Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Off Again

I'm taking off again today to get some work finished. Yes, I know, but such is the life of a writer-for-hire; these people keep hiring me.

Also, a reminder: I'll be posting name of the winner of the Pack Your Bags Giveaway tomorrow morning, so if you want a chance for it to be yours be sure to enter before midnight EST tonight.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Off to Write

I'm bailing on you all today so I can get some work done. In the meantime, be sure to enter the Pack Your Bags Giveaway for a chance to win a handmade tote filled with some great SF reads and other fun stuff.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pack Your Bags Giveaway

From time to time we all need to escape, but when you can't get out of town in person you can always let a great story take you away. I think that's what I've always loved about great SF adventure stories -- they're guaranteed to whisk you off to new worlds.

To celebrate the release of LJ Cohen's new novel Ithaka Rising, and because I love traveling through her Halcyone Space universe, I'm having a giveaway:

I packed one of you a getaway bag, which consists of this nifty SF-ish tote (one of my rare quilting experiments), an unsigned trade paperback copy of LJ's Derelict, a traveler edition of Gimble for hands-free reading, a blank journal called The Anti-Social Network (couldn't resist that one) and a quilted bookmark made by yours truly. There will also be an unsigned trade paperback copy of Ithaka Rising by LJ Cohen (which is not pictured because it's still en route to me with my own copy from the bookseller.)

If you'd like to win it all, in comments to this post name one thing you'd like to bring back after a trip to the future (or if you're afraid of customs, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015. I will pick one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner the getaway bag. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Q&A with LJ Cohen

Today PBW is proud to host an interview with indy writer, publisher, poet and longtime blogpal LJ Cohen, the author of Derelict and Ithaka Rising:

Who or what first prompted you to write science fiction?

When you start writing as a young person, all these well meaning adults tell you to 'write what you know.' But what I knew at the time was a whole lot more limited than what I know now: I knew how to be at school, how to be the 'baby' in the family, how to play with the neighbor kids. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to read that, much less write it. What I did read was a whole lot of SF and fantasy books. It was what I knew. All those worlds and all those realities - Heinlein, L'Engle, Norton, Asimov - were my worlds and realities. So it was utterly natural to gravitate to those genres as a writer.

Name one book that you never tire of re-reading, and why.

Besides Stardoc? :) Seriously. And why? Because I love the character of Cherijo. She is intelligent, driven, talented, and resourceful. And I love the mixture of SF and medical technology you have woven together. As a medical professional myself (I have a masters degree in Physical Therapy and spent nearly 25 years in clinical practice), I appreciate how realistic the medical details and the injuries are. And it was nice to have a lead character who was not a military commander for a change. I also have a huge love for another SF series - Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga books. While I wish there were more female viewpoint characters in the stories, I appreciate how many fully realized women populate her world. And I love Miles Vorkosigan - the lead character in most of the books. He's a bundle of neruoses in 'Mission Impossible' situations. In space.

Along with being an author you're also a poet -- how does poetry influence your fiction writing?

I can think of at least two distinct ways poetry influences my fiction writing. The first is in the sound and feel of language. A writer makes word choices on any number of levels: connotation, denotation, cultural appropriateness, dialect, to name a few. I add the sound and feel of the language to that mix. Poetry is an auditory and kinesthetic experience. When I read poetry (and I love to read it aloud) there is a music to the flow of phrases, lines, and stanzas that can be used to good effect in prose. Do I want to ramp up the tension in a scene? Then I go to short, sharp words that have a staccato rhythm. Looking to slow the pace and create a more relaxed experience? Then I choose longer, more flowing kinds of words.

The second way poetry comes into my fiction is in the use of metaphor and simile - both types of comparison that are the heart and soul of poetry. (See what I did there?) One of the things I work toward, is creating apt comparisons that emerge organically from my characters' backgrounds and experiences. That will deepen reader immersion and world building, as well as add layers of meaning to the work.

If you could step into a time machine and visit any SF universe (including your own), what would you choose as your destination, and why?

That's easy. Doctor Who. Okay, I know there is debate as to whether or not this show is actually SF, but I'm sticking to my choice. I've been a fan since 1973. I was 10, and I couldn't find any saturday morning cartoons. Every station was playing some boring grown-up thing called the Watergate Hearings. So I channel flipped until I found a PBS station that showed this crazy dude in an Opera cloak who had this blue box that was supposed to move through time and space. Soon after, he got killed off (!) and this other guy with crazy hair and a long striped scarf became the Doctor. I was hooked. I made a scarf when I was in Jr High School that I still have (and wear) today. My office has a wall dedicated to all things Doctor Who. And when I was growing up, I wanted to be Sara Jane Smith, one of the Doctor's most famous companions.

