Wednesday, November 6, 2019

IWSG: Lowered Expectations

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 November 6 posting of the IWSG are  Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie! I hope you'll check out their blogs as well as some of the others on this blog hop after you see what I have to say.

My insecurities are beating me up right now.

I finally have to admit I bit off more than I can chew.

I'm not good at that. I think I can do everything.

That can-do stubbornness serves me well on some fronts, keeping me from caving to pressure or giving up just because something is difficult, but it's a two-edged sword that cuts back sometimes, too.

And Stories from Shadow Hill has been postponed, which breaks my heart.

I planned to release my first all-indie project for Halloween. It's a collection of thirteen weird tales called Stories from Shadow Hill, set in an imaginary suburban neighborhood with suspicious similarities to the one I live in, but with more interesting (and supernatural) causes for the weirdness.

I thought I had planned it out well. I'd done a lot of research and had what I thought was a good understanding of what exactly I needed to do and what it would cost.

I hired an editor for proofreading, found a book cover designer, and taught myself the layout software (Vellum is super easy, at least at a base level, by the way).

But then I ran into two problems: money and time.

Indie publishing can be expensive, especially for your first project, when you don't already a system in place.

My expenses:

  1. Buying layout software: Vellum $249.99 for unlimited ebooks and paperbacks
  2. Hiring a cover made: $100 from a freelancing friend who gave me her "friends and family" discount
  3. Hiring proofreading: $620 from a freelancer who approached me through Facebook some months ago. 
  4. Getting a logo made for my imprint: $25 from a freelancing friend, giving me a "friends and family" discount again
  5. Buying ISBN numbers: $295 for 10 (they're a better deal the more you buy at once, and I intend to put out more indie projects in the future, so I thought I'd start with 10). 
I managed 1-4 over the course of a few months by living spare and robbing Peter to pay Paul. But when it came time for #4, I was out of money. My hot water heater needed sudden replacement, my summer teaching paychecks were light, and there went my Bowker money. My parents gave me my holiday money early (thanks Mom and Dad!), but I needed most of that to get copies of my already-published work for my fall and winter author events. 

Couple this with my time problems, and you see my dilemma. 

I was trying to keep my regular writing life going. Doing my October tradition of writing one piece of flash fiction every day as part of the Nightmare Fuel Project AND processing my edits from that proofreader was just too many hours work for the hours I was able to devote (I can get 1-2 hours a day for writing life during the school year, tops). 

And I was stubborn, not wanting to let anything go. Maybe I could have done it if I had given up Nightmare Fuel, but I *love* Nightmare Fuel. Maybe I could have let that Instagram October Author Challenge go, but I was enjoying it and it was increasing my reach on social media. Maybe I could have given up my day job, but I like eating and having a roof over my head. I tried giving up sleep and just ended up with a crick in my neck from falling asleep in my chair.

In the end, I had to admit I couldn't get the project ready by October 31. Especially since I had only a basic understanding of Vellum and might still need to seek advice and help from more experienced colleagues if I run into snags. 

So, now I don't know exactly when I am going to get this project out. October came and went and I still have a distressingly long to-do list: 
  1. Process the other half of the edits (complicated by grammar differences between my Canadian editor and my American writing style--lots of second guessing and researching whether what she marked is an error or a national preference)
  2. Format the book in Vellum (which has subset jobs of #3 and #4 below)
  3. Finalize the print version of the cover
  4. Finalize the imprint logo
  5. Buy ISBNs
  6. Learn to navigate uploads to Amazon
  7. Make my decisions about exclusivity to Amazon or going wide
  8. Promote the book

November is supposed to be for NaNoWriMo, finishing the first draft of the Gothic romance I started writing this summer, so I can get it out in 2020.

I'd love to hear from other creatives about how you manage all the demands of indie creation, especially if you, like me, manage it with a day job and keep your sanity. How do you keep heart when you have to lower your expectations?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Halloween Viewing: Tim Burton Favs

My youngest daughter is even *more* into Halloween than I am, so we are both so gleeful the entire month that it's a wonder the rest of the Bryants can deal with us at all.

One way we're enjoying is by watching Halloween movies. We're on a Tim Burton kick right now. His aesthetic is right there in that middle ground between whimsical and disturbing…which could probably describe us as well (though there's less mascara and lace involved for us). She's already seen and loved The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, 9, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland. I'm planning to share a few more Burton favorites with her across the season.

