Talking animals are terrifying

I started this blog nearly two years ago, way back around the time that I had my fourth story published, and the post immediately after my obligatory inaugural Welcome post was connected to that story. It didn’t provide any info on the story itself or the anthology in which it was published, but rather was a relatively brief set-up for and link to an interview between the publisher and myself. In addition to some background profile info about me as a writer, the interview touched on what my story was about and where readers could pick up a copy, and I didn’t want the blog post to be too redundant. I was still kind of figuring out how exactly this writer blog thing was going to work.

Fortunately, I now find myself with a second chance, because the tale in question, “My Name is Melise”, has been reprinted in a brand new anthology released this week! Distressing Damsels is published by Fantasia Divinity, and you can get a paperback or Kindle version here.

To be honest, another reason why my initial blog post connected to this story didn’t get too detailed on hyping the story was because I didn’t want to give away the big twist. Even in the interview I was linking to, I admitted as much. When answering the question “From where did the inspiration for your submission arise?”, I danced around a proper response, saying that I liked the idea of retelling a fairy tale in a science-fiction setting as well as dropping the clue that the particular fairy tale heroine was not one of the big Disney PrincessesTM.

So, since that narrows down the contenders listed on the back cover, can you guess which story is mine? Stop reading now if you’re spoiler-averse, but if you’re still curious …

 

 

 

… the adaptation I penned was Thumbelina. It’s a creepy, pulpy take on the tale, with a significantly different ending, and while it was fun to warp one of my own childhood memories the process actually drove home just how dark the original fairy tale was. I strayed from the antecedent, but not as much as you might think. If you’re intrigued, get yourself a copy of the new collection!

Re-Masked

Lycan Valley Press has re-issued several anthologies, including Final Masquerade, which includes a story of mine entitled Another Night in Paradise. (I blogged about the story when the anthology was originally released, in this post.) Here is the new cover:

I have updated the cover on my Works page and wanted to explain why, particularly to anyone who picked up the first edition and then wondered if it had come from a parallel universe or something. Sadly it is merely the result of more mundane happenstance, changes in ownership of publishing companies and rebranding and whatnot. All the same, I’m not one to pass up the opportunity to plug my work given the slightest pretext, so feel free to pick up a copy!

Bit of a dry spell

Last year I saw nine of my short stories published, six of them in the first five months of the year. So it’s been a bit discomfiting to see nothing of the sort happening in the corresponding time frame this year. Only a single story of mine has seen the light of day in 2017, and other than that, newsworthy developments have been few and far between, leaving this blog feeling a touch … barren.

It’s not that I’m worried that I’ll never get another piece of work out there again. I have two new stories lined up with publishers and due to arrive later this year, and I’ll speak about them in due time when they are released. I have another invitation to write a story which is guaranteed to come out, provided I buckle down and finish the thing. And I have two more stories accepted for anthologies which don’t have publication dates set in stone at the moment, meaning they could come out this year, or maybe next. Sooner or later, I’ll have a project come available to the masses which I can crow about.

And it’s not as though I’ve been sitting idle waiting on all of the above to happen, either. I have at least five additional stories which I’m still actively shopping around (so long as we define “actively” in the traditional publishing sense of submitting the story and then hoping the six week average wait time for a response passes relatively quickly). One of those stories batted a thousand on its first three submissions in getting some variation on “this was really good but we just didn’t have room for it, check back again the next time we have an open call!” Which is heartening enough for me to believe it will find a happy home soon enough, with enough optimism left over for the rest of the bunch to boot.

So, yes, a dry spell is what it is and all that it is. Eventually it will end, and you will hear about it here first.

Bad romance

I have a longer post in the works about what kind of writer I am, as defined by what kinds of stories I’m known for writing, which is really a deep dive into what the various genres like science-fiction and fantasy and horror really mean, man. But a couple of recent developments prompted me to briefly come at the question from another angle: what kind of writer am I not? For example, am I a romance writer? No.

Or am I? An argument could be made that the negative answer is correct insomuch as the question seems to imply an all-or-nothing binary: either everything you write is concerned with falling in and out of love, or not. And clearly I have written plenty of stories with zero romantic elements whatsoever. Even my stalwart recurring character, Kellan Oakes, doesn’t have a noteworthy love interest (as of yet). Still, there are a few tales amongst my assorted works that do bring affairs of the heart into play. The Trap is about a supernatural manifestation of unrequited love. Red Screamy is about a marriage on the rocks and My Name Is Melise is about a dangerous romantic obsession. Not that unhappily ever afters are the only take I have on human mating customs , though. The Lengths That He Would Go To is a sweet how-we-got-together story , and it appeared in a romantically oriented anthology titled Eldritch Embraces which was all about, as its infamous tagline claims, “putting the love back in Lovecraft”.

