Tag Archives: Writing

Coffee, Anyone?

It’s a basic fact of life that authors and coffee go together – as true as the sun rising in the east and the heaviest rain fall happening on the day you forgot your umbrella at home. So what better theme for an anthology of fantastic fiction than coffee?

Alex Shvartsman has assembled just such an anthology, featuring a new story by me, along with a mix of other fabulous new and reprinted caffeinated tales. The anthology will officially be available December 9. From now until then, UFO publishing is offering a special bundle deal – Unidentified Funny Objects 1 & 2, and Coffee, all for under $30. You can’t beat that.

So pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and curl up with a copy of Coffee. What batter way to spend a winter’s day? Here’s a taste of my story, At the Everywhere Cafe, to get you started.

Hilo threads cream into the coffee and watches it swirl widdershins, a skein of smoke turning the brew milky-dark. Bottles – thick blue-and-green glass, flattened into rounds – chime softly over the door as it closes. When she turns, they will be gone.

The café shifts, a motion only Hilo feels. The next time the door opens, the world beyond it will not be the one her last client – the tattooed woman – stepped out into, her breath heady with dark roast spiked with rum and flavored with orange peel, her eyes bright with the future. Whoever enters through the door will be a stranger, coming from a world Hilo has never seen.

[Ongoing blog note: comments are still broken on the site. Apologies.]

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How Bunny Came to Be

Today is publication day for Shimmer #17, containing seventeen stories, and appropriately enough, available on the seventeenth of the month. One of those seventeen stories is penned by yours truly, How Bunny Came to Be.

As it so happens, Bunny came to be in a somewhat convoluted way. A year or two ago, a call for submissions came to my attention for a campy anthology inspired by B-movies and pulp magazines. Great! I thought. This will be a fun project to work on sometime down the road. Then I checked the submission deadline. It was less than 48 hours away. Ah well, I thought. You can’t win ’em all. I was ready to put the idea out of my mind, then Bunny stepped up and tapped me on the shoulder. She can be quite persuasive when she wants to be.

Frantic typing ensued, and while the story didn’t end up in the anthology, it did find a wonderful home. Fast forward to June of this year. Bunny and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron made their debut in Ideomancer with the appropriately titled Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron.

Of course, Bunny was not done with me after just one tale. She was quite insistent that her origin story be told, and who am I to disagree? As I said, she can be quite persuasive.

Shimmer 17

Shimmer #17 is now officially available, and within its pages, you too can find out just how Bunny came to be…

This is Bunny. This is Bunny before she was Bunny, back when he was Phillip Howard Craft, working as a lifeguard at Sun Haven Beach Resort by day and slinging drinks in the resort bar by night. Back before the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron saved the world from Mars, or fought the lizards from the center of the earth, or kept Air Force One from exploding with nothing more than a jeweled hairpin and a wad of peach-flavored chewing gum.

This is Bunny back when he was a bronzed god rather than a curvy goddess. His legs still go on for miles but he doesn’t shave them yet, though he does wax his chest until it gleams in the sun. Even before the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron, Phillip knew the importance of a good beauty regimen.

Still need convincing? I suggest watching this lovely trailer featuring art from Issue #17, and gorgeous music from fellow-contributor, Ada Hoffman.

Of course, now that Bunny’s story has been told, the rest of the Glitter Squadron’s members are making throat-clearing noises and giving me the side-eye. They are all most insistent, too. I’ve asked them to patiently form a line. We’ll see how well that works out for me.

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Free Shrooms!

It’s Fungi Week at Weird Fiction Review. As a result, my story Where Dead Men Go to Dream, which originally appeared in Innsmouth Free Press’ Fungi anthology is now free to read online.

Because the first taste is always free.

Shroom1

There’s also a fabulous interview with the anthology’s editors, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a fantastic gallery of mushroom photographs by mycologist Taylor Lockwood.

As it so happens, I’m currently reading Fungi. I encourage you to pick up a copy. It’s a brilliant collection full of stories by incredible authors. I’m not finished yet, but I particularly enjoyed the pieces by Camille Alexa, Andrew Penn Romaine, Kristopher Reisz, Daniel Mills, and Nick Mamatas. As a physical object, the book is also gorgeous. I’ve raved about the cover before, but the layout is lovely, too, and there are fabulous interior illustrations reminiscent of Mike Mignola. I’m truly proud to be a part of the collection.

And aside from all that, mushrooms are wonderful! Why wouldn’t you want to read about them? They’re beautiful, and delicious. Shortly after the anthology emerged, they started invading the end of my street (photographic evidence to the left). There are more photographs, but the interweb doesn’t want me to post them. (That’s not just what the mushrooms want me to say. I swear.) Their fruiting in a timely manner is a good omen, right? Right?

