GIVEAWAY For LETHAL IMPACT Release!

2020’s the year to learn about what’ll happen after the apocalypse, and you’ll have no better chance than now – Lethal Impact, an anthology of post-apocalyptic shorts, is nearly here!

Lethal Impact officially releases on 30 September, 2020! I have no idea how to get universal links, but here’s one to American Amazon!

But yes! Come one, come all, and have some fun! And, what’s more, I’ll give away a couple prizes (ebooks of both Lethal Impact and Dark Divinations, a publication that includes another of my shorts) to a randomly selected person who comments on this post before next Tuesday, October 5th! If you’ve already bought a copy, I’ll earmark you for an ebook copy of anything I publish next. 1 person will win both books, and one person will win just Lethal Impact. Sorry, not going to do paperback right now because Amazon’s a butthole and I don’t want to present a different reward for international people.

Still not sure you’re interested? Well, let me give you a little… somethin’ somethin’ right here, right now. Behold: the opening passage of my little contribution to the apocalypse, A Little Less Conversation.

“Would you like to mate?”

I gulped. I couldn’t let him – it, her, whatever – know I couldn’t mate with a psychopathic slug even if I wanted to. After I thought a couple seconds, I answered, “No.”

The human fleshbag in which my supposed boss resided lifted a brow. Nothing salacious, nothing even sensual, just a motion to show his piqued curiosity and mild discomfort. “You performed your job adequately, and I have had the correct hormonal injections to perform my part. It’s time you were rewarded for your troubles.” 

“No. I don’t want it,” I responded. I fished around in my human brain, looking for answers to satiate his confusion. “Is there any reason I must accept payment for services rendered?”

“Why would you not?” He tapped his ballpoint pen, likely stolen from the human who’d previously lived in that husk, onto a pad of paper. “It takes a lot of nurgles to infest an entire planet, and a zertig like you needs to birth a lot of nurgles before you can be promoted to a remelp like me.” 

I swallowed, said nothing. The silence lasted a long time, longer than a normal human would have accepted, but the remelp wasn’t bothered by it.

After a while, his demeanor darkened, his eyes squinted. “You’ve been around those pesky humans too much, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” I answered. It was true, and this way I didn’t have to tell him I was one of those vermin. “The humans don’t interact the way we do. Their relationships are marred by unique feelings which I have difficulty grasping. I wish to understand these concepts prior to the encephalization of Earth’s nurgles.” 

He lifted a chin. “Ah. You want to birth your nurgles in mid-flight on the way to the next planet.”

Good enough. I’d be long dead by the time they left for the next planet. “That would be a fair trade, yes.”

“I’ve never heard of this happening before. Everyone wants to birth more nurgles. But I suppose it is a loss I can cope with – you are our primary spy amongst the human resistance faction, and birthing nurgles would remove you from that role. Use your clever emotions to bypass their defenses. Convince them to come out of hiding so we can finally rid the planet of those meddlesome people.” He scribbled something with his pen and motioned for me to leave, so I obeyed his directive and exited the office.

That’s right, Covid-free fun, right here on the internet. Good luck!

Book Review: From Ashes to Magic

I found this book because a person I follow, Ari Meghlen, is included in this book as an author. It seems like several Twitter-famous people were involved with this sucker, so let’s see if the most vehemently political and nonsense social media platform knows its stuff!

The Book

48430321._sy475_From Ashes to Magic
Author: Various
2019
Amazon Link

This book is a short story compilation about supernatural beings. I don’t know what it will actually contain from the beginning, but there are 10 stories and/or poems by 10 different authors. I follow Ari Meghlen, but I’ve never read her work before and so was excited.

Non-Spoiler Review

This collection was an absolute mixed bag. Some of the stories I found incredibly creative or gorgeous, but with others I was very confused about and didn’t like at all. There were a few I didn’t feel strongly about.

However, the two stories I liked the most made me feel like the purchase was worth it. I really enjoyed the delicious writing and mythological feel of N. Pan’s “Life and Death,” and the creativity of “The Locksmith” was superb. Those two stories alone made me feel like the book was worth reading, but those two stories weren’t all that made up the selection.

Several of the stories felt incomplete, or more like the first chapter of a longer narrative than something created for a short story collection. I think people did things like this back in the Golden Age of sci-fi and short story compilations, but it irks me and I dislike unfinished shorts.

Something else I found odd was that this compilation may just as well have been about witches (or witches with a different title). A full half the stories either had witches or closely involved witches within their storylines, and two of the remaining five involved half-demons/devils. The other three beings were gods, a vampire, and a ghost. The book is billed as an array of magical creatures, but the variety was limited and all were humanoid.

Lastly, some editing could have helped. There were several immersion-breaking mistakes that another once-over by the editor should have caught.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

For compilations and chapbooks, I like to talk about a selection of 3 stories: my favorite, a standout, and my least favorite.

