Books, PhDs, and Ghosts, Oh My!

This year has been pretty strange so far. The world is a giant trash-fire, but there’s been great news for my friends in terms of their writing careers. It can be hard to reconcile the two things, holding sadness and joy in my heart at the same time, but I’m learning to just kind of roll with things.

I’m so incredibly excited for my writing friends. Two of them are self-publishing their work, and it’s awesome to see their stories out in the world. One just got published with a small press this past week. And two more have signed with agents. My heart is filled with pride for their successes, and I can’t wait to see more stories from them!

As for my writing… I’m still tootling along. I’m putting my writing career dreams on hold for a while, though, because I’ve decided to take the plunge back into academia. I was accepted into a PhD program which starts this fall, so while I’m planning on writing here and there, school will be my life for at least 4-5 years.

I have a goal to finish the novel I’m working on before heading off to school in ~3 months. Not sure if I’ll meet that goal, but we’ll see! Moving planning has been taking up a huge chunk of my time.

And next weekend, I’m off to a haunted weekend full of ghost hunting and metaphysical talks. I’m pretty excited about it!

So, lots of changes and exciting things coming up in the next few months. Life is funny because I never know what it’ll throw at me next.

Advertisements

Author Interview–Leigh Landry

I’m incredibly excited to welcome my friend and writing buddy, Leigh Landry, to my blog! Hi Leigh! Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?
*waves* I’m a former musician and English teacher, and I now write and homeschool my two kids. We’ve got a house full of animals, and we foster cats and volunteer at our local animal rescue center. I like to keep things interesting here!
Can you tell us about your first novella, SECOND FIDDLE FLIRT?
Novella #1 Cover (variation 3)
Lauren’s in the middle of clearing out her recently deceased sister’s room and prepping for a rehearsal/audition with an all-female Cajun band when her sister’s sexy, ex-soldier best friend arrives to help. Freshly out of a controlling relationship coupled with a heaping side of shared grief between them, Lauren has to learn how to trust herself again and fight for what she wants: her dream gig and Tyler.
SECOND FIDDLE FLIRT, is simultaneously fun and heavy. Where did you get your inspiration from?
I really wanted to write a fun, flirty series as a tribute to the music and modern Cajun culture of this area. But everything I write ends up tackling serious, weighty themes and issues, whether or not I intend to from the beginning. I am perpetually fluffy-dark, in writing and personality, hehe.
I love hearing about other writers’ processes, so can you tell us what your writing process looks like?
No matter how many books I write, I always feel like I’m still figuring out my process with each new project! I do plan more now than I used to, but my initial outlines are still very sparse and flexible. The further I get in this series, though, the more structured my outlines get, because I’m starting to know how I need the series to shape up. I always begin with my main characters and what they want, then put my couple together and see what happens!
Any favorite snacks for while you write?
As much as I love snacks, I don’t usually eat while I write. I do almost always have something hot nearby, coffee with a little sugar or herbal tea with honey.
What media are you loving right now (books, shows, etc)?
I’ve been in a reading slump lately. Other than critique partner manuscripts (which I am BEYOND excited about the things I read last year!!!), my brain seems incapable of finishing stories the last few months. Looking forward to enjoying more books again this year! I always love listening to the Smart Podcast, Trashy Books podcast, because their enthusiasm for books is absolutely contagious. OH! And I just finished season 1 of The Good Place, and I am completely smitten with that show. ❤ ❤ ❤
And where can people find you?
I mostly hang out on Twitter (@LeighLAuthor), but I do have a Facebook page (LeighLandryAuthor) where I post writing updates, songs on my writing playlists, and occasional kitty pics. I’ve also started a blog (https://leighlandry.blogspot.com) that has all of my book & contact info.

You can find Leigh’s first novella here, and you can preorder her second one, SIX STRING SASS, set for release on February 8, here! Happy reading!

The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong

I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be co-hosting a readalong of THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA with Kara Seal (@KRwriter) over on Twitter! It’s my first time doing anything like this, and I really hope you can join us and help make this a success.

