Sunday, December 28, 2014

Saying goodbye to 2014

Hi. Let me catch you up.

2014 happened.

A year ago I was married, I had a house, I was unemployed (beyond getting paid to narrate stories occasionally), I volunteered as the Podcast Manager at Every Day Fiction, and I was hoping to get into Clarion West--a six-week intensive writing workshop. I lived with two cats.

Almost everything that could have been different is now different except, thankfully, my health. My health remains the same. Well, I could stand to lose a few pounds.

At the end of 2014, I find myself divorced from a very nice man. I am dating another very nice man--a vegetarian who made me meatloaf! And it was good! I live in a different county. I no longer have a house. I have a full-time job. I resigned from Every Day Fiction to focus on paid narration work, taught myself to edit/master audio, and now have recorded five audiobooks for sale through Amazon, iTunes, and Audible. I also recorded stories for two of John Joseph Adams' anthologies, and more stories for Beneath Ceaseless Skies. One of my own stories was podcast (a first!) by Tina Connolly at Toasted Cake. I attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop over the summer, met a bunch of fantastic classmates, administrative staff, and instructors, and wrote six short stories in six weeks. I was on my first panel at StoryCon in Portland, OR, as an authority on flash fiction. And I live with a dog, instead of cats.

Basically, 2014 looked like this: Maybe I should learn how to record and master an audiobook? Did I get in to CW? OMG I got in to CW, read all the books to prepare! Record 3 audiobooks before ACX changes its contract! Whoops, my marriage fell apart, what happens now? Find a place to live! Okay, found! CW is very challenging, and now it's done! Move move move all the crap forever! Find a job! Go to court, see a judge, dissolve the marriage! Sign up for retirement plans! Go go go!

Other items of note:

  • TRAVEL: I went sightseeing in Washington, D.C., after attending World Fantasy Con. Participated in a couple of writing retreats. Strolled through the Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest out on the Olympic Peninsula. Saw the Pacific Ocean from a Washington state shore for the first time. Flew out to San Diego, CA, for a couple of days. Explored the Swap Meet. Visited the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore on their last day before moving to a new location. Oh, and I attended the World Horror Convention in sunny Portland, OR. Ate my first Voodoo Donuts, served from the side of a squat pink van.

  • WRITING: Two of my short stories ("The Man at the End of the Chain" and "Arkquarium") came out in print anthologies. My poem, "Shag," was published online. Wrote and submitted my first ten-minute play in years.

  • PROMOTION: Had a reading at Norwescon in SeaTac, WA. Whoo!

  • PHOTOGRAPHY: Shot more author portraits. Sold a few more licenses through my stock photo agency.

  • READING/LEARNING: I discovered how much I love Jack Vance's fiction. Then spent the first half of the year reading works by the CW instructors. Discovered how fun it is to take classes through the Coursera website.

All that said, I'm not gonna lie. 2014 was hard. (Haaaaarrrrd, so says the whiny pirate). It'll take a while for the dust to settle, but I feel like the changes have been overwhelmingly positive and necessary.

But after a year like this, I'm wary of what 2015 will bring. I hope that I'll be able to wrap up the last of the loose ends from this year. That I'll get back into the rhythm of taking care of myself--both mentally and physically. That I'll figure out how to be less cranky after the 1-2 hour commute home from work. All of that equals my 2015 forecast in a nutshell.

It's been a long time since I've taken myself off auto-pilot and looked around at my situation. This year I'm going to try to get back to basics and think about where I'd like to go next. So far so good. All of these changes were tough to live through, but overwhelmingly positive in the end.

Finally, I leave you with my traditional New Year’s wish to you: May you get everything you desire and only some of what you deserve. Happy nearly 2015.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Publication News

Hello! I have news. I just had a new Lovecraftian short story, "Arkquarium," come out in That Ain't Right: Historical Accounts of the Miskatonic Valley (Mad Scientist Journal Presents).

And look! The back cover features a quote from my story. How cool is that! This book is available in print from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and as an ebook for Kindle and for Nook and from Smashwords.

And I have another short story, "The Man at the End of the Chain," coming out at the end of this month in The Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls. Take a gander at this cover:

Cover art: Shane Tyree
Cover layout: Matt Hults
Release date: 31 Oct 2014

The theme of this anthology is steampunk and shifters -- creatures like werewolves who can turn from a human into some other form. My story features a were-capuchin from Brazil.

Lastly, a story I narrated for Beneath Ceaseless Skies has just been made available. Butterfly House by Gwendolyn Clare. Runs 34 minutes. It was a lot of fun to read. I hope you like it.

