Blog Archive

Off on a tangent

I’ve begun writing many, many short stories when an idea strikes or the mood takes me; most of the recent ones are for my own entertainment, a kind of fanfiction for the world I’ve created in The Damning Moths. Sometimes triggered by a reader asking about a specific event in the novel, or just an offshoot from where I’m filling in blanks, plotting other events, and I will start wondering, “What happens here?”

Despite the level of enjoyment these pieces bring me, in a lot of cases, I feel compelled to drop the stories in favour of writing something more in the second novel. There is an oppressive need to get the next book done now, now, now, even as I’m juggling the many threads in the story and trying to keep everything sane, in order. But there the shorts sit, waiting, and I do try and tie off those loose ends eventually. They are too fun to ignore indefinitely.

After completing the draft for an extremely succinct piece, I shrugged and gave copies to my editors to see what they would say. Opinions were good. Apparently, the story appealed to them as well. And so, given a final polish, I’ve gone ahead and released Greenflame as another freebie over at TheDamningMoths.com. You’re all welcome to stop by and read this 1,600 word short when you have a moment spare.

There are more tales from In The Between, the pieces which catch my attention here and there. I look forward to the day when more of them are complete and I can publish them as well. In the meantime, the novel still screams at the back of my mind, demanding more words, more time, more attention. Maybe we can start placing bets on which story I will get through next.

~A

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The names, the names!

The names, the names! So many names.

Prepare yourselves.

The prodigious publisher, Written Backwards, will welcome Qualia Nous to print in the following month (released by early September). I am purely giddy to be a part of this anthology, sharing pages with writerlings I call my friends, as well as names I have admired from afar, and new authors to enjoy.

And it’s going to be huge. Not just because the Table of Contents is topped by Stephen King himself, but we look forward to a 454 page delight of science fiction / horror. I am so ready.

From the official announcement, here is the final line-up.

Michael Bailey with the introduction “0-1”
Stephen King, with a novelette titled “The Jaunt”
Usman T. Malik, with “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”
Gene O’Neill, with “The Shaking Man”
My own story, “Dyscrasia”
Emily B. Cataneo, with “The Rondelium Girl of Rue Marseilles”
Erik T. Johnson, with “The Angel Chaser”
Ian Shoebridge, with “Psychic Shock”
D.J. Cockburn, with “Peppermint Tea in Electronic Limbo”
John R. Little, with “Second Chance”
Jon Michael Kelley, with “The Effigies of Tamber Square”
Lori Michelle, with “Shades of Naught”
James Chambers, with “The Price of Faces”
Jason V Brock, with a novelette titled “Simulacrum”
Marge Simon, with the poem “Shutdown”
Peter Hagelslag, with a novelette titled “Lead Me To Multiplicity”
Christian A. Larsen, with “Cataldo’s Copy”
Max Booth III, with “The Neighborhood Has a Barbeque”
Marge Simon, with the second poem “Tomorrow’s Femme”
Richard Thomas, with “The Jenny Store”
Erinn L. Kemper, with “Night Guard”
William F. Nolan, with “A New Man”
John Everson, with “Voyeur”
Pat R. Steiner, with “Kilroy Wasn’t There”
Paul Anderson, with “In the Nothing-Space, I Am What You Made Me”
Lucy A. Snyder, with “Dura Mater”
Rena Mason, with “Ruminations”
Thomas F. Monteleone, with “Good and Faithful Servant”
Patrick Freivald, with “Twelve Kilos”
Mason Ian Bundschuh, with “Breathe You In Me”
Elizabeth Massie, with “18P37-C, After Andrea Was Arrested”
and Gary A. Braunbeck, with a novelle titled “No Fixed Address”

Wow. Yeah. Wow.

~A

In speaking, and death

That time comes. The king is dead. A structural shift in the family, to lose the patriarch, the grandfather. We are small and tenuously linked on that side. There exists tacit agreement of a bond rarely spoken, and a love barely expressed. Ours is a secret brotherhood where acknowledgement of familial ties is made more readily by a glance and a nod than anything else. A flock of black sheep.

