me, in that it creates more work, that at least in my own opinion, is publication ready.

Saturday, September 21: Too much life in my life today and I didn't get to submit anything at all. Luckily, I am ahead on number of submissions, so I'm still on track with my challenge.

Sunday, September 22: It's a home project heavy weekend, but I found a little time for submissions today and sent "Adam of the North" (7801 words) to AGNI. AGNI is a new venue to me.

This line from their submissions page caught my eye: "We do not publish genre romance, horror, mystery, or science fiction; however, we are open to writing that borrows elements from any of these." I take that to mean that if a story "feels" literary, it can use nonrealistic elements and be welcomed at AGNI.

I have mixed feelings about that. As a "genre writer" I do get frustrated with the literary snobbiness and how some speculative fiction is okay so long as its not categorized as speculative fiction, like it's the category and not the actual quality that matters. I read and write both, so we'll see what they make of Adam, a story that's "literary" in its origins (in Frankenstein: one of the oldest "genre" books there is, but one that gets studied in college).

  • Rejection: Claw and Blossom passed on "Persistence." 
  • Rejection: Speculative City declined "The New Guy." They use a system called Green Submissions as their submissions manager. I've submitted to a couple of other magazines that use it, and it is my least favorite of all submissions managers I've worked with so far. Even though I carefully track my passwords, Green Submissions always tells me my password is incorrect, so I had to go through a password reset process just to read my form rejection. Annoying. 

________________________________


Check back later to see how the rest of the month goes. I'll update with what I'm submitting and how it goes for me!



Thursday, August 29, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Wrong Time




The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with "Snow Scene" by Eric de Kolb. You can buy copies of it at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/a-winter-scene-eric-de-kolb.html Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: CloudyClearSunnyRain, Wind
______________________________________

Wrong Time

The three gentlemen from the Hebron Anachronist Society set out in into the snow.

"Tomás" led the way, in keeping with his role as Grand Inquisitor, followed by "Diego". "Adrian" lagged behind. He hadn't enjoyed playing Spanish Inquisition as much as the other men, and wished he could find a graceful way to bow out of this side trip into the Paper Cutter's Forest.

It was a popular tourist destination, and it was "so nearby" the Inquisition theme park. The forest did have a kind of grandeur, but he really just wanted to go home, to go back to being plain old Jeff, a mid-level accountant whom no one feared and who wore khakis and simple blue shirts to work instead of dark woolen cassocks that grew horribly heavy when the hems were dragged through snow.

He had tired of the game, and of the company of the other men, who proved far more gung-ho than he was about the whole thing. Maybe he wasn't meant for live action role playing. Perhaps he was better suited to reading about history than for trying to recreate it. It had certainly felt very real in the simulation and he hadn't liked it. Knowing about a Judas Cradle was one thing. Seeing one used…Jeff shuddered. Not an experience he'd forget soon, and he rather wished he could.

Standing still, he looked out at the landscape of beautifully sculpted, flat renditions of trees that stretched skyward. They were so very black against the stark whiteness of the snow, just as he was in the cassock and galero he'd had made for the event.

Beneath, he wore a soft light blue tee shirt that his ex-girlfriend had purchased for him. Even though she had long since moved on, he still wore the shirt whenever he needed comforting. He forgot what the material was called, but it was far nicer than anything he had ever purchased for himself and rubbing his hands across the material always soothed him. He undid a few buttons and slid his hand between to pinch the material between his fingers.

The lacy trees were placed very evenly and the view of them was an exercise in perspective. Jeff knew the exhibit couldn't be as large as it appeared and wondered about the technologies used to make it appear so endless. It really did seem to go one for miles, the trees growing smaller and smaller the further he looked.

While he'd stood contemplating the landscape, "Tomás" and "Diego" had moved on. A long string of footprints made a path leading deeper into the Paper Cutter's Forest. His companions were far enough ahead that he could no longer see them. Jeff pulled a foot out and shook it, noting the way the wet globs of snow clung to the black wool of his pants.