Favorite: Life and Death, N. Pan
Beautifully written poem about the birth, experiences, and strifes between siblings Life and Death. The entire thing flows with a gorgeous cadence, and a sad, longing ballad builds to a religiously-tinged story of two gods’ fall.

Standout: The Locksmith, A. Meghlen
One of the most creative stories in the book, The Locksmith’s magical creature was actually a non-magical person in a highly magical world. Though there were wizards and sorcerers and the like in this story, all the tropes were turned on their heads in a tale with a great plot.

Least Favorite: Broken Promises, E. Chartres
The vast majority of this story was descriptions of running through different scenes and two people saying “You promised,” “I promised.” Then, right at the end, the main character suddenly eats two people, reveals she’s a vampire, and becomes evil. I found the story clunky from a plot perspective, the characters impossible to parse, and the prose difficult to read.

Next week:

I’ll be reviewing another Twitter-found story, The Gate, which is part of a series and published by an indie publisher (I think). Stay tuned!

Favorite Books of 2019

Lucky for me, there’s 5 Mondays this December, which allows an excellent chance to look back at the pile of books (36! Huzzah for me!) I’ve had the privilege to read in 2019!  Here’s a few of my favorites from this year:

Favorite Book On First Read

650Without a doubt, my favorite book this year was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you are a fantasy or a history buff, you should read this absolutely exquisite work. It’s so good that I don’t even feel jealous of the author, just ever so grateful I was able to read the book. 100%, totally recommend. If I hadn’t already given away my copy in earnest effort to get someone to read it, I’d give you mine.

Pro tip, though: get an e-book version. The binding on the paperback is a little weird and can make your experience slightly less enjoyable.

If you allow re-reads, I would have to say this book is competitive with Ancillary Justice, which I still think is probably on of the best books I’ve ever read, but perhaps less fun that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Favorite Indie Book

This feels like such a dangerous category to even have! First, let me say that so many of my fellow bloggers have written great books. More so than anything, what I’ve found to be important in finding a great Indie Book is to look at how dedicated the author is to the craft. A good blog/website is HIGHLY indicative of a good book to follow.

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That being said, I think my favorite Indie Book this year was Diane Wallace Peach’s The Melding of Aeris. While many books could boast powerful storylines and well-written prose, what continues to stick out about Aeris is the extraordinarily clever world and detailed magic system. The feel is post-apocalyptic, but it doesn’t go into detail as to why the world is such. I had a lot of fun reading it and would recommend to those looking for a way into the indie book scene.

I feel like if I do runners up, I’d just be listing off a bunch of bloggers’ books!

Favorite Series

One of my goals this year was to read more series, and I’ve read several. However, I’ve got to limit my choice to just one!

And, no doubt in my mind, it was the Robert Remini Andrew Jackson trilogy. This trilogy is a fantastic set of biographical works that incorporates both feelings from back in the day when everyone was racist and ideals from a more modern, critical era. Though Jackson was a lunatic, Remini shows you his charisma, wit, and drive in such a way that he becomes more coherent. I’ve always enjoyed studying Jackson, though, so I’m inevitably a bit biased.

Also I’ve read this series in the past, so I feel like I cheated a bit by choosing them here. A good runner up would be the Imperial Radch trilogy, but I think it suffers from having a weak second entry.

Favorite Classic

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t read too many true classics. For that reason, I’m including somewhat recent science fiction and fantasy classics.

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Even so, I’d have to go with Dracula by Bram Stoker. I didn’t go in expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised by the tension, the depth of character, and creativity with the subject matter. I think it’s a great read for anyone interested in expanding their experience with fantasy and classics. Don’t be afraid of it just because of the Twilight craze!

A Couple I Explicitly Didn’t Like

I don’t want to talk about Indie books I didn’t like. If you want to see me rip Indie books, you’ll have to go to my Reviews Page and find them yourself. Part of this is my belief that Indie Books, if done right, should explore niches traditional publishers are afraid to go down – niches that might not be for every reader.

I was sad that I didn’t like Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. I thought the premise looked really cool, and I very much enjoyed some of the short stories she’d published in other places. I thought the book didn’t explain itself well, and I could never root for the main character. It also came off as tone-deaf in a post 2016 world. 100% worst thing I’ve read this year.

Without anything coming close to Trail of Lightning in terms of sheer dislike, I moved on to thinking about disappointments. Though I enjoyed the book by the end, I was disappointed with The Warrior’s Apprentice. After having read two other novels by McMasters-Bujold, I expected more from this book. I also got more from the books following The Warrior’s Apprentice in the series. I think she tried to fit too much in the novel, and it ended up being an overwhelming tapestry of exciting stuff. It was also her first publication, so that inexperience probably didn’t help.

 

 

H.R.R. Gorman’s Author Newsletter – July 2019

I took things a little slower in July. Even so, I got a few things accomplished that I’m really proud of, and I wanted to talk about them here and hint to things coming.