When you return from your SF universe trip you can smuggle one thing back with you. So what's hiding in your luggage?

Why, the key to the TARDIS, of course!

What are you writing now, and when can we expect to get our hands on it?

Well, ITHAKA RISING is due out any minute now! So I guess that's the next thing readers will see. I'm brainstorming book 3 in the series. And I actually already have a title - which is exceedingly rare for me. I usually struggle with titles. (Seriously. I have a manuscript from 2011/12 that I call YAGSIP - Young Adult Ghost Story in Progress.) Book 3 of Halcyone Space will be DREADNAUGHT AND SHUTTLE, which is a reference from book 1, and is the local vernacular for 'cat and mouse'. And we'll come back to Micah Rotherwood (he had a very small role in ITHAKA RISING) and his quest to bring down the drug cartels that ruined his life. Based on my typical writing pace, my goal is to have it out one year from now.

I've also gotten myself tangled up in a co-writing project that emerged from a silly comment thread on Google Plus a few weeks ago. (Which is what happens when you let two writers brainstorm.) It's not quite SF, but close. A mafia hit man is contaminated by a virus during a hit that makes him utterly unmemorable. Which would be a huge boon to his line of work, except that it effects everyone, even his famly. Right now, it's in the 'way cool new shiny idea' phase. No deadline. No plans for the writing in any way, other than to be playful with it.

I take part in the #saturdayscenes project on Google Plus, so I'll likely be posting snippets from both works in progress starting later in the summer.

We're going to look in a crystal ball to see what you'll be doing in ten years. What do you think we'll see?

With any luck, we'll really be empty nesters by that point. . . living in a smaller house on a larger piece of land. The problem is where. Hubby is a country mouse. I am a city mouse. There aren't a lot of places that are funky and urban enough for me, yet quiet and rural enough for him. But the Amherst region in Western Massachusetts might fit the bill. I will definitely have a computer set up with kinesthetic controls like Ro. And room enough to build a life-sized TARDIS.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Revisited Read: Derelict by LJ Cohen

A little over a year ago I first read Derelict by LJ Cohen, and it impressed me so much I not only gave it a quote I even wrote a ten things list about it. It came into my hands exactly at the precise moment I needed a wonderful read, too. At the time I was beginning all the lab work and prep stuff for the first of my two eye surgeries, and Derelict provided a terrific and very necessary escape from all that. Now that the sequel, Ithaka Rising, has just been released I decided to take a trip back to my first experience to revisit this amazing universe by having another go at Derelict.

I remember my strong first impression of the novel came from being immediately hooked by how smart, engrossing and interesting the story begins, and that happened again. As a writer I appreciate that elusive, page-turner magic because I know how difficult it is to capture, and as a reader it's absolutely what I want when I hit the first page. Don't give me a weather report, make me burn dinner. Fortunately I wasn't cooking when I began Derelict or something would have scorched. Same again this time -- I deliberately waited until I was not operating any electrical appliances when I began to read and lost myself in the story.

I think on this read I appreciated the diverse cast a bit more. When you're first introduced to each of the characters you become absorbed in the immediate aspects of their particular personalities and conflicts. I loved on the first read how real they felt on the page, but this time around I knew them and so noticed the less obvious elements. Ro, the protagonist, is very intelligent, driven, and rather cold, but it's a facade, and this time I spotted more glimpses of her vulnerabilities. The same with Barre, the musician son of physicians who always comes up short when compared with his brilliant baby brother -- until his innate ability to compose music enables him to do things the other characters can't. I felt much more sympathetic to Barre this time around.

Halcyone, the derelict ship in the story, also took on more depth for me. On my first read I was caught up in the adventure, but the second time around I knew what would be happening and paid more attention to the details around the action. Those little things that I zeroed in on this time allowed me to better visualize the ship, which made every scene more colorful and alive for me, and in turn enhanced the action. As a result I'd say I probably enjoyed the book this time more than the first read-through.

The feel of the novel once more transported me back to my young teens, when I read every A.M. Lightner book I could borrow from the school library, so it definitely works as a YA. At the same time it doesn't read like most YAs that shove that too-young, over-the-top teen angst in your face. The young cast in Derelict are not standing around wondering what he said or she said. They're dealing with very serious situations in their lives, and while they act their ages they also resonate with me as an adult. I know how Ro feels about being awkward with people because I'm the same, and the age difference doesn't matter. Jem's tireless and sometimes overwhelming enthusiasm for advanced programming rings true with me because I feel the same about my art.

