Myths, Monsters, Mutations, and other things

Yesterday I went to an exhibit on local superstition and folk magic! Here are some things I learned:

  • Most folk magic concerns itself with warding off attacks by witches, which is weird, because there’s hardly anything about how to actually cause that harm in the first place.
  • Better put pentagrams and crescent moons on ALL your common household appliances, just in case!
  • Catholics like(d?) to touch their magical amulets and talismans to holy items – relics, paintings or sculptures of holy people, &c. – in order to imbue them with holiness. Then some sort of religious schism happened and Evangelicals became a thing, and they were like, “Silly Catholics! Everything is equally holy! What superstitious twaddle!” but they didn’t actually stop doing this; they just started using pictures of Martin Luther to charge up their magic items instead.
  • Quoth a man who was asked about a magical talisman he kept in his barn: “I’m not superstitious, but they say it works even if you don’t believe in it.”
  • You should definitely keep a dead toad in the room when giving birth.

In other news, there was a tiny snail in my bathtub a few weeks ago. I do not know how it got there.

News!

It’s been a hard few months for writing. This summer I participated in one flash fiction challenge after another for something like four months straight, and then midway through the last of them this had pretty much the expected effect, which is that I crashed, hard. There was a lot contributing to this – various personal stressors, writing exhaustion, a serious loss of confidence when I failed to complete THE GAUNTLET (and even before I gave up on it, played fast and loose with the rules) – and the result is that I haven’t written a game for NaNo this year, haven’t finished the epic holiday project I had planned for this year, haven’t finished the stop-gap measure holiday project I had the idea for just 11 days before I would have needed it, and haven’t touched the novel I’m working on (remember that? It’s been in the works for a long time now; the roughest draft is done, and I’m now theoretically in revision stages) since I set it down to make way for Flash Fiction Month last June.

It’s not all bad news. Despite my own feelings about my work for the Gauntlet, I was actually singled out in the winners announcement:

We have set aside a SPECIAL MENTION for GDeyke
as well, because of how their high-quality entries charmed the powers
that be enough to outrank even some of the competitors with more entries
to their name. Our eyes glaze with longing for what could have happened
if more entries had been completed.

Especially given how much I’d been kicking myself for what I thought to be a piss-poor performance, this was unbelievably comforting to hear, and I am truly beyond grateful for it.

In even better, incredibly exciting, almost-certainly-curing-me-of-my-writing-listlessness news, I’ve landed a paid writing gig – pretty small in scope, but I’m certainly not complaining. While I haven’t actually signed an NDA as such, I feel the NDA was implied, so I’m not sharing any more details yet; but be assured I’ll tell you all about this in, oh, probably less than a year! Be assured also that it is very exciting.

And finally, I’ve also had a story accepted into Myths, Monsters, Mutations, which leads me to my next point:

Shameless Plugs

It’s December: month of gift-giving and holiday shopping! I am nearly certain your loved ones would like some of these books:

Myths, Monsters, Mutations is an anthology of “over 300 pages recounting tales of the dark side of fairy tales, macabre mutations, and the monsters that lurk within us all.” As I’ve said, I have a story in there, and so do several other writers I can recommend! You can find it on Amazon US here, on Amazon UK here, and on any other Amazon by just filling the appropriate suffix into the URL. I’m certainly looking forwards to reading this one.

I myself have written several books, and would like to especially draw your attention to my FFM collections, which, as you may recall, are available in print now. They’re fairly cheap, and because of the unabashed variety of stories FFM tends to provoke, your loved ones’ personal tastes are pretty much irrelevant: something in there is pretty likely to be to their taste. (If you can only justify getting one of them, my personal recommendation is Changeling – it’s the most recent and in my opinion the best of them so far – but you can also easily browse them for free online before committing to a shiny new print copy.)

Finally, in book futures, my good internet mongoose DamonWakes has written a book about murder in space and is crowdfunding it through Unbound; and while Ten Little Astronauts certainly won’t be out this year, funding is only continuing through December 25th. There’s no risk here: the book will be published at this point whether it hits its goal or not, but hitting the goal will make the end product much fancier. It’s still at 51%, so every bit counts! And there’s more than one way to make a pledge in someone else’s name, so even without a physical book in hand it’s still a viable gift option. I’m very much looking forwards to reading this book myself: Damon is an excellent writer, and I’m always down for some good space murders. If this sounds at all like something you – or anyone you know – might be interested in, please do give it a look!