The procession to his end of days was made through the plodding steps of someone ready for the quiet between lives. A long rest in the Beyond. Reunited not just with the grandmother and kin, but with Pete, and Butch, and Beauty; Honey, Harley, Maggot, Shadow… A host of most beloved dogs who crossed before him. No longer did he need to answer the question of his well-being with, “I’ll survive, given a bit of luck.” Luck would now bring easy peace instead.

Final days, we prepared, our visits overrun by unavoidable knowledge and half-guilty relief that he would not be forced to linger. And still he cared, mightily. He enquired about my writing again, again. I don’t know how to answer that question normally, not sure what is really being asked, so what can I possibly say when he is sitting at the right hand of Death? Nothing more than a soft, “It’s good.” He was old. Loved. Soon to be missed – whether soon was down to hours or days, it would come too rapidly. And so, simply, “It’s good.” Writing is lively. Bright thoughts, clear-minded, an activity with such forward momentum that the very wondering felt out of place in a hospital room of tubes and wires and roaming medical staff. He would be comforted by my future, but this still felt too much like boasting. He was old. Tired. Gods grant his wish to sleep for a week and into the evermore. We can meet again in time eternal. It’s okay. Be free of this.

Thursday. Early morning phone call. There is only one reason. Ave atque vale, Granddad.

~A

In looking back

I’ve been writing for 3/5ths of my life.

This blog has already been around for three years, a confusing rush of time blended into the everything else happening. On that note, many thanks for continuing to read, my friends. This is, as always, an interesting experience for me.

We’re approaching the third anniversary of my first publishing acceptance, and in turn, the second anniversary of holding an actual printed book in my hands, containing a story I had composed. I’ve made some amazing friends in being a part of that anthology.

Almost six months ago, my first novel successfully launched, along with a little companion tale. The start of many to come in the Anecdota.

And now, another short story will be given to the world. Something small and special, still close to my heart, still young and cherished until the moment the anthology is made and I cannot hold the words as they pour between my fingers and make their way into the reader’s minds, when the story is no longer mine alone.

As stated on the Acknowledgements page of The Damning Moths, I merely write these things; they come to life when you read them. You take them in and experience the story, and they become more, something outside of my control.

Gazing over what I have already accomplished gives a sense of warmth and comfort, a happy glow proving, “I Am.” To know how many people I am reaching, from corners of the globe both obvious and unexpected, is poignant. I’m glad for what I have already done, and equally grateful for the small, screaming voice which always tells me it’s still not enough. Because I have a drive to do it all again. Write a story. Find it the right home. Release it to change and grow and transform into what it must.

Looking back over these things, just one possible sum of my existence, I know I have done well. Here I am, listening to songs hopeful and quietly melancholic and composing new tales, always, endlessly. I can wrap the past around me as a comforting blanket. None of it was a fluke, I’m leaving a mark.

I am here, doing what I was made for.

~A

Cross a name off the list

Publisher Written Backwards has been responsible for some of my all-time favourite anthologies. Which makes me all the more amazed to be included in the next one…!

A short story happened one day, a strange little piece indeed. Inspired by reading about cutting edge medical breakthroughs in cancer treatment, at the same time as ancient Greek medical theories, and finding myself in a strange overlapping territory – “dyscrasia” being both the old Greek term of health imbalance, and now used in naming plasma cell cancer.

The music I happened to be listening to topped off the whole event. Somehow, I had a complete story on my hands, without being sure what to do with it.

I determined after sitting, reading, editing the whole thing that it was probably cyberpunk, a sub-genre of science fiction. And then I waited, and read, and re-read, still uncertain. What was this piece? What would I do with it? There was something very appealing in the story for me, but I don’t normally write sci-fi, and I spent a lot of time glaring at my computer screen. I edited a touch more here and there before throwing Dyscrasia at my beta readers. They got back to me, expressing opposite opinions. Add in another beta reader. Another day. Another reaction.

A new thought tickling at the back of my mind.

Editor Michael Bailey had mentioned his next anthology, Qualia Nous, was not entirely invite-only. The door might still be unlocked for those willing to knock. A great coming together of sci-fi and horror, guaranteed to be as epic as the previous Written Backwards anthologies, and here I figured, why not submit? I don’t know what else to do with Dyscrasia. Almost as if… I was passing the time. So submission goes off, I sleep, then head out for work, life goes on.