With one last glance at the forest, Jeff turned and followed his own tracks back to where they had started. He'd message, making some excuse about why he hadn't followed. Maybe next year, he should try another time period. He'd heard good things about the French Revolution group in Alexandria. It was only an hour or so's drive. No one knew him there. He could start again.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Wind



The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with the "A Matter of Time" by Matt Dixon. It is part of his "Transmissions" line, which you can see more of at https://www.mattdixon.co.uk/. Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: Cloudy, Clear, Sunny, Rain
______________________________________


Undisturbed

Red leaves blew across the forest floor, spinning into eddies and dancing their way in and out of patches of sunlight. No one admired their graceful flight. It had been a long time since anyone had, but leaves need no audience to bring beauty to the earth.

The trees had grown tall in the undisturbed forest, their limbs strong, their branches long and reaching. They groaned when the breeze became forceful, bending gracefully in the gust, but keeping rooted deeply in the quiet earth. They would stand for quite some time yet. Trees do not find it lonely to grow side by side under an empty sky.

One of the trees had spread wider than the others, its trunk shaping itself around a small metallic man, curled there as if he slept. Of course, he didn't sleep. He was dead--at least as dead as things that were never quite alive can be. No animating power was likely to move his slender arms or light the dark holes that had invited interpretation as eyes.

The creatures that made him were long gone, and he lay cradled in the hollow space, protected from the worst of the rains, looking much as he had when he first lay down, though it had now been many seasons. He had been made of sturdy materials, dug from the earth and formed into this shape, practical for his role as servant to his creators.

Perhaps somewhere, something observed, grieving for what had been, but the trees feel no sorrow, for they have all they need.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Rain


The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with the painting "Miss" by Wang Ling, who posts on Deviant Art as wlop.. Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: Cloudy, Clear, Sunny
______________________________________

Kiki noticed the boy right away of course.

He was standing right in the middle of the alley, umbrella up, gaze on the ground. Unlike most people caught on the street in the downpour, he didn't seem to be trying to get anywhere or seeking additional shelter. He hadn't moved except to shift from one foot to another during the ten minutes Kiki had huddled under the canopy of the noodle shop waiting to see if the rain would break.

Between the distance and the rain, she couldn't really tell if he was handsome. Not that his beauty should have been her first consideration, but she enjoyed a pleasant view as much as anyone and his fashion-conscious clothes attracted her eye. His stillness was intriguing. He seemed neither to take pleasure in the rain, nor to resent its presence. If not for the umbrella, one might think him unaware of it.

At last the sky lightened, a pinkish glow visible at the end of the narrow street. The rain slowed a little and Kiki decided it was her moment. Her first step into the street thrust her foot into a puddle that was deeper than it had seemed, soaking her boot and splashing water up her bare legs. Though the summer rain was not cold, she shivered, thinking about how dirty the water must be, having collected in the street. She promised herself a hot bath when she got home and chose her next steps more carefully, skirting the brownish pools that filled the potholes.

Her zigzag trajectory took her near the boy and she peered at him as her shoulder passed his. He didn't react to her nearness and disappointment washed over her, even though she hadn't realized she was hoping for something--a bit of adventure maybe, or just a flirtatious exchange of smiles. It was silly. She kept walking.

In the distance, she heard voices calling. "Yoshi! Yoshi! Where are you?"

Struck by the thought that her mysterious stranger might be the Yoshi the voices sought, she turned to look back. The boy had not moved. "Yoshi?"

His head turned just slightly, though he still did not look at her.

She tried again, turning to face him in the street. "Yoshi?"

He spun on a heel, a graceful pirouette that ended in the same position he'd started in, but facing her now. She gasped with delight in his movement, realizing what he was at the same time: a simulacrum, probably wandered too far from its source. That's why it had stopped there. It was at the limit of its scope.

She reached out a hand. "Come, Yoshi. Let's get you back home. They're looking for you."

It lifted its head, the damp hair flipping out of its face. Kiki could see why someone would want to memorialize this boy--he'd been beautiful, with large, clear eyes set widely in an open face. If she had to guess, Kiki would say he'd been a musician or a poet, which might also explain why he'd been lost so young and why someone would have a simulacrum made.

