Category Archives: Craft Notes

Snapped Dry, Scraped Clean, behind the scenes

It’s live! Woo!

Read it for free here!

This tale was inspired by two articles. The first was about a woman who was found dead in a hospital stairwell. The second was about the folks who clean up crime scenes after the investigation has concluded. The combination of care and neglect when we’re at our most vulnerable (in a hospital, at home, among family) percolated into this story. I wanted to look the ugly, unspoken thing in the face — like the limits of care, and what happens when we reach those limits and start to fail. Who cares for the caregiver, kind of thing.

When I first drafted this story in 2015, I was also thinking about sensory overwhelm and emotional burnout on the part of the caretakers. Hrisa had always been sensitive to sound, and moved from the role of surgeon to death cleaner because she couldn’t handle it anymore. In the original version, she had an assistant named Gurna. A childhood accident had left Gurna without a nose, so while both Hrisa and Gurna had trouble being part of society, they found work that suited them. Hrisa was meant to make Gurna tougher, and Gurna pushed back when Hrisa’s desire to protect herself soured into actual cruelty.

The discussion about the veil, and whether to hide one’s face, is a remnant of that relationship, and the ways in which we normalize or reject shame.

I was just beginning with short fiction in those days, and this was the first story where I relaxed my grip a little and spent more time with the environment and the feelings of the characters. The wordcount was far too high to sell as a result, and that’s when Gurna was cut. It gave the other characters more presence and agency.

Fun fact, it turns out that the guy in the article about cleaners is a friend of a friend from the days I lived in New York. I’m kicking myself for not knowing this connection earlier. I would have liked to ask about materials and process.

This story was written while listening to “Save Me From Myself” by Sirenia. You can follow them on their website or on YouTube.

Thanks also to Nick Mamatas’s Fabulist Fiction class, for helping me streamline this piece into something publishable.

P.S., I now have a ko-fi! If you’d like to leave a dollar in the tip jar, please do so here.

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Bye Facebook. Hello Pillowfort

The plan for 2019:
-No conventions
-No drinking
-20 pushups per day (pact with Derek Künsken)
-Learn Twine & Unity (pact with Ghost Cat)

Along with these changes, I’ve made some adjustments to my online presence. Facebook is out, Pillowfort and Ko-Fi are in — which will help me focus while I’m learning how to write RPGs. The reason I picked Pillowfort is because I’ve never had a tumblr, and it seemed like as good a time as any to branch out and see what’s going on in that part of the internet.

In addition to Pillowfort, I have started a Ko-Fi! Patreon works well for PodCastle and the Escape Artists, but I wanted something of my own. Ko-Fi will be a huge help toward covering the time spent bringing you posts, stories, and twine games — and maybe, one day, I’ll be able to upgrade the audio gear I use for host spots and fiction narration.

The next item I have my eye on is a Stedman PS101 pop filter (more solid protection against P-B-T sounds, and it’s smaller than my current one, which will make it easier to read the script behind it).

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Here’s to a fruitful and prosperous new year!

Narration Stuff – Audacity Shortcuts and 30 Seconds of Room Tone

A collection of stuff so I can find it later.

Room Tone file and Noise Reduction

  • Room tone is solely the sound of your environment once you’ve cleared all the elements you can control (like buzzing lights, fans, vents, etc.).
  • Make all the recording adjustments (recording level, gain, etc.) you plan to use for your recording.
  • Make a 35-second recording.
  • Trim beginning and end so you don’t include the clicks and movements associated with starting/stopping the recording.
  • Final recording should be somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds.
  • Re-record whenever you enter a new recording environment, or if you move your mic.

Noise is anything beyond what you’re trying to capture — like the sound of a laptop while trying to record your voice. Make sure the room tone file is free of bumps, stomach gurgles, and any other evidence of your presence.  Using this “blank” file, you’ll be able to create a noise profile you can use for cleaning up the sound in later recordings.