I'm glad I took the time to read Derelict again, because I've just ordered the paperback of Ithaka Rising and I want to see what happens next with Ro and the crew. Tomorrow I will also have a Q&A interview with Derelict's author, so if you'd like to find out more about LJ Cohen, stop in. And if you haven't yet taken the first wild ride on Halcyone, Derelict for Kindle is less than a dollar right now, so click here to get it for a song.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Ghost Writer (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 78.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Secret Covers

Sometimes when I want to write a story but I don't have time, have to finish other projects and/or want to wait and let it simmer a bit more, I make secret cover art for it anyway. Sometimes it's to try out art for stories I plan to make into freebies, but more often it's just for my own amusement. I'll print out a secret cover for my personal journal, the idea file or any notebook I've started on it, but otherwise no one ever sees it but me. I feel like I've made a million of these secret covers, too.

In the spirit of spontaneity, and (hopefully) me being a bit more transparent, here are the three latest secret covers I've made:

My sequel to In the Leaves, for the day when I can get back and write more of Sally's story. Definitely writing this one.

This cover is for some notes I found on a novella series I planned to write to continue the story from Frostfire (and alas, never got the chance.) It's unlikely that I'll ever write all five stories I outlined, but you never know -- and the ideas were really solid and fun.

I have a story sorta/kinda based on/partially set in/orbiting distantly the StarDoc universe that has been bouncing around in my head for a couple years. Lately I've been revisiting the idea while I drive around running errands, so I jotted down some notes and decided to make a cover for it. I have seriously mixed feelings about this one. I also have ten million excellent reasons to never revisit StarDoc in any way shape or form. This might end up being the novel that they only find after I'm deceased, along with the twenty-eight others no one has ever seen that I have hidden away. Kidding. There are only like seventeen.

Do you ever do weird stuff like this? Confess your secrets in comments.

Image Credits:

Far Seer -- massonforstock
Frenchman's Pass -- zacariasdamata
21 -- Molodec

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Idea

I was searching through my old idea file today looking for the original synopsis I wrote for Ghost Writer when I found this partial scene I wrote back in 2012:

“Lunch.” I handed Lucy a wrapped sandwich. At her hurt look, I added, “It’s an all-veggie pita with no-fat dressing.”

“I love you. If you weren’t a girl, I’d have your babies.” She stopped to rip paper and take a huge bite before taste-bliss made her lashes droop. “Oh, God. Maybe we could adopt.”

Lucy had been dieting since high school; I knew because we’d been best friends since the first day of freshman year. I never kept any secrets from her, either, which was making it tough to decide what to tell her about my luncheon appointment.

“So?” She took a bottle of protein water from her bag. “What happened at the bank?”

“Nothing much.” I sat down in the client chair next to her desk and eyed the scuff mark on one side of my right shoe. “Anyone call?”

In mid-chug, Lucy nodded and passed me a small stack of message slips. Because she was the world’s finest receptionist, they were all neatly and beautifully written, and because I was the head of Accounts Receivable, I’d have to call them back.

“You look like someone just kicked your dog,” she told me after she swallowed. “What’s nothing much?”

“It’s just a family thing.” I sorted through the slips, shuffling them according to accounts and making some predictions about what they wanted to tell me. “No money, no money, probably filing Chapter Eleven, no money . . .” I came to one from the bank officer I’d just seen. “Oh.”

“He needs you to mail him a copy of your birth certificate.” Lucy balled up the empty sandwich wrapper, expertly tossing it into the garbage can in the corner of her cubicle before she gave me the eye. “You gonna tell me, or do I have to spread a rumor about you having the hots for Dale Bilmer in Collections?”

“Dale Bilmer is sixty-two.”

She nodded. “And still single. And looks upon you with lust simmering in his pacemaker while he adjusts his toupee.”

I wanted to laugh, but I was too depressed. “I’ve inherited something.”

Lucy leaned close. “Something like what?”

“A French chateau.”

“A what?” Lucy whooped, jumped up and dragged me to my feet before she danced me around. “You’re rich, you’re rich, you’re rich!”

I let her spin me a few more times before I stopped her. “I’m not rich.”

“Oh, sure.” She laughed. “You’re so poor you own a chateau in France. The true definition of poverty.”

“It’s not in France.” I eased out of her arms. “It’s in California.”

“Huh?” Now she looked perplexed. “What’s it doing there?”