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Peep Show With Foxes and Crows

Today, A.K. Anderson slapped me across the face with a leather glove. Metaphorically speaking, of course. She tagged me to take part in the Peep Show Challenge. The rules of the Peep Show Challenge state that I must go to the 77th page of my manuscript, count down 7 lines and then provide the world with a glimpse of the next 7 lines. I technically have two WIPs going on at the moment, but given that the one I’m currently actively working on is in the process of being drastically rearranged and is scattered over several desperate documents, I, um, don’t exactly know which one is the 77th page. So, instead, I’ll give you a few lines from The Thief of Precious Things, the manuscript I’m sorely tempted to shove in a drawer and never look at again. To me surprise, and possibly to spite me, I don’t hate these particular lines. Maybe I shouldn’t abandon it after all…

At any moment, he expected her teeth against his skin. Yuki closed his eyes, a single hot tear escaping his lids. He couldn’t even say why, whether it was weeping, or something else. He tried to say a word, and it came out a husked groan, a rough breath. He waited.

Instead of teeth, her tongue came, unexpected, not at his throat but on his cheek, licking his tear. She traced the line of it, from chin to eye, and he smelled blood on her breath before she drew back. Stunned, Yuki opened his eyes.

(That makes up seven lines in the manuscript, I swear!)

If they are so inclined to play along, I tag Fran Wilde, E. Catherine Tobler, and E.C. Myers in turn. Anyone else out there with a WIP is more than welcome to play along. But don’t feel obliged, even the folks I tagged. I certainly won’t give you sad puppy dog eyes if you don’t. Really.

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With Tales in Their Teeth

Lightspeed

So, remember that thing about typos and twitter inspiring a story? Well, twitter is (or was) at it again, inspiring another tale. This time, it wasn’t a typo at fault, but me rudely eavesdropping on a twitter conversation, an innocent conversation about going to the dentist. It resulted in a story. The story is now available at Lightspeed Magazine. It’s accompanied by an author spotlight where I explain the remainder of the inspiration behind the tale, which – if you’re so inclined – can be found here.

The good folks at the Last Short Story podcast were kind enough to cover the story, along with the rest of Lightspeed’s January issue and Clarkesworld’s December issue in their first podcast of the year. If you’re curious to hear what they thought, you can listen to the episode here. Stainless Steel Droppings was similarly kind in reviewing my story and the issue, and you can read their take here.

With Tales in Their Teeth From the Mountain They Came actually has nothing to do with going to the dentist, but it does justify the paranoia of people who think authors absorb everything they hear and read, and store it up in case it may be useful for a story. I’d say I’m sorry, but it would just be a lie. In any case, here’s a little sample from my shameless borrowing from other people’s lives.

She woke with the words I love you on her tongue, speaking them aloud to an empty room.

They tasted of smoke and ash drifting over a far-distant, muddy field. The War that had taken her lover had lost him. She knew he was dead, because she’d never spoken the words aloud before.

You can read the rest over at Lightspeed right now.

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My Body, Her Canvas

The February issue of Apex is live, and it contains my short story, My Body, Her Canvas.

It’s about art, and artists, and the relationship between artist and muse. It’s also about the way people see themselves, versus the way other people see them, and body image, and a flipping of typical gender roles. And tattoos. I tried to cram a lot into one story, and I may or may not have been successful. I’ll leave that to you to judge.

The needle buzzes, setting up a whine in my back teeth. Under her careful hand, a spatter of stars—midnight blue—arc from the curve of my hip-bone to the soft flesh of my inner thigh. Sarah moves my penis aside, dispassionate, getting exactly the right angle to complete the sweep of her constellation.

I catch the sterile scent of the thin rubber stretched over her hands. Clinical. The gloves put thoughts into my head of medical exams, and tables better suited to holding corpses than living, breathing things.

My flesh puckers, pulling tight around the tiny bumps left where Sarah’s razor has scraped me clean again. I know better than to scratch, doing nothing that could mark or scar her canvas. Any imperfection will be by her design; it isn’t for me to decide…

Read the rest here.

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Writing Wrap-Up: 2011 Edition

All in all, it was a pretty damned good year. I appear to have broken the cycle of only even-numbered years being good in terms of seeing my work in print (for definitions of print that include pixelated goodness). There was also an overall positive trend in the ongoing war of rejection vs. acceptance. I submitted less this year, which makes me feel like a huge slacker, but I did “complete” two novels, so that’s something. Self-pimping follows; if you’d prefer to skip ahead to the end, I won’t judge you.