But, the youngest Bryant had never seen The Corpse Bride (at least not that she can remember), so we kicked off our season with that.  I found it slower than I remembered (thought still good), but she really enjoyed it.

My take: I had forgotten the lovely wedding vows. Really some of the most romantic ones I've heard. It was also very sweet how the two misfit children whose families were trying to use them for social gain actually had a connection and some hope of making each other happy in the end. A more romantic story overall than I remembered.

Her take: She loved Scraps, Victor's dead dog (who reminded her of Zero from Nightmare Before Christmas), but agreed with me that the Peter Lorre aping worm was grosser than funny. She knew almost from his entrance that Barkis Bittern was going to turn out to be the long lost "love" of the Bride. Kids these days, so steeped in tropes it's hard to surprise them.

Next we tried on Sweeney Todd.

I fell in love with this musical as a college student, listening to the Broadway recording with Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett and Len Cariou as Sweeney. So, when this movie version was announced, I was hyped. I was pretty sure the youngest Bryant would love it too.

My take: Visually, it's quite a treat, gritty and atmospheric. I quite enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter's Mrs. Lovett both in singing and acting, and she has great onscreen chemistry with Johnny Depp. Johnny's Sweeney was better in visuals and speaking than singing (I loved the way he held his jaw--so stiff, seething with suppressed emotions). He was "not bad" on the singing. If I didn't already know the music as voiced by Cariou, I might have liked his take better (much like I felt about Hugh Jackman's Valjean) . The best moment in Depp's performance, in my opinion, is when Todd snaps the rest of the way and goes from wanting specific vengeance to decide that "they all deserve to die."

Her take: She's becoming quite a Sondheim fan, having been enamored of Into the Woods for a year or two now. She loved the lyric complexity. She wasn't as sure about the obviously fake over-red blood for the gory scenes. She said it pulled her out of it too much, but she conceded it might have been "too horrible" if the blood had looked realistic. We agreed at the end that poor Johanna and Toby were damaged for life by the trauma of having wandered into this story.

Next up, I'm planning to show her Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow, both of which I enjoyed when they were new and haven't really seen since. My girl likes Winona Ryder, both in Stranger Things and in some of her younger roles (Heathers, Beetlejuice), so I think she'll enjoy them.

Any other Tim Burton fans out there? Which ones are your favorites and why? Any that you don't recommend?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

October Frights: Nightmare Fuel: The Other Jack

Welcome to the October Frights Blog Hop! I'm Samantha Bryant. If you visit here regularly, you already know that I'm a Halloween fan (if you're new here: Welcome to the Madhouse!).

Last year at this time, I posted a blog series on 31 days of Halloween. My *favorite* thing the past few years though, has been #nightmarefuel

The Nightmare Fuel Project is the brainchild of Bliss Morgan, a talented friend whose work you should definitely check out!

Each day in October, she posts a creepy picture prompt and invites anyone who wants to play along to create something macabre or magnificent and post it for the group to enjoy. This is my third year playing along, writing creepy flash fiction each night in celebration of spooky season.

Here's my favorite of what I've written so far this year. You can check out all my creepy flash fiction for the project on my Facebook page.

The Other Jack

Jimmy’s room wasn’t really a room, it was more like a partition. His mother had found some smoky plexiglass somewhere and used it to divide the space into two tiny bedrooms, each barely big enough for the bed and a narrow chest of drawers that was also the desk and the nightstand. It wasn’t much, but it gave him and his brother a little illusion of privacy, something that mattered more now that his brother was older.

Jimmy had to pretend he didn’t hear a lot of things these days, especially if Mom wasn’t home. He’d never tell, of course. Brothers didn’t rat on each other, even if the girls were mean or the smoke smelled weird.

But he missed the nights when Jack would turn a light on the plexiglass wall and make shadowpuppets for him or press his face against the wall smooshing it comically and getting them both in trouble for wild laughter.

Laying on his bed drawing, Jimmy heard a tap on the glass. He jumped. He hadn’t thought Jack was home. He looked over his shoulder and saw a hand laying against the glass. He laid his own over it on his side of the wall and Jack spread his fingers wide so Jimmy could compare the size of his hand to his brother’s. Jack was almost ten years older than Jimmy, so catching up was taking a long time, but he felt sure his hand was bigger than it had been the last time. Pleased he knocked three times, their secret signal for happiness. Jack didn’t respond.