“Someone moved it there.” I sat back down and gestured for her to do the same. “It’s in the mountains in the north part of the state.” I hesitated before I added, “I inherited a couple of mountains, too.”

My best friend grinned. “In California? Girl, trust me, you’re rich now. You’re so rich that you could—”

“I have to live there,” I told her, shutting her up instantly. “I mean, if I want the land and the money and stuff, I have to move to California and live in the house.”

“For how long?”

“A month.”

I believe this was the first incarnation of the idea I had that resulted in Breath of Ice, and what's odd is that after I wrote it I never looked at it again until today. So my Accounts Receivable protag (never got around to naming her) heiress morphed into a property manager named Stephanie and the French chateau she inherited because a not-actually-haunted uber McMansion prison for a yeti. I don't recall what I had planned to have haunt the chateau, but I'm sure it would have been something just as strange.

I like haunted house stories, but I don't like how most of them end, and I think that was why I wanted to take a crack at writing one of my own. I liked my two girlfriend characters (actually pretty rare for me; I don't especially like BFF characters) and the dialogue seemed snappy enough. Once I got to the month residency requirement I remember my interest in it quickly evaporated, and I stopped and filed it away.

It's not a horrible idea, and some of it obviously stuck with me long enough to simmer itself into Breath of Ice, but I'm glad I didn't write more. Sometimes an idea is just supposed to be an idea. Do you save your partials and unfinished stories? Ever go back and read them? Do they have any value for you as a writer? Let us know in comments.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Days of Spontaneity

From the Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition:

spontaneity /ˌspɒntəˈniːɪtɪ; -ˈneɪ-/ noun (pl) -ties

1. the state or quality of being spontaneous

2. (often pl) the exhibiting of actions, impulses, or behaviour that are stimulated by internal processes

I am not spontaneous by nature; my usual creative method is to think/research/plan/test/check/recheck and only then do. I don't think it's a bad thing; I tend to get lots accomplished and nearly always finish what I start. For example, I generally plan, write and schedule for publication all the posts for PBW two weeks in advance. That gives me a forever floating fourteen days to add/change/delete things, and it keeps the blog automatically updating every day if/when I'm offline working.

It's not always a positive, however, The past few months I've been so busy with building my client list that I've been neglecting to adhere to my two week advanced posting method, which is why there were no posts when I went off to write last week. I suddenly ran out of pre-written posts, didn't have time to restock my post inventory and couldn't think of anything in the short time I had to work on the blog. My lack of spontaneity suddenly became more of a hindrance than a help.

Since I want to change that (and I still don't have time to restock) this week I'm going to write my non-feature posts the day before I post them, with no advance planning, and see if I can be a bit more spontaneous with my content.

Here's what a planner I am: as I was writing this post I opened another window so I could search for articles to read on how to be more spontaneous. About two-thirds of what I found before I realized what I was doing related to sex, and while I love you all that's simply not helpful in a blogging situation. Being addicted to research is an occupational hazard as well, but I think I've programmed myself to research anything I'm not sure of because I'm self-educated. I've read enough about artistic writers to know that to be more spontaneous you have to set aside your fears, forget about planning and organizing, and try new things. So for the next few days PBW will be my hub of spontaneity, and we'll see how I do.

To kick things off, let's talk about books. I just finished Consumed by Fire by Anne Stuart, which was an interesting American spin-off of her popular Ice series. I'll have to go back and try to read the last Ice book that was released as a Kindle-only e-book, as I never finished that one due to the pre-surgery eye problems. My next book is a re-read of Derelict by L.J. Cohen, as the sequel, Ithaka Rising, is coming out next week, and I am planning to write a revisited reads post about it because I can't not plan everything.

I've been very restless with my reading this summer, and currently bouncing all over the place with what I'm buying. The owner of the indy bookstore I frequent recommended one of her book club titles, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, so I grabbed a copy of that. I have one more Jack Reacher to read and then as it's never going anywhere but in cookie cutter circles I think I'm done with that series. Because I'm missing Europe I invested in Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes and new copies of all the Peter Mayle books someone borrowed from me and never returned, may a million silverfish infest their library. And finally, I bought a remaindered novel titled Happily Ever After about a housewife/single parent who secretly writes erotica and meets a hunky stranger in Target because of how it absolutely shrieks realism. Kidding. I bought it because I'm apparently a masochist.

So what are you reading, and why? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wishing You

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Just Write Stuff

I didn't notice that the one-year anniversary of my Thursday Just Write feature whizzed by at the end of May, but it came up in e-mail conversation with a reader who didn't know I was publishing new works on the blog.

