“In the Deep of a Wild Blue” in Bards and Sages Quarterly

bf7b526c1eaed635b895b9035f8ef639ea04b501This is my 200th blog post! And it goes to the publication of my short story, “In the Deep of a Wild Blue,” now out in Bards & Sages Quarterly July issue.  Talia is a sea ghost, lost in the deep, blue of the ocean.  Her journey in finding a home will take her into an even deeper, darkness.  Here’s an excerpt:

An uproar whirled through the dark waters ahead, currents churning with blood and tears, screams and prayers. Moments that still flashed through Talia’s mind like the dreams of fever when her flesh still pumped of warm blood. Moments that kept her from venturing out of the rock-walled bay she’d cocooned herself in since the moon was no longer cloaked with the glimmer of stars but was now a warped light in the waves of the sea.

Talia curled herself around a rocky precipice of barnacle-crusted basalt rock, wary and watchful. A young pilot fish she called Finn and who had followed her everywhere after slick-razored fast fins shredded his family into flaky pink, gray flecks, flapped beside her. They both knew the sea was full of monsters, the jagged teeth, toxic skins, and the tentacles, beasts that had no heart, only the cold thump of jellied innards. But the ones that traveled in schools, the fast fins, they hungered for the kill like no other.

Even still, the saltwater deep harbored more than bloodthirsty savages. It was also a far-reaching madness that stretched the mind’s eye beyond the unthinkable. It mangled Talia’s faith and crippled her sanity. The ocean was a bottomless hollow, a place for the lost. If the Earth claimed bones, then the ocean claimed souls, this Talia knew well.

Finn darted and weaved around Talia’s legs, uneasy over the stream of commotion in the waters. A thunderous boom rippled through the bay and reverberated with the fracturing of broken materials, metal grinding against metal, the splintering of wood, and the snapping of cables . . . a newly, sunken ship. Shouts escalated and stirred through the waters with desperate ferocity. Those of the dead and the dying.

“Finn?” Talia said. “Do you think we should have a look? Help out? Introduce ourselves?”

Finn ducked and scurried, camouflaging himself between the green tentacles of anemones.

“We can’t hide in the bay for the rest of eternity. I don’t think so. I imagine some day we will have to leave. Interact.”

But even as Talia spoke these words, she didn’t believe them herself, even if they rang of truth. She’d approached other souls before, and they were not of friendly nature or even communal. The cold, dark ocean had changed them, and one day, Talia imagined the darkness would claim her too.

Thanks for stopping by and to editor Julie Dawson for accepting another one of my stories for Bards & Sages Quarterly.  If you have a superb speculative fiction story to publish and would like to get paid for your hard work, consider submitting to Bards & Sages Quarterly, guidelines are HERE.

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Grey Matter Press – Flash Masters Flash Fiction Contest

This week, Grey Matter Press is holding their Flash Masters Flash Fiction Contest. Contest closes this Thursday at noon, but entries are exactly 200 words, so you’ve plenty of time to enter, just don’t forget to include DEVOUR, YESTERDAY, CUSHION, MOIST, and OVERTURNED into your piece. My entry is titled, “Tonight, We Feed,” which is about cage fighting…yes, really.

Read other outstanding stories by Lee Hughes, Chris Allinotte, Lily Childs, Magenta Nero, Charles Gramlich, and many more.

Best of luck to everyone!

Update: Cheers to Angel Zapata for his grand prize win, and to the other winners!

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“A Means for the Journey” @ Niteblade Horror and Fantasy Magazine

Cover_June2014_noissnI have a new story out in one of my favorite magazines, Niteblade Horror and Fantasy Magazine.  “A Means for the Journey,” is a fantasy tale portrayed through the play of tarot cards.  Some of the cards included are The Fool, The Hermit, and Death.  I bet you can spot a few more.

The June issue #28, Looking-Glass Lover, is filled with other fantastic  stories and poetry.  Purchase a copy of the issue for only $2.99 and support a great small press while feeding hungry artists and writers.

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What I do and don’t write…

Writer friend Milo James Fowler tagged me on a post about three things I write and three things I don’t write.  You can read his really good responses HERE and Simon Kewin’s HERE.

While the following is list of things I don’t (and do) write, one thing I do know about writing, for me, is to never set boundaries, so this list may be apt to change in the future, because the writer me six years ago would have laughed at the writer me now writing horror poetry. Who knows, in the next six years, I may give EL James a run for her money!

What I don’t write:

1) Romance – I physically express my visceral disgust at the mention of the genre by fake gagging. I don’t even want to touch one of those books in fear that some twisted aspect of it might seep into my muse and ruin him. If there is a hint of it in my work, mainly my mystery novels, what little part is there is only to prove to readers that I am a real person with a beating heart. That said, I did once write an erotic flash fiction that was received well (note it was published in a mag called Sex and Murder, so not your typical romance or hey, maybe it is), but haven’t ventured there since.