The hand moved away and Jimmy went back to his drawing. The cat-man he had invented was having an undersea adventure this time and Jimmy was having a hard time getting the bubble helmet to look the way he wanted to. After a few tries, he threw the wadded up paper at the wall in frustration.

There were two hands on the wall now, pressed flat enough that Jimmy could trace the lines in the palms. Jack was pushing hard, like he wanted to come through the plexiglass wall instead of climbing over his bed to get to the narrow hallway like a normal person. The makeshift wall scraped against the ceiling, groaning like a train car. “Stop it Jack! You’ll get in trouble if you break it.”

The pressure released. Jack could be crazy sometimes, but Jimmy could usually get him to stop before it got too bad. Just as he was thinking about picking up his drawing again, the hands were back, clenched into fists this time and pounding against the wall, making it scrape and groan and shake ominously. Jimmy yelled “Stop it Jack! Stop it!”

At the foot of his bed, the door opened. “Stop what, Squirt?” Jack leaned in, still wearing his fast-food tee shirt.

“J-J-Jack?” Jimmy pointed at the wall behind him, wordlessly. The Other Jack still pounded the surface again and again and when Jimmy turned to look, he thought the fists might be bleeding. His mouth went completely dry.

Suddenly, Jack had him by the armpits and was pulling him out of the trailer into the chilly night, barefoot. The two of them got into the car and Jack was backing away, driving before Jimmy had even put on the seatbelt. “Where are we going?”

Jack didn’t answer him. He was on the phone, talking fast to someone, He said their address and said there was an intruder. He said he didn’t know where their mother was. He said other stuff, too, but Jimmy couldn’t understand--it was hard to hear over the squealing inside his head. Then, his brother was shaking him, telling him it was okay.

There were blue lights flashing and a woman with a flashlight and a clipboard. There was yelling and a loud bang. An ambulance that took away someone. Jimmy wasn’t allowed to see. Jack held him too tightly, kept Jimmy’s head pressed against his chest.

It was years before Jack got the full story of the night his mother died and he almost died, too. They told him his mother was a hero, that he was lucky. She’d trapped the man in Jack’s room with her. If Jack hadn’t gotten home when he did . . .

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed, please check out the rest of my site to see what else I'm up to, or subscribe to my newsletter (no more than one email per month). I've got a collection of Weird Tales coming out at the end of the month! Stories from Shadow Hill is a series of weird and macabre tales that take place on the dark side of a suburban neighborhood suspiciously similar to the one I live in . . . Details will be forthcoming in my next newsletter!

Be sure to also check out Deadman Humour, my most recent publication. This creepy anthology is a collection of stories about what scares clowns. My story "The Gleewoman of Preservation" shows that there are things scarier than clowns in the woods near Preservation.

If ghost stories are more your style, you can read my daylight ghost story, "The Girl in the Pool" in Off the Beaten Path 3 from Prospective Press, alongside some excellent ghostly tales from other fabulous authors. 

Remember to hop on over to check out the other participants' offerings as well.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Arcachne and Her Sisters

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.

You can check out my stories for Season 2 (weather) here: CloudyClearSunnyRainWindSnow

And for Season 1 (beginnings) here: InfancyMorningTravelMeetingFirst SnowCeremony

For Season 3, the theme is creatures and this week's inspiration is a friendly arachnid by Rose Tursi, whose work can be found at: My post from last week can be viewed here.

Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

The nicest thing about having been transformed into a spider was all the extra limbs. All eight of her appendages were dextrous and agile, strong and useful for a variety of tasks, from weaving to climbing. 

The worst thing had been the revulsion. Arachne couldn't really blame her sisters for their reactions. She had once felt the same way about spiders, skittering, skulking creatures watching you with far too many eyes. When her sisters returned to their chambers and found her clinging to the massive glittering web she had constructed in her first few hours as a spider, the screaming nearly brought down the house. 

Luckily, her youngest sister, Alethea, had witnessed the entire contest with Athena and was able to keep their eldest sister, Ademia, from squashing her with a shoe. Ademia still screwed her face up like she'd been eating lemons every time she looked at her once-favorite sister, but she left Arachne in peace, so long as she constrained her weaving to designated areas. 

