Autumn Is Coming

Just got word from Mike Davis that my story "Cul Du-Sac Virus" is going to be included in his Autumn Cthulhu anthology. As an avowed lover of Autumn (there really is no better season) I'm both honored and excited to have one of my stories among the leaves.






Stupefying Satisfaction

Well, check another one off the old bucket list--I just landed a cover story at the inestimable Stupefying Stories, a market for which I have very, very much love. Bruce Bethke, the editor, was the first person to take a chance on my fiction--not the first to publish one of my stories, but certainly the first to actually pay for it.

The sale came at a time when I was very much considering backing away from writing altogether. I'd been scrawling out stories for, well, decades, and trying to publish for several years with very little response. It got to the point where I'd started numbering my rejections, deciding that, after 200, I would finally acknowledge the obvious and turn my energies to something else. I'd reached 142 when Mr. Bethke's acceptance letter came rattling into my inbox.

 I don't think I've ever felt so….relieved. Even more so when the first issue of Stupefying Stories popped up on my Kindle and I saw that the other stories in were actually good, better than good, actually. Mine was certainly the worst of the bunch.

 It's a feeling I've become much acquainted with over the years. But still, I couldn't argue with a solid publication. More, it was like something in me had unwound, like a cable around my chest that had been drawing tighter and tighter with each rejection. It was…well…absolutely wonderful.

For that, Stupefying Stories will always have a special place in my heart. There aren't many publications that I buy and read every issue, but SS is on the short list.

 So, check out the cover, check out my story (once again, the rest of the offerings are better), and if you like what you read, pick up a couple back issues. They'll keep you entertained, perhaps even stupefied, I promise.     


Ode to an Ungrateful Author

It's strange how we people get used to anything.

In all regards 2016 has been a banner year for me: I've made a solid fistful of professional sales (more to come on that); stretched my literary fingers into fantasy, and horror, military sci-fi, and even magical realism; and learned I'm going to be a father.

I remember, just a few years ago (2012 or thereabouts), feeling sick to my stomach over the prospect of not having one of my flash pieces published in the, now sadly defunct, 10Flash Quarterly--a fine semi-pro ezine. They put out a themed issue every month, and every month I would write a flash story and collect my rejection. This went on for almost a year until, at last, I wore down the editors' resolve and they deigned to publish one of my stories.

I literally jumped up and down with joy, dancing through the house (and scaring the shit out of my poor dog)--that's it, I've made it.

A year or two later, I'm publishing flash and short stories in semi-pro markets with reasonable success, but instead of feeling confident, I'm looking to the SFWA requirements. Three pro sales.


It became a mantra to me. I bought issues of Analog, F&SF, Apex, BCS, and a host of other markets on SFWA's pro list, the read them cover-to-cover in the hopes of mapping the geographies of editorial taste. I wrote and submitted dozens of stories, and eventually, three of them found homes.

I joined SFWA.

I thought I would feel different.

I didn't.

I wondered what was wrong with me. 

Yes, I recognize how ungrateful I am. Yes, I am embarrassed. There are authors out there who would figuratively KILL for even the small measure of publishing success I've achieved. If it makes you feel any better, all the money I make writing goes back into the community--buying books directly from small-press publishers, helping to fund authors' kickstarters, donating to eZines or the SFWA medical fund. It's not much, but I like to think it helps.

Yes, I recognize that too smacks of tremendous privilege. I'm lucky enough to have a job that pays my bills so I can give all my writing money away instead of using it to make rent.

My point is, things that would've blown off the top of my head just a few years ago seem almost normal, now. Writing and publishing has become an addiction of sorts, I have published professionally, now I must publish professionally to prove I haven't lost what little talent I have.

It's a trap, and one I've walked into gladly. Talking to other authors at conventions and panels, I get a sense we're all chasing that high, but we've got publish more and more in better and better markets to recapture it. The older I get, the more I realize  that's the way with pretty much everything. There is no amount of fame, success, money, happiness, etc. that we can't become used to. Still, it's this same ungrateful impulse that keeps us striving to be bigger, better, smarter, and--at least insofar as writing is concerned--that's a good thing.


Once More With Feeling: J.R.R Tolkein's Lord of the Rings and My Fifth Trip to Mount Doom.

Alright, so I love fantasy fiction more than is right or proper; and you can't even dip a toe into western cannon without at least a grudging nod to Tolkien--whatever you think of his work. Many times in my life (five, to be exact) I've tried to digest his penultimate opus, Lord of the Rings, and found its legendemain too rich for my thin, mannish blood. I'm sure the fault lies within me, and so, with the determination of a fifty-year old hobbit I've packed my mental bags, saddled my proverbial Bill the Pony, and set myself a quest to return the ring, king, the pieces of a sword, a couple hobbits, and whatever else needs put back.

Thus far, I've reached the Council at Rivendell. Still going strong, and yet, I can't help but think the Fellowship would've gone smoother if Elrond had any HR training...

ELROND: "The Company of the Ring shall be nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders, who are evil." 