Thus ends my commercial.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

Birthdays are one of those deep introspection opportunities for me, and since mine is tomorrow, I guess it's that time again.

A lot has happened during the past year. Most of it in the last six months. Clarion West ended a week ago, which was an amazing exhausting overwhelming encouraging experience. I am moving into a new place. I am making plans to return to the workforce. I started narrating audiobooks. And I sent in my resignation as the Every Day Fiction Podcast Manager--that was a hard decision and I will always be grateful for the experience, but at the end of the day it was a resource issue and something had to give.

Not to get too much more personal, but life is good and bad and in between. Change is change is change. I am just plain grateful to so many people for being a part of my life, and I am grateful to Jeremy for more than I can say here.

So, happy birthday, me. I look forward to seeing where I/me/we end up on the other side of all this crazy. 

Now I think I'll go get drunk.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Week 6 of Clarion West 2014

It's Sunday afternoon, beginning of week 6, here at the 2014 Clarion West Writers Workshop in sunny Seattle. My fan rotates lazily behind me. Cars whoosh down the street outside my window.  My stomach is full of ham-and-egg scramble from the Mexican restaurant nearby. My tree puppet continues to be supportive, and uncannily wise.

And so we begin our week of lasts. Last critiques, last provided meals, last hanging out on the couch watching Kurt Russell movies. I have an annoying tendency to become sentimental about events as they're happening, so I'll try not to do that too much more. But even as I'm excited to go back to the real world again, I'm also sad to be leaving this place behind. Already I have one foot in and one foot out and I'm struggling to keep my focus on the present.

Tonight we meet our last instructor, John Crowley. We just said our goodbyes to Charlie Jane Anders.

Only 1 more story left to write. Only 17 more critiques left to deliver.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Starting week 5 of Clarion West

I'm sitting at my desk in my room at Clarion West on a Sunday afternoon. After a stretch of hot dry days, the weather has turned cool and I am enjoying a chance to wear jeans again, my old uniform. We're starting our fifth week, which means I only have two stories left to write and up to 34 stories to critique.

Not that I'm counting.

Time is strange. It simultaneously feels as if I've always been here and I've just arrived. The absence of television is probably a factor. The constant nap-taking definitely adds to the disorientation. Not to repeat last week's post too much, but I continue to be in awe of everybody's talent and work ethic and so happy to have been included in this experience. But I can feel the exhaustion tugging at me, the real world reasserting itself, and I am trying to cushion the landing by eating regularly, taking naps, being kind to myself.

Some days I am more successful than others.

Last night I lay in my bunk listening to party sounds from the street--mostly dudebros shouting at each other over terrible pounding music. A young man's voice rose above the din--aggressive, slurred, and slightly desperate. He shouted, "What fucking street is this? How did I get here? Where the fuck am I?"

I rolled over and fell asleep.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Week Four, Clarion West

Hello, world. We've just passed the half-way point here at the 2014 Clarion West Writers Workshop. It is hot outside for Seattle and I am not used to this stifling heat so I am drinking a cold beer (Obsidian Stout from Deschutes Brewery) and sitting in a basement (have I said too much?) trying to write my fourth week story.

There's a paper cutout of a gray turtle taped to the wall.

There's not much else to say. This is an amazing experience. I am in awe of everything all the time. They're feeding me well. I'm drinking a lot (both alcohol and water). I sleep on the lower bunk of a bunk bed. I brought two fans from home. When I leave I will probably be lonely because there is always somebody doing something and I haven't taken enough advantage of that yet. Later, will the quiet unman me? Stay tuned.

There is a lot of work to do here. Sometimes I nap. Often I nap. Sometimes I feel old and out of touch. I stare off into space. I read crazy wonderful prose and think about why it works and why it doesn't. I formulate opinions and express them. I eat. Things happen. Time contracts, expands. I make a fancy salad.

The hand crank on my window broke off. That is the worst.

So you see, everything is fine. Situation normal. I am working on my third short story out of five, in the basement, with an ice cold bottle of beer and Colonel Mustard. I am surrounded by clever folks. I am possibly going mad.

And that about sums it up through week three.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Why the month of May is busy


Here it is an overcast Saturday morning after a string of warm dry days. I'm listening to the coffee gurgle in its maker and willing the process to go faster--which is a pretty good metaphor for my life right now.