Which leads me to the most recent story of mine to be published, Bottom Feeder, appearing in the February 2017 issue of Trysts of Fate magazine.

Trysts of Fate is a journal of paranormal romance, which seems to be a fairly specific niche to proclaim, and I will forevermore be able to count it as one of my publishing credits. Granted, the romantic connection in this case was on the oblique side; to quote directly from the message from the editor in which Bottom Feeder was accepted: “It had the genre aspect (horror, in this case) and the romance – albeit a romance gone wrong.” I really can’t argue with that. Occasional exception notwithstanding, when I write about love it tends to be dark and focused on how love brings out the worst in people.

Maybe the running thread is that the subjects of my writing tend to be as far from my lived experience as possible. I have a very satisfying, arguably very boring life with a good day job, a good home and a wonderful family. I write about magic and monsters and mad scientists and the like despite, or maybe because of, their complete absence from my personal reality. In the same vein, I am an unbelievably lucky guy in love and marriage; it’s my poor protagonists who suffer in counterpoint.

Irons in the fire

It is still January, so I can still talk about New Year’s resolutions, right?

One of the things I decided to work on a little bit more this year was trying to get some of my previously published stories reprinted. And in addition to that, I would try to get some of my previously published stories (in a few cases the exact same ones) repurposed, as podcasts.

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There are numerous podcasts out there which cater exclusively to short fiction, featuring voices reading stories aloud like tiny audiobooks. And quite a few of those audiostory curators are only interested in previously published work, so that struck me as an optimal way to reach new audiences with my existing work – all while I continue to work on creating new stories, too.

So I have a lot of pieces circulating out there in the world right now, waiting for a yes or a no in one form or another. In fact, just this past weekend, I got an acceptance for a story I had written way back in the summer of 2015 and had been shopping around ever since. The specific market that ultimately accepted the story was one I had sent it to in April of last year. (I should note that they both acknowledged and apologized for the long lag time in their response, and indicated advance understanding if the story were no longer available.) The acceptance, which came on Saturday, helped take some of the sting out of the fact that on the same day, I received a rejection (for the story I mentioned in this post), followed by a completely separate rejection from a podcast (where I had submitted this story) on Sunday.

But, again, it’s good to have lots of inquiries out there waiting for answers, so I immediately sent the reprint off to a different podcast, and sent the unpublished short story to a different anthology, and the work continues.

Respect the classics

This past weekend I did some reading and some writing. By sheer coincidence, the overlap of subject matter was hard to miss.

The writing consisted of revisions and additions to a story that I had started almost a year ago. I had finished a first draft, workshopped it, and then before I really had a chance to process the feedback I had changed day jobs and put a major pause on all of my creative output. When I got back into the swing of writing I was more focused on starting new efforts than revisiting older ones, particularly ones like the story in question. It was a bit outside my comfort zone, very short and venturing into salacious subject matter that would likely make it hard to find a home for it. But then I saw an anthology call that was not only open to the material but specifically seeking it out. Motivated by a deadline, I was finally able to go back through my notes and tweak the story for submission. If it does get accepted I will talk a bit more about it, although again, it’s practically flash fiction compared to my usual output and I’d run the risk of giving away the entire story in a decent-sized blog post. For now, I’ll merely acknowledge that it’s about a female vampire.

carmilla

My reading material, meanwhile, was J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s nineteenth century Gothic novella Carmilla. In case you are unaware of the work, it is a vampire story with a number of similarities to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, except that the eponymous monster in Le Fanu’s tale is female, and Le Fanu’s story appeared a quarter-century before Stoker’s. Carmilla is to Dracula what Hugo Danner, the protagonist of Philip Wylie’s novel Gladiator, is to Superman: clearly a predecessor, likely an influence, and the answer to a trivia question which is only known to the most committed, nerdiest fans of the respective genres. (And yes, given my love of superheroes and comic books, it should not surprise you to learn that I’m not just aware of Gladiator, I’ve read it.)

As I alluded to earlier, reading Carmilla as I worked on my own vampire story was pure happenstance. Since I fancy myself a knowledgeable horror devotee, on both the consumption and production sides, I’ve been meaning to make time to read Carmilla for a while now, and I’m happy I finally did. While I’m highly dismissive of nontroversies like “fake geek girls”, I can at least relate to the idea of holding oneself to a high standard of savvy facility with the things one self-identifies as a fan of. If someone else considers himself a fan of a genre or artist or whathaveyou despite limited exposure to it, that’s not a problem, no harm, no foul. But for me personally, getting to know the history and evolution of the consensus canon of any fandom is almost as enjoyable as indulging in the works themselves. I’m the nerd who actively likes doing the homework.