2) Non-fiction (with the exception of reviews) – I wrote plenty of reports, essays, and manuals in college and at past jobs.  Now I’m writing what I want, but this could be one of those topics that might revert in the future.

3) Steampunk – it’s sort of a foreign genre to me that I have not yet delved into writing, but not because I don’t enjoy it.

What I do write:

1) Dark fiction – this encompasses the majority of my writing, whether its bizarre, horror, fantasy, etc.  Most of my writing, regardless of genre, has a dark slant to it somewhere, because I’m sure it’s how I view the world.

2) Mystery – I think this could also encompass much of my work, but my Kate Waters Mystery novels are probably more mystery than dark fiction. I also think mystery is underrated – it’s not just about sleuths figuring shit out.  Anything that has to do with the ‘unknown’ I think is mysterious.

3) Bizzaro – I don’t really know how to classify this genre, but I tend to write about things that don’t really fit into any other category.  My latest is about a group of misfits at a psych ward who actually do have special powers, and one of them can draw (not on paper) things into reality… or erase them – it’s going through the usual ‘I liked this story, but it’s just not a good fit for us’ rejection rounds.

Other writers who I think would have good lists to share (if they so choose to, via FB, Blog, Twitter, Tumblr and who are more than welcome to tell me to stuff it) are Lily Childs, Sean Monaghan, and Angel Zapata.

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Letting it chill

This FallI’ve been working on a longer piece the last few weeks for a Halloween-like submission, and while I’ve finished the story, I’ve regrettably decided not to submit it. The story hasn’t had time to cool.

This pains me because the story is already a year old. It began last summer for another market, similar Halloween theme, as a 2K horror about scarecrows, but I missed that deadline and went over the word count anyways, finishing the rough draft at 3.5K. I wasn’t disappointed, thinking I’d just let it cool for a while, you know, like a year.

Once I dug into it this year though, the story line went through a good shift and ended up at 5.5K. Seems to be a repeating pattern. I wanted to make this deadline, so I busted my butt and managed to finish a decent polish on the story, now at 6.5K (still within the 4k-9K guidelines). However after changing that much of the structure, and adding a few more thousand words to it, I feel it needs to cool more before submitting. For a piece that size, I like to have at least a few weeks if not a month or two.

Even though the story is clean, might have a good chance of getting accepted, it’s just not finished yet – and that’s the tough part. When do you draw the line on completion? Many writers recommend never submitting anything you aren’t 110% satisfied with. It’s a bummer to have to wait another year for this story to see publication, but I owe it to my readers and myself as a writer. I can’t rush into a deadline and skip a cooling period, so the story will have to wait another year.  That’s the problem with theme-specific works. Fortunately, I’ve plenty more to work on, like Zombie Elves Take Manhattan.

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World Horror Con 2014

Sadly, the WHC 2014 in Portland is over.  Fortunately, I took away more than I expected, mostly because I’m not a huge Con fan for the simple reason that I usually feel disconnected at them, which may or may not be a product of my own perception.

Here’s a quick breakdown.

Highlights:

Short Form PanelThe people – seeing/meeting Ellen Datlow, Brian Keene, Norman Partridge, Joe McKinney, John Skipp, Stephen Jones, Nancy Kilpatrick, Stephen Graham Jones, John Shirley, Jack Ketchum, Paula Guran, Jeff Strand, Cody Goodfellow, W.H.Pugmire, Nick Mamatas, and many more.

Damnation Books – [who accepted my forthcoming novella, Feral Things) had a huge table full of many of their books (hoping mine will join them at the next Con), and while I didn’t get to catch up with Kim, I spent some time with the man behind the scenes, William.

Brian Keene - Grand MasterAwards: watching Brian Keene accept his Grand Master Award.  His speech was unifying, genuine, and so very inspirational.

Classes I took:

- Hardcore F*cking Horror (if you’ve ever wondered if you’re weird, a pervert, incredibly evil, terribly gross, or even all of them at once … you’re not.  Believe me, there is someone else out there that makes you look totally f*cking normal, so write what you want, while still respecting the guidelines of publishers – that said, EraserHead just published a book/story about a baby Jesus as a butt plug – see what I mean?)

- Life After Walking Dead (zombies, zombies, zombies – like them or not, their interest will never die. All the editors/writers here still love zombie stories, but they all want to see something new, something fresh and unusual, so it might be worth the extra effort to research zombies and get a real feel for everything that’s been done in order to do it differently.)