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Short Story Submissions

I hate this part of author life. God knows I do. I did three (maybe four) last month, and my goal was to get three this month. Well, I wrote three stories, but I only got two submitted because I have no idea where to submit the third one. If you know of a place to submit weird alien stories, let me know.

Still no “yes” from anyone. Hopeful about some of the June ones, but not really expecting anything at this point.

Dark Divinations

I submitted a story to Dark Divinations. The prompt was a Victorian era horror about divining the future. Since my cultural background was highly influenced by events in the Victorian era, I took an Appalachian approach to it – and I hope they like it!

Mysterion

This magazine publishes Christian stories in interesting contexts. I decided to try a sci-fi story because I bet they get way more fantasy. I hope to stand out, and perhaps that will give me an edge! I also think religiously inspired sci fi is WAY too rare, so this is right up my alley.

An Unexpected Success!

Last year at about this time, I decided that I needed to discover what people liked about poetry. I needed to know what someone meant when they said a passage was “poetic.” I believed that the understanding of poetry would improve my prose if nothing else, and I looked for ways to learn it.

One of my favorite poetry teachers is Colleen Chesebro. Her weekly micropoetry prompt/contest is chock full of excellent hints, tips, and – most importantly – feedback. Even if she must leave a quiet comment one week, I can still look at who she chose as the winner and try to divine why it was considered the best. I can’t imagine how much work she must do to curate such a fantastic contest.

Anyway, I was stunned to find out I’d been chosen as Poet of the Week on July 22nd! My poem, The Woman at 106, was written for Colleen’s first ever photo prompt. What an honor! I am very pleased that my dedication to learning a new craft is showing fruit.

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Camp NaNoWriMo

This was my first month of Camp, and I… succeeded?

Basically, what I learned was that I should have dedicated a number of hours to writing rather than a number of words written/edited. Because I tend to go backwards on word count when I edit, I could NEVER reach my goal. However, I think I reached my goal in spirit, so I think that counts a lot.

Will I do Camp again? I’m not sure. I didn’t find it all that much different from a normal month, save for an additional obligation and a few extra cheerleaders. I’ll think about it!

Blog Recap

I stayed pretty on par this month with my June month, and for right now this feels more sustainable than my “post every day” schedule. Sadly, there wasn’t a late-July Carrot Ranch prompt, but hopefully y’all didn’t hate that blank spot! I did a lot of prep for later months, though, and I think I’ve come up with some great surprises for the beginning of 2020 (no promises, though! I need to make sure I have enough material to actually do it justice). I’ve also nearly gotten all my 2019 reading done (1.75 books away)!

Here’s a few of my favorite blog posts from the month:

Some Things from Real Life

This month has been full of IRL things. I went on vacation (day trip one weekend to Battleship North Carolina), worked a LOT (good Lord), and had to go help my mom when she came down with gout.

Aaand because of the gout, my mom is now convinced it’s time to retire, and I could be looking at her showing up at my door any day now ready to move in. She doesn’t really plan things out sometimes, so she could come unannounced. I love my mom, and I do think she should come live at our house at least until she sells her own house (which is 3 hours away), but I also don’t really want to share it long-term right yet. Am I selfish? I feel like I am. I’m also worried that she hasn’t saved up enough for retirement, and I’m not old enough to have that much savings built up (I’m not 30 yet – I have old parents, in case you’re wondering about that).

Anyway, I hope I’ve done right by my mom, but I worry I’ve not.

H.R.R. Gorman’s Author Newsletter – June 2019

June was a big month for me.  I wanted to share with y’all a few things that I’ve done and maybe get out some hints as to what’s coming next.

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Short Story Submissions

If you remember back in May, I decided to submit a short story somewhere in order to start feeling better about getting rejections.  I sent a story to a quick turnaround journal and, of course, got rejection #1, just like almost everyone.

This month, I wanted to do a few more submissions, so here’s what I did:giphy-2

Chew On This Anthology*

I submitted a short story to a horror anthology about eating scary things.  It’s southern gothic and all kinds of weird.  I hope the editor for this anthology likes the more psychological, Twilight-Zone style of horror.

*Also, this was submitted in May but I’m not sure if I told everyone here.

Three-Lobed Burning Eye Magazine

A weird looking magazine seeking weird-sounding fiction.  I submitted my short story “Disco Demolition Night” because I think it’s basically gold but, unfortunately, is in a really weird genre.  If you have ideas for what to do with historical fantasy, let me know!  I write too much of it for my own good.

Across the Universe Beatles Spec Fic

Like I said above, I write too much alternate history or historical fantasy for my own good.  This anthology specifically wanted a story about the Beatles, and I had an idea that I hoped they’d like.  Well, it was rejected fairly quickly, so you’ll be seeing it on the blog soon because I genuinely don’t think a Beatles themed fanfic will see much success elsewhere!

