2016 Words

2016 was not a particularly productive year for me, as a writer. Still, it was not without it’s successes.

Seventh-Hour Man, my alternate-history fantasy novel, made it’s way through an initial field of 1,500 submissions in a open call from Hodder & Stoughton, the British publishing house, and ended the process in a final field of twenty. It didn’t get a purchase offer, but I did receive a swell rejection letter. It remains unsold.

As to new short fiction, I sold Last Call, a near-future sports fantasy, to Daily Science Fiction. It appeared in January 2016. I also sold Little Green Guys to Bryan Thomas Schmidt for his Little Green Men – Attack anthology, due out in March 2017, and Stay, a part of my Seattle Supernatural series of short stories, went to Pod Castle. It’s also due out in March. And Cretaceous On Ice, a personal favorite, will grace Perihelion Science Fiction on January 12, 2017. Editor Sam Bellotto Jr. has promised an illustration. I’m looking forward to that.

I made some reprint sales, too. Coward’s Steel, my Writers of the Future winner, and Snapshots I Brought Back From The Black Hole, first printed in Lightspeed, both went to Great Jones Street, an I-Phone app that offers hundreds of free-to-read short stories. Both are available now to I-Phone users. And According To His Substance will appear in Brave Boy World, an anthology from Pink Narcissus Press, sometime the first half of 2017.

At Big Pulp

I sold This Little Piggy to Big Pulp today.

It’s a tongue-in-cheek short-short, a story George Orwell and E.B. White might have cranked out in collaboration, if they had met on an ocean crossing. It’s also one of my personal favorites. I’m pleased to see it’s found a home.


And in other news, got a chance to look at the preliminary sketches for the Lifting Up Veronica cover by artist Nico Photos. It blew me away, can’t wait to see the finished product.

Apple Jack: a work in progress

One-hundred-sixty-one words from the opening of Apple Jack, a work in progress, first draft complete.

The land rose, the forest fell away, until nothing stood before Jack but a tall, doubled file of birch.

He reached the hill’s crest on his belly. His age-gnarled fingers settled on a large, half-buried stone. He eased his chin onto his knuckles, peered through the high grass between the white trees. The dark scent of loam pressed at his nostrils, almost as solid as the cool, rounded surface of the stone beneath his hand.

Beyond his nose, the land fell away again into a hollow. At its center a woman lay staked to the ground, her skirts hiked to her waist. Two men loomed over her. One, tall and run to fat. The other, short and skinny, all chin and Adam’s apple.

The tidy scene lacked nothing but its caption. “Maiden Prays for Last-Minute Rescue.”

The woman screamed again.

Jack nodded. If they wanted to put on a show, he recognized his role. “All right,” he said. “Here I come.”

Dial Tone at Kasma SF

Dial Tone, a new piece of my flash fiction, went live at Kasma Science Fiction web-zine today.

There’s an interesting story behind the story.  Alex Korovessis, Kasma editor, sent me an e-mail yesterday.  He had read a drabble (flash fiction under 250 words) with the same title here at A Moving Line, liked it and wondered if I’d be interested in reworking the story to full flash length (1,000 words) and submit it to him for possible publication in Kasma.

Well sure.

I figured a couple days of work would do it, but I started the rewrite last night, got gobbled up by the idea and stayed up until 6:00 a.m. this morning to finish it.  I sent it along to Alex at 7:30 a.m. and ran off to a doctor’s appointment.  When I got home at noon, he’d replied.  He liked it, wanted to buy it.  Would I sell it to him?

Well sure!

It’s just after 2:00 p.m. (PST) right now.  The story is up and readable at Kasma and payment has been posted to Paypal.

Thank you Alex.  The story looks great and this is the quickest story/submission turn-around I’ve ever had.

God, I love electronic publication.

Home from Clarion West

A good deal of what I know about life, I learned from Mother Goose, and she said:

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.

The six weeks at Clarion West was an incredible experience, but it’s good to be home.

More about it when I don’t feel so ridden-hard and hung-out-wet. I’ll just say that Ian McDonald, our sixth-week instructor, was bloody marvelous — both as an instructor and a human being — and last day, one of our number got word that a piece of flash she wrote first week for Michael Bishop has sold to a major market.

It’s her news, so I won’t spoil it by saying any more than Hazzah!

Clarion West – Week 2

The roller coaster ride continues.

Monday through Friday, five rounds of group critique on the first set of stories we’ve written here. It was intense.

Michael Bishop told us last week that we should give ourselves permission to submit less than perfect drafts. For less than perfect first drafts, the first week stories were damned good. One or two, in my opinion, are ready for magazine submission.

We continue to settle in and become accustomed to each other. There has been some head-bumping. When you get this large a group of strangers, living this close together, that’s bound to happened.