The book (blurb from Barnes and Noble): An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.

LIES Graphic

It’s been a while since I read this (at least 10 years…) but I remember it being really twisty and bloody and amazing. I used to try to convince all of my friends to read it, too.

The readalong begins on February 4, with weekly chats on Friday evenings at 8pm EST.

The schedule:
Week 1: Prologue–Interlude “Locke Stays for Dinner”
Week 2: Chapter 3–Chapter 5
Week 3: Interlude “Jean Tannen”–Interlude “The Schoolmaster of Roses”
Week 4: Chapter 10–Chapter 14
Week 5: Remainder of the book

I hope to see you all for the first Twitter chat at 8pm EST on February 9! Don’t forget to use the hashtag @LiesofLockeLamora.

Another year, almost gone…

This has been such a strange year. It started in exile and is ending among loved ones. It’s been a year of major change (but then again, what year isn’t?) and lots of learning about myself.

Some lessons I’ve learned this year:

1. It’s okay to let go of things that don’t suit me anymore.

I think most people tend to hang onto things long after they’ve served their purpose. I feel like there’s probably some kind of evolutionary reason we do this, but I’m not a sociologist or psychologist, so I have no idea. I just know that it’s freeing to finally get rid of things–whether physical objects, old goals that no longer work, or even relationships that are failing.

2. Taking care of myself first is a good thing.

This is still something I’m learning how to navigate, but I do no one any good if I’m tired and/or sick all the time. Eating better, exercising, and better self-care are definitely goals for the New Year.

3. It’s never too late to change course.

If something isn’t making you happy, it’s okay to admit that maybe you’re on the wrong path. No experience is wasted, and there’s no point in sticking something out to prove something to people who don’t really care. The only person I have to prove anything to is myself.

4. I love the paranormal, but ghost hunting is actually really boring.

90% of ghost hunting is just sitting around in a dark location, waiting for something to happen. 9% of ghost hunting is listening back to all the audio you took of the night. And 1% of ghost hunting is stuff happening. It ain’t like the shows, I’ll tell you that.

5. I wish I could be out as asexual in all areas of my life, but it doesn’t feel possible.

I’ve come a long way this year in being more true to myself, but it’s a sad part of being queer that not everyone understands or is accepting. This has been an important lesson for me this year, and I hope that someday I’ll feel more comfortable being out.

And so, I end this year on a high note. I’m home, I’m loved, and I’m striving to do better. What are some things you learned about yourself this year?

Author Interview: Chace Verity

Hey, everyone! This week, I’m very excited to welcome my friend and writing buddy Chasia to my blog for an author interview. Enjoy!

Hi, Chasia, and welcome!

Thanks for having me!

Can you tell my readers a little about yourself?

I’m Chasia, pen name Chace Verity, and I’m an American citizen and Canadian permanent resident. When not writing or working a people-job, I’m reading or playing video games or watching Korean dramas & variety shows.

Can you talk a little about your inspiration for your debut novella TEAM PHISON?

It started with me overhearing two guys chatting in a multiplayer game my husband was playing. One guy had a thick country accent and was super new to the game. He kept asking questions, apologizing, etc. The other guy was very polite to him and got embarrassed every time New Guy thanked him for helping him. It’s rare to see such genuine kindness in online games between two strangers. The team ended up losing the mission, but Nice Guy was the last one standing, and New Guy was super impressed with him. It was hard to forget such a sweet interaction.

Any upcoming projects you can talk about? (Or give a sneak peak of? 😉

Here’s a short chapter from my upcoming fantasy novella, My Heart Is Ready (out December 15, 2017)!

Lester liked the crown of wildflowers woven through the strawberry farmer’s hair.

Neither of the human twins had noticed him spying on them.

Lester listened to their argument with his claws digging into the topmost branch of the twisty orange maple tree. The high noon sunlight bounced off the harpy’s golden wings and shielded him in a protective glow.

