Category Archives: My Work

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!

October Events – Archon and Left Bank Books

During WorldCon in San Jose, I got to catch up with many of the friends I left behind in California. Between 3-4 local conventions per year and Borderlands Books serving as hubs of activity, the community there is as strong as ever. In Saint Louis, that community orbits around Archon and Left Bank Books. If you’re interested in getting to know some of the other pros, fans, and creative types at all levels, come hang out this October!

SF/STL! Wednesday, October 24, 7pm

Left Bank Books and Archon are proud to present SF/STL! A reading series for SFF authors and readers alike. I met Marina J. Lostetter at WorldCon, and I’m happy to say she’ll be joining us to celebrate her book, Noumenon Infinity!

Archon 42! October 12 – 14, 2018

Friday

  • Science and Fantasy: Where the Magic Lies
    17:00 – 18:00, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
    Why do science fiction and fantasy get so often placed in opposition? Are there fundamental differences between scientific and magical worldviews, in fiction and beyond? Or are these just different sources of wonder?
    Joey Froehlich (M), Christine Amsden, Setsu Uzume, Kasey Mackenzie, Charlie Jane Anders

Saturday

  • What is Your Process?
    10:00 – 11:00, St. Clair A & B (DoubleTree – Collinsville)
    Pen and paper, room completely silent, 20 year old notes? What is the best way for you to create your stories? Do you ever change it up?
    Donna J. W. Munro (M), Eddie Wilson, Setsu Uzume, Kathleen Collins, Dr. Mike Phoenix
  • I Have a Great Idea!: How to Submit and Run a Panel at Archon
    13:00 – 14:00, Illini A (Gateway Center)
    Interested in running a panel, but unsure how to get started or what to do? Panel veterans to the rescue!
    Setsu Uzume (M), Mr. Vito Pandolfo, Erin McFadden, Donald Price
  • Religion and its Place in Science Fiction and Fantasy
    15:00 – 16:00, Madison C & D (DoubleTree – Collinsville)
    Plenty of our favorite worlds have their own religion, or have a mix of real world religions. How do they stem from what we know in the real world?
    Setsu Uzume (M), David Benem, Benjamin C. Kinney, Ms Judi Cook

Sunday

  • The Hero Quest
    10:00 – 11:00, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
    The original story. How to use it within your writing and make it yours.
    Mr Brian Trent (M), Setsu Uzume, Jimmy D. Gillentine, Mrs. E Susan Baugh, Donna J.W. Munro

Forthcoming: They Keep Killing Glenn

Just sold “For Whom the Bell LOLs,” a short story about a social media algorithm that makes friends with a Russian missile satellite. The anthology will be available in July 2018 from Peter David and Crazy 8 Press.

The submission call was a result of joke at a convention panel, when someone suggested they take all the ideas for how to kill Glenn and turn them into an anthology. The audience responded with, “I’d read that.” Glenn Hauman graciously agreed, and here we are.

Many thanks to Peter David and Crazy 8 Press. Thanks also to Joe Gergis, who helped me with the technical language.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
They Keep Killing Me: A Foreword of Last Words
The Killing Croak by David Gerrold
The Look on Your Face by David Mack
Revenge of the Clipper Kin by Joe Corallo
“Is it You?” by Bob Greenberger
The Hardwicke Files: The Case of Hauman’s Comet by Russ Colchamiro
House Hunting by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Patient Zero by Dean Scott
Buried in Books by Mary Fan
The Case of the Industrial Revolution by Kathleen O’Shea David
For Whom the Bell LOLs by Setsu Uzume
Too Damn Tall by Lorraine J. Anderson
DuckBob: All In by Aaron Rosenberg
R is for Roadster by Blair Learn
The Long and the Short of It by Brett Hudgins
Marathon by S. Brady Calhoun
For Cockeysville by Michael Jan Friedman
Rhino by Amy Lewanski
Waking Things by Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg
The Day of Killing Endlessly by Paul Kupperberg
That’s All, Folks by Peter David

 

Here’s how the sausage was made:

When I sent in the manuscript, the editor’s response was, “what did you send me? Is this the right file? Glenn’s name doesn’t seem to be in it.” In keeping with the story’s tone, Glenn is referred to by his Facebook account number.

Glenn also frequently posts/shares articles about the egregious misuse of guns with the comment, “Today in Responsible Gun Ownership, [person A] [uses a gun] and [it goes poorly].”

The other story I pitched, about a cursed hovercat out for blood, has yet to be written.

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.

Forthcoming: Tales from the Magician’s Skull

Anthology announcement: Tales From the Magician’s Skull!

If you enjoyed the world of “For Honor, For Waste,” I’ve got another short story coming out that takes place on the same continent.

Rather than the soldier’s tale of Rohnaq and friends, we’ll be introducing a new city, new laws, new mages, and their bloody quest for power and freedom.

My story, “Break Them on the Drowning Stones,” will be forthcoming in this pulpy ‘zine on June 15, 2018 from Goodman Games. Pre-order today!

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.