Caveat: I’m not sure if a long average (30 seconds of room noise) is more or less reliable for noise reduction than 5 seconds before and after the recording done that day. For example, there’s ambient birdsong in April that wouldn’t add to the noise profile for a December recording. This will be an ongoing experiment.

Audacity Keyboard Shortcuts

Recording Shortcuts Function
 P Pause
 R Record
 Spacebar Play/Stop (toggle)
 B Play from Cursor to Selection
 1 1 second preview
Navigation Shortcuts Function
 CTRL + 1  Zoom In
 CTRL + 2  Zoom Normal
 CTRL + 3  Zoom Out
 CTRL + E  Zoom To Selection
 CTRL + F  Fit In Window
 CTRL + Shift + F  Fit Vertically
 CTRL + R  Repeat Last Effect
Save/File Shortcuts Function
 CTRL + I  Import Audio
 CTRL + N  New Project
 CTRL + O  Open Project
 CTRL + S  Save Project
 CTRL + W  Close Project
 CTRL + P (CMD + ,)  Audacity Preferences
Editing Shortcuts Function
 F1  Selection Tool
 F2  Envelope Tool
 F3  Draw Tool
 F4  Zoom Tool
 F5  Time Shift Tool
 F6  Multi-Tool Mode
 D  Next Tool
 A  Previous Tool

Forthcoming: Sword and Sonnet

Sword & Sonnet

Sword & Sonnet is coming in 2018!

The project editors are Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones and E. Catherine Tobler. As well as having editorial experience with PodCastle and Shimmer, they’re also award-nominated writers. The stunning cover art is by Vlada Monakhova.

For publication news and information on how to order, check out their website.

My story, She Calls Down the Future in the Footprints Left Behind, is about a tribe of steppe raiders that get really high before each fight so their seer can predict how it will go. Then they attack the village where she was born.

This is my third pro-rate sale, which opens some doors and closes others. Here’s how the sausage was made:

Having read the editors’ work for a few years now, I had a sense of editorial taste, and an idea of how the story would go long before I sat down to write. It’s unusual for things to go so smoothly, and I’m savoring the luck while I have it.

Per the recommended reading, Shimmer tends toward lush and lovely language regardless of the subject matter. Also, figures like Sei Shōnagon conjure a sense of  erudition found at the height of civilized societies. I didn’t really feel I could do justice to these prompts, but I do love sword and sorcery. Maybe there’d be something in oral traditions and earlier forms that could fit.

I had thought about how to write the seer (ultimately named Naicto) for weeks, trying to work out how her powers functioned and possible plot consequences. The original plan was that she’d have to get to know all the fighters really well in order to record their deeds accurately (and consult with the chief who would live and die, then read out the prediction like an epic poem); but those elements felt too involved to work at this length.

With the deadline coming up, I wrote the first half of the story on a Saturday morning, got stuck, figured out how to fix it while taking a shower (don’t watch the fight from afar, do the reveal in the middle of the fight!), then wrote the second half that afternoon. I gave myself more room for poetic language than usual, because the plot itself was simple. A reread or two, and off it went.

The result was a speculative spin on drummers, psychoactive drug rituals described in books like Food of the Gods, and the transition from an oracular culture to a pragmatic one — learning from the past rather than chasing the future.

It’s not a poet’s tale, but just as every computer has a knapped stone in its ancestry, every poetic form began as a wordless rhythm and a need to remember.

While the drums in most Stabbing Westward songs certainly capture the mood of this story, here’s what I had on repeat while I was working. I love the drums, and most especially the way her voice frays when she belts at full volume.

The Best of PodCastle: Vote for Your Favorite Episodes!

Nominations are closed, and the final ballot is revealed! We’re now asking fans and frequent listeners to vote for their favorite episodes from the ballot. The top five PodCastle episodes, as voted by fans, will be featured in a special later this year!

You can find the survey here. Vote now!