In the next week I am delivering an audiobook to its rights holder for approval, and if all goes well, the audiobook will be available for sale on Amazon, iTunes, and within a few weeks. This will be my third project through ACX, and my second narrated novel. This one clocks in at 77k-ish words, but I am still mastering the audio so I do not have an official time length yet. It is fantasy, where the previous novel I narrated was horror.

Narrating audiobooks is fun, but make no mistake, it is a LOT of work.

Because I am ... ambitious --definitely not some other less favorable word-- I have also accepted the great honor of narrating Cat Rambo's two short story collections: Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight and Near + Far.

Basically my life is all audio, all the time.

I am not complaining! I really really enjoy narrating stories and novels. Let me add in one more "really" to drive the point home. But I am super busy right now, and I feel like I should mention how busy I am for future reference, and why there's a chance I might be slow to return emails.

On the plus side, I received my first royalty statement for the first month of audiobook sales. It isn't much, of course, but I can see how it could add up and that is encouraging. Passive income, here we come.

Lastly, I have carved out some time to attend the World Horror Convention in Portland, OR next week. I will be bringing my laptop and headphones along, so when I am not hanging out or attending con-related activities, I can go hide in my room and master audio, and stay on track.

Optimism -- it's what for breakfast. :) Also coffee.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Five Narrator-Related Announcements for your Tuesday

Announcement # 1 (StarShipSofa)

StarShipSofa has re-posted a Beneath Ceaseless Skies story I narrated back in March 2013 along with Tina Connolly, Rajan Khanna, and Michael J. DeLuca. The story is “Boat in Shadows, Crossing” by Tori Truslow and starts 30 minutes into the podcast. This re-post is in honor of the story text being nominated in the “Best Short Fiction” category of the British Science Fiction Association awards. I read the part of Bue.

This podcast was also a 2013 Parsec Award Finalist for Best Speculative Fiction Story: Large Cast.

Runs 1 hour 6 minutes.
Listen to "Boat in Shadows, Crossing" at StarShipSofa.

Announcement # 2 (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

I narrated a new story for Beneath Ceaseless Skies, "Golden Daughter, Stone Wife” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

Runs 59 minutes.
Listen to "Golden Daughter, Stone Wife” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Announcement # 3 (Horror Audiobook on Sale)

The horror novel I narrated, THE DEAD OF WINTER by Jack Night, is now on sale through Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. You can listen to a sample at the links. (Runs 9.5 hours!) I'm really pleased with how this audiobook turned out and I look forward to narrating more.

Now I'm narrating a fantasy novel that I'll be wrapping up soon, and then I get to start narrating two story collections by Cat Rambo.

Announcement # 4 (Podcast Class)

Speaking of Cat Rambo, I will be co-teaching an online class with Cat called PODCASTING BASICS. We've taught this one a few times before and it's always a lot of fun. The date is now set: Sunday, April 27, 2014, 9:30-11:30 AM PDT. $89 for former students; $99 for new students. More details at Cat's web site.

This may be the last podcasting class we'll able to teach for a while, so if you have any interest it's a good time to sign up.

Announcement # 5 (The End is Nigh)

I mentioned in a previous post that I had narrated two stories for THE END IS NIGH audiobook, the first of three anthologies on the subject of the apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey--audiobook produced by Jack Kincaid.

You can now buy THE END IS NIGH audiobook from the usual sources: Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. I'm not sure why I'm not listed as one of the narrators, but maybe I'm not famous enough yet. :)  Rest assured, I narrated, "Heaven Is A Place On Planet X" by Desirina Boskovich (which you can listen to for free at Drabblecast) and "Wedding Day," by Jake Kerr.

And I think that gets us all up-to-date. I hope you are having a wonderful Tuesday.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Clarion West Class of 2014

Long story short, one week ago today, I received the call offering me a spot in this year's Clarion West class. Of course I accepted. Of course.

Some of you know how much this means to me already. For those who don't, well I will tell you. Clarion West is a six-week intensive workshop for writers of speculative fiction--fantasy, science-fiction, and horror. The program only accepts 18 students each year. Each week a different instructor--a professional writer or editor type--comes in and leads the class. Each week each student writes a story, and each week each student critiques all of the other students' stories.

In addition to the heavy workload, there are socializing opportunities, readings you can attend, the occasional party, and all the while, the students live in the same housing and try to keep up with the workload.

This was my third time applying. I really, really wanted to attend. So to be able to share that it's actually happening, can be expressed in just about any happy-making cliché ever. If you're wondering I'm partial to "over the moon."

I look forward to meeting my classmates, reading the instructors' stories, and being there, immersed in writing and critiquing and learning for six overwhelming weeks.

