A Self-Digging Well is Published!

Perihelion Online Science Fiction Magazine posted its May 2014 issue today and in it is my sci-fi humor short story A Self-Digging Well!

Perihelion Science Fiction cover art, May 2014.

Perihelion Science Fiction cover art, May 2014.

The story is about a most unusual crew of a small space freighter that has a rather bad problem with a malfunctioning piece of cargo.

I feel very fortunate that editor Sam Bellotto, jr. wanted to include my story as Perihelion SF has been ringing up an excellent reputation for high-quality sci-fi and, according to decadesreviewblog, ranks as one of the top five online free science fiction sites on the web. In fact, they place it at number one!

An absolute treasure trove of all things futuristic, Perihelion offers its newest issues online for free viewing (print issues are also available for purchase).  This is hardcore sci-fi at its best: the submission guidelines states that “the science and/or technology must be integral to the story.”  Woo yeah—this is as good as it gets. – Connor Cook, Decades Review Prose Editor

In other news; my sword & sorcery humor short Bookworms has been going through some changes. I rewrote it as a radio play (ala The Shadow and Suspense Theater) and the folks over at American Radio Theater are looking to perform it. More details on that as I hear ’em.

And speaking of Bookworms – I’m integrating some of the new things that appeared in the radio script back into the short story and it (or the reprint) will appear in Alternate Hilarities, Vol. 3! (Thanks, Giovanni!)

And speaking of Alternate Hilarities… Volume 1 just went on the shelves May 1st and includes my short story Overdue (a prequel to bookworms). In both Kindle and paperback!

This writing thing of mine seems to be catching on. Who woulda thunk it?


Overdue is On the Shelf!

Alternate Hilarities, Vol. 1

Alternate Hilarities, Vol. 1

Alternate Hilarities, Volume 1 is now available!

322 pages packed full of funny science fiction and fantasy stories — one of which is mine; Overdue! It’s available in both Kindle and Paperback!

I’m really excited about the paperback. Somehow being printed makes my being a writer ‘real’ to me finally. Overdue was my first piece ever accepted and my first story actually written for submission. I’ve got more stories written now, several more rejections and even a couple acceptances too, but this story started it all. And now my story is printed in a paperback. That is so cool.

I would like to offer my eternal thanks to Giovanni Valentino, the Editor of Strange Musings Press and the gentleman that put this anthology together and got it funded for a print run! You, sir, accepted my first story and encouraged this writing folly of mine. The jury is still out on whether that’s a good thing or not, but I’m having fun, which probably means it’s not.

Anyways, besides my own, incredibly funny short story, the anthology includes a bunch, nay, a plethora, of other really funny stories. Been reading on it for a few days and these are some damn funny tales coming out of some wonderfully twisted imaginations. Funny robots, hilarious zombies, absurd aliens, mind-flaying monsters wearing bifocals, stalks of corns stalking! My gawd, what more do you need? What more can you want? What more could your puny human system take?! At 322 jammed-full pages it’s a helluva value for the price.

Head on over to Amazon to get your copy in Kindle or Paperback!

And if that isn’t enough: In honor of AH1’s release, Giovanni has got a Rafflecopter flying. Check it out!

Alternate Hilarities Rafflecopper Giveway!

1st prize:   $50 Amazon Gift Card

2nd prize:    $25 Amazon Gift Card

3rd prize:     $10 Amazon Gift Card

An Acceptable Well

I just received an e-mail from the editor (or one of his minions) at Perihelion Science Fiction accepting one of my sci-fi stories “The Self-Digging Well“. I’ll find out later when it is scheduled for publication.

Perihelion SF cover art for January 2014 issue. By James E. Shields and Peter Saga.

Perihelion SF cover art for January 2014 issue. By James E. Shields and Peter Saga.

This is my third story acceptance and the first of the science fiction ones. By the numbers (or, more accurately, by Duotrope’s number), this would give me an acceptance/rejection record of just over 21%, which is ridiculous.

I only found this number when poking around today updating this acceptance and a resubmission of a SF flash piece.

Anyways: the number. Duotrope said it was high and I believe them. I’ve only been submitting for about six months and have fewer than ten stories plying the fjords of editor’s email boxes. Give me a full year and that will spiral down to a proper… what? Ten percent ratio? Five?! I don’t know now, but I will be finding out. The world has a way of balancing things given enough time.