Haven’t listened to all the episodes? New to PodCastle?  Each one is linked below.

Episode 1: “Come Lady Death” by Peter S. Beagle
Episode 20: “Cup and Table” by Tim Pratt
Episode 51: “The Cambist and Lord Iron” by Daniel Abraham
Episode 88: “Another End of the Empire” by Tim Pratt
Episode 92: “Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz Go to War Again” by Garth Nix
Episode 93: “The Mermaid’s Tea Party” by Samantha Henderson
Episode 136: “The Christmas Mummy” by Heather Shaw & Tim Pratt
Episode 147: “Card Sharp” by Rajan Khanna
Episode 154: “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Under the Still Waters” by N.K. Jemisin
Episode 165: “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
Episode 186: “Beyond the Sea Gate of the Scholar Pirates of Sarskoe” by Garth Nix
Episode 200: “In the Stacks” by Scott Lynch
Episode 211: “The Axiom of Choice” by David W. Goldman
Episode 214: “We Never Talk About My Brother” by Peter S. Beagle
Episode 254: “Sundae” by Matt Wallace
Episode 324: “Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy” by Saladin Ahmed
Episode 336: “Why I Bought Satan Two Cokes on the Day I Graduated High School” by Nathaniel Lee
Episode 345: “Makeisha in Time” by Rachael K. Jones
Episode 354: “The Sea of Wives” by Nathaniel Lee
Episode 356: “Super-Baby-Moms Group Saves the Day” by Tina Connolly
Episode 385: “Where Monsters Dance” by A. Merc Rustad
Episode 405: “Beat Softly My Wings of Steel” by Beth Cato
Episode 409: “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado
Episode 413: “This is Not A Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad
Episode 427: “Squalor and Sympathy” by Matt Dovey
Episode 438: “Defy the Grey Kings” by Jason Fischer
Episode 458: “Home is a House that Loves You” by Rachael K. Jones
Episode 467: “How I Became Coruscating Queen of All the Realms, Pierced the Obsidian Night, Destroyed a Legendary Sword, and Saved My Heart’s True Love” by Baker & Dovey
Episode 487: “A Whisper in the Weld” by Alix E. Harrow
Episode 490: “The Names of the Sky” by Matthew Claxton
Episode 501: “The Christmas Abomination from Beyond the Back of the Stars” by Heather Shaw & Tim Pratt
Episode 506: “La Gorda and the City of Silver” by Sabrina Vourvoulias

More information on PodCastle, voting, and all manner of awesomeness on their website.

Signal Horizon reviews “Jamcoi”

“Violence that isn’t designed to drive us apart but designed bring us together.”

Signal Horizon was kind enough to review a story I read for Pseudopod called “Jamcoi,” by J.M. McDermott, a tale about feast-prep for the holidays.

Fun fact, “Jamcoi” was challenging to record because
1, I couldn’t stop laughing
2, my stomach kept growling, and
3, I had to find the right balance between horrified screaming and not blowing out the recording levels.

All hails to Pseudopod and the inimitable J.M. McDermott for putting together this story. Thank you, and happy feasting.

“Drowning Stones” sold to Goodman Games

Just signed a short story over to Goodman Games! It’ll be featured in Tales From the Magician’s Skull #2, which should be available this summer.
To a mage, water carries memories. Wine conveys the fears of those who made it. Rain whispers the darkest secrets of a city. Gatja may only use her gifts in service to the Order; or her magic will rip her mind apart.
To a mage, stone carries power. Bones in the earth teach legacy. Lines in the sand dictate who lives and who dies; but Riad can no longer tell friend from enemy. Riad’s family begs the Order for aid, and they send Gatja to assess and solve the problem.
If only his family hadn’t murdered hers.
This story was inspired by, and written while listening to, Í Tokuni by Faroese singer, Eivør.
It’s my understanding that embedded links are copyright infringement, so here’s a link to the video on YouTube. Check it out, and enjoy!