“Blue Flame” Now Live at Saturday Night Reader

There you have it. Today, “Blue Flame Burns the Hottest” goes live at Saturday Night Reader. It’s a soft and sweet near-future SF flash tale about families, and tech, and growing together instead of apart. It deals with a woman growing actually wiser as she grows older, even though it’s hard.

The working title was the none-too-pleasant “Grannie’s VR.” Still, it encapsulated the dichotomy of the story I wanted to tell–Grandma: old-fashioned and supposedly out of touch, with VR: modern, shiny, & futuristic.

Some of this comes from the sense I have, as I grow older, of feeling out-of-date to my lively, pre- and early-teen great-nieces and great-nephews. (Hey, no judging here! I’ve been a great-aunt since college! It just means I’m great!) How much more so will this be when home tech takes another momentous leap forward, and I’m not on that wave? When, like my mother-in-law with the TV remote (or my own long-gone grandmother with the automobile), I’ll need help figuring out all this new-fangled stuff? And what great things will come along with it?

I’m all for a virtual immersive experience–how cool would that be? It could change so much: gaming, work, study and research, even travel. But as with Caroline in the story, I would still want some in-person face time to keep familial connections strong, and actual in a world going virtual. Old-fashioned? Maybe. But I think it makes a neat story, too.


Edited to add: Well, that’s a little embarrassing! I set this post to automatically post itself at 8:30 this morning, and didn’t get around to checking my email/online life until nearly noon. (Yes, I’m keeping holiday hours today!) Only then did I discover that my story isn’t up yet. Perhaps SNR forgot about the holiday they scheduled my story? Or it’ll post later in the day? Well, whatever the case, I’m leaving this post for when it does go live. As they say, better early than late…???

Further edited to add: Weee! Now it’s up! Go forth and read…please?

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Squee Alert!

joyous leapI finished the first draft of my novel today! 

/collapses back onto chair–squees with joy–collapses deeper in exhaustion/

It feels so good to be done with the first draft, for numerous reasons:

  • It’s an accomplishment, one I’ve been heading towards for a year! Getting here feels great.
  • It’s a relief. I had planned on it’s first draft only taking 90-120 days, but life imploded, slowing everything. And I discovered I hadn’t planned as well as I thought, necessitating extended writing near the ending. (Much of what I wrote near the beginning will be cut.) Wordcount blossomed into a veritable Jack’s beanstalk. So the “unending novel,” as it came to be known, kind of ate my writing life.
  • It’s a joy, for now I can move on with other projects that have been stalled or impatiently waiting their turns for my full, undivided attention as I lavished nearly all my writing time on the novel. Like what? Editing contest stories written to first-draft form to an actual submission state. Upping my submission count, which has fallen perilously low. Finalizing the plan for the series that I want to write and probably self-pub. Keeping up with slush reading. Finishing the online writing class I’m taking. Resting my brain before diving into novel editing (which will be significant).
  • For a short, short while, it’s one more thing off my attention radar. I’ve been struggling to maintain equilibrium with both life and writing of late, and this gives me a wee bit more breathing room without me feeling like I’ve “dropped the ball” on anything. Or disappointed myself.

In celebration, I’m officially giving myself the weekend off! Ooh, and it’s a long weekend, as well. What nice timing for lots of rest and lazing in the sunshine.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! :-)

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Temporary Distractions

Life is throwing me many distractions, the biggest one right now being the health of my dog. After his latest seizure, the vet has come to suspect Dasher may have a liver shunt. In other words, blood doesn’t go through his liver and get purified of the body’s toxins, but instead goes around it, keeping the toxin load until it stews his brain, causing seizures. Even now, he’s at the vet’s office, getting an ultrasound to check for shunts.

On one hand, this would be wonderful, since finding a cause means finding a potential cure. But that cure would be surgery. Again. Right as he’s recovering enough to be active after his latest knee surgery. It’s only May, and he’s already had surgery twice already this year, plus seizures, and many, many vet trips sprinkled in between.

Also, there’s a chance the surgery wouldn’t be successful, or entirely successful. Which would mean a greatly shortened lifespan–maybe in the months.

But all this is potential, as nothing is known at this point in time. And the ultrasound may prove inconclusive. And (insert more wheel spinning here).

Instead of dwelling on all that, I want to show you some beautiful things happening now. Distractions of a good kind. So, here are photos:

First gardenia blossom off the tiny shrub planted last fall. Yes, it smells wonderful!

