2014: The Year of Getting Serious Again

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First, to Everyone who reads this, Happy Holidays! I wish that all of your wishes come true during the next year and that you live life to its maximum capacity. Always.

This past year has been rewarding and challenging. I graduated with my associates degree, lost one job and got another with the same employer (lost student assistant job at St. Petersburg College when I graduated and got hired back on a few months later as an OPS writing tutor), started new university to go for the bachelors degree, moved into a new apartment  in the downtown area, and gave up my car (it was a piece of shit anyway) for the benefit of walking for exercise.

I was busy writing many essays for my junior year at the University of South Florida, so my creative writing efforts suffered a little. But those essays helped me improve my writing, and I hope all future academic witting will do the same.

For my resolutions in 2014, I don’t have many. I’m keeping it simple and doable.

  1. Continue to improve my health by walking. School and grocery is within walking distance from me now, as well as many other activities and entertainments that the downtown St. Pete area has to offer.
  2. Write new stories. Turn on my creative juices and get them flowing whenever possible. Write for fun, but also write for publications. Poems, too. I want to write some more poetry in 2014.
  3. Submit stories and poetry to major publications and journals. I’ve already started on this one. I’ve submitted my previously unpublished award-winning short story Parker’s Pygmalion to Glimmer Train literary magazine and three unpublished poems to Northwestern U’s Tri-Quarterly journal. I’ve started some fantasy and sci-fi stories that are pretty good so far, I just need to finish them and get them out into some slush piles. I will also continue to try and get some previously published stories reprinted.
  4. Keep my magazine going. My side-project as publisher and editor of the spec-fic ezine The Were-Traveler has taken a toll on my sanity this year. Finding time to read and respond to stories while reading 2-3 books a week for lit classes has been very challenging, but I have no desire to stop doing it now. In fact, I’m even more determined to make it work. I may ask for help along the way, but I’m definitely keeping it going. I nominated 3 stories to Critter’s P&E Readers Poll and wish I could have showered other writers with that kind of love and recognition. I’m still trying to find all those yearly award venues out there, where I can give my authors the cred they deserve. If any of my readers have recommendations, please let me know.
  5. Keep my sanity at school, work, writing, editing, publishing. This is a given. I must maintain a sensible balance to this crazy happening that is my life. Need to breathe a little in between and enjoy other things, too. Relax, take deep breaths, meditate.

That’s it. I’ll probably add goals as I go along through the first part of the year, but this is enough to start with.

I hope all of your goals for the coming year lead to success and happiness.

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About Time…and the lack thereof…

cropped-blue-keyboard-lrg.jpgIt’s been a good long while since I’ve written a blog post. I wanted to maintain regular posts after graduation from SPC, but then life started throwing me lemons and rather than make lemonade, I decided to become even more gloomy and depressed than I had been already. I lost my air conditioning during the hottest part of the summer in my little mobile home. I began my first semester at the University of South Florida by taking two long bus-rides to the St. Petersburg campus and then home again, leaving in the morning to get to an early afternoon class and night when I arrived back home—me being too tired to do much of anything. My old Macbook died before I could transfer over files and documents from it, so I lost a lot of writing I’d done. I managed to have most of my “Quellseek” novel on flash drive, so a major crisis was diverted there. All-in-all, when I should have been celebrating after getting my AA degree, crap started hitting the fan as they say, and I didn’t enjoy either the summer I had off, nor the thrill of starting a new university. School has also been a challenge. I’m either reading or writing (academic papers). I haven’t written a poem or a creative piece, or a blog post—not counting the editorials I do for the issues of The Were-Traveler—in a long time now.

Sorry to contradict you, Stones, but Time has not been On My Side lately.

I put some of my saved cash aside and managed to get into a nice little apartment three blocks from both campus and the local grocery chain store. I have my own little den, where I study and do my academic writing. I got rid of the car that was costing me too much time and money, and moved to walker’s paradise of Downtown St. Petersburg. I’m already losing weight from all the walking I’m doing.

School is still an enormous pressure, but I already feel better…less depressed and more energized and focused.