As for me, I like all seventeen of my classmates, wouldn’t change a single thing about any one of them, but then I’m easy. I like people and I have to say — again — that I am in awe of this group.

When did people so young get to be so smart?

We had three mystery muses this week — Connie Willis on Wednesday, Vonda McIntyre and Nancy Kress.  All three were funny and informative.  They talked about their careers, about working these days as an SF writer, about the differences between writing short stories and writing novels, and answered a slew of questions.  So much fun.

A couple of us had a little mini-celebration Saturday morning. One of the other participants, [identity deleted], just received word that [possessive gender pronoun masked] first published story, [title blurred], has appeared in [magazine name x-ed out] and has received a “recommended” review from [a major SF magazine].

Those of us who heard the news patted [identity deleted] on the back, applauded and shouted “That’s [expletive marked out], [profanity expunged] fantastic!”

There. Who says I can’t talk about the details of our forty-two days together and not be discrete?

I can’t say enough good things about Maureen McHugh. A week ago, I wasn’t really certain who she was, although I had read a couple of her short stories. After the last seven days, I’ve become an ardent fan.

She pours her entire being into teaching and remains just folks. Thursday night, a bunch of us went out for drinks with her and she used the casual time to continue to help us bond.

My work progresses. I submitted Kindred Soul for my Week Three story. It’s a fantasy/horror story with a senior protagonist (one of the goals I set for myself for the workshop).

I’ve also finished first draft on Seven Snapshots from a Black Hole for Week Four (another hard science fiction story that I hope to send to Analog eventually) and have a good start on a story for Week Five, Portraits Hung in Empty Halls. It’s a twist on time travel, with a protagonist other than the traveler.

In addition to all the writing, I’m not sleeping enough, eating too much and pretty much ignoring the outside world. I haven’t read a newspaper in two weeks. Not that I read a newspaper regularly before Clarion West, but I did look at one now and then.

It’s a Clarion West tradition to get some sort of gift for the outgoing instructor, something with some personal significance. Maureen admitted to us early in the week that she has a passion for post-apocalyptic tales, and so we put together a “survival” kit for her.

We gave it to her Friday afternoon, collected in a combat helmet doing double duty s a gift basket. In addition to the helmet, there was a gas mask, a multi-tool, a crank-up flashlight, water purification tablets, small bottles of alcohol (with rags for Molotov cocktails), a grimed and much-thumbed survival manual and lots of other essential odds and ends.

She loved it. Her only quibble was how she would get most of the items past Homeland Security on her flight home to Austin. We’ll deny everything, of course.

Good luck, Maureen. As someone else said, You’re the business. 😉

Nnedi Okorafor is here next week. She’ll be here tonight, this afternoon, actually. I’m looking forward to her time with us. Whenever I can find an idle moment, I’ve been reading her new novel, Who Fears Death, and it’s fantastic.

More Wednesday.


BTW, I haven’t gotten my tattoo yet. There was a funds snafu, but I think it’s worked out, so I hope to show you a picture soon.

Clarion West – Day 10

Half way through the second week.

Maureen McHugh is the instructor this week and it’s been an interesting time.  As a person, she’s laid back and friendly, very approachable, but as an instructor she intense and analytical.  It’s obvious that she cares (and thinks) a lot about what goes into a story.

One of the things she said this morning, while critiquing a story by one of the other writers, is that when she reads a story, she wants to feel that the author is totally in control of what is going on, that every element of the narrative is there for a purpose, that the author intended it to exist.

Her own writing reflects this intensity.  It’s exhilarating to think about but it’s also sort of scary.  I know I still stumble through a good part of my own stories.  Even so, my first submission, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One, got generally good critiques.  It starts out as a police procedural and along the way turns into a first contact story.  Everyone, including Maureen, seemed to understand and accept the underlying humor, and she opined that I’d succeeded in making the two aliens genuinely alien, even though the nature and presentation of their conversation is essentially human.

The group is coming together nicely.  Critiques have been insightful and honest, without being tactless and insulting.  Everyone is submitting excellent first drafts.  Several of the stories we’ve seen so far are close to being ready for submission to publications.

Apart from writing and critiquing, we’re having a good time together, which is a significant part of the process.  It’s been suggested to us several times by different people that friendships and professional relationships that we develop here will stay with us throughout our careers.

I can see the bonds forming.  We just had our second Wednesday night hour-long “tea party” and tomorrow night, after story submission deadline, most or all of us are going for cocktails with Maureen.  Three of the women got Clarion West tattoos today.  They look so great that others of us — myself including — are planning to head to the tattoo shop tomorrow.  If I don’t chicken out, I’ll post a picture of mine on Sunday.

More later.