- Research for Horror (this class was a real disappointment and maybe I was anticipating it too much, but I ended up spending most of the time writing the next scene in my current book.)

- What Editors Want (confidence in writing, a strong voice, a logical hook at the beginning that follows through with the rest of the story, and Nick Mamatas wanted to make clear that your hook is not followed by a boring paragraph, as many writers tend to just insert something cool or shocking at the beginning to suffice the hook, and the last thing they all want is high concept, that is a story that is original and a world well constructed.)

- Writing Characters that Come to Life on the Page (this was a strange class, but I took away some interesting points: really hear the characters’ voices, they aren’t just a zombie or navy seal or an astronaut monkey – your characters must be real with real emotions, real problems, and real thoughts [which I already knew, but it's one of those things that you need to hear over and over again because it is the most important element in any story], make your character say no (conflict building), and the last, what if you met your character in real life? What would they say to you?)

- The Short Form (One of the best classes, here’s some tidbits: you can start your story in the middle of the story, but a lot of the editors dislike the starting in the middle of a scene, if you start too hard/fast/etc., you’ll have difficulty raising the marks later on and especially at the climax, supernatural works better for shorter works as sustaining the ‘spooky world’ element in a novel requires more explaining which ruins the mystery of ‘supernatural’, the best endings are a twist that works and compliments the entire story, and POV in a short story is critical so think this through.  Also, the consensus was that novels suck [because all of them are longer than necessary] and short stories/novellas rock. Go figure.)

Norman Partride Interview- That is not Dead – H.P. Lovecraft’s Contributions to Modern Horror (popular opinion is that H.P. Lovecraft is the most influential person in the history of horror; it’s shocking how many anthologies, eZines, movies, poetry, breakfast prayers, etc. are in the name of Lovecraft, Cthulhu, Dreamlands, Madness, because his horror is depthless in concept, genre, mystery, setting … basically, every horror writer, dark fiction writer, writer in general should familiarize themselves with Lovecraft’s works or risk being hunted down with pitchforks and voodoo dolls. Seriously.)

- Social Media (be more social!, use more photos, hashtags, and links, study writers you like to see how and what they do (every one praised Joe Lansdale’s use of media), talk about your current works in progress and publications, include brief mentions of your personal life [without oversharing/overdoing], spread out to other mediums beyond Twitter and FB, even Pintrest, target influencers [people you wish you knew better, but don't overstep boundaries], time your reviews/interviews/etc. around like events, and ask questions (opinions, polls, title-naming contests, etc. – people actually doing enjoy helping others. Hmm, go figure.)

Jack Ketchum ReadingI also attended some readings that were very entertaining, with Jack Ketchum, Norman Partridge, Jeff Strand, and Alex Scully (editor of Enter at Your Own Risk anthologies).

Overall, it was a good experience. I definitely don’t look like most horror writers, sporting only one tattoo, no other piercings except my ears, keeping lace where it belongs, and hair that doesn’t match the rainbow anywhere, but I did make myself talk to at least three people I’ve never met, had a positive conversation with Norman Partridge at the book signing, and wrote over 3K the next day.  Will I go to another one?  Absolutely.  Did I buy enough books?  Never.

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The bigger picture

Shimmer, NewMyths, Allegory, Flash Fiction Online, Electric Spec, Lovecraft eZine, Black Treacle, Silverthought, Bete Noire, Cemetery Moon, Wily Writers, Abyss & Apex, and Stupefying Stories … all pretty cool magazines, don’t you think? So what do they have in common?  They have all shortlisted my stories for publication with comments like, ‘this almost made the cut,’ and ‘I really wanted to publish this, but in the end, it just wasn’t quite right,’ and ‘while we are not accepting your story at this time, your writing is what we like to see, so feel free to submit more in the future,’ etc.  These rejections were a bummer, but certainly not disappointing. Like it or not, positive rejections are a writer’s pat on the back.

It’s difficult to take in the whole picture when it comes to the writing progress; with so many submissions and rejections, it can feel like a lost world at times.  I keep track of my submission history in a database, and it’s nice to be able to filter work by date, market, story, rejections/acceptances, and recently, never done before, by feedback – which is what happened above.  I hadn’t realized how close I am to getting into all my favorite publications.  Even though acceptances still feel like nothing short of a miracle, I’m almost always shortlisted now days, and that says something–I’m close to reaching one of my goals.

Why not give it a try?  Take a gander through your work from a different angle to see the bigger picture and how close you might actually be in reaching your goals.

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New release launch party – Hedge Witch, by Simon Kewin

I’m a big fan of Simon Kewin.  He’s the author of The Genehunter series, Engn by December House, and multiple short story collections.  Today I’m taking part in the launch party for his YA fantasy novel Hedge Witch.