The webs she wove now put her earlier creations in tapestry to shame. Thread was so thick and clumsy in comparison to spider silk. And she could work so quickly! 

Alethea had been such a dear, waiting patiently while Arachne wove her messages in webwork and doing her best to get the things that her sister wanted for her happiness in her new life. 

Only today, she'd managed to find the tiniest of teapots and to assist Arachne in brewing lemon olive tea. Drinking it was almost like being human again. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG: Writers Who Don't Read

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 October 2 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor! Be sure to check out what they have to say, too.

This month's question: - It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Okay. I don't take many hard stances in my life. 

I know that nearly every circumstance is smeary and gray in the boundaries rather than crisply clear with lines delineating "good" and "bad." 

Ambiguity is where the interest lies, in life and in fiction. 

But here, I draw a line. A firm, bold, uncrossable line. 

Writers must read. 

Reading is the number one best method to improve your craft, and every writer I've met who has told me they don't read has disappointed me on the page if I got that far. 

Generally when I meet a writer who tells me they don't read, they spend a lot of time talking about other kinds of story: film and television mostly. 

Film and television are lovely. I enjoy both a great deal, given the time. 

But they are not books and if you are trying to write books that are like film and television, you are ignoring the bulk of the magic, limiting yourself to visual, cinematic view and losing out on all the other senses, and interior life. 

As for the argument that not reading means your ideas are new and original? 

Hogwash, I say. 

Not reading just means you're influenced by non-literary things (film and television, mostly). 

Unless you go full-on hermit and shut out the world entirely, you are a human moving through the world and are influenced by it. 

There's no purity of vision to be had, immaculately contained in a bubble of only your own making. We're all made of and by our experiences, both literary and other. 

Now, "I'm not reading much right now" or "I don't read in the genre I'm writing while I'm writing it" are not the same thing as "I don't read." 

Lulls happen. Everyone has to find their own process. 

But not reading at all? 

Sometimes I miss the way I read before I was serious about my writing. It was easier to lose myself in the world and not analyze what the author was doing while I read. But that doesn't mean I'd ever give up reading! When I *do* get that truly immersive feeling, I know I've found a wonder of a book because it made it past my writer-vision and got all the way to my underlying story-loving brain. 

What do you think, friends of the internet? Do you have an example to prove me wrong? A writer who doesn't read but still writes compelling fiction themselves? I'd love to hear form you in the comments. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Wording Wednesday: At Least There's Still Coffee

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.

You can check out my stories for Season 2 (weather) here: Cloudy, Clear, Sunny, Rain, Wind, Snow

And for Season 1 (beginnings) here: Infancy, Morning, Travel, Meeting, First Snow, Ceremony

For Season 3, the theme is creatures and we begin with "Warm and Fuzzy" by Mateo Dineen. This piece and others can be seen on the artist's website at

Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.


Herbert hadn't been sure what to think when his transformation had begun. It had started as a strange patch of green fur on chest, there among the wiry white wisps standing out against his brown skin He noticed it one day in the shower and scrubbed at it, but didn't worry too much when it didn't wash away. In his years as a contractor, he'd stained his skin and hair a variety of colors. It always wore off eventually.

He'd never been good about going to the doctor, especially for ailments that seemed more like nuisances than real problems. What did he care what color his chest hair was? But, it hadn't remained a change he could hide under a flannel shirt. One morning he woke to find it had spread down his arms and back. The next, on his cheeks. His body seemed to be shifting as well, flattening in some areas and broadening in others.

He decided to try the walk-in clinic early the next morning. Generally, if you went early enough you didn't have to wait that long. He could probably still make it to his kitchen rehab job on time. Chances were they'd just take his blood and tell him they'd call him about the results later anyway.

He liked to tease the pretty young phlebotomist about her relationship with Vlad the Impaler. The girl was always nice enough to smile at his poor attempts at humor, even though she probably heard some version of that joke from every older man she stuck.

Thinking about the phlebotomist, he didn't take notice of the number of cars in the parking lot until he'd walked into the waiting room and realized with a start that it was jam-packed with a crowd of colorful characters.

Colorful not in the sense of big personality, but literally in rainbow hues. A woman with pink fur sticking out in tufts around the neck of her white sweater had an arm around a child whose flesh was a startling, vibrant blue. A group of purple, roundish women gathered around the coffeepot. A forest green man leaned into a corner and snored loudly. Herbert rubbed his eyes, but the scene didn't change.