Even better news is that the Muse has been visiting me with ideas again. I’ve started no new stories or worked on any older stuff (rescued from the flash drive) as yet, but I feel confident that I will soon. I’ve downloaded some images to start doing writing prompts on this blog again, and I will post one very soon.  Also, there may be another cause for celebration here very soon, but I can’t spill the beans on that yet…not until it’s official. I anticipate that news to come within the next week or two.

While the struggle to manage what little time I have for my own pursuits continues, I have been setting new goals with plans for life and writing. They are:

  1. To continue working on “Quellseek: Army of Empaths.” I was lucky that I only lost one chapter when my old computer died. And I remember much about the chapter I lost, so rewriting shouldn’t be too hard. But, I need to DO IT!
  2. Two ideas involving the future of animal intelligence have shaped themselves (sort of) into story plots. One will be called Eros and Mathilda and will focus on two couples: one human, the other chimpanzee. The primate cousins have had their intelligence raised, at a cost. NOTE: this is not Planet of the Apes type story. The other story also involves a primate, but it’s not the focus of the story. This story, untitled as yet, is a futuristic carnival in which the animals are more intelligent than the humans. The primate in question, for example, is a 2nd half of a hurdy-gurdy duo who has just joined an animal performers union. Yeah, it will be just a little bizarre.
  3. Poetry. In one of my upcoming terms, I hope to take a poetry writing class. I would like to improve my skills in writing poetry.
  4. Get my literary short story, Parker’s Pygmalion, up on Smashwords or Amazon. Somewhere. Anywhere.
  5. I need to submit some stuff. Somewhere. Anywhere. I’ve focused the last year on publishing and editing The Were-Traveler. I need to spend the coming year getting my own work back out in the markets. In order to do that, I need to…
  6. Write. WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! Then write some more.
  7. Get through my first term at USF. Survive. After term, go to Sake Bomb and have a sake or two. Or three.

I have other goals, pertaining to my new apartment and new life in the downtown. The ones above are what I need to work on to get the creative juices flowing again.

Look for more posts soon. I will try to avoid long disappearing acts. I promise, I will try.

 

“The Apprentice’s Mother” Published in Sunday Snaps Anthology

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Sunday Snaps front cover via Chuffed Buff Books.

My latest short story “The Apprentices Mother” appears in the anthology “Sunday Snaps” published by Chuffed Buff Books. Sales from the book will go to benefit the Canadian Red Cross Homecare Services.

Susan May James of Chuffed Buff Books is the creative force behind the inspiration for “Sunday Snaps.” It got started when she started posting photos on her website as writing prompts. The image below served as the Muse for my story.

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Image courtesy of Susan May James.

Here’s the cover blurb for the project:

“This colourful and quirky collection contains short stories, flash fiction, vignettes and poetry of various styles and genres. It developed over the course of 52 weeks in 2010/2011 whereby a series of ‘Sunday Snaps’ were posted online as a creative writing exercise. Writers were invited to use the snapshots as inspirational writing prompts. The result: an eclectic assortment of light-hearted comedy, romance, dark tales, tragedy, slice-of-life stories and expressive verse. While the spires of Milan Cathedral and a café in Toronto provide the backdrop to romance, elsewhere a marriage is arranged, children grapple with loss, and a woman rushes to the side of a life-long friend. With a bit of French cuisine, a spiteful kitty, a mother’s pact with the devil, a birthday kiss and a dash of supernatural revenge, this unique collection offers a tale for all! Stories and poetry by: Sam Adamson, Kim Bannerman, Cath Barton, Dominique Boller, Juliet Boyd, Jodi Cleghorn, Sandra Davies, Miriam Dunn, Rebecca Emin, Annie Evett, Stacey Faulkner, Wendy Ann Greenhalgh, D A Volpe Herskowitz, Stephen Hewitt, A J Humpage, Steve Isaak, Mandy K James, Susan May James, Maria Kelly, Mari Lee Kozlowski, Lisamarie Lamb, Shannon Lawrence, Tyrean Martinson, Tony Noland, Linda Olson, Roslyn Ross, Tony Schumacher, and Ren Thompson. Proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to Canadian Red Cross Homecare Services. For details on the Canadian Red Cross, or to donate without purchasing a book, please click: Canadian Red Cross Homecare Services.”