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FFM series in print

My own print copies of the FFM series have now arrived in the post, so I can show off just how fancy they really are! Observe:

FFM 1-4 front

The cover art looks incredibly fancy in person. The dark parts look darker than they did on the computer, the bright parts look just as bright, and overall they just really pop.

FFM 1-4 back

The back covers: also really fancy. Man these things look good.

Palalgia inside view

Excerpt from “Knock on Wood” (Palalgia), because the interactive stories are where the fancy inner formatting is most obvious. Check out those nifty skulls! Note: the apparent glow is actually just lighting; I cannot guarantee that your copy will have a glowing spine.

FFM 1-4 shelf

The spines are dark and sombre on the shelf. Very serious. You’d never guess that they’re at least 20% silly jokes. Though the effect is probably enhanced by the light-coloured books on either side, they look similar enough to be cohesive but different enough to be told apart; it’s only a shame I couldn’t mark the spines more obviously.

 

This also means that the book pages have been updated with convenient buy links. You can get there through the menu, but just to make things easy for you, here are all those links again:

borrowed strength ephemeron palalgia changeling cover small

Thank you, and enjoy!

Changeling + print versions!

 

 

This year’s FFM collection is now out – on Smashwords, as usual, but also as an exciting print version! This is about the point where one would usually show off how fancy it is with photographic evidence, but, uh, funny story there. I actually can’t buy copies myself at cost, because CreateSpace only accepts credit cards and credit cards aren’t even really a thing here, so I’m stuck waiting for it to show up on Amazon just like anyone else who can’t or doesn’t want to buy from CreateSpace directly. Nonetheless, I assure you it is extremely fancy.

While I was at it, I also sorted exciting print versions (all of them just as fancy!) for the last three years’ FFM collections, so if you’ve ever wanted all my FFM stories nicely collected in a format you can store on your bookshelf and inhale those heady paper fumes from, this is the day that your dreams have come true. And if you’ve just wanted them in a convenient format you can store in your e-reader and inhale those heady electronic fumes from, this is also the day your dreams have come true. Dreams are just coming true left and right over here.

I’ll keep the book page up-to-date with links as it ships out to various distributors, but in the meantime you can get the Changeling in print here and in just about every e-format available here; and if you’d like to eagerly await additional distribution channels or pick up the last three years’ FFM books, just click on the appropriate image below:

borrowed strength ephemeron palalgia changeling cover small

Review: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K. J. Charles

I figure it’s good for everyone if I branch out into occasional book reviews, and I have recently read a book worth reviewing, so here we are: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K. J. Charles.

I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it, except that I had bought it as part of a bundle and as such was damned well going to read it no matter what: which, as it turns out, was a good thing, because otherwise I doubt I would ever have picked it up. Here is a quick run-through of my impressions:

First impression: “I honestly can’t tell if this is erotica written with an eye to character, world-building, and humour, or if it’s speculative mystery with a lot of gratuitously explicit sex in…?”

Second impression: “All right, so this is basically Sherlock Holmes, if Sherlock Holmes were about ghosts and sex and, on occasion, sexy ghosts (try not to think about the incestual implications of ghostly sex scenes involving dead relatives).”

Third impression: “Haha this is awesome actually”

Fourth impression: “Right, having now read the entire book, I think I can safely put it down as a romance novel.”

Romance isn’t really my cup of tea, which is why I doubt I would have read it on my own, and this makes it difficult to compare it to its fellows. I suspect that most of the things I liked least about it (it was awfully sexy, a bit sappy, and ran slightly towards wish-fulfillment) are in fact staples of the genre. What is, however, my precise cup of tea is low-brow humour wrapped up in elevated Victorian diction, and if that’s what you’re into The Secret Casebook is a veritable goldmine. Large portions of the book pretty much feel like you’re sitting beside a Victorian man in a waistcoat who is nudging you in the ribs with his elbow, winking heavily, and going, “Eh? Eh??”

It’s also quite well-written overall, but the humour is why I’d recommend this book even to those who aren’t usually fans of romance as a genre.