So for the benefit of the not-so-regular visitors, in the year since I began writing and posting new stories on PBW, I've managed to publish three new works with my byline: Breath of Ice, In the Leaves, and Club Denizen. At present I'm working on Ghost Writer, which I expect will take me a couple of months to finish as it's definitely turning into a novel.

As a ghost writer I've been knocking out on average 71K in contracted work per month, which is pretty much equal to what I was doing for traditional publishers in my heyday. This month I'm about to wrap up an extended series for one client, and begin my ninth short series for another. As a result the time I have to write stories that aren't going to pay the bills is very limited.

I am aware that some readers don't want to read the .pdfs on the computer, or find them a hassle to download on their particular e-readers, and that it's frustrating to follow a story in progress when you're used to reading only finished works. I wish it could be different, but this is the best I can manage right now -- and since anyone on the planet can access my Just Write stories for free, I feel that's a fair trade-off for any inconvenience involved.

Thursday has become my favorite day of the week now because I can take a few hours to write whatever I want, and share it with you all. That's important to me, and lots of fun, and I hope you'll stop in when you get a chance and check out the latest story in progress.

Friday, June 19, 2015

If the Shoe Fits

The story of Cinderella is well known around the globe; some scholars believe up to three thousand versions of the story are told by nearly every culture on the planet. Here are a couple of interesting spins presented by the Victoria and Albert Museum (with narration and background music, for those of you at work):

Cinderella's Shoes from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm back! and off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Ghost Writer, with new material beginning on page 70.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tiger Eyed

I'm back, and thanks to everyone for your patience while I was off writing and dealing. To have some fun today (and find out how sharp your color vision is) try this online eye test and discover which animal shares your range of color vision.

I was expecting to score badly, but the new and improved eyes actually did pretty well with a score of 21 and no errors:

I'm pretty sure most tigers can see anything better than me, but it was an interesting test.

So which animal's eyesight do you have? Let us know in comments.

(Test link swiped from Gerard at The Presurfer)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Still Off

I'm off today; explanation here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Still Off

I'm off today; explanation here.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Off to Write and Clean

I need to unplug from the internet for a couple days to finish a project for a client, tidy the office and clean the rest of my house. I've run out of pre-written posts to put up in my absence, and I'm kind of sick of doing the blast from the past thing, so expect a repeat of this along with some pretty images to fill in while I'm away.

See you in a couple of days.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sub Op

Cantina Publishing has an open call for their upcoming Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology: "iPhones are magic. I mean, do you know how yours works? Could you take it apart and put it back together? We can’t go out without our smartphones. They organize our lives, find our locations, and sync with all our other tech. We sleep with them beside our pillows. Yet… their workings are a mystery. What does “magic iPhone” mean to you? Consider the supervillain who mind-controls a city’s populace, or the employee who stamps the runes that make your iPhone 8s so lightweight. This anthology is based on the success of anthology editor Janine A. Southard’s recent novel, Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story, which stars an explicitly magical iPhone (found by story gamers in modern-day Seattle). That iPhone comes pre-loaded with a romance finder app of dubious morality that not only sends its users on terrible dates, but also sucks their life forces. Editor’s Note: I’m looking for stories that cleverly incorporate the idea of a “magic iPhone” into any setting you like. I will, of course, be psyched to read variations on my crazy romance app, but I’m also excited to read something totally different. I’m accepting all genres except straight-up erotica or hard-core horror. (We’re aiming this anthology at general audiences, after all.) I think the idea lends itself well to comedy and dark fantasy, but… I guess that was obvious already." Length: 3-7K, Payment: $100.00, no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: October 1st, 2015.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Pale & Precious

This fascinating film from the UK's Victoria and Albert Museum offers a gorgeous overview of the history of pearls as adornments and jewelry (narrated and with background music, for those of you at work):

Pearls from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: There isn't one this week, as some bad weather and other vastly annoying difficulties kept me offline all day and night. Since it's 1:52 am on Friday I'm simply going to cancel this week's Just Write. I apologize and promise to do better next week.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wait for It

Author Anne Frasier just announced that Pretty Dead, her third novel in the Elise Sandburgh series, will be released September 1st. This book was #1 on my summer reading list but I don't mind waiting a couple of extra months for it. Some authors are worth the wait, and the first two books in the series were among my favorite reads of 2014.

Sometimes I lose track of long series that follow a chronology of events, which frustrates me. I was doing okay with Rachel Caine's vampire novels until I stopped at the fifth, sixth or seventh book and then lent the series to someone who never returned them (which also aggravates me, but I know better, so that's my fault.) I can't remember who I gave the books to or where I left off. I'm going to start over with that one by checking out the first books from the library and read them again until I can figure out which book I need to pick up next.