Jolly Horror

Jolly Horror is making a horror-comedy anthology about cursed items. I wrote a story  and submitted that.  I really enjoyed the little tale, so we’ll see what the editors think.  It’s still historical fantasy, le sigh.

Blog Recap

This month on the blog, I slowed things down.  This will probably be the pace here for a while, because it’s more manageable.  Hopefully the reduced post-load will give me time to develop more professional outlets like publishing short stories or finishing new long works.

Here’s a few of my most popular posts from the month you can check out!

Some Things from Real Life

Well, I’ve kept writing things other than the blog – and, since I decided to do fewer posts this month, I used my time well!  I finished the novel I’ve had in my wheelhouse for quite some time.  It’s not ready for alpha readers (I want to have a swing at editing it myself first), but hopefully at the end of July I’ll put it out there for people to take a peek at.  It may be the craziest thing I’ve ever written.

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As well, I finished what I believe are the last edits of The Mercury Dimension.  When I feel confident enough and have a short story credit or two to my name, I plan on querying with it.

What are some things you’ve done this month?  Let me know in the comments!  Maybe we can commiserate about the writing life or trade an alpha read! I’ll tell you about the story I finished, American Chimera, if you’re interested.

Will I Ever Commit?

Y’all, I promised earlier this month that I would submit something, somewhere, for publication.

This post is about how I may have gotten closer, but not for reasons I expected.

I Found Some Places to Submit

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I found some resources (Authors Publish Magazine is a free email subscription that sends you goodies, and DuoTrope is a paid subscription that looks really good – I’ll probably get a subscription if I ever get paid for anything I write) and looked through them for some interesting magazines to try.

I have written a story, Disco Magic, that I want to get published somewhere.  It’s pretty well researched, I’ve had a beta reader (THANK YOU!), and I think it’s good.  The problem?  It’s historical fantasy set in the 70’s.  Who publishes that?  No one, apparently!

I Wrote A New Short Story

So I looked for what people actually want to publish.  I found one upcoming compendium, Chew on This, that made me get an inkling of an idea.

I wrote a short story, Watching You, that fits the call for submissions.  The problem?

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It’s quiet, psychological horror which, while the prompt says it’s ok, doesn’t match a lot of the other stuff I’ve read from the publisher.  Perhaps I’m overthinking it.  It’s hard to tell, since I’ve never even tried to submit somewhere before!

I Wrote a Cover Letter

I’d never done this before for a short story!  So I gave it a whirl.

Robert Essig,

Please consider “Watching You” (Southern Gothic, 3,300 words) for your “Chew on This” horror anthology.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

H.R.R. Gorman
https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com

bold strategy

Wow.  I think I might have better chances with some sort of chemistry related story because then I could display the degree as part of my qualifications.  As it is, I’m pretty sure I can’t say “I’m southern AF and as Baptist as they come.”  My qualifications for this work/heartache are spotty because I have no proof.

Have any of you written cover letters for short stories?  I haven’t submitted yet, so there’s still time to save me from embarrassment!

(Also, I know I’m supposed to use my real name in the cover letter, but y’all aren’t getting it!)

Stressing Out

Now I just have to click submit on the email.  That’s it.

But I can’t do it.  Why?  I don’t understand.  But hopefully I’ll get it done by next Tuesday and, therefore, fulfill my goal of having something submitted by the end of the month.

Anyway, I hope I can give you good news next Thursday and say that I clicked the button!  If you want to do a CP swap with short stories, let me know soon and I’ll be happy to do so with Watching You.

Goals in April

You know what I haven’t done on this blog in quite some time?  Talk about my goals.  About writing.  About anything truly personal.  And maybe you don’t care, maybe you do, but I wanted to do this for two reasons.

One is that if I say I’ll do something, my insane sense of duty will make it happen.

The other is that I could use some encouragement.  Advice, if you have it.

I Want to Submit a Short Story Somewhere

I’ve written a short story that I think is pretty good.  It’s fantasy and somewhat historical, and I think it’s a fairly diverse work.  I had a beta reader/sensitivity reader already, and I think doing much more for a short story wouldn’t be considered ‘worth it.’

So it’s a goal.  I’m doing it.  I’m going to submit a short story somewhere.

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…But First I Need To Figure Out HOW To Submit

How do you know where to submit short stories?  I’ve read short stories in places like TOR or Clarkesworld, but where else is there?

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So I looked it up.  Fantasy, since that’s what the current short story is.  There’s a ton of magazines.

But where do I go first?

I read on one of Rachel Poli’s guest posts that it’s a good idea to aim high first, then resubmit to lower journals as you get rejected.  But I’m not sure, for me, if that’s a good idea.

Because, Worst of All, I’m Very Scared to Do This

In case you guys don’t know, you can follow me on Twitter.  I’m still hrrgorman there.

I got in a conversation on Twitter with Sam Weiss, who encouraged me to submit.  Like she said, an author can’t succeed unless they submit things.  Unless they get used to rejection.