First gardenia blossom off the tiny shrub planted last fall. Yes, it smells wonderful!

Hibiscus flower, going great guns in blossom. This colored flower lasts two days, making it a real treat.

Hibiscus flower, going great guns in blossom. This colored flower lasts two days, making it a real treat.

Update: the ultrasound came back clean, so it looks like instead of surgery, Dasher gets another drug added to his mix. Not sure if this is a good thing or not. But hey, no surgery–so yay!

Dasher finds a lap in the pool. Naturally.

Dasher finds a lap in the pool. Naturally. (Yeah, I can’t quite stop thinking of this happy, happy dog.)

Tiny figs! The first ones one the potted tree we're keeping away from the squirrels.

Tiny figs! The first ones on the potted tree we’re keeping away from the squirrels.

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Posting Wherein I Talk About…a Sale!

/sound of throat clearing/ Ah. Hrrmph. Yes.

Last night I got an acceptance email from (are you ready for this one?) Michael J. DeLuca, who is guest-editing the July edition of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He officially accepted my story, “Putting Down Roots,” for that issue.

I am over the moon with joy about this. Yes, every sale is special. And wonderful. And utterly, utterly delightful. But with this one, it just felt like all the stars aligned and the weather cooperated and the apocalypse held itself at bay, all at the exact right moment. Let me explain.

You see, LCRW is an approximately twice-yearly print magazine put out by the editors of Small Beer Press. It’s a very literary and somewhat funky little magazine that I’ve admired for years. Normally, writers must submit their stories by postal mail for consideration, and then a reply may take 6 months or longer. And the competition is fierce, because this is a very highly regarded ‘zine. I’ve held off submitting for the longest time, more than a little intimidated by all the above.

And then, out of the blue, along came this special call. It’s the first time they’ve used a guest editor. He opened to email submissions, also a first, I believe. But Mr DeLuca requested a theme for submissions: humanity’s relationship with the earth. He was hoping for some optimism, he said. And what did I just happen to have, sitting on my computer? A little story, somewhat unique, dealing with just that. Not even out somewhere else, but waiting. As if it knew.

(Okay, really, neither the story nor I had any idea that this was coming up, or that we’d actually make the final cut. But the story is one I’m very proud of, and yes, I’m just so very, very pleased that it found such a nice home. And getting in on the “first” of anything, well, it feels historical to me, extra-special. This one has it covered twice. So there you have it, without the woo-woo bit.)

I’ll be sure to remind you in July when the magazine is released. Until then, I may be busy dancing on the moon. :-)

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And “Amma’s Wishes” is up at PodCastle!

That’s right! “Amma’s Wishes” went live at PodCastle today, so you can click the link and listen to Marguerite Kenner narrate my story.

It’s more than a little weird, and very wonderful, to hear someone else reading your words, and putting voice to your characters. Ms Kenner does great job bringing Amma, Fillmorr, and the rest of the characters to life by infusing their emotions into her reading voice. So, thank you, Marguerite Kenner!

Waiting for the small tidbit about this story’s creation? How about this: the story came about due to having read advice to “never start a story in a D&D style inn.” When I read that, I thought, “Ha! I could pull that off. After all, no one ever writes from the POV of the serving wench there.”

Needless to say, I spent a summer in high school as a waitress. And while “my” restaurant was nowhere near as bad as the Dragon’s Beard Inn, it hosted some interesting characters, including owner/managers with some oftentimes strange notions of how things should be.

And so it goes. Life becomes art, becomes life again as I type up this post about a story sale. Pretty wonderful.

I had a blast writing “Amma’s Wishes,” and I hope you enjoyed listening to it. And of course, if you did (and you can spare it), tip a donation to PodCastle by clicking their donation button on their website. Thanks!

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It’s Berry Season!

Over the weekend, we had glorious weather, and nothing scheduled to eat up all our free time. Since the spousal unit and I had recently discovered a listing of U-Pick farms in the area, and since it seems to be the peak of blueberry season, off we went in search of blueberries.

You may recall that last year, we picked blueberries by the bucket in the parks around us, for free. But that was in New Jersey, and now we’re in north-central Florida. The u-pick farms are definitely not free. That said, the one we chose was amazing! I mean, really, really amazing. It was about a half-hour’s drive out into the country, past horse and cattle farms that dwindled into stands of planted pines, and rutted driveways leading off to hidden homes. And eventually, down an unpaved, compressed-sand road to another, narrower unpaved road. Without any breeze, the sand barely clouded up at our passing.