There are a lot of series that are readable from any point because there is very little chronology or no timeline at all, and/or the protagonists and support crew seldom undergo any big changes. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series is a prime example of this; same thing with Lee Child's Jack Reacher -- in ten or so books I think the only things that have changed about Reacher is how he banks his money and that he broke his nose. I'm not especially faithful to cookie cutter series, but I do think many readers like them simply because they can miss a book or two and not really miss anything important happening.

As for the other series I'm currently following, I might start making up and maintaining lists of the books I've already read. How do you guys track the series you read? Share some tips in comments.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Sub Op

Strangelet is "a journal of speculative fiction that publishes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, graphic stories/comics, and artwork six times a year with an anthology at the end of each year. We showcase the intersection where genre and literature collide. We want works to reveal compelling, universal truths that speak to us—from starship computers, from dragons’ mouths, and from everyday worlds tinged with miracles.

Guidelines for Submissions

We use Submittable for our fiction and poetry submissions. Please contact us directly for comic and art submissions. There is no fee for submitting your work to us.

When submitting, please include a brief cover letter with a short bio. Do not include any identifying information on the manuscript.

We do not accept unsolicited reprints. We do accept simultaneous submissions, but please notify us immediately if your submission has been accepted elsewhere.

Submissions are accepted on a year-round basis. Published works are featured both in the print and electronic editions of Strangelet.

In addition to payment (see below for our rates), we will also give you 2 electronic copies and 1 print copy of the issue you are published in.

Our goal is to notify all submitters of acceptance or non-acceptance within four months of submitting. We look forward to reading your work!


We acquire first world English rights for digital and print publication. Rights revert to the author upon publication. We also acquire first anthology rights for our end-of-the-year anthology. We may occasionally publish excerpts of accepted or published pieces on our website and social media.

Short Fiction

Short fiction should be between 2,000 and 7,500 words. Please query for anything longer. We currently pay $0.01 per word for short fiction. According to Duotrope, we are offering semi-professional rates for fiction (defined by them as $0.01 to $0.049 per word).
Accepted Document Types: doc, docx, txt, rtf

Flash Fiction

We define flash fiction as anything under 2,000 words. We currently pay $2.50 per page (1-250 words 1 page) with a minimum payment of $5.00. According to Duotrope, we are offering semi-professional rates for fiction (defined by them as $0.01 to $0.049 per word)."

For more information see the submission guidelines page here.

Monday, June 08, 2015

In a French Kitchen

As I mentioned last month I received through Library Thing's Early Reviewers Program an ARC of Susan Herrmann Loomis's In a French Kitchen ~ Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France, which I promised to review in exchange. Here's me keeping the promise:

As the daughter of a chef I learned to cook from an expert who was happiest in the kitchen. If Dad taught me anything, it's that there is no better meal you can serve your family than one you prepare at home with a little time, thought and love. I didn't inherit my father's wizardry with food (although I am an excellent baker), but for the last thirty-odd years I've cooked meals nearly every day at home. No matter how hectic life becomes I do believe home cooking is the best food in the world.

With In a French Kitchen Susan Herrmann Loomis does for her readers what my Dad did for me, and shows us the many sides, secrets and little sorceries of home cooking in France. From her own kitchen to those of her friends and colleagues, Ms. Loomis demystifies and illuminates how ordinary people carry on the well-known and often obsessive love affair the French have with food while looking after their families, perpetuating traditions and creating more than a few of their own. That she covers so much in just thirteen chapters, all of which include dozens of recipes, helpful lists and topical spotlights, is just as fascinating as her stories.

I wouldn't say this is a traditional cookbook. It's something of a memoir, as the author offers plenty of tales about her own experiences in France, but it's also an intimate guide to how we can all learn a little from French home cooks to make our cooking lives a little fresher, livelier and fun. I don't see myself whipping up homemade mayonnaise -- I'm a Hellmann's girl from way back -- but I definitely want to try out many of the delicious-sounding recipes, particularly in the chapters on breads and desserts. There are a great many terms in French in the text, but Ms. Loomis deftly translates all of them directly or within context. I particularly appreciated seeing all the various quantities listed in both US and European measurements, which when not offered can be a pain for either side to convert.