 

Fifteen year-old Cait Weerd has no idea she’s being sought by the undain: sorcerous creatures that feed off the spirit of the living. She doesn’t know they need her blood to survive. She doesn’t even know she’s a witch, descended from a long line of witches. Cait Weerd doesn’t know a lot, really, but all that’s about to change.

At Manchester Central Library she’s caught up in sudden violence. In the chaos she’s given an old book that’s been hidden there. Given it and told to run. Hide the book or destroy it. The book contains all the secrets of the undains’ existence. They and their human servants want to find it as much as they want to find her.

Cait learns the fates of two worlds are at stake. Just what she needs. Along with definitely-not-a-boyfriend Danny, she has to decide what the hell to do. Run, fight or hope it all goes away.

It’s only then she learns who she really is, along with the terrible truth of what the undain have been doing in our world all this time…

The first three chapters of the book are available as a free taster to download in Kindle or ePub format.

 

In addition, if you fancy winning a copy of the complete book, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below to be in with a shot at five copies in either Kindle or ePub format…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Simon is also giving away Witching Hour – a collection of three witchy short stories – to all partygoers as part of the celebrations. Grab your copy now!

Contains the stories: The Standing Stones of Erelong, A Sorcerous Mist and Slieau Whallian.

Available in these formats: Kindle | ePUB.

Simon Kewin is a fantasy and SF writer, author of Hedge Witch, Engn, The Genehunter and multifarious short stories and poems.

Find him here.

So go have a look at all the great party treats Simon has to offer. Share, tweet, review, and like.  Cheers!

 

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New micro fiction and other news…

I’ve gotta a super short up at Nailpolish Stories, “Dangerous (red).” It’s 25 words, might take you 25 seconds to read.  A minute if you cruise through some other good ones by Cooley, Kodial, Martinson, and others.

A few other tidbits…

In celebration of their 5th year, Luna Station Quarterly is restructuring their website and asks authors to have a peek and update their profiles.  And, it never hurts to submit your well-written work of fiction while you’re there.

Niteblade Fantasy and Horror Magazine’s 2014 Fundraiser announced this week that they reached their goal of $500 for the year ($510.00), which goes to help pay authors, artists, and web hosts.  Thanks to those who donated, Niteblade will run for its 8th year! Look for my story, “A Means for the Journey,” this coming June.

Also, if you missed out on Chris Allinotte’s Days of Madness 4, you can still read all the stories for free in eBook format.  Download at Smashwords: Days of Madness 4.  It includes my story, “The Other Side of Lucy-Lou,” and other great works by Angel Zapata, Chris Allinotte, Mav Skye, Richard Godwin, Absolutely*Kate, and more.

On earthquakes…

Bummed to have not felt the 3.3 earthquake in Sherwood yesterday, but pretty sure I won’t miss out the looming 9.0. Better double check my apocalyptic emergency kit, which will include things like Snickers, horror mags, ritual candles, and a slingshot with a bag of lug nuts for those pesky villains.  What about you? Are you ready for the big one?

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The Worst of the Worst

That’s been my slogan since my computer crashed last Tuesday.  The blue screen of death.  But I wasn’t afraid.  I back up my work to a flash drive about every 2 weeks, so there was nothing written since then that I couldn’t live without or rewrite.  Besides, files can be resurrected, right?  Everything was going to be fine.

But it’s not.  The computer crash (which isn’t turning out to be very easy to recover) wasn’t the worst of it.  Computer crash = BAD, but lost back-up flash drive = COMPLETE & UTTER HORROR.

Horror on a whole new field planet.

Not only might my photos, videos, and a plethora of downloaded PDFs, ePubs, Mobi files, etc. be lost, but the last edit to my novel, Wicked Tempest, which topped in at 110K and was a grueling effort to complete. I have a second back location (Plan C) but nothing on there that is newer than 4-6 months old, and unfortunately doesn’t include the last edit of my novel.  What was I thinking?  That I couldn’t possibly lose both my back-up flash drive and hard drive on the same day.  It’s almost demonic.

I’m not going to cry about it, although I might indulge in a bit of pouting and additional wine and chocolate consumption.  Still, there may be hope – my computer is in the hands of an under-appreciated computer geek, which I’ll be certain to give proper thanks to.  Also, I might just find that darn back-up flash drive, and then spring can resume its sweet bird melody and spray of colors once again.

Until then, I’m backing up on a new micro-metal flash drive daily and getting myself going on that new novel.  Focus not on what was lost but on what can be gained, another slogan to help stave off the insanity one more day.

Point of the matter: Back up your work at least every week, and have a second back-up location (another computer, flash drive, or online storage like Google’s Cloud) for every month.  Time and money well spent.  A good slogan never hurts either.

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