But oh God, I… I can’t do it.

Part of me just believes that my work isn’t really worth money, that no one would actually ever pay for that privilege (or, worse, they would pay for it and feel regret later).

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The other part of me remembers just how terrible the PitchWars process back in August felt.  It literally destroyed me: I nearly stopped blogging, almost gave up the ‘publishing dream’ altogether.  I decided to hold off on giving up because I had gained quite a bit of headway on the blog, but Lord.  That experience set me back quite a ways.  Rejection isn’t just a normal fear for me – I’m absolutely terrified.  When it happens, I turn into a disastrous mush.  I ruin my own life because of it.

Anyway, I sound whiny as hell.  Like a teenager or something.  But still, I’m not even sure if it’s worth submitting a story somewhere…

Do you have thoughts?  Feelings?  Suggestions?  I’m resolved to try something, and I’ll keep you updated on this blog if for no other reason than to tell you whether I actually followed through on my promise.

Thanks for everything, y’all!

 

Rappaccini’s Moon

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Glass separated Vanna from the grown-ups as it always had, as it always would.  She placed the flower in a box which sealed shut at the press of a button, then waited while the grown-ups investigated it through their gloves.

“Exquisite,” Dr. Baglioni said.  His eyes, soft and rich brown, looked to Vanna with curious need.  “Where did you find this?”

“Beatrice gave it to me – and she wonders when you’ll believe that she’s real.”

A scowl.  “Beatrice is our moon, where we live.  It can’t give you flowers.  Are you lonely, Vanna?”

“No, but… I got you this flower.  Twelve kilometers that way.”  Vanna pointed south of town.

“That’s mighty far.  Are you sure it’s safe?”

Vanna nodded vigorously.  “It’s an easy walk.  I can wear a tracker if you need me to.”

Dr. Baglioni lifted the flower and examined is pristine, blue petals.  “We’ll prepare for the journey this time – as we would have last time, had you told us your plans.”  He gently replaced the flower on the bottom of the air-tight box and pulled his hands out of the gloves.  “I don’t want you to get hurt out there with none of us knowing where you are.”

Vanna saluted him.  “I won’t let you down!”  She smiled and leaned up against the glass.  “Can I have my supper now?”

“Of course.”  Dr. Baglioni smiled, selected a few packages from a shelf, and placed them into an air lock where Vanna could get them.  “Wait just a moment – I’ll get you the other things you’ll need.”

Though she immediately sought a couple candies from the little package of food, Vanna nodded in acceptance of Dr. Baglioni’s plans.  She slid on the tracking bracelet when it came through the slot, then accepted the food, water, and heating elements from the doctor.  “All you want’s the flower?” she asked.  “Then you’ll believe me about Beatrice?”

“Just bring me another flower, and you can tell me more about your Beatrice.”

With a stiff salute, Vanna responded, “Aye-aye, chief!”

“See you tomorrow, kiddo.”

***

Vanna ran through the streets of the city, back to her heated lean-to.  She saw lights in some of the windows, saw the movement of shadows within.  Grown-ups lived behind the glass windows, and sometimes other kids she could never know peeked around curtains.

She ran across the snowy streets, lightness of her bare feet leaving small footprints behind.  It was twilight on her moon, Beatrice, which meant the system’s ever-eclipsed star, Rappaccini, cast long shadows before her.  Sometimes Vanna wondered what the star’s brightness would be like if the massive planet Giacomo weren’t always in the way.  Pictures of Earth, where all the humans came from, always seemed inviting and cheerful.  Bright.

Just like where all the grown-ups lived, behind the glass.

It didn’t take her long to get to her little house.  Dr. Baglioni had insisted she take a good sleeping bag if she didn’t want to live in the provided housing, and he’d supplied her with a stove and other equipment to cook her food.  But the snow on Beatrice didn’t bother Vanna, and neither did eating cold food.

She ripped open the retort pouch and sniffed what was inside.  Beans, which meant the other pouch was probably rice.  She dumped them both into the paperboard tray that came with the meal, then doused it in hot sauce.  It tasted good and filled her stomach, but she wished she hadn’t already eaten all the candy.

After field stripping the pre-packaged meals, she rolled up on top of her sleeping bag, wished Beatrice and Giacomo a good night, and fell asleep.

***

Beatrice was a treacherous moon, or so Vanna was told.

She was cold, poisonous, and dark.  All the humans, save for lonely Vanna, lived inside their buildings, hidden within towers of glass and stone.  Once in a while, Dr. Baglioni or another grown-up would venture outside, but their pitiful suits degraded after a couple hours in the open air.  Sometimes Vanna would watch robots as they built new greenhouses or dug foundations for new towers, but otherwise Beatrice was her lone companion in the wild.

She reached the rock formation outside of town and brushed off some of the snow.  She touched Beatrice’s frozen body with a bare hand, then pushed more of her weight onto the rock, making sure the moon could feel her pulse.