Among other things the author is a trained chef who runs a cooking school (in France!) so this is not going to read like your Mom's Betty Crocker or the last issue of Taste of Home. She's a pro, guys, and while she does want to develop her readers' inner French cooks, many of her techniques are fairly advanced. While the dedicated gourmands probably won't bat an eyelash over Lapin Aux Pruneaux D'Edith, if you're a Hamburger Helper-dependent cook you're probably going to feel a bit intimidated. Don't be. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you can try something simple, like the homemade hot chocolate in chapter eight, or the poached pears in chapter thirteen. Once you've tackled a few of the easier recipes (and there are a lot of those, too) you can try something a little more complex, like Edith's Rabbit with Dried Plums.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys French cooking and culture and wants to take some adventures with their own cooking -- and if you simply love reading about cooking as I do, then you're in for a treat. This book is scheduled for release on June 16th, 2015. If you'd like to get your own copy, here's where you can shop:


Barnes & Noble

Sunday, June 07, 2015

SF/F Contest

The 2015 N3F Amateur Short Story Contest is now open for entries, and here are the rules:

"1. This contest is open to all amateur writers in the field, regardless of whether they’re members of the National Fantasy Fan Federation. For the purposes of this contest, we define an amateur as someone who has sold no more than two (2) stories to professional science fiction or fantasy publications.

2. Stories entered in the contest must be original, unpublished, not longer than 8,500 words in length—and must be related to the science fiction, fantasy, or similar genres in the opinion of the judge.

3. Send all manuscripts to the contest manager: Jefferson Swycaffer, P. O. Box 15373, San Diego, CA 92175-5373; abontides@gmail.com. Emails with the story attached in word format are preferred. Paper manuscripts are acceptable. All entries must be received or postmarked no later than Dec. 31, 2015.

4. Manuscripts on paper should be typed, single sided on 8 1/2″-by-11″ white paper, double spaced, with pages numbered. The name of the author should not appear anywhere on the manuscript to ensure impartial judging. Photocopies are acceptable, if they are of good quality. Computer printouts must be legible.

5. Email entries will be accepted. Send to Jefferson P. Swycaffer at abontides@gmail.com. No guarantee can be made of email receipt. Privacy and property rights will be absolutely respected. No one other than the Short Story Judge will ever see the submission. The name of the author should not appear anywhere in the manuscript to ensure impartial judging.

6. Contestants can enter up to three stories. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) if you would like your story returned at the end of the contest. Stories will not be returned without an SASE. Do not send your only copy in case of accidental loss. We are not responsible for lost manuscripts.

7. There are no entry fees.

8. Cash prizes totaling $100 will be awarded as follows: First prize is $50, second $30, and third $20. Honorable mentions and semi-finalists will receive a certificate of award.

9. The Short Story Judge is a published science fiction professional, and also a loving fan of the sf and fantasy genres. All comments and critiques are solely the Short Story Judge’s opinion, but he promises to be constructive and polite.

10. The NSF may want to publish an electronic book including top entries from one or more years of publication. You will not be contacted about this until after the contest is over and prizes have been awarded. If we want to publish your story, you will have to sign over to us first world serial rights. Your willingness to do sign over rights cannot affect whether or not you win the contest. Royalties will be divided evenly between all contest entrants once publishing costs are covered. Winners will be notified as soon as the judging is completed. Announcements and notifications of winning entries will be made in March 2016. Please take your time and submit your best work. You can resubmit stories previously entered. All entries will be kept confidential and will be judged fairly and anonymously. The deadline for all entries is Dec. 31, 2015. Good luck!

Please supply on a separate page the following information as your entry form.

Title of story (for identification):
Author’s name and address:
Author’s email address:
I have read the above rules for the 2015 N3F Amateur Short Story Contest, and I agree to them.
Date: ________________________________________________________________________

Mail to: Jefferson Swycaffer, P. O. Box 15373, San Diego, CA 92175-5373 ; or email abontides@gmail.com"

Saturday, June 06, 2015

What the Heck, Answered

If you've ever seen or taken a picture of something you were unable to identify, Wolfram's Image Identification Project may be able to help. I used it to upload a photo of a bird I didn't recognize at the beach, and it named it for me:

It doesn't always get the identification right, of course:

That's a zentangle I drew, not lace, so IIP does make mistakes. Still, if you're researching something and need to ID an image, this might be a quick way to get some help.