Humans had the best gossip. Even when the secrets themselves weren’t terribly interesting, humans had a way of packing intense emotions into them. Rumors and speculation would crackle in the harpy’s head and send a delightful buzz through his body.

Harpies had evolved quite a bit from their days of stealing food out of humans’ hands. Now, they stole their words.

The twins had many remarks between them. Lester didn’t understand them all, but he understood the emotions. Despair. Exasperation. Confusion.

Anyone passing by might have noticed the emotions, too. This particular farm in northern Florea was famed for its rainbow strawberries. The colors changed depending on the mood in the air. Currently, all the strawberries in the patch were a solemn shade of midnight blue. Even the pixies flitting around the fields had lost some of their glitter.

“What is an Absolute?” asked the sister, throwing her hands in the air. “There’s something more to this arrangement than being some fancy knight, isn’t there? You’ve never wanted to be a knight before.”

“Doesn’t matter,” her brother retorted. “Think of the money we’re getting. You’ll be so happy at Rosales. It’s what we’ve always wanted.”

The young woman with long, black hair had the most adorable glare. Her sunburned cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk.

Lester adjusted the rusty metal coronet on his head. In addition to being one of the rare males in his species, he had arms as well as wings. Said arms came from his human father.

No other harpy was like him. He was the king of harpies.

A glimmer of interest in finding a queen ran through him every time the woman cursed at her brother. He had observed this woman a few times while perching from this tree, and she had always looked standoffish. She never interacted with the farm’s visitors, never played with the pixies, never smiled.

It was interesting to see her so animated now.

“I’d rather not get an education at the expense of your happiness,” she said, circling her brother.

“Who said I’m unhappy?”

“Our parents gladly accept your farce, but I know you better than them. Stop lying to me. Why do the Absolutes want a peasant who has never held a sword in his life?”

“I’m good with a sickle,” he said. “No one can cut grains faster than me.”

She stopped in her tracks. “I can.”

“Besides you.”

“You love being on the farm. Why are you really going with them?”

The brother clenched his jaw. The man had attractive qualities in his doughy face, a handsome rogue similar to a magpie. Lester, queer in every aspect of his life, didn’t mind the prospect of a king or a nonbinary regent at his side, but he was currently more drawn to the woman with exquisite biceps.

“I owe the queen, you know,” the brother said. “I’ll visit you at Rosales when I can. Say, when do you leave? Next week?

Lester cocked his head to the side. Were the twins affiliated with Haveri? What could this man owe the Crow Queen?

The possibilities rattled through Lester’s brain like tiny bolts of lightning and caused the feathers along his legs to stiffen.

Goddess, rumors were magnificent.

So was this muscular woman with flowers in her hair.

Perhaps Lester could impress the strawberry farmer by finding out what an Absolute was for her.

What does your writing process look like in general?

Outrageously chaotic. Often, I write a few chapters, get a good foundation going, and then drop the project for several months while I think more on it. If I have an outline, I can hammer out the whole thing in a short time. But I rarely have the patience to sit down and outline a story.

On a more technical level, I do almost everything in Scrivener. Draft, revise, edit, etc. I share works on Google Docs to be critiqued, but I retype everything in Scrivener. If I need to jot down ideas or lines while I’m away from my computer, I send an e-mail to myself on my phone.

Any favorite snacks for when you’re writing?

Is coffee a snack? XD I’ve been trying to eat healthier – I’ve swapped candy-while-writing for banana-chips-while-writing. Sometimes I go radical and get yogurt-covered pretzels for a snack.

What are your favorite books at the moment?

I’m currently captivated by Diana Wynne Jones’s Reflections: On the Magic of Writing. This series of essays is really enlightening, especially for anyone who writes for kids. It’s a different sort of writing advice because it’s not meant to be writing advice; you just happen to learn from her observations.

Where can readers find you and your work?

The latest information about my stuff can be found on Goodreads or on my Twitter! I’m also a part of the Crystal Queer Patreon.