Avoid if: you are a child or easily embarrassed by sex scenes.

Definitely read if: you enjoy some combination of Victorian diction, paranormal mystery, and/or romance; you’re interested in historical ghost stories; and/or you have always wanted for Holmes and Watson to hook up.

You can find a description and buy links here.

FFM 2017 Write-Up

This comes a few days later than I’d meant it to, but this July really wore me out. Now that I’m no longer meeting a deadline a day, sleep has taken the top priority.

This is my fourth year doing FlashFictionMonth, but only the second that I’ve done it as intended: the last two years I spent part of the month traveling, which meant that rather than writing a story a day for a month, I wrote (around) two a day for (around) two weeks. You would think that would be harder; so did I. Thus came the great pitfall. I have done this thrice before, I thought, twice under worse circumstances; last year’s circumstances were particularly horrid; yet I still managed it: so this should pretty much be easy, right?

Hubris is the art of remembering successes but not the costs at which those successes came.

FFM is more of a marathon than a sprint, as I have heard more than once from other participants. Keeping it up for a whole month may, in fact, be harder than doing twice as much a day in half as much time: particularly as having the full day available gives me the internal expectation of writing stories at least twice as good as last year’s, which really isn’t a fair expectation to hit. So, yes: I’m very much worn down right now.

But I’ve also got quite a lot to show for it: not only the 31 stories (and at the moment I’m quite happy with the quality overall: there are some I like less and one I don’t much like at all, but these are a clear minority), but also a setting I’ve reused a few times throughout the month (space faeries!) and may at some point do more with, and also – perhaps most importantly – the understanding that writing, and especially writing well, does, in fact, take time and energy. This seems obvious when you think about it, but even outside of FFM I’m continually beating myself up over not doing “enough”: I’m hopeful that the difficulty with which I made it through this month will help me adjust my expectations to something a bit more reasonable.

Then, of course, there was ilyilaice’s extra challenge: to begin each story with the last word of last one, with the final story ending on the first story’s first. This was a fun challenge, and also an interesting one, because it led me to think quite a bit about the way I usually begin and end stories. These are the 31 starting/ending words I ended up with:

(three) – skins – to – forever – yes – here – open – lucky – it – it – well – dragon – vengeance – time – ready – here – fingers – back – thorns – last – come – rise – head – hope – out – this – death – do – silence – (three)

So that’s an interesting variety, there. Astute observers will notice two its, which shouldn’t be surprising: it’s one of the very few pronouns that’s syntactically valid at both the end of a sentence and its beginning. Somewhat more surprising might be the fact that there were almost two forevers. I thought four different stories with a strong emphasis on such a dramatic word might be a bit much.

Outside of this challenge, I’ve noticed, I have a tendency to begin stories with names or pronouns – or articles, which are even worse for ending on. I tend to end on big dramatic words (forever) – nouns, infinitive verbs, adverbs. But beginning on an “infinitive” verb generally turns it into an imperative, which means either an imperative/instructional narrative or dialogue, which means it’s hard to avoid repeating oneself; and nouns are hard to begin on (singular nouns usually paired with articles, especially), and always have a pretty big impact on the story that follows.

There is a chance this may be less interesting to people other than myself. But among other things, FFM is a good way to improve one’s skills, and thinking about this is one way of doing so.

Now that it’s over, I’m planning on a much-deserved break. Lots of sleep, relaxing, maybe some games. I’ll start on this year’s FFM collection once I’ve recovered a bit: I expect it’ll be ready before the end of August.

Until then, you can peruse these FFM features on this mirror post on DeviantArt. Have a read, and enjoy!

Challenge Winner: FFM 2017

A month has passed, FlashFictionMonth begins tomorrow, and the wait is over: the time has come to select a challenge! I’ve received twelve challenges this year, so it is once again time to whip out my trusty d12:

4!

Our winning challenge comes from ilyilaice, who writes:

Every story must begin with the last word of the previous story. The 31st story must end with the first word of the first story. EXCEPTION: If this will directly conflict with FFM challenge criteria and there’s no way to get out of it. Then you should just skip that story, but the next one must still continue the chain.

Thank you, ilyilaice! This ought to thread my stories together nicely. I’ll send you your point reward forthwith. And thank you also to all others who contributed challenges!

