My story Pictures from a Hotel Room on Fire appeared today on Wyldblood’s Web site. It’s short, only 800 words or so. It was written for a contest on Codex in 2017, and since then has been edited several times. It was a “title rummage sale” story, where the title was by someone else (almost certainly Vylar Kaftan) and I got to pick it and write a story to match.
I probably don’t talk enough about how the writing community has been key to my journey, and my success. Maybe enough about Clarion West (I’m now a board member, by the way!), but certainly not enough about Codex. The truth is, I don’t think I’d have gotten into CW if not for the time and energy I spent, the contests and critiques I earned, on Codex. If you’re a member of one of the big workshops, or you qualify based on your publications, I’d encourage you to join.
For this story, I received seventeen separate pieces of feedback from the contest. It got a sort of middle score, but a handful of people liked it a lot. I read all the feedback, decided which pieces I cared about and which I disagreed with, edited, and began to submit the story.
It’s still a challenge for me as a writer to know which advice to listen to, and which to ignore. It’s so easy to want to try to satisfy everybody, but in doing so a story can lose what makes it special, what makes it specific to the author. As important as community is, the goal is to find yourself within the community, not disappear into it. A community should make us better versions of ourself, not a pale imitation of somebody else.
I published two stories this year. I’m sure they’re eligible for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in the short story category; they may be eligible elsewhere as well.
I’ve already written about “You Should See My Scars” both here and on Twitter. It’s perhaps best categorized as near-term science fiction horror, though if you disagree I’m interested in what box you think it belongs in. If you prefer content warnings, I recommend starting with the blog post and continuing with the Twitter thread; otherwise, you can read the story at Underland Arcana.
I’m thrilled to hear that my noir fairytale mashup story “How Do Wolves” will be appearing in Upon a Thrice Time. A Kickstarter campaign to support the book’s publication launched today, and it’s already funded, but if you’d like to pre-order a copy of the book, now’s a great time to jump in.
Needless to say, I’m excited for this story to appear. It was inspired by a random comment in conversation from my Clarion West ’16 classmate Cae Hawksmoor, and officially it’s a mashup of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs,” but it borrows quite a bit of its structure from “The Wolf and the Kids” too.
I’d been reading that story to my children, but the version from Richard Scarry’s book, and I could just tell it had been toned down for modern sensibilities. I had to look it up for my own benefit.
A little research later, the original version melded with Cae’s comment, “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs,” to become something completely different.
My story “You Should See My Scars” was published today by Underland Arcana in their new issue, Issue 3. When I was submitting this story, I attached a content warning, identifying sexual violence (consensual), self harm, and suicidal ideation. If that doesn’t dissuade you, you can read the story online, or buy the e-book or print editions.
I wrote the first draft of this story at the Clarion West writers workshop when I attended in 2016. (This is the third of my seven Clarion West stories to be published.) I’d always wanted to write a “talking sword” story, and in the weeks leading up to my writing this, several classmates wrote stories involving buried knives. I wanted in on that, and enfolded it into my obsessions, including opaque AI and the Internet of Things.
As far as I can recall, the only round of critiques the story received were from my Clarion West classmates. Many thanks to Team Arsenic for your compassionate and thoughtful reads that did not let me off the hook too easily.
Sometimes things aren’t dark and stormy. I wanted something with some of the flavor, but lighter and breezier.
Or maybe I was looking for another way to use Banks 5 Island Rum, a blended white rum that co-stars in my ideal daiquiri. (The other rum in that is the El Dorado 3 year old, but that’s another recipe entirely.) The Banks 5 Island is light and full of tropical fruit flavors, and would be absolutely swamped by ginger beer.
Enter DRY Soda. Their ginger soda is clear and much less sweet than even ginger ale, but still a bit spicy. I like half of a 12-ounce can over ice in a tumbler or double rocks glass, with a shot of the Banks 5 Island stirred in and a wedge of lime on the glass. Nothing could be easier!
Like so many others during quarantine, my cocktail game has improved.
Especially during the early days, my wife and I ordered a number of cocktail kits from Navy Strength, our favorite tiki bar in Seattle. (As distinct from Rumba, our favorite rum bar. I don’t know that we have a favorite non-tiki cocktail bar these days.) With one of those cocktail kits came a one liter bottle of Suntory Toki, a lovely, exceptionally delicate and floral Japanese whisky.