Or, I suppose I could skew it even more by not writing short stories and get back to the novel/novella. Preserve the number, as it were, maybe beef it up a bit, even. But that hardly seems fair. I mean, who am I to laugh in the face of karma? What right do I have to pervert the balance of the universe? And if I don’t get those rejection slips then someone else surely will. I’m not sure I want that on my conscience.

In any event, it’s somewhat moot at the moment as I’ve a bit of difficulty writing right now. I seem to be able to plot just fine, or at least passably – but write? Not working real well. Something will break soon I hope. Maybe the acceptance will sink in and help. Who knows?

On another positive note: My short story Overdue will be coming out in Alternate Hilarities #1 on May 1st at Amazon.com. Both kindle and print formats will be available!

The Unusual is Normal

The fields have lain fallow for far too long, and I know you’ve been missing me, right? Well, in any event, it has been too long since I’ve posted an update on the trials and tribulation of my burgeoning writing career. (Okay, maybe it’s not that burgeoning, per se, but I am taking a crack at getting published and that rates at least a burgeon or two.)

Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone Episode 'Time Enough at Last'

Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone episode ‘Time Enough at Last’

I’m just now putting the finishing touches on a new story that I’ll be unleashing on some unwitting editor this weekend.

It’s one of the “new type”.

Calling this literary slipstream style the ‘new type’ is kind of a misnomer, I’m coming to understand.

As mentioned before, I’ve written for decades and just started submitting stuff for publishing last September. The guy I blame for my starting to write lo those many years ago is Ray Bradbury, whose style and subjects showed me you could paint with the written word – and even the macabre could be beautiful.

Well, when I decided to go for it and see if I could get published I was writing humorous sci-fi and fantasy. They take a while to write; I try to be very careful with the stories, they tend to be complex and I want to get the science or mythologies correct. It takes me a couple weeks usually to put out the first draft, and a couple more to edit them to my satisfaction.

These new ones come out in one sitting, fully formed, minimal edit required. Definitely not humor. They have the descriptive and other-dimensional qualities of many of Mr Bradbury’s stories, as I read him.

It scared the hell outta me when the first one happened. And, to be honest, it continues to scare me. When I started submitting I was nice and safe in the SF/F humor niche; they weren’t easy to write, but not that hard. Once I got a good story underneath, the jokes kinda wrote themselves. Safe. They got accepted too – well, two of ’em at least.

Now, this will be the eighth story of the bunch, and the fourth ‘new type’ story. With fully half of the stories hanging out there being this style, ‘new type’ becomes an official misnomer in my mind. That said, I still need a name for it…

AltHilCoverFinalI have a few humor stories in progress and I’m already seeing some of this prose style working it’s way in to the humor more than usual. It’ll be interesting to see how they’ll eventually meld – and I know they surely will some day, I’m just curious as hell as what kind of story that’ll be.

As it goes.

This is a good time to bang a few pots and pans and remind you that one of my stories “Overdue” will be coming out in the Alternate Hilarities anthology on May 1st for Kindle (and Nook too, I think).

Currently there is a Kickstarter going on to raise the scratch to get it published in paperback. I really want to see that succeed so please stop by and pledge whatever you can! Twelve bucks will get you the paperback when it comes out, but if we can get enough of you folks at a buck a piece, that’ll work too.

Alternate Hilarities – Paper Edition

It has begun – the countdown to the publication of the Alternate Hilarities Anthology that contains my short story Overdue.


Cover art by Aimee Maroney

It will be published May 1st in Kindle format for certain, and other digital formats I’m sure, and a Kickstarter has begun to fund a paperback publication!

I’ll tell you up front, I really want this to succeed. I mean, what is cooler than having your story in paperback?

A good paperback book of stories is the one that you carry around and read it through and then it becomes the book that hangs around in the back of a locker, the bottom drawer of a desk, your work bag, the back seat. When you need it, it will be there and you know there’s something in it you like.

This may be that book.

Or not. But it will be funny.

On the down-side; should this become a paperback I will be spending even more money for copies for friends and family. I suppose it could be seen as an investment for future generations and potential insurrectionist devices against the humorless of the world, of which there are always too many. In that light, I imagine I could drop my charge to sign copies for family and give friends a deep discount. Or possibly the other way around…

In any event, please check out the Alternate Hilarities Kickstarter and help make this thing happen! For every twelve bucks you spend you’ll get a paperback book (six bucks for an ebook) and if you pledge a hundred dollars or more you can even get a character in a story named after you! (if you have a name like halthram the high elf then you’ll fit right in no problem)

You can check out story previews here (they change every day)

The anthology is edited by Giovanni Valentino

Stories by (yes, my name is in there)