Vanna felt the moon’s breath through her hand.  “Hello, Beatrice,” she ventured to say.  “Dr. Baglioni loved our present.”  Vanna found Beatrice responded on her own time, so she waited for the moon to think.

Whatever lived within Beatrice answered through a quiet voice made out of snowfall, “Will your Dr. Baglioni stop carving away my flesh?”

“I don’t know,” Vanna responded.  “But he’s interested in that flower.  He might believe you’re real, if I bring him another.”

“I don’t understand,” Beatrice answered.  “I gave you a flower already.  How will another help?”

Vanna blinked a couple times.  “I don’t really know.  He just said he wanted another.”

“He could talk to me,” Beatrice sobbed, “Why won’t he speak with me?  Why must he send a child?”

“I don’t know,” Vanna answered.  “None of the grown-ups go outside.  I alone live outside, close to you, Beatrice.  So, you know… I guess I can take him a message.  What would you do if he doesn’t believe me this time?”

Beatrice whispered through frosted breath, “I’ll have to get rid of the robots, I suppose.  I can’t let the grown-ups, as you call them, keep hurting me.”

Vanna rubbed Beatrice’s rock, thinking the humans wouldn’t like that.  “Is there anything short of that?  Surely you can strike a deal.  Hey – you grew flowers.  You’ve grown all these rocks.  Could you make them a new tower?  One they can fill with the same air that’s behind the glass, the kind they could breathe?”

“I think so,” answered Beatrice.

“Then go ahead and do it.  Kill off their robots, then begin growing some walls.  I’ll let Dr. Baglioni know what’s going on.”

“Thank you, Vanna.”

***

Dr. Baglioni frowned behind the glass.  “Beatrice said what?”

“She said that she can build your towers for you.  We agreed that she could destroy the robots to prove it,” Vanna said.  She held out a hand.  “Do you believe me now?”

The grown-up’s eyes widened, tears formed in his face.  “I believe you, and you have to believe me – this moon is dangerous.”  He leaned up against the glass.  “She’s already attempted to grow a tower, and… Vanna, it failed!”

Vanna lifted a curious brow and crossed her arms.  “Failed?  What do you mean?”

“Beatrice evidently decided to finish the tower we’re building in the east side of the city.  It was structurally unsound, and it fell into some of our completed towers.”  He wiped a tear away.  “Seventeen thousand people died before we could seal off the tunnels.”

Vanna shook her head.  “No.  No, I don’t believe you – Beatrice loves the grown-ups.  She’d never kill them!”

“She did!” Dr. Baglioni cried.  He lifted up a phial of fluorescent green liquid, rotating it so the viscous fluid slid down the sides of the glass.  “I analyzed those flowers you gave me, Vanna – Beatrice is a life form, a film that lives all over the planet’s surface.  She’s what makes this planet poisonous and untenable for humankind, but I don’t think she has to be this way.  She wants us to die, Vanna.”

“No.”  Vanna backed away.

Dr. Baglioni shook the vial.  “We have to kill Beatrice, Vanna.  In this vial are some nanobots – if they’re released, they’ll eat Beatrice alive until she’s gone.  But we need to start them somewhere Beatrice is known to exist.  We need to take them to your site outside of town and release them there.”

“I won’t do it!” Vanna shouted.  “Beatrice is my friend!”

Dr. Baglioni put the vial into a sack along with several meals worth of food.  He shoved it through the air lock, then said, “If you don’t do it, Vanna, we will.  We have the data from your tracker.”

“I’ll tell her to run away!  I’ll tell her to hide so you can’t find her!”

Baglioni leaned downward, scowling.  “A moon can’t leave its orbit, Vanna.  Just beware of Beatrice.  Don’t listen to her.  If you don’t believe me, go to the east side and see what she’s done.”

With a pout, Vanna grabbed the sack out of the airlock, then she ran away.

***

“Stupid Baglioni,” Vanna muttered as she ran.  Giacomo continued to block the light from Rappaccini, Beatrice remained cold and poisonous.  Her footsteps traveled east through the city in search of the ruins.

The smoke and dust rising from the fallen towers made the place easy enough to find.  Vanna ran across the empty streets and came upon the rubble.

“Ow!”

She bent to see what had stung her foot, only to find something red was on it.  It was like blood, like when she dashed a foot or scraped an elbow on a hard surface of Beatrice, but very much greater in volume.  She shuffled through the rocks then gasped when she found the destroyed, smashed head of a grown-up.  The skin was warm, even though the moon’s atmosphere was destroying it.

Vanna suddenly felt lonely.  She had never felt another human’s skin, only had embraces between glass or space-suits.  And, here, Beatrice had killed them.

She clasped a hand around the vial of nanobots Dr. Baglioni had given her.

Beatrice had to answer.