At the same time, occasionally I can tick off multiple desirable outcomes from a single accomplishment. For instance, it’s hypothetically possible that my wife’s decade-plus effort to mold me into a cat-lover has recently reached the point where I’ve begun expressing my own opinions about the next cat we might adopt. Maybe I’ve said that I’d like to have a black cat around the house. Perhaps I’ve expressed interest in naming the cat myself, and if that were true it would stand to reason that I would want to hang some kind of horror-lit reference on the animal. It’s only a short hop from there, then, to imagine my sheer delight in discovering (spoilers!) that Carmilla at various points in the story shapeshifts into something very like a huge, black cat, or to envision me telling guests at our home asking about the new black kitten, “Well, her full name is Mircalla, Countess Karnstein, which is the true identity of the vampire in Carmilla. Have you read it? You really should!”

I’m not saying that any or all of those theoretical outcomes are guaranteed to come to pass. But I’m not not saying it, either.

Let’s Get Weirdbook

wbcovers

In the fall of 2015, Weirdbook Magazine made a comeback after a seventeen year hiatus. I submitted one of my stories to them, actually in the spring of ’15 when the initial announcements and solicitations appeared, and matters thereafter proceeded along a very circuitous path.

Here’s the thing: I was one among a vast multitude who submitted stories to the newly resurrected mag, and my story was not selected for issue #31, the first issue of the new era. Nor was my story selected for #32. However, I did have a very positive exchange of e-mails with the editor-in-chief, Douglas Draa, about how much he enjoyed my story and how he would have liked to publish it, but given space limitations and his efforts to compose a well-balanced overall feel for each issue, all of the necessary elements didn’t quite align. And I completely understood where he was coming from. Much to Mr. Draa’s credit, he urged me to continue shopping the story around, and expressed his confidence that some other market would snap it up. But at the same time, he indicated that if for some reason the story never found another home, he would be happy to publish it at some point in the future.

Emboldened by Mr. Draa’s encouragement, I sent the story on to no less than seven other markets over the course of 2015. All of them said no. I identified another couple of targets in the early part of this year, one of which declined and one of which said nothing for a while. In the latter case, I had found an open anthology which had a theme that seemed to be a perfect fit for my story, and I was genuinely excited about the possibility of having my story appear in that book. I had also sent them the story fairly early in the submission window, since it was already done and coincidentally on-point, as opposed to stumbling across the anthology and then starting from scratch writing a customized story as I sometimes do. So I wasn’t discouraged by the long silence, figuring I’d have to wait at least until the submissions call officially closed.

Of course, right about the time I was waiting to hear back about the anthology, Mr. Draa reached out to me and asked if my story happened to still be available, because he had a slot for it in an upcoming issue of Weirdbook. I asked him when he needed an answer, because I expected to find out one way or the other about the anthology in a month or two. He needed a commitment within a week. I regretfully told him thanks but no thanks, pinning my hopes on the anthology. He told me that he understood completely and hoped I got into the anthology, and that I should also keep in touch either way. For my part, I assured him I would.

Not long after that, with the submission call well and truly closed and yet no news of any kind forthcoming from the anthology publisher, I reached out to them asking for an update or any information at all. It may or may not have been my inquiry that prompted it, but within 24 hours the publisher announced publicly that they were folding and the anthology would only come together if they were able to work out a deal to have another house take on the now-orphaned project. And even if that longshot came to pass, that would simply pass the decision making as to which stories made the cut and which got the axe over to the new publisher. I decided to cut my losses and consider the whole thing moot.

Once the stinging pangs of regret subsided a bit, I contacted Mr. Draa, told him the whole sad tale-of-the-tale, and informed him that I was done shopping the story around. He could, if he still had any interest, publish the story in Weirdbook at some point in the future. Much to my exuberant delight, he did still have interest, and so the deal was struck.

After publishing one issue in 2015 and two issues in 2016, Weirdbook is planning on publishing four issues in 2017. And my story “The Maiden Voyage of the Ariona” will appear in one of them! It could be as far off as the December 2017 issue slated for a year from now, but then again it could be sooner depending on numerous unknowable factors. When things are more definitive I will offer updates here, including as always the links to purxhase your own copy. Though in the mean time, if you want to check out how the revival is going, you can always start showing your support for smaller speculative fiction presses right now!