FRODO: "Who's coming with me?"


ELROND: "Alright, alright, you've got a pretty good CV, not to mention adventure experience. My only concern, and I'm sorry for not bringing this up in private, is your ability to pass a drug test."

GANDALF: "Ah, man, I KNEW you'd say that. You White Council suits are all alike. Loosen up, half-elven, have a toke of old Toby."

ELROND: "Sorry, this is SUPER important. I can't have you wandering off for months or years at a time, only to reappear whenever you feel like turning some trolls to stone or whatever. So, I'm afraid that's a HARD pass. Anyone else?"

SAM: "Oh mister Frodo, you'll not be leaving old Sam behind!"

ELROND: "Okay, so wait, TWO hobbits? I really feel like we're doubling up on skill-sets, here. Sam, what do you bring to the table?"

SAM: "I'm a gardener and I have a pony."

ELROND: "Wonderful, the pony might be useful, especially if you give him a name. But I've got, like, a-hundred elf ponies--which are basically like regular ponies only they live forever and have magic powers."

SAM {mutters}: "The power to condescend."

ELROND: "I'm sorry, what?"

SAM: "Nothing, mister Elrond."

ELROND: "It's LORD Elrond, and I'm afraid this isn't going to work out."

SAM: "Half-elven, more like half-ass...en."

ELROND: "Okay, we're going there? Hey, Sam, I was wondering about something: Why DID you come all this way--are you Frodo's slave, his lover...?"

SAM: "Fuck off."

ELROND: "Okay then, NEXT!"

ARAGORN: "I, Aragorn son of Arathorn, will accompany the hobbit!"

ELROND: "So, is that BEFORE or AFTER you marry my daughter? You've been stringing Arwin along for what, a century? I mean, up until now you've just basically been hanging around Rivende
ll, eating my food, touching my stuff, sleeping with--"

ARAGORN: "I am Isildur's heir. The sword has been reforged!"

ELROND: "So, shouldn't you be popping off straight to Gondor, then? I mean, it would be SUPER useful if you could shore up Minas Tirith and Osgiliath, you know, keep Sauron occupied while the fellowship sneaks into Mordor."

ARAGORN: "That's sort of what I was planning on doing, anyway."

ELROND: "Good, then. It's settled."

LEGOLAS: "Methinks a Prince of Mirkwood shall be of use in this fellowship."

ELROND: "Yeah, about that. Isn't your dad the guy who got all butt-hurt about Dwarves 'stealing his treasure' and tried to kill everyone?"

LEGOLAS: "That was decades ago!"

ELROND: "We're elves, mate. It was, like, yesterday."

LEGOLAS: "I am not my father."

ELROND: "Fair enough. There are a couple other candidates from the race of elves, I'll put your resume in the mix."

LEGOLAS: "Really, who else applied?"

ELROND: "No one much, just Elrohir, Elladan, Glorfindel--"

LEGOLAS: "So, your twin sons and the guy who killed a balrog."

ELROND: "Very strong candidates."

LEGOLAS: "Nepotism much?"

ELROND: "I'm sorry, did the son of the King of Mirkwood just call me out for playing favorites? Do you really think you got your position as Captain of the Forest Wardens on merit?"

LEGOLAS: "I'm a hero, they call me Greenleaf."

ELROND: "Seriously, what does it even mean? Might as well call a dwarf Graystone, or a human Browndirt."

LEGOLAS: "It's a STRONG name...strong, yet supple, like a--"

ELROND: "We'll be in touch."

GIMLI: "I, Gimli son of Gloin shall lend my axe to this endeavor."

ELROND: "Excellent, I was hoping a dwarf would apply--didn't want this to be a total tall-fest, right?"

GIMLI: "I don't think I like what you're implying."

ELROND: "Sorry, all I meant was it's good to see candidates from all the free races of Middle-Earth."

GIMLI: "Okayyyy, so why are you making that face?"

ELROND: "Sorry, it's says here on your resume that you're a 'Grand Dragon' in the Longbeards."

GIMLI: "Indeed, the Longbeards are a doughty order of Khazad, famed for--"

ELROND: "You know they're on the White Council's list of designated hate groups, right?"

GIMLI: "Not our fault men keep trying to steal our gold. Killing them has been perfectly legal since King Dain passed that Stand Your Ground law."

ELROND: "It's just..."

GIMLI: "Everyone pats you on the back when you behead a goblin or warg, but chop up an elf? No, they're OBJECTIVELY good. Let me tell you about Thranduil, let me tell you what he did to my dad."

ELROND: "Didn't he imprison Gloin for like, a day?"

GIMLI: "More elven propaganda, it's in their nature to lie--"

ELROND: "Dude, my grandfather was human, but you know I totally identify as elven."

GIMLI: "FINE. I don't want to go on your stupid quest anyway."

BOROMIR: "I am the son of the Steward of Gondor, and have much experience in the lands through which we must travel, not to mention I have battled the Great Enemy since I could hold a sword. You will find none as brave or as dedicated to this quest as--"

ELROND: "Let me stop you right there. Aren't you the same guy who, just five minutes ago, talked about taking the ring for himself?"