You can order the print edition from Amazon.com at:  http://www.amazon.com/Sunday-Snaps-Susan-May-James/dp/190885801X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1368636263&sr=8-3&keywords=Sunday+Snaps.

And you can get it from Amazon.ca at http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/190885801X/sr=8-1/qid=1368636517/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&qid=1368636517&seller=&sr=8-1

If you’re in the UK, it can be found at Book Depository…they offer FREE WORLDWIDE delivery: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Sunday-Snaps-Stories-Susan-May-James/9781908858016

Also for readers living in the UK, it can also be ordered online at Foyles for in-store pickup or for delivery: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/sunday-snaps-the-stories,james-susan-may-9781908858016

And, of course, It can be ordered from the Chuffed Buff Books website – http://www.chuffedbuffbooks.com/bookshop/sunday-snaps-the-stories/.

Susan May James from Chuffed Buff Books has said that the kindle edition is in progress and will be available in the future.

Looking Behind and Looking Ahead

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Graduation from SPC on May 4, 2013

I have not made a post in quite some time. I apologize. When you’re a college student/author/publisher/editor/part-time employee it’s hard to find time to blog.  I am enjoying a nice summer break, though, so I hope to be able to catch up on my posts.

First, let me catch you up on the recent past. After a grueling spring term, I graduated from St. Petersburg College with my Associates of Arts degree on May 4th. It may not seem like a very significant accomplishment to some folks, but it means the world to me. I am an older student (47…not afraid to say it) who was told in high school by a guidance counselor not to waste my time with college. I wish he could have been there as I not only proved that it wasn’t a waste, I did so by graduating summa cum laude with a 3.95 G.P.A. and by being a finalist for one of SPC’s most prestigious academic honors, the Apollo Award. I didn’t win, and that doesn’t matter. Just to be considered for it is a huge accomplishment that will no doubt have a lasting effect on my life.

Ahead lies my goal for a BA in English Literature. I’ve chosen to remain in this area and transfer to the University of South Florida—St. Petersburg campus. I’m not quite ready to move out of Tampa Bay or Florida yet. The St. Pete campus of USF is gorgeous. It sits right on Tampa Bay with lovely water views from nearly every building. I’m looking forward to starting my classes in the fall…one of which includes a literature class on the occult. Hell yes!

Now for the present and future of other aspects of my life.

This summer while I am off I have many goals. Here are a few.

  • Employment. I lost my student job at SPC, so I’ve been working on updating the resume and creating a portfolio. I hope to use it to land my next job.
  • Writing. I have lots of writing goals for this summer.
    • More Blog Posts. That’s a priority. Need to get back into writing more frequent updates and doing the writing prompts again.
    • Parker’s Pygmalion. I’ve decided to upload my Phi Theta Kappa award-winning short story to Smashwords as a free e-book. I have to start doing this indie thing soon anyway, and this is a good story to start with. If it works out, I will likely add it to Kindle on Amazon as well.
    • Kill the Crow. I’ve begun putting the stories into one document. I still need to finish writing and editing a few of the tales for the book, and get it formatted for publishing. Once  that’s done, I will upload it to Amazon…maybe Smashwords again, too.
    • Quellseek: Army of Empaths. I have people who will murder me if I don’t finish this novel,  so I’m working on it. The biggest problem I’m encountering is that the plot bunnies have tortured me with another great idea, one which I’ve started the research on already.
    • The Dragon Siblings. See above. I’ve got Phandara and T’kanyae (a.k.a. Kane Anthony) Morphyrades story starting in my head and I’ve begun a research project on it involving (fictional and real) sorcery and alchemy.  I don’t even have a title for this yet and have no clue about the scope of it, because Quellseek and that series MUST come first. The tale of Rafael Errick, Emory Atarem, Marta Sanis, Alverin Ness, and Wellynd Niles/Well-and-Truly must be brought to a close and that could take 2-3 years to tell it all. The Dragons will happen at some point, though. They’ve sort of already happened in some pre-cursor/same multiverse short stories.
  • Publishing and Editing. 
    • The Were-Traveler. Yes, I also edit and publish a speculative fiction magazine. It’s a rewarding venture I dove into like a madwoman and for the moment I’m enjoying it. Not quite ready to give it up yet. I recently posted the descriptions for up-and-coming issue themes. I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming themes. I may have to pen something myself for the Lovecraft/Poe issue. So tempting.