She herself had considered it and might have done it if she'd been a richer woman--though now, after three years of grieving, she thought a simulacrum might do more to keep the pain alive than to help someone heal. It was like volunteering to be haunted. Kiki wasn't sure that it was wise, to hold onto the past so strongly, to refuse to give up the dead. But it was a popular trend, however troubling.

She wiggled the fingers she still held toward the boy and he took them. "Do you know where you live?" she asked.

It nodded and gave her the address. Its voice was indistinguishable from a human voice. She knew the street. It wasn't far from her own. "You know you can't just wander off. You have to stay near your source."

"I know," it said. "It's just…" He paused and they stood together in the rain. Kiki heard the voices calling in the distance again. The simulacrum's face--Yoshi's face--twisted into a grimace. She hadn't known their faces could be so expressive.

"It's just that I make her cry," he finished.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Summer's End


LeSigh. Can summer really already be over? I didn't get it all done again, of course. Doing *everything* I want to do every summer would require at least five women, and my cloning experiments failed (my daughters turned out to be their own women, with their own things they want to do).

Still, it was a good summer. As I start to have end-of-summer panic, I need to remind myself of that.

Longtime readers already know that I'm a middle school Spanish teacher in my day job, and that writing novels is my secret identity (which I'm trying to make less secret, so people will know I write books and maybe even buy them).

So, summer is, in part, about self-care and recovery for me. It's also my time to live life as a full time writer for a few weeks. So, I'm always trying to balance writing productivity with rest and recuperation and progress on all those life tasks that are hard to complete when I'm not available during business hours (August-June).

To feel good, I really need all three things: rest, writing, and life/project time.

As I write this, I'm at the beach, making sure that I end my time with sea salt on my skin and a brain scrubbed clean by sand. I did pretty well on the rest and recuperation angle.

I walked damn near every day with my dog, ate breakfast (a luxury I can't find time for during school), read sixteen books (and may finish another one or two this week), visited my parents for a few days, took a nap a few times (I'm terrible at napping, even when I need to), and watched more television than I watched in the entire six previous months (I finished a few shows: Good OmensWynonna EarpThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Black Lightning, The Boys, and, of course, Stranger Things). I started Downton Abbey, so that'll probably take me all school year to finish now :-)

Home/life productivity gets a middling score. There was one big thing I wanted to get done involving paperwork and I didn't get there, because I couldn't find all the right pieces. I admit to procrastinating on looking, and I'm mad at my past self for being so bad at sticking to ONE organizational system for important papers so you can find them when you need them. Luckily there isn't a hard deadline on that one, so I can keep looking and get it done this fall.

I did work out some financing for a home improvement project that will make a big difference to our lives, and I did get my home office several steps closer to the space I want it to be. I'm especially proud of that since everything I've done in there, I've paid for with writing money only (which is why it's all DIY and second hand, but still: I paid for it with my writing money).

Some of my home/life project energies went to my oldest daughter, helping her arrange her college monies for fall and move into her FIRST APARTMENT! (yikes, I'm old).

Writing went well. I set aside the novel I've been working on for the past year (YA dystopian romance, working title: Thursday's Children). It needs more time to simmer before I can get that dish ready to serve and I finally admitted it.

I started a new novel (gothic romance, working title: The Architect and The Heir) and made lots of progress on my first all-indie project, a collection of 13 weird tales I plan to release this Halloween, choosing and organizing the stories, self-editing, arranging for cover art and professional proofreading, and learning some new software for formatting.



My daily writing chain is now 2,144 days longs (nearly six years), and summer's work included nearly 35,000 words on the new novel. It's flowing well, which speaks to the importance of following your passion in your writing (another balance: between focus and dogged stubbornness).

I've wanted to write a gothic romance since I first read one, when I was around eleven years old. It took me a while to actually do it, but it's the most fun I've had since the first Menopausal Superhero novel.

I think I probably wrote this post primarily for myself, to look back on in a couple of weeks when I'm haranguing myself and accusing myself of having wasted my entire summer once I'm buried up to the neck in schoolwork. After all, I hold myself to very high expectations on a lot of fronts. I'm meaner to myself than I would ever be to anyone else. So, it's good to make myself admit from time to time, that I got this!