"Herbert?" a voice called. "It get you, too?"

Herbert turned and saw a man standing over by the window, thumbs hooked in the belt loops on his jeans and suspenders holding up the pants. "Jimmy?" It couldn't be, could it? But who else wore suspenders like that?

"Yep," he answered. "It's me." He brushed a long, white forelock off his furry pink face with an equally furry paw-like hand. "I thought I'd had too much to drink at first, but I've been sober almost a week now, and I'm still pink."

Herbert nodded, his gaze bouncing across the room. He tried to identify people he knew among the muppet-like creatures that waited in the cheap plastic chairs, but it was no easy task. "They know what's going on yet?"

Jimmy shook his preternaturally large head, making the wisp of white hair wobble like a horse's mane. "Not yet."

Herbert headed for the door. "Come on then. Let's go to the diner. We might as well get some coffee while we wait." He scanned the room again, meeting set after set of strange eyes, oblong, slitted, and distorted. "I think the doc will be a while."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Literary vs. Genre Fiction: Are We Still Arguing About This?
As a speculative fiction writer, I run into the literary vs. genre fiction divide often.

Literary sorts can be dismissive of spec fic, suggesting that it's "just entertainment" and doesn't "enrich the mind."

Genre fiction sorts can be dismissive of literary fiction, suggesting that it's "navel-gazing" or "boring" or "self-indulgent."

They're both right and they're both wrong.

The worst of genre fiction can lack depth (though sometimes, a lack of depth is just what I need: I'm all for a good escapist read from time to time) and the worst of literary fiction can be eye-rollingly self-important.

Luckily, I try to read the best of both instead.

When I introduce myself as a speculative fiction author, people are often surprised how "well read" I am. That's another term that gets on my nerves, as it places a judgment on the value of what people read, suggesting that some books make you "well read" and others--well, I guess the opposite would be "poorly read"?

I help run the First Monday Classic Book Club at my library with another speculative fiction writer, , and more than one attendee has been surprised to discover kinds of things we write.  James and I can talk with you about Les Miserables or Wolverine, whichever you'd prefer, or about how Jean Valjean and Logan share loner/hidden hero characteristics, as well as harboring secret physical gifts.
James Maxey

I was an English major, and my Master's degree is also in English. But, even before I started climbing that ivory tower, I was already a voracious reader.

I like to think of myself as omnivorous when it comes to books. I'll try reading anything. I wish more people would be a little more open to considering the value of other kinds of art.

I love comic books AND classic literature and this doesn't feel like a dichotomy to me.

Good story is good story. Compelling writing is compelling writing. A story about non-realistic things is just as likely to make me ponder deeply as one about realistic things. Maybe even more likely because it won't feel pedantic and un-artistically direct.

And *so much* classic and literary fiction plays with speculative elements. Isn't "magical realism" just literary speak for "speculative fiction"? Isn't Margaret Atwood, Guggenheim Fellowship and Booker Award winner, also a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the author of one of the best dystopian works ever written? (Handmaid's Tale). Didn't Jane Eyre have a gothic moment when she heard her love cry to her across the distance? Isn't Mary Shelley's Frankenstein read by genre and literary fiction fans?

Isn't it time we set this one aside folks? Different strokes for different folks and my preferred reads aren't better than yours. There's no objective scale for measuring these things, and if we're going by the test of time and seeing what endures? There's a lot of both kinds of literature still kicking after all these years.

Do you find you have biases against certain kinds of books? Or regard them as lower quality because of genre alone? Do you run into those attitudes in your reading circles? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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!



Barnes & Noble


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 19th: 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 20th: 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 21st: 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 22nd: 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" with a polite form letter. 
  • 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. 
  • Rejection: Scum passed on "Starving Artist," with a polite form letter. 
Monday, September 23rd: Today's proposed venue is Sirius Science Fiction, a blog based magazine from Lou Antonelli. I enjoyed the humor of the most recently published story, so I thought I'd given them a try and sent them "The New Guy" freshly returned from the publication mines. No other writing news today.

Tuesday, September 24th: The Weird and Whatnot sounds like my kind of magazine--thanks for the tip, Ray. So, I sent them "Starving Artist" (2011 words, the longer version). No other writing news today, though I did make some revisions on the beginning of my novel (which I've let languish while I spent my limited writing time each day on the business of submitting my work).