Life is going to be a challenge for me once school starts again in August. I have decided to attend USF full-time, which means I will have even less time for the other parts of my life than I do now.

Going to do as much this summer as possible…got to get it while the gettin’s good.

2013: Adaptations

© Redshinestudio - Fotolia.com

© Redshinestudio – Fotolia.com

Here we are, this year coming to a close and staring down the barrel of a new one.

2012 was a great year. Many good things happened. I won some awards both for academics and for writing. I didn’t publish as many short stories, but I feel like the ones I did publish were better stories. I got paid for my first story, Nowhere Land, and that story got some great reviews. I had my first reprint: my story The ABCs of the Apocalypse was reprinted in The Best of Friday Flash, Volume 2. I had a vampire story, The Bloodletter’s Tale, published in the Flashes in the Dark e-zineI have a story called The Apprentice’s Mother, being published in the Sunday Snaps anthology soon.

I ventured into journalism, writing a story for the school online newspaper about President Obama’s visit to one of our campuses.

I was nominated by my school for the All Florida Academic Team. I had a short story win two academic awards.

I did not do everything I planned to do in 2012. I’m still working on getting my book of short stories finished and out there in the world.

That being said, my list for 2013 contains some items of old business.

There are also some major changes in store for me in 2013, some life adaptations that I’ll be making. But as a friend of mine, Sophie Solitaire once told me: “You have to adapt or you will die.” Sophie is a character in my post-apocalyptic story Sophie Solitaire: Confessions of an End-Time Girl. 

2013 Goals:

Writing/Publishing Goals:

Kill the Crow — Get the stories that are going in it finished, get them all assembled in anthology format and find beta readers for the book. Find out how I can publish to both Smashwords and Amazon. If anyone reading this can help me with beta reading or publishing suggestions, please comment. I need all the help I can get.

Quellseek: Army of Empaths, Book 1 — This is the novel I started for NaNoWriMo this year. I want to finish it and let it sit for a bit before I start editing. I’ve also begun note-taking and planning the second book of the series: Blood War. 

Blood War: Army of Empaths, Book 2 — The second book of Army of Empaths. I won’t give too much away, but Quellseek ends with some cliffhanger stuff. I want to start work on Blood War right way, while the momentum and juices are still hot and flowing.

Army of Empaths, Book 3 — I want to begin planning what’s going to happen in the 3rd book while I’m writing the 2nd book, taking notes as I go along on anything that might be a loose end that would need wrapping up. We don’t like loose ends.

Short stories  — I’d like to get some short stories written, I don’t know if I’ll have time. If I get invited to write another eMergent story, I’d definitely say ‘yes.’ I love working with Jodi Cleghorn and the eMergent crew.

I’m also planning a children’s fantasy about a dragon princess, but it’s just in the beginning/tinkering stages right now. And I’m playing with the idea of putting  a volume of poetry together.

The Were-Travler My first year as a fiction magazine publisher went pretty smoothly. Ever since the mag was listed on Duotropes, the submissions have been pouring in. It may be that I’ll need someone to help me with it eventually, but I’m having a lot of fun with it and definitely plan to keep it going.

Academic Goals:

Find a new school. In May, I will receive my Associates degree. I need to make up my mind about what university I’m going to attend to get my Bachelors. I need to make this decision soon. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve applied for some scholarships, we’ll see what happens. 

Awards. I’m trying to get another short story ready for Phi Theta Kappa Regional Awards for this year. I’m also entering a poem.

Survive Spanish 2. I need to pass this class in the Spring. It will count toward my BA. I haven’t been able to practice my Spanish much since I took Spanish 1 in the summer, so this will be hard. I may have to get a tutor. 😦

This is what I hope to accomplish for 2013. If I can achieve a fraction of it, I’ll be happy.

I wish everyone a successful and happy new year ahead!

Quellseek Songs: Alverin Ness (Dare You to Move)

One handsome masculine male with nice eyesAs part of my writing process for my novel Quellseek: Army of Empaths, I’m seeking out songs that I can use to inspire my muse before we sit down at the laptop to write. I’m going to be using songs that I associate with my POV characters.