Before the program starts in June, I still have to deliver three more audiobooks so I'll be keeping pretty busy. My first novel length audiobook has been approved by all parties and is in the process of going on sale as I type this. I'll announce it more formally when the audiobook finishes propagating to iTunes and Amazon, but here's a sneak peek at Audible for Jack Night's "The Dead of Winter." There's even an audio sample if you're curious.

So that's it. That's my news. I hope you'll all follow along with me on this new crazy adventure.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Podcast

I neglected to mention, and I should have mentioned, in my last post that I also narrated a story for Beneath Ceaseless Skies: "Pilgrims" by Ann Chatham. The whole podcast runs about 27 minutes and the mp3 is available to download or stream.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a great market for fiction, one of my favorites. Their focus is on literary adventure fantasy in secondary world settings. You can read their stories for free online or for a small subscription fee ($13.99 for the year, as of this posting) have issues delivered to your eReader: subscribe to BCS here.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Cool News

Some cool news.

First, I narrated "Heaven Is A Place On Planet X" by Desirina Boskovich for THE END IS NIGH, the first of three anthologies on the subject of the apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. You can listen to the story for free (or download the mp3) at the Drabblecast. Runs an hour.

You guys, this is seriously cool. And an awesome story. I understand that this narration will be included in the audiobook version of this anthology later. But if you'd rather buy a physical or digital copy now, you can buy the anthology at Amazon. I also narrated a story by Jake Kerr called "Wedding Day," for THE END IS NIGH. And I can't wait to share that one as well.

Second, I have a brand new story, "Arkquarium," that will be included in an anthology that's being funded through Kickstarter: THAT AIN'T RIGHT -- A LOVECRAFTIAN-THEMED ANTHOLOGY. The publisher even did an author spotlight on me. So, if you're moved to contribute, there's still about a week left to back this project. One of the backer rewards is a narration of a short story of up to 5,000 words by me.

Third, the first project I've narrated through ACX is now on sale: Hand of Fire: Battle for Magic. I'm really pleased about that. I am also currently narrating a horror novel that's due in about a week and a half to the author.

Fourth, the next "Podcasting Basics" class I'm co-teaching with Cat Rambo is currently planned for the end of April. I need to double check the date before I post it here, but there is one planned.

I think that's everything for now. Hopefully, this update helps explain why my blog has been so quiet lately. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Better Living Through Pseudoscience

"The spotlight makes me feel as if I'm a giant alien bug roasting beneath a magnifying glass--not unlike those noble arthropods in my favorite film, Starship Troopers. But I am only a middle-aged man wearing a frayed lab coat, standing center-stage in a theater that's seen better days. Although I can't see much beyond the glare of the spotlight, I know I am addressing a full house, thanks to savvy promises of air-conditioning and free soft serve during the worst heat wave of the decade.  
I rub my thumb against the freckle on my palm for luck. It is my first infomercial and I have reasons to be jittery. Even now, my nemesis hides among the slack-jawed tourists, waiting to strike..."

These are the first two paragraphs of my new short story, "Better Living Through Pseudoscience" available in the new ebook, MAD SCIENTIST JOURNAL: AUTUMN 2013.

Available for Nook and Kindle.

It's one of those funny mad scientist stories--at least, it makes me chortle in the secret corners of myself. And it clocks in at 2,700 words, if you are concerned about getting enough value for your money. I know I am! No shame there!

Happy Wednesday.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Working with writer's block

At 2am this morning, I finished a new 3,500-word short story. It's embarrassing to admit how long it's been since I last wrote a short story from scratch. Let's just say...a while.

So, future me asks, how did you manage to complete this story?

A few things helped. On Sunday, I attended a one-day Clarion West workshop taught by Eileen Gunn, about working through creative impasses. I managed a rough ending during one of the 15-minute writing burst exercises--at least enough to start editing and expand.

Having a deadline helped. Knowing I had to deliver what I promised helped.

I didn't turn off the internet, but I probably should have. After a month of trying to write this thing, by mid-day yesterday I had about two thousand good words and some rocky words. The key was that no matter how much I procrastinated, and I procrastinated a lot, I would keep forcing myself back to the keyboard. I treated myself like a stubborn kid who refused to eat her vegetables. I basically threw a lot of tantrums, certain I wasn't going to be able to do it, but I kept forcing myself to open MS Word and make small attempts. Over and over and over...Until I was too exhausted to fight anymore and I ate the damned leafy greens.