(Link to IIP swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Friday, June 05, 2015


If we're not careful this beautiful and scary little film could be our story (with background music, for those of you at work):

The Rise and Fall of Globosome from Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My Link: More on Ghost Writer, with new material beginning on page 66.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Free Writing Apps

While off hunting freeware somehow I ended up redirected to this big list of free writing apps for (I think) Android devices, some of which looked pretty neat. Since I don't own any devices I can't check them out, but maybe you folks with Androids of your own will find them useful.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Sub Op

Horrified Press has an open call for their upcoming Detectives of the Fantastic antho: "Send me your stories of those trying to use some kind of science, technology, magic powers, anything that allows them to solve mysteries surrounding supernatural occurrences. What is the final verdict? Truth? Hoax? Something in between—the claimant was experiencing something but it has an explanation? Or– often the scariest of all—the inconclusive result so common on ghost hunting shows. You decide. If there is ultimately an explanation, however, please provide suspense or scares along the way. This is a horror/fantasy/sc-fi anthology so please provide elements of these genres. As stated above regarding your desire to explain it away, even if your tone is largely comic or all in good fun, there still needs to be some sense of a supernatural threat springing the story forward. Old school Pulp Fiction might be a fun way to go also. Beyond that, let your collective imaginations run wild and bring me investigators from divergent time periods, settings (even ones of your own creation), male, female, no need for them to be human either – your mind is the limit." Length: 2-5K; also: "Flash fiction or a story shorter than 2000 is fine as long as it tells a story, and is not just a scene or vignette. If your story is over 6000 words, please send me a short synopsis first and explain why it needs to be longer. I will accept a few longer ones." Payment: "Exposure and Royalties". Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: when filled.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Toes and Throws

Sometimes writers have to stop writing. It happens, usually when you have to deal with a problem or event that can be best described by adding the letters sh to the first word in this sentence. I did last year in between my eye surgeries, first because I was too blind to write, and then I was healing and still a bit fuzzy-sighted (and by the way, if you ever need someone to put drops in your eye, I'm your girl.) Once you do stop writing often it can be difficult to start again, especially after a long hiatus from the page.

I learned what to do from another surgery that got between me and the work many years ago. I lost most of the use of my left hand after having a tumor removed, and since I was left-handed I had the additional burden of relearning how to do everything right-handed. Anyone who has been forced to do this will tell you it's not much fun. Hand writing was out of the question until I learned to write as a righty, and my typing was restricted to whatever I could do with one-finger pecking. That's why I didn't write anything for almost a year. I even stopped thinking about writing so I could wrestle the larger issues.

When at last I did have a functioning right hand and semi-functioning left, I sat down to write. I remember how disconnected from the work I felt, too. It was still in my head, like a huge inner ocean of stories, but I hadn't gone for a swim in so long that simply eyeing it scared me. I decided to cautiously dip my toe back in the writing waters by composing a first page. I'd just start a story and see what happened. What happened was three hours of sitting there and sweating and fussing over every word until I'd produced about 200 of them. Which were collectively so bad that I immediately trashed them.

The next day I was back to square one with nothing to show for my first try. I considered writing another cautious toe-dip partial, and promised myself it was purely practice, and gave myself carte blanche to write crap in hopes that would jump start my mojo -- all the bargains writers make with themselves to get back on the horse. And I wrote another toe-dip page with some lukewarm setting and some action about as exciting as yawning, and trashed that, and started to seriously question myself.

On the third morning I sat in my writing space for a while staring at the keys. Desperation hovered, wanting to set in. Or maybe it was writer's block; I'm not sure. One thing I did know was that I couldn't dip my toe in to test the waters again because that wasn't working. Neither were the bargains and promises I'd made with/to myself. So I decided to hell with it, and defaulted to the last resort. No more toe-dipping and thinking about it and worrying. No more thinking about it, period. I'd throw myself in the water and write a novel. A fun novel. A novel for me and no one else.

Four months and 468 manuscript pages later I typed the last page of that novel, gave myself a week off, and then finally read it. The beginning was complete and utter crap, and the middle crawled more than it should have, and the twist at the end was more of a wrinkle, but it was a novel -- a finished novel. And the next one I wrote was better, and the one after that was much, much better. As for that lame, for-fun novel I never published or even showed anyone, it remains the most valuable story I've ever written. If I hadn't thrown myself into it, I know I would have quit writing altogether.

The process still works for me, too. Last year In the Leaves was my 2014 post eye-surgery throw story. Rain Lashed was a throw story after another, earlier eye surgery. After I broke my foot and cracked some ribs during a bad fall down the stairs back in 2003 writing Deimos threw me back into the work.

Whether you use toes, throws or something in between, maybe the most important thing you can do after taking a long break from writing is to write anything, really. Whether it's 1 page, or 468 of them, you're doing your job, and bottom line: writing is what makes you a writer.

Image Credits:

Toe dip: warrengoldswain
Leaping dolphin: vitaliy_sokol