I have to admit it. I had a hard time finding a song for Alverin Ness.

He only has two POV chapters in the novel, but his character will have tremendous impact on future events in the story.

Alverin is the natural son of Manyx Atarem. Manyx is a known philanderer, but the only bastard child he’s ever acknowledged is Alverin.

Alverin lives mostly with his mother in a small village outside the Hungry Hills, where he has to contend with people looking down on him and (what he really can’t stand) his mother.

Although he is the son of a Bon noble, he has never been involved in the blood feuds that exist between the noble families, particularly the one against Atarem and Sanis. As a bastard, he’s always been beneath everyone’s radar. Not worth the time or effort it would take to kill him. So, he’s never had to have a Quell (physical empath bodyguard)…something for which he is thankful.

He’d like nothing more than to remain in his village with his mother, marry the girl he has a crush on and have a quiet, simple life. He gets to see his father and half-siblings when he visits Hook Harbor.  Even his father’s wife, if she treats him a little coldly, is not mean to him.

He likes his life the way it is.

But everything is about to change for Alverin Ness and his whole world will soon be turned upside down. He will face challenges and danger as finally, after fourteen years, people have the Atarem Bastard in their sights.

As his chapter opens, Pelees has come to escort him to the court. Bon Manyx wants the family united at the side of his friend, the ailing King Eggar. The last time Alverin saw his brother and father was at his brother Evander’s funeral pyre. Now he must go to the court, where all the Bon families of the kingdom are gathering to attend the king on his deathbed. He is not looking forward to being in the presence of the other noble families, most of them enemies, who have nothing but contempt for the Atarem Bastard.

So what kind of song did I choose for this unfortunate boy facing a world of challenges that he must either rise to or perish?

I chose Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” because to me it says that from his birth and throughout the battles to come, Alverin Ness has to step outside of himself…and become more than what he is, or his enemies will destroy him.

“Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
The tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be”

-Switchfoot

The Best of Friday Flash 2 Launch Day and My ABC’s

Launch day for Best of Friday Flash, Volume 2 is here.

This is the second anthology of works by authors that post and tweet links to their stories via the #FridayFlash hash-tag on Twitter. Friday Flash is an awesome Twitter community of writers who work together to help each other grow creatively. We read each others stories and comment on them. You don’t just get feedback on your stories through Friday Flash, though, you build relationships with other authors. And in this gig, you need to build relationships.

When I started posting stories on Friday Flash just a little over two years ago, I didn’t know a soul. Now, I have a ton of friends from FF on Twitter and many of us have also connected on Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, and even Linked-In. So, if you’re reading this and you are a new writer looking for a) a venue to get feedback on your work; and b) want to virtually meet some of the most kick-ass writers on the net, head over to Twitter and get started.  The Friday Flash web page has more information.

Now for the good stuff…the book! I just missed out on getting into the first volume of Best of Friday Flash, so when it came time for the second one to collect submissions, I had no doubt which story I wanted to send in to Jon and the gang.

The ABC’s of the Apocalypse was originally published in an anthology for Static Movement called Cosmic Catastrophes. I had sent the rough draft to my friend, writer and editor Jim Bronyaur, who sent it back with the words “I F**KING LOVE THIS!” written in black marker at the top. Now, Jim’s a horror guy. For him to say this about a science fiction piece of mine…well, I felt pretty damn good about it. So I sent it to Static, and they published it in Cosmic Catastrophes. After it was published, I posted it for the Friday Flash crowd. It was one of my best loved stories from Friday Flash and garnered the most positive comments of any Friday Flash story I ever posted.

The concept of the story is not a new one. I borrowed the style from a creepy fantasy story I read and liked by Tim Pratt, called Annabelle’s AlphabetAs for the theme, I was inspired by Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, except that Amy in ABC’s has the opposite problem that Charlie Gordon had.

I am happy that BOFF2 liked ABC’s and included it in this anthology alongside some of the best flash stories around.

I will be getting an extra copy of BOFF2 delivered to me in a few days and will be giving it away during a contest soon.

Stay tuned for more information…and you can order a copy here, if you don’t want to wait for my lottery: Order BOFF2 .