There are authors who don't believe in writer's block. I envy them. I wish I didn't believe, too. But I have these tendencies, if nothing else, to avoid writing fiction. Give me something tangible and clear cut, where I can make a fancy list and check off deliverables and I'm solid. Technical writing, no problem, but fiction? I struggle.

I've thought a lot about why I struggle. I know it's in my head. I've reorganized my entire life to be conducive to writing. I have the equipment, the books, the support network. So why freeze up? Two reasons come to mind. One, I dislike not being good at something so much I'd almost rather not to do it than fail. Two, I'm afraid of being boring. Both are fantastic ways to make that playful voice inside my head, the one that whispers, "What about..." and "This might sound weird, but..." to take its toys and play elsewhere.

All of this is to say, the draft is done and submitted. And, future me? There are much, much better ways for us to write a short story. Go find them.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Hello, I'm a Narrator for Hire

Hi. I realize this post isn't applicable to 97% of the readers of this site. This post goes out to that very special 3%. You know who you are...

Yesterday I signed up for Elance--a web site that helps freelancers connect with employers. There are no fees for basic membership, but Elance does take a cut of any earnings you arrange through the site.

I put in bids for a few jobs -- voice acting, podcast related -- that sounded interesting and I'll keep an eye out for new opportunities. Of course, if I did get hired, I wouldn't discuss any details of the jobs here--so to any potential employers that might be checking me out, no need to worry about discretion.

In related news, it's true! I am happily available to narrate your fiction or non-fiction for the purposes of audio distribution, and can supply you a quote if you tell me the word count. My email address is at the top of the About page and examples of my narrations are on the Podcasts page.

I'm still actively applying for full-time work, but in the mean time, I would like to explore all revenue-generating opportunities.

What else is going on? I've been struggling like crazy to finish writing a new short story. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time, but on Sunday, I'll be taking a one-day workshop about working through creative blocks. So that's good.

Happy Tuesday.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Achieving website non-bloat

How is it that just my right hand gets cold when I'm typing? Both hands contribute equally, and yet the right is a veritable ice sculpture while the left remains a tepid puddle.

So here I am, again, at the dining room table. I'm working on a new short story--in and of itself a minor miracle--and trying to ignore all the things my brain says I should do instead.

Like write blog posts, obviously.

For some reason I've also decided it's more important (than writing) to tediously save a bunch of recipes to my desktop from an old website on angelfire that I've consulted many times over the years. I loved the site, but all the angelfire popups have finally made the site unusable because each page takes forever to load, so I had the bright idea of saving all content off-line and removing the ads manually so I could keep using the site as reference. It's working great except there are over 1,000 recipes to save and update and I am not savvy enough to use grep or other magic editing tool. To be clear, I'm not removing any copyright info or obscuring origin info, and the ads don't benefit the content creator, just the hosting company.

I just really want to be able to browse the site without bloat!

Anyway. The process has actually been kind of soothing. Some people craft, I make off-line copies of really useful web sites that haven't been updated in three years and will probably disappear soon.

The plan for today is to write, read, edit more recipes, record a podcast, and watch some TV. I'd add "work out" to the mix, but honestly I'm afraid of the gym in January, what with all the resolutioners resolutioning. Better to focus on the writing this morning and then tackle the treadmill.

Following that logic, it's back to MS Word.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy 2014, and Hello Again

Happy New Year!

I always feel extra hopeful around the start of the year, like the slate has been wiped clean and I'm free to attempt some crazy new goal without judgment.

This feeling also explains why I tend towards depression around February, when the reality of my repeated failures sinks in, but that's not important right now. Now is the time to compartmentalize!

Last year my focus was on health and I made some huge strides in that area. I met with a nutritionist, learned how to prepare and cook vegetables, worked with a personal trainer and made all the bad numbers move in a good direction.

This year I need to get back to writing. And I need to get a job. Those are my goals in a nutshell, although they are better defined than that off-line. You'll just have to trust me.

So now I'm sitting at the dining room table, listening to the dishwasher whoosh and what-not. The curtains are closed. It appears (via gaps between the fabric, the wall, and the window) to be sunny and cold, always cold now, but a moderate cold. And I am not hungover, which means today is already miles better than yesterday, assuming happiness is measured in miles and not kilometers--miles sounds more like smiles, leading me to believe my instinct is correct--and the holidays have left me with a new pile of books to read, music to consume, and movies to deaden my sockets.

As for my traditional New Year's Wish: May 2014 bring you everything you desire and only some of what you deserve.

And we're off.