Don’t Call It A Comeback

Gahh, I keep forgetting I am a RITER and have therefore a RITERLY WEBSITE that occasionally needs upkeep and/or content.


(Also, not a number: I have a Ko-Fi now! Please do not put any money in it. It’s more like a tip jar, and in Canada, people like tips but are paid decently most of the time anyway, so you can only tip me if you really do have the money to spare and like my stories or beetles or whatever or would like to help kick in to attending my first ever writing conference this October. Other people out there need it much more than me. I am often broke, yes, but I am also a gainfully employed humble gobermint sientist, and although public servant wages are actually hilarribly lower than people think, I can keep a roof over my head!)


1. I survived the holidays! Good job team, high five. My brother got me a Google Home Mini, which I was too terrified to use for a few days, as it seemed like a blank-faced listening device as per ‘1984’ or something. But I stuck some googly eyes on it and it’s fine now. (He also got me a robot vacuum which I haven’t set up yet, because there are too many things on the floor it might choke on. Do I have to clean my whole house so that a robot can clean my whole house? Yes. Yes I do.) I guess I now have a couple of blank-faced listening devices in my house and all I can hope is that they don’t talk to each other, much. Or that if they do, they’re not shit-talking me and plotting to take over the world. Though I guess if they did, it would be a little bit cleaner? No, anyway, moving on.


2. Since my last entry, I had some story acceptances! These ones have had contracts returned, so I think I’m allowed to talk aboot them: a) Holy shit! Analog accepted one of my stories! This was a big, fist-pumping moment, after what seemed like a very long wait; but the truth is, as I vaguely alluded to on Twitter, it was an R&R request that took both sides a medium-long time to think about. The editor came back from the first read and was like “I like it, generally, but about the last third of it is a hot mess and I couldn’t tell what was going on. If you fix it, I’ll look at it again!” I assumed this meant “Please go away for at least a few months, your story gave me a nosebleed.” However, I took another look at it – this would have been about eight months after I submitted it, and about a year and a half after I wrote it – and you know, it’s amazing what you see when you haven’t read a thing for a while? I chopped off almost a thousand words, unfucked the last third so it actually made sense and wasn’t the ending of two completely separate stories mashed into one, and sent it back. It was accepted after the second read, though there are still a few edits to be made, and I’m perfectly OK with that. Sometimes you just have to trust the editor, you know? Anyway, story notes when it comes out; but I like this one, it’s definitely soft rather than hard sci-fi, and I made an absolutely unintentional space symbolism reference with a character’s name (not the one you’re thinking of) and what’s actually going on in the story, as well as the title. Which blows my mind, but it’s a flammable little blob of tissue and gets blown regularly. I guess that’s a disclaimer? b) Automata Review accepted a (super?) old story of mine that hasn’t been out at a lot of places! By super old I mean like…two years-ish, when I started writing short stories. Still though, it’s a fun little thing, verging on silly, and since I always thought it was too silly to sell I only submitted it at a couple of places and received cool form rejections in response, unsurprisingly. But the folks at Automata loved it, said it was right up their alley (yay! i mean, there’s no accounting for taste, but), and it’s coming out mid-March, I think? You guys will like this one. There’s panic, and trilobites, and various prehistoric horrors, and mistakes being made. c) Lackington’s accepted a super new story, and boy was this a weird one. I’d had roughly forever (three months?) to come up with a story for their Gothic-themed issue, because I was so excited about the theme. I love Gothic literature, even if I can’t quite put my finger on it. Historical stuff, current stuff, pulp, Srs Bsness, whatever. I bought that entire Penguin Gothics re-covered set and read every single one. But what that turned into was not being able to come up with a single story idea, because everything I thought of seemed too derivative, a copy of something I’d already read, and the more I thought about it the more upset I got. “I’m a hack! I’ll never write anything original again! I shall fling myself to the carpet in despair, and attractively throw my raven locks over the shoulders of this lace nightgown!” But on the last day of the call, something came to me – not an idea, actually, but a shadow, a greenness turning dark, a darkness turning green, a sky blocked out by something so Extremely Very Unrelentingly Gothic it towered over everything in its path. And I hammered the story out in (literally) my lunch hour, surreptitiously edited it during a teleconference that afternoon, and squeaked it in just before the deadline. They got back to me about a day later and were like “Ahah! This fills a gap that we specifically wanted!” Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so weirdly pleased with either a story or an acceptance. I felt filled with holy fire, possessed by the Muse, my fingers felt greased with the finest whale-oil, whatever things people think writers feel all the time (newsflash: we don’t), and then the story immediately found a nice place to live! I hope people like this one. I am so, so, so excited for the issue, I can’t even tell you. It’s my favourite theme I think I’ve seen so far. d) I just realized I can’t talk about the last one because the contract isn’t in, but I was a little uneasy about the story because sci-fi and kids is such an easy thing to screw up or sound lazy or tropey (“Here’s a huge infodump, but it’s OK, because it’s a secondary character explaining it to a young child! Not you, the reader, at all!”), but I tried to get around that by doing a semi-close, semi-distant third-person narrative focused on the main kid, who’s ten and therefore old enough to have a filter that both younger and older kids don’t, to not be perfectly teenager-cynical just yet, and to not be perfectly accepting any more. Anyway, I like it, but I guess people that like kids might not like it? (I hope they like sci-fi, anyway.)