Short Fiction Contest Winner: Bob’s Bones

I’m very excited to share with you the winning story of the short fiction contest written by Kelvin Woelk! Enjoy.


I claimed the last two top beside the big window, since no other tables were open. Maybe a cute girl would come in. I could offer the empty chair.
The door opened and a skeleton entered, toe bones clacking loudly across the wood floor.
 
I looked around. No one else seemed to notice as the skeleton approached the blackboard menu, the items written in white as if it had scraped them onto it with its own bony finger. It stepped up to the ordering counter, and the barista nodded and tapped her own finger against a screen, her face bathed in a light blue aura. The skeleton stepped politely to the side. I noticed it had offered no form of payment, nor seemingly had one been demanded.
 
A minute later, it crossed into the room where I sat, its head turning this way and that, plate and cup held in place with bleached curled knuckles. I realized, with mild panic, that it was looking for a place to sit. I looked down, hoping to avoid giving any kind of signal, hoping a seat might open somewhere far away.
 
But we had made whatever substitutes for eye contact when you look at a skeleton and it looks back at you with round black empty sockets. It clattered over, setting the cup and saucer down and placing a bony hand on the empty chair.
 
“Do you mind?” The lower jaw moved like a bad special effect. Before I could answer, it pulled the chair back and slipped between it and the table, with a sound like someone losing at Jenga.
 
“I’m Bob,” it said, finger bones extended, thumb bone pointing up. I could see only those two empty circles, black as night, but it seemed to be seeing me just as I was seeing it.
 
This is how it ends, I thought. In a coffee shop, shaking the offered hand of death who, frankly, can’t even come up with an interesting fake name. Probably moonlights as tech support. Of course, if you’re Death, it probably matters even less what you call yourself.
 
I reached out and felt the cold hard bones wrap around my own warm, soft flesh.
 
“I love the smell of coffee, don’t you?” the skeleton said, releasing its grip and raising its two empty nostril holes.
 
“More so than the taste,” I said calmly, expecting each word to be my last.
 
“Spoken like a tea man,” it replied, directing its two black voids toward my hands wrapped around the white porcelain cup. “Coffee’s not to everyone’s taste. But nice on a day like today.”
 
It raised its cup to approximate lip position and held it there.
 
It took me a few seconds to realize that it was blowing—or trying to—across the steaming liquid. It made no sense of course. But the day had already pegged high on the weirdness scale.
 
I watched with cringing fascination as it took a long sip. The dark liquid dropped out the bottom of its skull, splashing its spine, ribs and pelvic bones before dropping wetly onto the chair and floor. The skeleton looked down, then at me, shrugged and said, “It’s alright, they know me here.”
 
Feeling I had nothing to lose, I took a deep breath.
 
“So”, I said. “As much as the whole cloak and scythe thing seems a bit tired, it’s what most of us are conditioned to expect. However, I find this in between motif kind of half-hearted. No offense.”
 
Genuine puzzlement seemed to emanate from inside those black round voids.
 
“What?” it said, its jaw moving slightly and emitting a single clack. “What, the death thing again? I’m just a regular Joe, like you. I was coming from an appointment with my orthopedist when I spotted this place. I thought a coffee sounded nice. Not that my opinion matters, but you’ll live out the day, I’m pretty sure.”
 
“And tomorrow?”
 
It shrugged again. “Beats me. But no one gets out alive, am I right?”
 
“Anyway,” I said, “the orthopedist bit is pretty funny.”
 
The look now directed at me, combined with accompanying silence, was most unnerving.
 
“Lack of soft tissue is no joke, my friend,” the skeleton said. “Walk around without cartilage for a couple of days. You’ll regret it faster than than you can crack your knuckles. Would you excuse me for a moment? That’s the one thing about coffee I don’t love. Goes right through me.”
I easily stifled my laughter this time. The skeleton slipped from behind the table and headed toward the bathrooms. People in the ordering line moved aside, politely letting it pass. As it turned the corner out of sight, I considered going straight home to lie down. Maybe when I woke up—if I did—things would make sense again. But almost immediately, the walking boneyard was back at the table.
 