Continue reading

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Trashman

It has come to my attention that Shimmer #14 is now available for purchase, in both digital and dead-tree editions. It contains my short story, Trashman, which in my not-so-humble opinion is a very nice way to close out the year.

The trashman knows all your secrets. He knows all the secrets up and down all the streets, everywhere. He knows you, maybe even better than you know yourself.

You can obtain your very own copy here.

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No Time to Say Hello, Goodbye!

It’s time for another post drenched in ketchup. Or catsup, if you prefer.

First, we’re getting close to making our final decision for Issue 2 of the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. If you want your story considered, send it to us before September 1st. On the other hand, don’t feel the need to rush, because we’ll immediately start reading for Issue 3, and we don’t plan to close for submissions any time soon. We’ll also be accepting submissions for our first mini-issue, which is an ExcitingThing! Issue 2.5 will be an all flash issue, due out in February, and appropriate to the month, we’re looking for Valentine-themed stories. So, anything that combines bugs with beheading, martyrdom, arrow-wielding baby-like creatures with inexplicable wings, or, I suppose, love and pink hearts and chocolate covered flowers, if you’re into that kind of thing. More details can be found here. Our regular guidelines, as always, are here.

Second, because (oh-holy-hell-how-did-that-happen?) it’s almost September, now is probably a good time to mention that on Saturday, September 10th there will be a launch party for In an Iron Cage: the Magic of Steampunk at Dorian’s Parlor at the Doubletree in Center City Philadelphia. There will be author readings, you can win cool stuff, I’ll be wearing a corset. You know you wanna be there!

The following weekend, Saturday, September 17th, Lucas Mangum will be holding his third Awesome Reading Fest at the Doylestown Bookstore. Barring disaster, I plan to be there, reading an excerpt from The Many Ghosts of Annie Orens, which is currently available in Shock Totem #4. There will be less corsets involved, but the last event was a blast, and it’s a great opportunity to hear work by a lot of wonderful local authors. Plus, it’s being held in a bookstore. Come on! What more could you possibly want?

Man, I’m exhausted just thinking about all this stuff, and I’m sure there are many more things I meant to talk about. But I’m sure you have better things to do, so I’ll leave you with one last bit of good (for me) news. Final Girl Theory, which appeared in ChiZine’s Alumni Mega Issue has been picked up by PseudoPod for their podcast series! So if you missed reading it, you’ll have a chance to listen to it soon. Links and whatnot will be forthcoming once it’s available.

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Filed under journal of unlikely entomology, Short Story News, Writing

A Question of Style

Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is author voice and distinctive writing styles. There are some folks, if you removed their byline from a story, you’d still be able to identify the work as theirs. There are Lovecraftian stories, and Chandler-esque stories. Heck, Dickensian is a word, and the computer knows it; it doesn’t even stick one of those squiggly red lines under it, making me question my very salt as a wordsmith. But is having a distinctive style always a good thing?

Hopefully, having a strong voice means your work is memorable, but is there a risk of your style becoming repetitive? Some stories beg to be told a certain way, first person, third person, past tense, multiple, fractured viewpoints – so should the technique fit the tale? Should an author re-invent themselves every time a new story needs to be told? Or is it possible to have it both ways, a strong reliable voice that perfectly fits the story no matter what, and never feels out of place?

As a reader, I appreciate it when authors are willing to take risks, try something new. It doesn’t mean their experimentation always works for me, but at least they put themselves out there and did something different. Where is the line between playing it safe and doing what you do best, writing as only you can? When you pick up a new book, or dive into a short story by an author whose previous works you’ve loved, do you secretly hope it will be just like the last thing you read by them, only more so, or do you want to see something new?

If an author uses punctuation in an unusual way, if they’re prone to short, clipped phrases, or long rambling descriptions, is it the equivalent of their signature, hidden on every page, or does it grate after a while? Are some tricks, for lack of a better word, best used sparingly, so they’ll have the maximum impact when they are used? Or are those flourishes the very definition of style?

Then there’s the question of authorial fetishes, individual elements or overarching themes that show up again and again an author’s work. I personally have a writing fetish for cigarettes, tattoos, green eyes, moonlight, and bones. As a reader, do you enjoy seeing common elements show up in an author’s work, or does it make you want to throttle them? As a writer, do your fetishes, your voice, or your style, ever feel like a crutch, or do they always feel like raw materials which you can use to build a motorboat, or a cathedral, or a roller coaster with equal ease?

For once, I’m not going to pretend to be a know-it-all and offer any answers. I’m just thinking aloud, and asking questions. I’d love to know your thoughts on the matter, if you’re so inclined to share.

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