Challenge Me: FFM 2017

Once again, my friends (and foes, and passing acquaintances, and those I have yet to make the acquaintance of): here is a chance to WIN FABULOUS PRIZES and MAKE ME A SLAVE TO YOUR WHIMSY. Your wishes, dear readers, shall be my commands.

That’s right: Flash Fiction Month begins in less than a month.

[Obligatory explanation, as always: FFM is a month-long challenge to write a piece of flash fiction, fifty-five to a thousand words long, for every day of July. I’ve participated for the past three years, and I intend to make this a long habit. Give it a go, if you like! FFM is fun, rewarding, and an excellent way to push your limits.]

Last year I crowdsourced an additional challenge to carry me through the entire month, which resulted in a whole lot of murdering people with shovels (good times, good times). I promised I’d do the same again this year if it went well. I also said I’d choose two challenges this year instead of one: I’ve since decided against that, partly because the response last year was decent but not overwhelming, but mainly because one of last year’s challenges went “ALL the challenges” and if that comes up again it really won’t combine well with, well, anything. So we’ll do this the same way we did last year. To wit:

Rules

Absolutely anyone may enter. You do not need an account here or anywhere else: as long as you have some way of communicating your challenge to me, anonymously or otherwise, I will accept it.

Here are some avenues through which you can reach me:

  • Comment on this post, anonymously or otherwise (this does not require an account).
  • Comment on this mirror post on DeviantArt.
  • Note me on DeviantArt.
  • Challenge me on Twitter.
  • Hunt me down, lurk behind some bushes, and shout your challenge at me as I walk past.
  • If you happen to have my email address or be on speaking terms with me in person anyway, or regularly communicate with me in any other fashion, that option is certainly open to you as well.

(If you choose an anonymous method of communication (and I can’t reliably get back to you) but do not wish to be credited anonymously, please include whatever information you’d like to have included; also, if you have a deviantArt account, keep in mind I’ll need to know what it is in order to distribute that part of the prize if you should win.)

You may issue as many challenges as you like. You may also add your vote to an existing challenge (the winning challenge will be chosen randomly: this will increase its chances), or modify an existing challenge by adding or changing criteria. (Keep it to one vote per person per challenge, please. I will enforce this as far as I am able; don’t exploit the loopholes of anonymity.)

I will reject challenges only if I feel that the challenge is undoable (by, for instance, being incompatible with the actual rules of FFM) or in conflict with the spirit of the event. Please stay away from fanfiction challenges or ones that involve each story throughout the entire month having the same specific length; pretty much anything else is valid!

Your deadline is noon (Central European Standard Time) on June 30th. There will be no leniency. Winner(s) should be announced by that afternoon.

Fabulous Prizes

You stand to win:

  • Official credit for the challenge in whatever form you’d like, from complete anonymity to a name and a link, both in the eventual ebook collection and on the stories themselves.
  • Up to 500 DeviantArt points, if you have an account.
  • The grim satisfaction of watching me dance through your arbitrary hoops, knowing I am but a puppet upon the strings you have laid.

Complicated technical details on who wins what in which fringe scenarios are available on last year’s post; I haven’t included them this time because it’s all sort of long and boring to read through, if admittedly important to have worked out in advance. Last year’s rules on that still stand.

Challenges So Far

  1. Every story must include a fictional fictional character.  ~Damon L. Wakes
  2. Every story must feature the word ‘glamorous’.  ~TheCrazyTarantula (deviantArt)
  3. Each Sunday’s story must shockingly recontextualise each Saturday’s story.  ~joe-wright (deviantArt)
  4. Every story must begin with the last word of the previous story. The 31st story must end with the first word of the first story.  ~ilyilaice (deviantArt)
  5. Do at least one of all the “important varieties” of twist endings as seen here.  ~ilyilaice (deviantArt)
  6. Each story must be connected to the one before it in some way, shape or form.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  7. Each story must include a piece of cutlery.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  8. Upvote #3.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  9. Upvote #3.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)
  10. Upvote #4.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)
  11. Every story must feature something edible (or something usually inedible that gets eaten anyway). Bonus – story 3 and 14 must feature pie in some way.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)
  12. For every story, the story’s word count must be mentioned in the story itself.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)

Thank you, and happy challenging!