At this time I had in my refrigerator a bottle of honey syrup I’d made from the recipe in Shannon Mustipher‘s Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails. Honey syrup is just simple syrup made with a 1:1 ratio of honey to water. I’d made mine with a lovely wildflower honey from the farmer’s market that I just happened to have in the cabinet.
Finally I picked up a bottle of Elemakule Tiki bitters, also to make recipes from that tiki book. Then (perhaps inspired by Cocktail Codex) inspiration hit: an Old Fashioned variant that’s light and floral, highlighting those aspects of the Toki, but also unfussy enough to make after a busy or stressful day.
Recipe: In a rocks glass, mix 1 tsp honey syrup and 1 dropper of tiki bitters. Add 1.5 oz Toki whisky and an oversized ice cube. Stir. Add a twist of lemon, then serve.
It seems like only yesterday I was an invited reader at Two Hour Transport, Seattle’s (currently virtual) open-mic speculative fiction reading event, but no, it was last year. That time I read my artificially-intelligent-stuffed-animal-psychopomp story; this time I don’t yet know what I’m reading. But I’ll figure it out soon, as the event is one week from tonight, at 7 pm PDT. [ETA: The official event post with Zoom details is now up here.]
This time the other featured reader is Elly Bangs, whose novel Unity comes out this very week. She’s read snippets of it before and it manages to be horrifying and wistful and funny all at the same time, and I’m looking forward to a longer sample. If you won’t come for me, come for Elly–and if you won’t come for her, just order her book already and save yourself the disappointment of not having read it.
My copy of Unity is on order, but I can’t read it until I’ve completed as many of the Nebula Nominee finalists as I can. (I’m probably not going to make it through the four novels I haven’t read yet, or any of the Andre Norton nominees, but I am hoping to finish reading the novellas before voting ends. And no, I have no idea how to rank the finalists in the Novelette and Short Story categories.)
Two previously-published stories of mine are now available in anthologies:
First, the Two Hour Transport anthology from 2019 is now available as an e-book at Amazon at the low price of $3.49. Two Hour Transport is a monthly Seattle reading (online during the Pandemic, of course) of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, with both invited readers and an open-mic portion. This anthology includes my story “Real Selfies,” as well as stories from Elly Bangs (whose novel Unity is due out in April), Keyan Bowes, Patrick Hurley, Nisi Shawl, and others. If you want to get introduced to the Seattle speculative fiction community, I can’t think of a better place to start reading. The paperback anthology is still available as well.
Second, my story “An Apology From the Natives of Earth,” published back in February by Little Blue Marble, is now in their annual anthology, titled “Greener Futures,” which is available from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. The e-book is $2.99 (USD) and the paperback is $15. LBM features speculative fiction about the environment, and this table of contents is impressive as well!
Speaking of which, “An Apology From the Natives of Earth” is eligible for the Hugo and Nebula awards, and it’s both short and free, so please do check it out. My story “Oh God, Not Again” was published by Hybrid Fiction back in February, and is also eligible, but is unfortunately not available for reading free online. I truly love this story, so if you’re nominating for the awards and would read it, please let me know and I’ll get you a copy.
Several years ago, I moved my mail from Google to FastMail. I don’t regret a thing.
No, that’s not true. I miss Google Notifier in the menu bar of my Mac telling me I have new mail to review.
I looked, but was shocked to find that no similar menu bar tool existed for IMAP. I considered writing one, but it seemed like there would be a lot of learning and I just didn’t have the time.
Enter SwiftBar, a new tool descended from BitBar, which I hadn’t managed yet to try. SwiftBar and BitBar allow you to run plugins that show up in your menu bar. Surely there would be a BitBar/SwiftBar plugin for IMAP?
But this, ah! This was a programming project small enough for me to take on in a single day (okay, two). Welcome to the world, swiftbar-imap-counter!
For now, all it does is talk to your IMAP server and put an icon in your menu bar telling you how many unread messages are in your inbox. But that’s (almost) all I need it to do. It supports SSL/TLS (though only one of the two paths is tested), and seems generally to work for me. I make no promises, though I’m happy to help.
My lovely local SFF open-mic night, Two Hour Transport, has two featured readers every month. This month, I’ll be one of them!
Of course, everything is virtual, so if you’re not asleep by 7 pm PDT, you can join from anywhere. There will be an hour of open-mic time (you, yes you, can sign up to read for five minutes), then my friend the redoubtable M. Huw Evans and I will each read for 25 minutes or so.