Thursday, June 9, 2016

Short story: Of Turnips and Maidens

It's been too long, hasn't it?

The awesome guys over at Farstrider Magazine have published Of Turnips and Maidens, a sort of sequel to Turnip Farmers Are Heroes Too from On Spec--the style and voice are different, but both star a turnip-whispering farmer and his unruly turnips. This time our protagonist, Turner, helps a nymph while deflecting advances made by a not-so-shiny knight.

And because submitting short stories is itself a story... Originally, Of Turnips and Maidens was rejected by Farstrider Magazine for their first issue, but oh man, was the rejection sincere:

This was a particularly tough call for me. I genuinely enjoyed it, and if I
had a bigger budget I would be proud to feature your story. I truly hope
that you keep in touch as you continue to write and hope that you will
submit again in the future.

Time goes on, submit the story to a few other places--no one else wants it. So when I see Farstrider is open to submissions for their second issue, and since this was the closest place to accepting Of Turnips and Maidens, I queried asking if I could resubmit. I know conventional wisdom says not to resubmit a rejected story, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The important thing is to ask. Lo and behold it resulted in an acceptance.

So now you can read Of Turnips and Maidens for free online! Cheers!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reflections 'n Shit 2015 Edition

2015 was the beginning of quite a few things: moving to LA, getting two rat terrier pups, driving on the highway for the first time... So naturally, I wasn't very productive in my writing, though at the same time, I've taken a step back from short story telling. Why? Well, the SFF short story market kinda sucks.

There's been a huge rise in not-editors, who I've dubbed as "story acquisitioners" because all they do is acquire stories; they don't edit, they don't show an interest in helping authors, they're just there because they think they can make a quick buck by buying stories cheap and reselling them. 

Also, would it kill editors to send an email/put up a notice saying their market has closed, or that there's been delays in publication? This one boggles my mind. Communication is so easy these days, and yet still so hard for some it seems. This leads to me having to checks websites and social media to try and determine what's happened, which is futile because nothing gets updated, before sending a query letter. Sometimes my query is answered, sometimes not. Sometimes I get a rejected query letter!

I attribute this all to a lack of respect for writers. Despite putting our trust and stories into these people's hands, we still get shit on. There was a story publication I specifically didn't mention on my blog for this reason. The publisher was two weeks late on payment and gave a very poor excuse, as well as out right lying on the Kickstarter for the anthology, claiming authors would not be paid if stretch goals weren't met. Err, no. The contract says differently. 

Then you got rejections like this:

Unfortunately, it's not quite right for me.  I liked the sense of detail
and mood I felt in the opening situation, but I didn't also get as much
hint or feel for [redacted]'s situation as a character as I needed there
in order for her to seize me; her hopes or fears or drive or stakes in
this story situation of her feeling grumpy about the lazy guards and
skillfully interdicting the assassin and hatching the scheme to use the
assassin to deceive the enemy; who she was and why she was doing these

If anyone were to actually follow this "advise", the intro to their story would be a clunky, info-dumpy slog. You shouldn't have to explain right off the bat your character's motivations; such things come later as the story naturally unfolds, and often you want readers asking who? what? because it means they'll keep reading to find out.

Worst part is, this "advise" came from a SFWA market, so you know some writers (who don't know better) will take this seriously. For me, I exclaimed to Rez: "I quit!" --though not a 100% true, I haven't shown as much interest in short stories. I have, however, been working on my novel, which so far consists of an intro and a dozen or so random scenes. No idea who will publish it, but that hasn't stopped me.

Then there's the current trends of publishing the author first and the story second. I feared as much when this first started with the Destroy! anthology series. Though now I'm viewing the trend as a cash cow for publishers rather than genuine interest to promote anyone who isn't white, male, and straight. But like all trends, they end sooner or later, and CG might be the first.  In CG writer guidelines:

Crossed Genres strongly encourages submissions from writers who identify as people of color, women, members of the QUILTBAG community, and others who are under-represented in SFF. It is our desire and intent to have diverse representation amongst our contributors and within our content. Please don’t wait for us to ask for them in a theme – we want diverse representation every month! - See more at:
 Crossed Genres strongly encourages submissions from writers who identify as people of color, women, members of the QUILTBAG community, and others who are under-represented in SFF. It is our desire and intent to have diverse representation amongst our contributors and within our content.
Yet publishing/promoting anyone who wasn't white/male/straight didn't seem to help. Like the Destroy! series, they had a successful Kickstarter, but within a year lost 90% of their subscribers, which screams "you're doing it wrong!" And I'm not surprised because only the clinically insane would go out of their way to read stories by a certain subset of the population.  The average reader (and likely the ones with money) just want an entertaining story.