I get home again, see an email in my inbox.

It hasn’t even been 24 hours.

I’ve been formally accepted into Qualia Nous.

Dyscrasia is exactly what the editor was waiting for.

That weird cyberpunk story which bubbled up on its own accord, truthfully when I was procrastinating away from writing other novels, had landed me a place beside some amazing authors in one of the most exciting new markets out there. I can’t wait to hold a copy of Qualia Nous in my hands and see how this anthology has come together, with me, somehow, a part of it.

~A

Change is better than a holiday

The weather persists at being not-very-autumnal, but there is apparently still the instinct to prepare the burrow for winter. I’ve noticed among friends and family local to me that I’m not the only person going through the urge to rearrange and offload items no longer needed before the seasons change.

A common sight in Australia, or at least around the Perth metropolitan area, is roadside collection. Our normal weekly rubbish is removed by a truck with a big robotic arm rather than physically handled by the rubbish collecting people, so household goods like furniture and large items aren’t placed out on rubbish day. To account for this, many of the city councils announce they will be taking large items from the roadside at a designated time. This is, of course, a treasure trove of pre-loved furniture and other goodies, if you’re willing to browse through what some people have deemed rubbish.

That whole “one man’s trash” idiom at work.

I’d been looking at buying some new shelves and lamenting the high cost of such things – remember, the instinct to prepare for the coming winter had set in already, because I swear, the seasons will change and it will be glorious and rainy and gods, I can only hope this growing drought breaks in a big way. Then I saw roadside collection had started while driving through to work. Of course, I love recycling/upcycling, and generally finding ways to reuse valuable resources instead of seeing them sent to landfill. In the process, I also get a bunch of things I need for free? Awesome.

For a couple of days, the housemates and I set out to cruise around those neighbourhoods. We affectionately referred to the process as “scrubbing”. You know, the TLC song? Scrubs have no money? Well, maybe you had to be there to really get it, but the experience was both rewarding in terms of the many great pieces of furniture which were salvaged, plus we spent several hours entertaining ourselves.

We filled the front room with our acquisitions, and have spent the subsequent days clearing space, donating old goods of our own to the local charity shops, and rearranging half the house. It feels good. Change is better than a holiday, because it’s more permanent, and makes a difference every day.

~A

Bright lights and faerietales

I’m assured the sun is shining furiously outside though I am happier to be cloistered away in the writing cave than charring and/or melting out there. Do you know the weather people describe our forecasts with things like, “Plenty of sunshine,” and even, “Abundant sunshine,” if a quick glance out the window won’t answer the question in amazing, blinding glory? As an aside, thank you, Summer, but you’re now working overtime. Please kindly vacate the desk and allow Autumn to take over the next shift. Trust me, we’ve all earned this particular break.

Well-protected from such brightness and heat, I’m tucked away thinking about faerietales within the dark fantasy world of The Damning Moths. The legends which would inevitably shape the cultures found throughout Gantiri, not to mention the function of our own real-world grim tales. Our traditional “fairytale” form is often a veiled warning about the danger of wandering off alone in the woods; of strangers; of the dark; of waterways; of eating unknown foods. They are methods to impart knowledge, too. Stories of changelings which seem to mimic modern behavioural disorders, or tales to impress upon the listener the value of morals and proprietary.

Do fae also fear for their children exploring in nature, even when the forests are their homes? Would it be the risk of injury where no one can come to the child’s aid, or the hunting of predators, the necessity of keeping magical things secret? Do their faerietales teach the babes not to stray near a griffin’s lair, or keep far from the rival Goblin tribe? To hold back the little ones from being swept away by the playful, but ultimately immortal Elementals who will have no concept of the child dying if it falls, or drowns, or is burnt (especially when the Elementals think in terms of energy transference, rebirth, and the persistence of existence)?

What tales and superstitions and strange remedies would be passed down through generations of magical folk? Would they have even more outlandish stories to tell their children, as we speak of witches, and trolls, and werewolves? Or would the humans be the bogey? The loss of their powers? Naughty little fae can’t do magic, so be good, eat your vegetables, don’t taunt the Urisk just because he’s hairy…

~A