Upon Reading and Change

Like most people, my social life shifted dramatically during the pandemic. I became closer to the people with whom I could interact with well online. Some in-person friendships faded. Some remote friendships became more important. In some ways, this accelerated some changes in my social life that were already underway, as I move into a new parenting bracket and more of my internal life is taken up with writing and creative ventures.

There were a couple friends whom I recently removed from my phone, as I considered what changes to make during this odd transitional phase of the pandemic. If one of those friends ever happens to see this post, I am declaring loud and clear that there was no anger in this decision, no resentment. It was just time. We live on opposite sides of the river (which in this city means a minimum of a 45-minute drive on a Sunday morning). We’ve had different professional and personal experiences. I’m not the hippest person out there, either, when you get right down to it.

The friendships weren’t nothing. There was a time in my life when I leaned on them very heavily, and I have tried over the years to repay that kindness with smaller but hopefully consistent kindnesses. It’s not wasted time or effort.

I was in a used bookstore recently (in a store! Yes, masked and vaccinated) and happened to notice a copy of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Good Squad. That’s actually a favorite book of one of these friends, as I recall from a wedding shower game years ago. (One of those odd details that sticks in your brain.)

So I bought it, and I read and admired it. Wrong time in my life for me to love that book, but if I were writing a review, I’d still give it full marks, because it’s not the book’s fault I’ve got some anxieties working at cross-purposes to the major themes of the story.

I’m glad I read it, though. It was a good way to honor the friendship that happened.

Have you ever read a book just because it was someone else’s favorite? Which book, and why? Did you talk about it with them after?

$5 Theater + Fake-German!

My short multimedia play “Totenwascher” runs May 6-9 as a part of the 2021 Out of Ink Festival. Tickets are wicked cheap, starting at $5.

Out of Ink 2021: Perfect Glitch runs May 6-9

Runtime for synchronous content is about one hour. You’ll also receive asynchronous content, some of which even comes in the mail – including your very own plague mask!

The title of my piece translates (sort of) as “death-washer.” It’s not real German, but my director is fluent in German, and I fooled her. I hope you’ll check it out!

Pandemic and the TBR Pile

Not to brag here… but some of us have actually read some of the books in our longstanding TBR pile during this pandemic. Some of my favorites of the past year:

Shown above: five fewer books weighing down my conscience.

Special props to Dexter Palmer’s Mary Toft; or, the Rabbit Queen, a historical novel set in 1700s England, about a woman who fooled five of the greatest physicians in the country into believing that she had given birth to seventeen rabbits. (It failed as a check on the to-read list, though, because I just bought his earlier book Version Control. One step forward, one step back.) I loved all five of these books, though, and recommend them enthusiastically.

In other news, I was terrifically excited to learn that Alex Brown included my story “Contract Witch” in their March round-up of recommended short fiction. I now have my own tag on Tor.com: achievement unlocked!!!

“Contract Witch” at Fireside

My story “Contract Witch” goes up at Fireside today! It’s a 6-minute read about Python, atmospheric carbon, and the sprint ceremony from hell. Please, share it with a software developer in your life.

It’s been a strange month to have three short stories to promote. They also happen to be the first three short stories I’ve ever sold, and while I hope they won’t be the last, there won’t be any more for a while, because I’ve been concentrating on a novel lately. It turns out that if you want to publish more short stories, you also have to write them. Crazy, innit?

New Short Stories

I have two flash pieces that have appeared already this month. Today, my piece “The Modern Witch’s Recipe for Enemy Pie” appears in Daily Science Fiction. And at the beginning of the month, “How To Safely Engage in Telepathy with the Dolphins of Ocean Paradise” ran in Zooscape. They’re both short, humorous pieces with a bit of darkness at the edges. I hope you enjoy!

In the past twelve months, I’ve sold three short stories, but the varying publication scheduled mean they’re all running this month. (Raining, pouring, etc.) The title for the third one is very short, I promise!

Art, Snow, and Relief

My family and I live in Texas. We appear to have weathered last week’s storm better than many. A boil notice is in effect, but we’ll take that any day of the week over a caved-in ceiling due to burst water pipes, three days without power in single-digit temps, no water at all, or the very frightening reality that the entire state of Texas was within minutes of losing power due to the near-collapse of the entire grid.

A friend who’s still without water texted the other day, “I was about to say I feel like I’m living in a disaster area, then I remembered that I am.”

Our city officials asked everyone to conserve power, so that meant digging up as many non-screen activities as we could with our family. Puzzles, books, board games, solitaire, crafting projects – all things that I adore when I’m not actively worried about societal collapse, and even when I am worried about that, they’re pretty great.

We had a leftover project from a fall subscription to Let’s Make Art, which ships kid-friendly craft projects. They’re pretty good, turns out. They give clear instructions but leave enough room for kids to make choices of their own on how to change things up, and the supplies are pretty good quality – not just grocery-store watercolors, but decent paints and brushes, that kind of thing.

I did some of the drawing projects along with my kid.

My drawings. (My kid’s drawings aren’t posted, but trust me, they’re awesome.)

In no way do I suggest that these doodles constitute great art. I love art and galleries and museums and I know just enough about art to know that I would need a lot of study and practice to do something really great.

But the beautiful thing is how nice it is to have a creative endeavor that has no extrinsic goal. I’m not trying to sell my work. I do it to see how it turns out.

Given the ups and downs of pushing at a writing career, it’s lovely to explore an idea in this way – a castle! A dragon! A little breath of fire! What might it look like? Let’s see! And, when you have no responsibility other than to keep your family in one place and the lights off, it’s also a spot of grace to share a moment of simple creativity with loved ones.

I’d love to hear about how other people have spent the uneasy times of waiting in their lives, and what you’ve done to fill the empty minutes.

VP23 End-of-Year Roundup

If you have a minute, please check out the page I put up listing the published work of my Viable Paradise classmates.

I’m not on there because everything I’ve sold is scheduled to come out this year. I hope you’ll read some of their stories, though, especially if you’re able to vote for awards. Some of these stories were even workshopped at Viable Paradise. There’s a lovely range of styles, and it’s great fun to check out what the class of 2019 has accomplished in the last year!

2020 Short Fiction Stats

(This is not an eligibility post, because both the pieces I sold this year are set to run in 2021.)

I’ve always found it helpful to see writers’ submission stats, on account of how it offers so much insight into the actual acceptance rate of folks who are out there publishing and working. Here’s a screenshot from The Grinder to share where I’m at, after my first year of getting out there and submitting my short fiction for publication:

Lifetime Stats, courtesy of The Grinder

I’m very happy with what I could accomplish with my short fiction this year. It’s a nice beginning, and I’d be glad and grateful to maintain this acceptance rate for another year!