My biggest issue with these types anthologies and magazines is how they peg writers into one role. Women authors can only write female characters with feminist themes; gay authors can only write gay characters dealing with issues of sexuality; black authors can only write black characters and race issues, and so on...

And if you're a straight white male, then you can only write the above!

That's not diversity; that's write by the numbers.

But again, this is all about appearances, what looks good to those who care more about the author than the actual story. Thus the SFF short story market becomes smaller and much less interesting.

If I were to give any sort of unprofessional advice to writers these days, I'd say you're better off bundling your short stories into a collection and self-publish. It may not carry the same prestige, but at least you won't get shit on yourself. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Short Story: Lessons in Blade and Barrier /Fiction Vortex Serial Box

Figured I'd get to this while the Fiction Vortex Serial Box contest was still active, and post 2015 reflections on a later date.

"Lessons in Blade and Barrier" is a finalist in previously said contest, and I guess my story would be representing the long undervalued Sword & Sorcery genre; and what better way to represent it with anthropomorphized garden fauna set against feudal Japan background. Why anthropomorphized lizard and mantis? You might as well ask, "Why the Ninja Turtles"? To me it's all supposed to be good actiony fun. Best of all, it's free to read!

The blade surged forward, more lightning than steel. The very air went dense with static. Izo tumbled more than dodged, leaped quickly to his feet, but found his balance off. There on the ground was his right forearm, clawed fingers clenching his katana.
“No,” he gasped, throat suddenly dry. This couldn’t be real, just couldn’t. He didn’t feel anything missing. Eyes squeezed shut, he used his left hand to probe where his right forearm should be. His hand came away wet. He put two clawtips to his mouth, tasted iron and salt.
Only then did he cry out.

The winner of the contest goes to have a ten-part serial (and more money), expanding the world/story that the author has established.

However, the contest is a bit broken. After you vote, you can see how many votes each story has, something I think should be hidden, otherwise an author knows how many friends and family to gather to beat the highest number. Last I checked, all I needed was 30+ votes to beat Fly Red Fox. But I don't feel all that compelled to rally 30+ votes, and Fly Red Fox is a pretty decent story.

I do commend Fiction Vortex for trying something new and hope this contest leads to more potential serials, something that I think is quite lacking in most magazines. For me, I don't need a serial to write sequels, though if an editor complains about wanting more characters/world then they should sign me up for a serial! Seriously, there's only so much you can fit in a 3K story.

Contest ends on January 18th, so check it out! 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween Movie List

I've been watching Cinemassacre's Monster Madness of late, and reminded of how many awesome horror movies are out there, the majority I haven't even seen.

PC game: The Cat Lady

Here's my pick of movies that I hope to watch before the month is over. Though no shame if the movie-watching spilleth over into November. And the best thing? All these movies are available on Netflix!

From Beyond - From the same director as Re-Animator--which I've seen, so I already know this is going to be a gory masterpiece. Also another loose adaptation of Lovecraft's work.

Brain Damage - Drugs addiction, parasitic turd-looking worm alien, and nom-nom brains--what's not to love?

Rodger Cormen's Poe films - I've seen many of these before as a youngster and loved them all. Then I'd go read the original stories to compare and contrast. Also you don't need a better reason than Vincent Price.

The Body Snatcher - Title says it all. Another film with an iconic horror star Boris Karloff (aka Universal's Frankenstein).

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - Obviously a classic. Boyfriend hasn't seen it--this needs to be corrected.

Nightbreed - Meant to watch this last year for Halloween but never got to it. I enjoyed Clive Barker's Hellraiser, and even listened to the audio version (as told by Barker himself) of the novella it's based on, The Hellbound Heart.  

The Cat Lady - This isn't a movie, but rather a point 'n click adventure game, which are very story-driven, so might as well be a movie (sic). I had downloaded this some summer ago when it was on sale and kinda forgot. The premise: A lonely cat lady commits suicide and in the afterlife, meets the Queen of Maggots. The Cat Lady is denied an end to her suffering unless she eliminate several "parasites" in the living in world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages

Seeing as it's Spooky Month--or at least ten more days of it--why not get in the Halloween spirit with a classic documentary? And by classic, I mean 1921, black and white silent film, Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages.

I enjoy documentaries and this one in particular is neat, partly do to its age, but also some great imagery. It's definitely not your typical documentary--think of it as more of a prototype.

The documentary starts off with informative bits, setting up the time and place when witchcraft was widely believed to be real. I'm not sure how historically accurate this part are, but the director does cite his sources, although I don't know if you can find those sources anymore. There's still images straight from books to help illustrate the information. This part feels more like a lecture, even has a pointer!

Next parts are the best, with live action skits reliving the Dark Ages and the supernatural beliefs that existed back then. Often the belief in the supernatural was enough to make it real, with poeple claiming to have seen the devil. Oh, and the devil in this, played by the director, is awesome, always wagging his forked-tongue. One of my favorite depictions. Seemed like the director had a hell of a time playing the devil.