BOROMIR: "Um, no?"

ELROND: "Yeah, YEAH, you are the guy. I'd recognize that horn anywhere."

BOROMIR: "Oh, I get it, humans all look alike to you elves, lucky I'm dressed different."

ELROND: "That's not what this is about. Didn't you LITERALLY just say you wanted to claim the power of the ring for yourself?"

BOROMIR: "I don't remember."

ELROND: "And won't the Fellowship's path take it conveniently through Gondor--where your dad just HAPPENS to have an army. You've got to admit, if someone wanted to steal the ring, that would be a pretty good opportunity."

BOROMIR: "Okay, but you HAVE to at least acknowledge the possibility that the ring could be--"

ELROND: "I already DID, the LAST time Sauron tried to take over the world. You know, when Isildur and I were literally inside Mount Doom, ready to toss the ring into the fire? Oh wait, you don't, because that was, like, three-milennia ago. I let that greasy bastard talk me into letting the ring endure, now look, Arnor is ruins, Gondor is on the brink of destruction, and the last heir to the throne of men is basically a murder-hobo. Nope, won't make that mistake again."

BOROMIR: "But, the race of men--"

ELROND: "I try not to generalize, but you men's rights activists are just ridiculous. I'm not going to have this argument, again. Goodbye."

MERRY AND PIPPIN: "We're coming, too!"

ELROND: "Seriously? Seriously."

MERRY AND PIPPIN: "We won't be left behind!"

ELROND: "I mean, I was going to send Glorfindel, but whatever, he's only been fighting against Sauron longer than your species has existed. But okay, sure."


ELROND: "Oh, abso-lutely! Instead of dispatching a half-dozen indescribably powerful and experienced Sindarin lords to shepherd your mouth-breathing friend to Mordor I'm going to send not one, but TWO hobbits who literally just pitched a fit because they couldn't eat seven meals a day. C'mon, you're not trackers, you're not scouts, you're not even fighters--"

PIPPIN: "Not true. My great-great-greatilly-greedle-grandfather once killed a goblin. You see, there was a field with a lot of rabbit holes, and he had this axe, and--"

ELROND: "I just don't think a trip to Mount Doom is the right venue for two more child--"

MERRY: "Watch it, half-elf."

ELROND: "Child-SIZED people. I can't help but feel you're going to spend most of the time captured by something…or being carried by the rest of the party."

MERRY: "How else are you supposed to get places if someone's not carrying you?"

PIPPIN: "Same principle as riding a horse, right?"

ELROND: {looking around} "See what I mean? Anyone? Anyone?"

MERRY AND PIPPIN: "If you don't let us go, we'll follow anyway."

ELROND: "THAT, I'd like to see."

GANDALF: "Don't underestimate the strength of shire-folk, when roused they are--"

ELROND: "A bunch of tiny, racist hillbillies. Listen, I subcontracted this shit last time around, and we all know how THAT turned out. Ellodan, Elrohir, pack up some lembas and make sure Frodo doesn't get eaten by a balrog."

MERRY AND PIPPIN: "But what about--?"

ELROND: "I'm sorry, did I fucking stutter?"

….and so the One Ring was delivered into the flames of Mount Doom with the absolute minimum of fuss.


Cross Another One off the Bucket List…

…and I'm one step closer to death, my friends. Just got this in the mail today--a contributor's copy of Esli ("If"), one of Russia's oldest science fiction magazines featuring a translation of my story "Citizen of the Galaxy," and some really great art. Unfortunately, I don't read or write Russian, so you're going to have to settle for some cell phone pics of the issue.

Which gets me off-topic a little. Now, I love getting paid for my work, seeing it posted on a website or printed in a magazine or anthology, but there's really nothing like the thrill I get when I see some incredibly talented artist create a work based on something I wrote.

It just makes me feel so damn lucky.

So I'd like to sincerely thank: Dominic Black, Christoph Shulz, Anthony Pearce, Leslie Herzfeld, and all the other illustrators who've shared their talents. They deserve your praise, your attention, and any/all art commissions you have. 


Still Can't Believe my Luck

In my experience, genre publishing is feast-or-famine, and while I'm riding high on a pair of fine podcast publications this month, my excitement is tempered by the long, quiet winter I know is just around the corner.

Still, if you've got a moment…

Pseudopod just published my horror story "Saturday," read by none other than the inestimable Mikael Naramore. Seriously, the guy has narrated fiction by Nora Roberts, Clive Barker, Wesley Chu…and now me? He could make a grocery list sound epic.

If horror isn't your thing, J.S. Arquin at The Overcast just did a phenomenal reading of my SF satire Black Friday. So give it a listen while you wait in line for that new flatscreen. 'Tis the Season and all that.   

Better yet, Unlikely Coulrophobia is just on the horizon, and the Autumn Cthulhu kickstarter is set to go live in the next few weeks.

Damn, maybe winter won't be so bad, after all.

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