First Reprint or Another November Story

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I didn’t plan for several of my stories to hit the market in November, but here we are. The first reprint I ever submitted was accepted by the good folks at Smoking Pen Press for their time travel anthology. I like that the editors didn’t decide on a name for the anthology until they had selected the stories to include. That way they could see what common themes came through, and they found one. Nothing good seems to come from time travel, so they titled the anthology The Trouble with Time Travel.

My contribution is “Temporally Out of Service.” If you’ve followed this blog back to its beginning, you may recall this was the first story I every wrote. It was inspired by a misspelled sign I encountered on a hotel elevator. You guessed it, that’s where the story title comes front. If you like sci-fi time travel or private detective noir or both, this is the story for you!

After the rights reverted to me last year, I happened to see this publisher’s call for time travel stories. Since reprints were accepted, I took a chance. You know what they say, don’t self reject; and I’m glad I didn’t. You can purchase the eBook here from any of your favorite online retailers. A print version should be released in the coming weeks. If you’d like a little taste, read on.

***

Not really paying close attention to the clerk beyond learning which way the woman went, I raced past the desk and headed down the hall.  I hurried by the business center on the right and then what appeared to be a tiny fitness center immediately after.  I next passed the elevator.  It was in a recessed alcove on the left with a sign taped to the door, still fluttering a little as if someone had rushed by.  On the other side of the elevator was the door to the stairs.  At the end of the hall was the south entrance, the one I did not have a view of earlier. 

All was quiet, so where did she go?  I poked my head into the stairwell.  Nothing.  No footsteps racing up the stairs.  No doors to other floors above slamming open or closed.  I opened the door to the outside and scanned the area.  Nothing.  I backtracked down the hall to peer into the business and fitness centers.  Nothing.  I started to worry I would have to go door to door and floor to floor to track her down.

Not wanting to make that scene quite yet, I retraced my steps one more time to the end of the hall.  This time when I reached the elevator I read the sign attached to the door.

TEMPORALLY

OUT OF SERVICE

THX,

MGMT

“Temporally?” I asked aloud.  “The staff can’t even spell ‘temporarily.’”  I was about to launch into a long mental diatribe about the sad state of the public education system when I noticed the sign and entire elevator door had the same sheen that had covered everything in the parking lot earlier.  If you would ask me years later why I did what I did next, I’d tell you I don’t know.  But I did it.  I pushed the UP button.  The doors opened.  I walked in, and the doors closed.

November Stories

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Many of you may be knee deep in NaNoWriMo this month. If you’re already waist deep, congratulations! I’m probably ankle deep at the moment.

For those looking to take a break, I would like to share the release of a couple of my stories. The first, “The Sea Lords Script”, previously had been published by Ash Tales. I noticed not too long ago that the story had disappeared from the publisher’s website, which was a huge disappointment. Then I get an email saying they were converting to a podcast format, and my story had been narrated and was live. Even better! You can listen here. The publisher said several kind words about the story at the start, which I am grateful for. I think he understood what I was attempting to capture with the story. A little post-apocalyptic humor anyone?

The second is a horror story title “Shadow” that I shopped around for a while, and I am glad it has found a home in the anthology Night Terrors Vol. 6. The anthology will be released on Monday, November 9, but you can pre-order it for $0.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited. Below is an excerpt ending on a cliffhanger that hopefully wets your appetite for more. If you do end up buying, please leave a review on Amazon, whether good, bad, or indifferent. It all helps the metrics.

***

The house is dark as Michael pulls into the garage. It is the night of Heather’s birthday party at Bria’s. The house should be ablaze as Heather gets ready. Instead, Michael opens the door leading into the kitchen and enters total darkness, at least immediately. After being under the bright lights of the garage, Michael’s eyes have trouble adjusting. He flips the light switch to his left. Nothing. He tries again. “Great, something else to add to my list,” he mumbles, not wanting Heather to hear and possibly ruin her mood for the party. “Hey, Heather, where are you, and why is it so dark?”

“In here, honey,” utters a faint voice from the bedroom.

The curtains are still open, so there is some ambient light making its way inside. Michael feels grateful for even this small a blessing as it allows him not to trip over the numerous dog toys strewn all over the floor on his way to the bedroom. The bedroom is another matter. Those curtains are drawn. He can’t see a thing.

“Where in here?” Michael tries the bedroom’s light switch. This one doesn’t work either. Did they have a power surge that tripped a breaker? The garage lights work, but maybe they are on a different circuit. He will have to go check.

“In here,” the voice insists, more persistent this time.

“Are you in the closet?” Michael takes a couple of steps deeper into the darkness of the bedroom. “What are you doing in there? Are you ready for the party? Here, let me turn my phone’s flashlight on. I don’t think our lights are working.”

As Michael digs in his pants pocket for his phone, a silhouette appears in the bedroom door behind him. Finally pulling the phone out, he activates the flashlight and shines it into the closet. The silhouette silently moves closer.

“I thought you said you were in the closet,” Michael replies, after finding the space empty. “I know you’re turning 30, but that’s no reason to act all morbid.” The silhouette extends a black appendage toward Michael and grabs him on the shoulder. “I said I’m right here.”


3Q20 Update

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Another light quarter, despite more staying-at-home. Let’s see where I ended up.