The Black Sabbath scenes are great too. Phantom witches flying through the air, devils cuddling with their witch-mates, kissing the ass of Satan, throwing rubber babies into cauldrons, spreading ointment on a witch's back while the skeleton of a horse walks past, and a devil furiously churning butter. It's pure awesomeness. 

Despite the fun, there is a serious tone. An old beggar woman is accused of witchcraft and is totured until she confesses to what the Inquisition wants to hear. The old beggar woman goes on to blame others of witchcraft, and it just snowballs from there.The old and poor were often targeted, likely because they were easy scapegoats.

The final segment links witchcraft to modern day (aka 1921); odd behaviors that were considered signs of witchcraft, now are symptoms of mental illness. Though back in that day, they committed people to asylums, which may not have been much better than torture.

The director poses some interesting questions at the end, how despite taking better care of the old and poor, and better notice of the mentally ill, society still hasn't done enough.

And the little woman whom we call hysterical, alone and unhappy, isn't she still a riddle for us? 

Sadly, I think even in today's society, she would still be a riddle for us.

Check it out. it's free on Youtube. I recommend the silent version over the narrated one, due to the narrated version adding jazz music, which is extremely inappropriate when there are scenes of torture. And honestly, it's not that much to read.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

BEYOND: A Space Opera Collection

Do you like space? Do you like opera? Do you like the two combined? Well you're in luck! Speculative fictioneer Milo James Fowler has rounded up some awesome space opera tales in BEYOND: Space Opera.

In the vein of Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and Guardians of the Galaxy, this space opera collection includes humorous action and adventure alongside stories with heart. These tales won’t leave you in the pits of despair. Instead, they’ll lift your spirits, taking you to places unknown.

You’ll travel the stars to far-flung planets, meeting heroic humans and aliens alike — even a mech and a clone. There may be lions and jet packs, to boot. No pigs in this space, but otherwise, all bets are off.

Included in this collection:

"Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Kolarii Kidnappers on Zeta Colony 6" Milo James Fowler
"The Ungreat Escape" by Siobhan Gallagher 
"All Comms Down" by Anne E. Johnson 
"Remembrance Day" by Simon Kewin 
"The Lion's Den" by Devin Miller
"Captain Clone" by Deborah Walker

BEYOND: Space Opera is available from Amazon, Smashword, and Barnes & Noble for free! And if you like the feel of paper between your fingers, there's a print edition too! 

If you want to know more, BEYOND: Space Opera has its own website to check out.

Advertising aside, I'm glad to see "The Ungreat Escape" out there again. I was disappointed when Cosmos removed all their short stories from their website, and considering that I didn't have an easy time placing this story... well, yeah, it's nice to see some appreciation for it. As I've said before, I like Lorelei--she's a twit, but she's my twit.

I also said I'd write an eventual sequel ... which never materialized. Humor is such a hard sell, to the point where it's near impossible. And it sucks. As a writer, you want to write more humor, but you also want to sell stories.

Though the future is bright, even if the short story market is not, so maybe they'll yet be another Lorelei misadventure.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Short Story: Froggers

Again, I'm behind on announcing short story pubs. I do absolutely want to announce this one since the editor, Sam Bellotto Jr., is an awesome dude and probably deserves more credit than the likes of Lois Tilton give him. (She wants Hard Stuff, huh? I get ya. *wink wink*)

"Froggers" is my latest story from Perihelion Science Fiction, and is actually one of my oldest stories too; as in, it's seen A LOT of rejections. Despite what some silly editor said, thinking this was about current events, it's not. This pre-dates current events by a few years. Though I do have this crystal ball...

What are Froggers? So glad you asked...

And step up they did. One frogger—maybe male, but then again, they all looked the same—faced me on the terminal, its beady obsidian eyes on either side of its head stared at me. Always gave me the shivers. The scanner materialized a 3D form of the frogger’s body: bipedal humanoid with massive gut, thick neck, and wide flat head. The scan revealed active cultures churning in the frogger’s bowels, crawling on its slick skin. Froggers were best buds with these microorganisms, couldn’t live without them. Just watching those yellow dots dance all over the 3D form made me want to toss up lunch. 

So we follow cynical Joen as his day only gets worse--snot rockets, anyone? Eck! Then from worse to weird.

Funny thing: this story, like Neither Heaven Nor Hell, was originally written in 3rd-person, but once again, an editor of another magazine didn't "get" my 3rd-person style (which is written very close to the character's perspective) and asked for a change. That editor of course never got back to me. Go figure.

In other news, "The Ungreat Escape" will be in Milo James Fowler's upcoming space opera collection, called BEYOND. More about that on its release date of August 15th!