***

Vanna waited patiently for Beatrice to show.  At last, she answered, “Oh, Vanna, I didn’t mean to kill them.  I thought I was doing the right thing!  I wanted them to come outside and play with me like you do.”

“But they can’t,” Vanna cried.  “If they go outside, they’ll die.  I’m the experiment, the one who can live with your poison.”

“I had to know,” Beatrice rebutted.  “They were digging up my bones, making my flesh into their towers.”

“If you want them to come out and play so badly, Dr. Baglioni says all you’d have to do is stop making poison.  He says it’s your fault they have to stay inside.”

“I do it, dear Vanna, to keep you alive.  Haven’t you noticed, dear child, that the grown-ups won’t let you into their window-world?  Haven’t you realized that my poison nourishes you?”

Vanna bit her lip.

“If I stop making poison, they’ll shove you into a cage and keep you there while they enjoy the outside.  As it is, you get to do whatever you want.”  Beatrice grew another dozen flowers, complete with ribbon and card.  “I love you, Vanna.  You are more of me than you are of them, my sweet.  We could be happy together.  Don’t let Dr. Baglioni keep us apart.  You don’t need them.”

Vanna opened the flask of nanobots and poured them onto the flowers.  “Dr. Baglioni was right!” Vanna shouted.  “You are dangerous!”

The sky thundered with Beatrice’s screams.

“You’ll die, Vanna!  You’ll die without my flowers, without my poison!”

“I know,” Vanna answered.  “But you won’t kill anyone else.  I’m sorry, Beatrice.”

While the moon wailed its last, it reached out another bundle of flowers to Vanna.  “I only wanted to be loved…”

***

This was written for D. Wallace Peach’s March Speculative Fiction Prompt.  It is also very strongly inspired by my favorite short story, Hawthorne’s Rappaccini’s Daughter.  Written in 1844, Rappaccini’s Daughter was a tale that inspired by Indian (like India Indian, not Native American type of Indian) folklore.  I hope you enjoyed this overly-long response!

Picture by Natan Vance.

Let Me Tell You the Story of… Goals for 2019

What would a writing blog be without goals?  Since I am looking forward to seeing some of y’alls goals, let me spin you a little yarn right here.

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More Flash Fiction

Participating in prompts has definitely been one of the most successful ways for me to meet new people.  I’ll be making a post on prompts as well as other blogging tools I’ve found useful, but a few you can start with are the Carrot Ranch, Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Challenge, and Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.

More Poetry

life-is-likea-cup-of-tea

I’m going to continue pursuing better poetry skills through the Tanka Tuesday prompts.  While there are other prompts out there, Colleen does a great job curating her poetry.  One of the things I like is that she chooses one poem per week to be representative for the prompt.

And guess what?  By the end of 2018, I was able to read all the poems submitted in a week and figured out which one it should be.

That means I have become able to look at poetry and judge some of it.  With Colleen essentially giving a very brief grade to some of these poems, I feel it is absolutely imperative to keep reading and make sure I learn from it.

Another goal?  Win one of the Tanka Tuesdays.  It may be a stretch considering how many great poets are out there, but it would be pretty thrilling to win one.

More Book Reviews

Sure, they’re my least read posts, but I have read more books in the past year than I think I’ve read in the past five years… combined.  I can almost exclusively point to the accountability of this blog as the reason for that.

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While I might not read or review as many books as some of you dedicated scalawags, I hope to continue reading 3 books a month.  That’ll be 36 books, a number I haven’t even come close to beating since high school (this past year I read 22, but I started in April).

More specifically, I plan on having at least 4 months of Indie books – January (books will be revealed tomorrow!), April, July, and October.

IF YOU PUBLISHED AN INDIE BOOK LET ME KNOW!  I would LOVE supporting some people I know by buying your stuff.  I sometimes don’t see the posts you have advertising your own stuff, or it may be something I don’t normally read – but if you ask me, I almost certainly will get it done!

New Post Schedule

This past year, I found that my posting book reviews on Tuesday got in the way of a lot of crap.  So here’s what’s going to happen in the coming year on an ‘average’ week:

Sunday: Intermittent post by Count Vlad, Wacky Weekend Prompt when available
Monday:
Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers
Tuesday:
Tanka Tuesday
Wednesday:
Book Reviews
Thursday:
Catch-up or whatever I damn well please
Friday:
Carrot Ranch Prompt
Saturday:
Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt

Lastly: More Comments!

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And no, I don’t mean fish for more comments (though I do love chatting about my own stuff, lol).  I want to do a better job keeping up with the people I follow.  Sometimes I don’t comment because I’m afraid I’ll come off like a bumbling idiot or that I will be an annoyance to someone popular.  I want to make a goal to just make a comment whenever I come up with something even slightly more useful to say than “I liked this!” which is what I believe the ‘like’ button should be for.

Happy New Year!