  • Words written = 3450
  • Submissions = 28
  • Rejections = 18
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 0
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

The good news is I tripled my word output. The bad news is that’s not saying much when the prior benchmark was about 1100 words. The words last quarter were devoted to two new short/flash stories. The in-laws visited for a week, and all of a sudden I was able to be productive. If it weren’t for the End Times, that could happen more often, which my productivity would welcome.

The fourth quarter includes NaNoWriMo where I traditionally have my greatest output for the year. I’m hoping to continue that streak. My goal is to complete the work-in-progress by the end of the year. I still don’t know if the WIP will end up novel length or something shorter. After letting it sit since the Before Times, I’ve already started rereading it to familiarize myself with the work again.

I also won a registration to an upcoming virtual writing conference that included a slot to pitch an agent. The agent I was assigned doesn’t appear to be interested in my WIP’s genre but is interested in picture books and middle grade books. I have several of the former completed, and one of the latter started. Having never pitched an agent before, I needed to figure out what I am pitching. Then, I need to figure out how to pitch it.

The number of submissions and rejections last quarter weren’t my best but still serviceable. I need 34 submissions in the fourth quarter to reach my goal of 100 for the year. I haven’t hit that number of submissions in a quarter since the second quarter of 2019. I’m hoping to start submitting soon the two stories drafted last quarter. Fresh stories always increase the submissions number (and by extension the rejections number).

I was pleased my streak of one acceptance a quarter continued. I’m also hoping the single hold I received turns into an acceptance this quarter. The editor asked for a rewrite, which I happily obliged, and am waiting for the final decision. In the interim, that market solicited submissions for its next issue from presumable past and pending (since I received the email) contributors. The problems are it’s a genre I don’t dabble in often and a length I don’t reach that often any more (3-7k words). So I don’t have anything that’s a ready fit. I do have a story idea that would fit genre-wise and likely will be the right length, but I doubt I’ll have enough time to complete it before the submission deadline later this month, especially since I’m focusing on the agent pitch the first part of the month.

On the flip side, my streak of one publication a quarter ended. I had a work slated to be published in September, which would have continued the streak, but the published delayed the release until 2021. At least I’ll have that to look forward to. I have one more publication in the works, the sole acceptance last quarter, but there is no release date yet.

That was my July through September. Now it’s time to win over an agent with an as-yet-unselected-work and then attempt to finish a novel. No biggies.

How’d you do last quarter?

Incorporating Social Distancing in Writing

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I’ve debated this since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Should I incorporate social distancing elements in my writing? Should characters wear masks and stay 6 feet apart? Should they never greet each other with a physical gesture like a handshake or hug? Should more than one character even be in the same room together? Or do I ignore all that and write as if life is back to the old normal?

Stories always represent a snapshot in time. Whether it’s the language used, the technology described, or the social norms of the characters, stories inevitably date themselves. As a science fiction writer, many of my stories occur in the future; so outdated tech usually isn’t an issue. But my characters speak and use early 21st century vocabulary and not the words, or even a separate language, developed between now and when the story takes place. And say I’m writing about a colony ship hurtling toward a new planet. What about the crew’s composition? If written 100 years ago, the crew likely would have been all male and white. Not today, at least not for me. I purposefully include an ensemble cast consisting of both sexes and multiple races and ethnicities.

Whether we like it or not, our writing dates us. Wouldn’t including elements of social distancing simply further date an already dated work? Or do such elements go too far? Or would we prefer our fiction to be just that, a fictional escape from reality? Would we rather not be reminded of this unusual and difficult time we are living through?

So far I’ve written two short stories during the pandemic. Neither one includes social distancing concepts, but I thought about doing so both times. I ultimately rejected doing so because it would have interfered with the story. For example, one story takes place at an academic conference. Those are all cancelled for the foreseeable future, so that would have killed the story. The climax wouldn’t quite have the same dramatic impact if it was a virtual conference.

There is no right answer, but I’m curious. How have you treated social distancing in your writing? Let me know in the comments.

My Daughter is a Published Author!

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For NaNoWriMo the last two years, I’ve challenged my daughter to write a book while I worked on my novel. Though only 4 years old the first year, she completed the challenge both times, whereas her father has yet to finish his first novel.

Her first book was called The Little Witch about, you guessed it, a little witch. She enjoyed it so much, she immediately wrote a second book called The Head Monster. This one you might guess was about the leader of some sort of monster group. This time you would have guessed wrong. Instead, the book was about a monster, who only had a head! I thought this book was awesome. Unfortunately, we can’t find the book she wrote during last year’s NaNoWriMo, nor can we remember the title.

One thing these books all had in common was my daughter drew the pictures but had to dictate the story to her parents. This year she started kindergarten and began the process of learning to read and write. Then quarantine shut down schools. Many aspects of her education took a hit with the move to virtual learning, but her reading and writing didn’t. Both have improved dramatically. So much so, she wanted to work on another book and write the text herself this time.

Also, during this time, I was submitting a series of stories to a flash fiction market, Smokelong Quarterly. While doing so, I discovered this market accepts stories written by children that are posted on the publication’s website in a series called Fridge Fiction. So I submitted her quarantine work. To all of our delight, her story called Who Will Win the Race? was accepted. Yep, not only was she accepted by a market I have yet to crack, she was accepted on her first try. (No, I’m not jealous. Why would you think that?)

You can read her story here. Congratulations, Amara! (I’m taking credit for the awesome author photo.)

Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to work on my next story in the hopes of getting my own acceptance rate up.

Image via Pixabay.