So that’s three sci-fi, one fantasy. I guess I will at some point have to revise my ‘But I caaaaaaaan’t write sci-fi, woe is me’ mindset (also, I’m working on a sci-fi novel this year, so I’d better fix it toute-suite).


3. And here are some things you can get with my things in it! Molotov Cocktail Prize Winners Second Volume – containing my flash ‘Sixteen Seconds,’ which came in tenth place in Flash Fear. This is a fucking marvelous collection and it’s only three dollars on Kindle, so definitely get it. Metaphorosis July 2016 – containing one of my favourite shorts with my laziest title, ‘The Last.’ (This is the entire magazine, I mean, to like… hold in your hands. It was online-only back in 2016.) Third Flatiron Year’s Best 2017 – containing another favourite short with another lazy-ass title, ‘The Willing’


4. Speaking of ‘Sixteen Seconds,’ it was chosen as an example by Morgan Crooks for a panel at Arisia, ‘Writing With Emotional Impact.’ He pulled some examples from the story that I hadn’t even noticed I put in there, and highlighted at least one thing that I didn’t notice I was doing, so that’s absolutely delightful. I love to see close analysis of stuff (mainly because I’m bad at it; leave me alone).


5. Oh yeah, that Pantheon story is out now! I know I’ve said this before, but I love this story. I hold it weirdly close to my heart. I guess I’m projecting a little on the, uh, Indo-Caribbean lady scientist in it (cough), but also it’s got other things I love, it’s a retelling of my favourite Lovecraft piece of all time, it’s connected to the novel I’ve got on sub right now, it’s got a couple of quietly solid beatdowns on the very annoying narrator, and in the end, the mystery isn’t even solved. I just love it. It’s like if I had a bunch of kids but secretly we all know this one’s the favourite. Anyway, so Pantheon was also super nice about fixing the illustration on it! What happened was, the illustrator created a spooky scene with crows and flames and fog and spores, which I loooooved, but the scientist in it? A blond woman in a lab coat. I voiced my issues on Twitter, then to Pantheon via email, because after a bit of thinking I decided that no, the whitewashing was not OK; the objectification was not OK; this is a powerful, intelligent, middle-aged woman, a scientist who counts on her knowledge and experience to save the rest of the team and try to get to the source of the plague. She is a hero and a scholar, and if she is going to be objectified, it is damn well going to be in her practical baggy khakis, not in a goddamn miniskirt. Her age is an asset; it should not be erased. Her ethnicity was a disadvantage; it should not be erased either. I wanted the reader to see exactly who they were dealing with. And Pantheon heard me and fixed it! I was quite pleased with that. You know, a while ago I wouldn’t have said anything? I think I was lying to myself about a certain fake detachedness to my stories, death of the author, something something about a work being out in the world. But what Dr. Ramnaraine was portrayed as was wrong. I’m grateful that they fixed it, and that they agreed with my assessment of what the illustrator had done.


At some point I swear I am going to stop doing these gargantuan wall-o-text, info-dump blog posts. (That point is not coming soon, but ONE DAY.)

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