Let Me Tell You the Story of… 2018 in Review

Ah, it’s been almost a year since I started blogging seriously (please, don’t look at how old this blog is… you’ll laugh at it!).  Here’s some of the things that I’m proud of and hope to build off in 2019.

A Novel Posted

I wrote a long backstory for a D&D character of mine (I did it for a lot of my characters, but they’re all significantly shorter than this excessively weird masterpiece).  When the campaign ended and the DM decided not to take possession of the world for his own intellectual property, I asked his permission to post this work.  While truly my own creation, he had some inspirations in the novel that I want to acknowledge.  Posting this novel is why I started blogging again.

If I Only Had No Heart_Small

If I Only Had No Heart is a rather sordid tale of a medieval android caught up in a cult of the Machine Goddess.  In effort to do right by her goddess, Spirit the android must root out the non-believers in the Goddess’s hidden compound…

A Bunch of Books Read

I’ll admit that I haven’t read as many books as I should have in my life (though I think I’ve made up for it with scientific literature).  When I made that sudden and terrible realization back in April of this year, I decided to start doing reviews on my site to keep myself honest.  They’re usually my least read post type, though my Watership Down review is somehow my most popular post of all time, but I think they help me on a more personal level.

Some of my most-read reviews:

  1. Watership Down – Richard Adams
    I love Watership Down.  I think my review went very (very) mildly viral in August when someone popular on Tumblr linked to it.
  2. Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
    I think people enjoyed reading this because I just ripped this book.  You might like it, so don’t just take my word for it with this classic.  Better yet don’t waste your time.
  3. Solaris – Stanislaw Lem
    This was a really weird book.  I’m not sure why I got more likes and views on this one than a lot of my others, but my bet is because this book is relatively hard to approach.  It’s extremely heady, and while enjoyable, takes a lot of effort and thinking.

I Wrote POETRY

I didn’t expect this when I started out.  I’ve never enjoyed poetry as much as prose, and while I must admit that’s still true, I made the decision while blogging to learn to at least appreciate the art form.  I learned about Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday from Miriam Hurdle (stay tuned for something special about Miriam’s work!), and I would recommend joining that scene for anyone who wants to learn more about poetry.

My top viewed poems:

  1. Breath of Florence
  2. Lies Silent
  3. Squirrel in Winter

Flash Fiction Galore

I loved writing flash fiction this year.  Part of what kept me churning out flash fiction were excellent prompt givers like Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch, Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt, and Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.  In November I started doing Dark Netizen’s Wacky Weekend Challenge, and this one promises to be baller, too!

Because I am a bit better judge of flash fiction than I am poetry, you’re not going to get judgment from the stats.  Here’s some of my favorite flash:

  1. Tears in the Wadi
    This one took a lot of research on my part, way more than any other flash.
  2. Country of Cranes
    My first Carrot Ranch Flash entry, I get some good-feels every time I think about this story.
  3. Stagnation
    A WWI story written for Veterans’ day weekend and the 100th anniversary of the fateful Armistice Day.
  4. Afterbirth
    Fantastically SHORT sci-fi flash.

Short Stories Too

I wrote a few short stories that were unprompted.  Here’s a couple I was especially proud of:

  1. Return of the Iron Lung
    Don’t read it if you’re an antivaxxer.
  2. Godkiller in a Bag
    A weird take on some of the themes in the Adam and Eve creation story.
  3. Banana Pudding
    A memoir story that is just one of my favorite things.

And of course… Y’ALL

I’ve made a BUTTLOAD of friends this year.  I’m inevitably going to miss someone, and I hope you shame me effusively in the comments.

  1. Joanne the Geek
  2. Liz Hartmann
  3. Sophia Ismaa
  4. Alexander Eliott
  5. Brian from Books of Brian (Not sure he’s still active, but he’s a hoot!)
  6. I assume it’s at least partially a lurker-type of friendship, but I at least feel like I’ve gotten to know the amazing Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch and Colleen Chesebro of Tanka Tuesday fame

Last, but certainly not least, I absolutely must mention Tom Darby.  While I’ve technically had this blog for a long time, I only started caring about doing the writing blog thing earlier in 2018 (right about the same time I posted that novel).  Mr. Darby was gearing up for his own run at about the same time, and I believe we both hit that ‘why isn’t this going anywhere?’ slump at similar times.  I don’t remember which of us found the other’s blog first, and at this point I don’t care.

Without his encouragement and engagement, I assure you I wouldn’t have kept blogging.  Sometimes I feel like we’re kindred spirits, though he’s gone through more life experiences (and often rather extreme ones!) than I have.

I’ve mentioned Tom Darby on my blog before, but for real people.  For real.  If you’re serious about having a writing blog, this guy should be on your list of people you follow.  He can be harder to find sometimes because he doesn’t join in the prompt-based writing festivals, but the rate at which he can churn out brand new, western-inspired goodies is just fantastic.

Anyway, thanks to anyone who reads for the fantastic 2018 (at least online).