Wednesday, September 25th: Wordfire Press is putting together a fun anthology. The Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Anthology asks for "Original short stories that feature a monster in a movie setting, to include a mix of science fiction, fantasy, horror, alien, magical, witchcraft, AI, and romance elements. Must be appropriate for a “PG-13” audience. Please, no copyrighted characters and no real movies."

Sounds fun. I'll have to watch for this one to read, even if they don't take my story. I'm a fan of old monster movies. The Gill-man is my favorite, though I haven't written any stories with him, so I'm sending them a vampire story "The Cleaning Lady" (643 words).

  • Rejection today, but not technically part of this challenge, since the submission was from July. Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly also uses Green Submissions, which also did not accept my password and made me go through a password reset process just to read a form rejection. I don't think I'll submit to anything else that uses Green Submissions. Too annoying. 
Thursday, September 26th: Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores has previously rejected one of my short stories. Today, I sent them "The Satyr and the Maiden" (583 words). I took the opportunity to revise it just a little, and I like it all the better for the small changes.

Friday, September 27th: Oh my but today is busy! I've got a teacher workday followed by a girl scout meeting and then an evening reading event at the library.

But I was determined to fit in a submission. It appears that today's proposed venue, Compelling Science Fiction, is closing. So, I went to my own collection on my submission calendar and found Event, an interesting-sounding Canadian literary magazine. I have a little piece called "The Beginning of You" (688 words) which is a sort of hybrid, hard-to-categorize piece. I've begun trying it in more literary venues, so we'll see what Event thinks.

I also received acknowledgement of a submission from last week, a note from my audiobook editor letting me know that she'd making progress on the first book (yay!), and a note from an anthology editor checking to see if I can meet a deadline to be included in the next volume (which I totally can!). So, pretty good for a day when I feel like a chicken with its head cut off running about the barnyard.

Saturday, September 28th: I did my submission early today since it was a busy one. I had a table at the Local Authors Book Fair held by my Friends of the Public Library.

Today's recommended venue was Mithila Review, a brand new venue for me. I sent them "Persistence." Fingers crossed.

I had the odd sensation of success mixed with failure in that I received two rejections while I was at the Book Fair successfully shilling my books.

Writing life is nothing if not a roller coaster, but it's disconcerting to go up and down at the one and same time.
  • Not One of Us rejected "She Cries in the Night" with a simple form letter. 
  • Daily Science Fiction rejected "Chamber of Delights" with a kindly worded form letter.  
Sunday, September 29th: The Overcast is a podcast out of the Pacific Northwest. I decided to try them for a bit of superhero fiction: "Moonlighting in the Park" (4865 words), featuring Patricia of the Menopausal Superhero series.

Monday, September 30th: Alas, I learned *after* I had submitted last night that The Overcast was *not* actually open for submission right now. So, that submission will likely be deleted unread. I wish more venues made that information the top line on the submissions page, so we could easily avoid wasting each other's time.

So, today, I sent a drabble to Alban Lake Publishings Drabble Contest #15. "Legacy" fit their theme of "Treasure Hunt" and I enjoy trying out this microforms. Writing something this succinct is its own special challenge.

Since yesterday's submission doesn't count, I also sent "Breakfast at the Twilight Café" (803 words) to Tell-Tale Press, about whom I heard in the discussion on Open Call about this very submission challenge.

So, there we go. I made it! 30 days, shooting for one submission a day. At month's end I have:

  • Made 35 submissions
  • Received 13 rejections
  • Revised/Finished 6 pieces, adding to my "ready to submit" catalogue of pieces
  • Submitted to 19 venues I had never submitted to before

I appreciate the challenge Ray set out. It got me "off my duff" when it came to submitting my work. Now, I'm anxious to spend next month writing all the words, because I found that I don't have enough hours in the day to both submit a story a day and make progress on my current WIPs at the same time. 

Ray's running the challenge again in January, and depending on where I am with my other projects, I may participate again. It's good to give the "business" end of a writing life the focus of my energy and despite the thirteen rejections so far, I'm hopeful that at least one of these will lead to publication for one of my stories or at least a new contact for future projects. 

Tonight, though? I'm glad it's over. I'm not going to submit anything tomorrow!

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 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.