Isabel SterlingDay Al-MohamedBrenda AndersonJason Bougger – Gavin Cameron  – A.B. RinklinDan DoerfleinJohn H. Dromey Christine EdwardsJaimie M. EngleEric James SpannermanSteve EslingLaura ThurstonRonald FriedmanJay FullerDanielle GalesSteven Grassie  Cathy Greco  – James E. GuinShari L Klase  – Felicia Lee Lance ManionDaniel McPherson –  Jez PattersonM. Kelly Peach  Clay SheldonChuck RothmanJosh StrnadGiovanni Valentino – Adam Millard – Aaron Austin

Cover Art by  Aimee Maroney

The Fear

I have a partially written post still sitting in the draft folder that I will have to get back to later. Oddly enough, this is not a bad thing.

Psychopomp III by Micky Hart (yes, it's a vague allusion to the story I just finished. curious? good.)

Psychopomp III by Micky Hart (yes, it’s a vague allusion to the story I just finished. curious? good.)

It was a post about fear.

It’s a mental loop that has kept me from writing so many times – for a years-long stretch at one point. I know this monster too well, and for me, it wears many faces. In the case of scribbling, though, it’s that time when my ideas and sentences and paragraphs all go to shit. I’m moving commas and -ings and creating globs of words that just sound stupid. Combine that with the feeling that no one would want to read my stuff except for my mom and you’ve got a perfect reason to fear writing anything.

Since I’m lurking around writing blogs and boards these days, I did find some perverse consolation seeing that I’m not the only one who experiences this.

So imagine me, a doe-eyed noob to the fiction game, reading  the treatments prescribed by the seasoned writers who were saying to just sit back down and write. Write crap, write dross, the ten-thousand monkeys will catch up to you eventually.

It felt so…unfeeling. I can’t write, it hurts. You don’t remember what it was like to be a new writer, oh woe is me!

So I sat back down and sifted through those billion snippets and handfuls of first pages again and started trying to write a post about it.

Anyways, that post remains unfinished for now because I was up til three the next morning banging out a 1400-word story and the rest of the weekend editing it, doing a chop-and-tune to a SF story to send back out, and reformatting a 6000-word fantasy story to send off to a pod-caster. (yeah, it was a pain, but i’m a fan of this pod-caster so i was more than happy to do it)

And tonight I’m kind of back in the same place. I still have a billion snippets and handfuls of first pages, and  I’ll still probably spend the next few days pecking out and re-writing a paragraph or two again and again on a few of them until I catch the right string and pull, or rather, let it drag me where it may.

I’m just not so afraid today.

That Ripping Sound

I just submitted a surprise.

As a rule, I am a slow writer; figure two weeks or so for a story – when I’m not clogged up. I edit and craft and go through several levels of misery and worry until I’m moving periods and ‘the’s. And then there’s the big edit after my beta-reader gets done with it…etc.

"I'm not crazy. My reality is just different than yours." - The Cheshire Cat

“I’m not crazy. My reality is just different than yours.” – The Cheshire Cat

And then came this one – 2600 words written in one sitting, almost no editing required. You see those quotations float by on Facebook saying that writing is ripping out your soul, blah, blah, blah. But this was one of those.

And it’s not humor.

As a recap; I have two accepted stories, one with Fiction on the Web and one due to be published in April – both sword and sorcery humor. I also have a few SF humor pieces piling up. Some fun fluff for an afternoon’s reading, perhaps.

But this one is not humor. Not even close. It feels powerful to me, but then I know the subject intimately.

The real problem is that I’m not sure how to classify it. It’s not SF or fantasy or spec-fic, but it kinda is if you read it that way. Or it might be lit. I mean, how the hell would I know, I write humor, for fsm’s sake? It doesn’t seem to fit anywhere.

So I decided to swing for the fence with it on first submission and sent it to a tough literary market that appears to have a love for new kids on the block like me. If nothing else I can hope they take pity and a moment to tell me what genre the thing is and which direction I can shop it in.

We’ll see in about two months.

Dressing Up Darlings For Death

ScribbleSince my last post the dam has broken – at least part of it – and I’m writing again. Pretty much.

I picked up a demo version of one of those programs created to ‘help the writer’ earlier this week. I figured a change of scenery from Ye Olde Word might kick me back into gear. It couldn’t hurt, that’s for sure.

It took a few hours to climb the learning curve of the program basics, but finally I was able to load up a sci-fi story I’d been stumped on. (It even split up the scenes by parsing at the cross-hatches and has some other neat features too but I didn’t play a lot.)