After parking in the grass, we filed into the shoulder-high rows of fairly narrow blueberry shrubs with the other folks  who’d come out for picking. Voices rang out, and happy laughter, and the occasional crying child. But there was more than enough room for everyone in the sunny, flat field. And enough fruit, as well.

Hanging in clusters!

Hanging in clusters!

and nearly as big as quarters!

And nearly as big as quarters!

The berries were in clusters thick enough, and oftentimes large enough, to be mistaken for grapes. And while some were still ripening, there were so many luscious ripe blue-black beauties that it was easy to fill both your bucket and your belly in a short hour. Indeed, it turns out we picked nearly 12 pounds of fruit! Most of it we froze on cookie sheets, then dumped the frozen, individual berries into freezer bags (so they’ll separate easily later). Some will become jam, some will be turned into blueberry scones, muffins, pancakes, pies, or even blueberry syrup.

So, um, just saying that, if you come over, don’t be surprised if blueberries are on the menu.

In writing news, I’m hot on the trail of what’s probably the most complicated short story I’ve ever tried to write. It’s for a contest, and I have until next weekend to finish it. There is no prize other than bragging rights (and of course, a finished short story to sub), but it’s a total blast to participate. Wish me luck!

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Definite Signs of Spring. Or Summer. Or Something Warm.

The wren who nested in the hanging basket on my front porch successfully fledged her two nestlings–when I peeked inside after a week away, the nest was empty. And the spider plant still lives! Hurray, and thanks for the suggestions on watering.

Next up, the bluebird house in the back yard has been occupied by a nesting pair of bluebirds at last! Hubby dearest and I see them flitting about the back yard, resting on the corner of the lanai, or darting off into the neighbor’s gorgeous live oak, where they keep an eye on their home. It’s wonderful to see them there, so bright and glorious. I wasn’t sure we’d actually get bluebirds, and not sparrows, in the house. I’ve never hosted bluebirds before, so watching them is much fun.

In final avian news, the hummingbirds have returned, and found my feeder at last! (They retreated all winter long which I hadn’t really expected, being that I’m in Florida. Guess I’m too far north, and it was too cold for them this year.). Which leads to a strange tale.

Two days ago, I returned from an afternoon’s quick dog walk to find some large, weirdly-shaped thing on the screen beside the door. At first I thought it was a frog, but no–it was in a sunbeam, and no frog would be there when the temps are in the 80’s. Coming closer, it moved, and I saw it was a hummingbird who’d gotten his beak stuck in the mesh of the screen. He rose up, flapping his wings trying to back out, but just couldn’t escape. I hurried inside the screen, got a napkin and placed it over his beak. Then I pushed gently. The poor bird was winging frantically. When finally his beak released, he flew backwards, then away. After a moment, he flew to the feeder, fed, and darted off again. (I’d love to share a photo of the bird, but I didn’t wait to release him: hummingbirds often die in such situations, since they use too much energy and starve to death in hours, or less.)  So, bird life saved and happiness achieved.

Speaking of which, it’s time to replace the hummingbird nectar.

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And Now for that Good News…

Remember back a few posts, when I mentioned I had good news I was eager to share? Now I can tell you: I have sold my first reprint! “Amma’s Wishes,” which was published last year in Sword & Sorceress 29, will become a podcast at PodCastle!

Have you heard of the writer’s career bingo sheet? I stole this from another writer (with her permission, of course) because it’s such an awesome idea. Basically, there are only so many things you can control about writing. Having goals to get published at a certain market, or to make so many sales per year, or whatever, are completely out of my control. I can only control the fact that I write.

Nonetheless, certain events and sales are still markers of a sort, milestones of success on a long, hard road, and should be celebrated. It helps keep my chin up when things go slow: “See? You’ve gotten all those accomplishments. You can do this,” I tell myself. So, the bingo card. You take a spreadsheet page (or a sheet of paper) and divide it into squares. In each square goes something your heart goes pit-a-pat over the thought of: selling to a favorite market or editor, an award nomination, so many new sales in a year, whatever. When you achieve that milestone, you change the background from white to whatever shiny, happy color you like.

Back to this sale. It is very much a big deal, since it fills in TWO bingo squares for me–both Reprint, and a sale to one of the ‘Pods (PodCastle, EscapePod, PseudoPod). And it becomes my first two-fer, which isn’t a square, but maybe it should have been??

I don’t know the date of publication yet, but you can be sure I’ll let you know. I hope you’ll give it a listen.

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