I’ve added 2,500 words to the story in the last two days.

No, I’m not crediting this program with busting my writer’s block; any of several pieces of software could’ve probably done much the same trick. Even just changing up the colors in Word might have helped.

In fact, it just about went the other way and locked me up tighter. Seeing the story broken in to parts, several that I hadn’t even started writing yet, added a good dose of stress. Never good for me.

What worked was just sitting down and starting to write. I struggled for a few hours, but eventually I ended up with a Popeye joke. Not exactly what you’d expect to hear on a freighter in the middle of deep space, but that’s the direction it took, so what the hell, it was a start.

Now the problem is that, over the last two-thousand words, the size of the completed story, as I estimate in my head, remains at about 3,000 more words. At 700 I figured 3,500 words total, and now at 3,200 the estimated full piece is almost 6,000 words. This problem in particular has been plaguing me for several stories now – twenty-five-hundred word ideas are turning in to five-thousand word stories with bunches of darlings I have to kill. It sucketh verily.

Maybe that’s how novels start, but I’d really rather not go there quite yet. I’ve got one already collecting virtual dust since October, and I’m perfectly happy writing short stories for a while until I build up a couple dozen of them or more. Besides, I’m a slow writer. Some folks pump out novels in the time it takes me to write a short story.

So anyways, I’m scribbling on the walls again and that’s a Good Thing – depending, I guess.

There Was an Exit Door Here Last Time I Looked…

The holidays are over, I just finished a story, I’ve got four more with at least a page written with another clogging up part of my brain, and I’m playing with ideas for two more.

Portion of cover art for Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Artwork by Steve Crisp

Portion of cover art for Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Artwork by Steve Crisp

And I am at nearly a stand-still.

I couldn’t write a damn thing over the holidays, the ‘finished’ story is good but not good enough, I’ve got four pages of somewhat forced writing and no idea where to go with the story clogging the brain, and those two stories should probably be mashed into a longer novella-to-novel sized piece because they suck as stand-alone short stories (even though one of them was short-listed at one time).

This is what Hell is like.

I’ve been somewhere like this before. Over forty years writing it’s inconceivable that I wouldn’t hit such an odd-shaped block, but I wasn’t working on publishable-level stuff then.

Then I was splashing around in primarily pedantic puddles of self-examination, logic chains, and playing with the flow and power of words and language. It didn’t matter if I never came back to it, didn’t adjust and smooth and craft it. The playground was mine and mine alone; confined to my head and coded onto dark little pages and into obscure little textfiles. Safe.

Now, the odd little vignettes that scuttle around my world are laid out for display; first for editors that have read it all before (and better), and then to a world that may not see the same pictures in their heads that I do in mine.

I didn’t realize how truly scary this business is for the beginning writer. The delayed reactions of rejection letters, the weird paranoia developing while waiting for another to be published, the re-writing of the same paragraph so many times a story’s whole spine begins to break in your mind, the realization you took a wrong turn three-thousand words ago.

And here I am. Clamped in stocks in the middle of a village square of my own creation, surrounded by my own jeering characters.

Hell, and no Virgil to lead me out except a battered keyboard with the letters half worn off.

I am so screwed.

Missed the Flight To Andromeda

Andromeda Galaxy viewed in infrared and x-rays

Andromeda Galaxy viewed in infrared and x-rays

Ok, maybe it wasn’t exactly a flight, per se, but I did miss out on a ride in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

It’s kind of bitter-sweet, really, and I wouldn’t even bother mentioning it if it weren’t that “The Stowaway” was my first story I submitted anywhere and ASIM was that first place submitted to.

I received the e-mail this morning telling me that “The Stowaway” had been passed on, but only after making it through all three levels of their slush pile and on to their short list.

For the record, that makes two rejections and two acceptances for my short stories. Not a bad ratio as I understand it, but it doesn’t take the sting out of any rejection. In this case, though, the editor sent a nice note and gave me a bit of comment on why it was turned down. That was invaluable and very, very appreciated.

While the folks there seemed to enjoy it, and the editor thinks it could find a home elsewhere, it will get a good going over and likely a re-write to perhaps expand the resolution. It is rather a fluffy piece and could stand some bone-sticky meat. Coming in at about 1200 words, a quarter of the length of my short stories now, an expansion wouldn’t hurt it, I’d reckon.

Anyways, a heart-felt thanks to the folks at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and yes, you will be hearing from me again!

Onward into the fog…


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