“Well, I think I better get going.” It again raised its cup, teeth clinking against the edge, and I watched the last of the coffee follow the predictable path, with predictable results.
 
“I kind of barged in,” it said putting the cup down, “but you seemed like a nice guy. Perhaps we’ll meet here again sometime.”
 
It stepped in the puddle as if hardly noticing it, turned and walked toward the door and opened it. A blast of outside air moved across my body, sending a cold shiver through my flesh. The skeleton stepped over the threshold, and I heard the latch quietly engage.
 
A girl approached pushing a yellow bucket on wheels, holding onto a long wooden mop handle. The wheels made a pleasing sound as they rolled over the wood floor. It was, finally, time to go.
 
 The girl began mopping around my feet. I stood up and gazed out the window, hoping to convince myself of what had just taken place. But no tracks appeared in the snow that was re-painting the sidewalk white, and I did not see the skeleton then or ever again.

SONY DSCKelvin Woelk has throughout his life held various job titles including, but not limited to, grocery clerk, hospital clerk, electronic technician, and technical writer. He currently lives in northern Colorado where he helps maintain the website for a small independent bookstore and to connect people with good books. Kelvin also enjoys photography, sending and receiving hand-written letters, playing ping pong, and trying his hand at writing short stories and non-fiction for younger readers. You can find a few other examples of his work, for better or worse, at www.birdseyetravels.wordpress.com.

Guest Story: Insubstantial

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! In honor of today, please enjoy a story written by my wonderful friend and writing buddy, Kate Sheeran Swed.

home-2645585_960_720

Image from Pixabay

 

Calliope cannot convince her blood to circulate.

It is the sensation of waking with one arm splayed on the pillow, the limb drained and temporarily useless—only it tingles throughout her body. She can’t convince her numb fingers to grasp the doorknob.

The window is open, and she sneaks onto the slope of the roof more easily than ever before. Though she can’t manage her usual grip on the gutter, her ankles don’t smart when she lands.

She is weightless. She almost giggles, thinking of how she will surprise her mother by walking in the front door. But a cold feeling against her spine stifles her laughter. It is like getting up to use the bathroom at night, when the darkness convinces her to waste no time in returning to her room, lest the monsters should realize there’s a morsel out of bed.

If she loses her grip on the earth she will fly away, a balloon without a tether.

Calliope gives her head a shake, willing the dizziness to pass. Soon she will go inside, where her mother will press a cool hand against her forehead and check for fever. For now, she scans the yard for something familiar. The trees tilt, and she blinks to set them right. The flowerbeds wobble from daffodil to snapdragon, a double exposure in her brain.

Through the chaos, she catches sight of her lunchbox, anchored in the grass. She tries to remember the last time she held the handle, but it’s hard to distinguish the difference between days and years.

It should not be here. It belongs on the kitchen counter, jaw unhinged, waiting to be sated with peanut butter sandwiches and notes from her mother: Don’t forget to hand in your lunch money! Always with a heart.

On the street, kids hurry by, backpacks quivering as they cast wide-eyed glances at the house. Calliope kneels before the lunchbox. She expects damp knees, but no sensation leaks through her jeans.

There are two boys beyond the fence now, poking noses and fingers between the bars and whispering, jabbing one another with elbows. Calliope cannot hear what they’re saying. She wants them to leave her alone.

The lunchbox is decorated with a unicorn. There are rainbows on the thermos. But the hinges are rusty, the unicorn’s horn all but faded away.

Calliope reaches for the clasp.

One of the boys squeezes between the bars of the fence, pauses, looks back to his friend. The friend urges him on with a bright red sleeve.

“What do you want?” asks Calliope. The boy looks past her and swallows, then darts toward the porch.

Calliope decides to pay him no mind. She touches the tip of her index finger to the clasp on the unicorn lunchbox.

Her finger disappears. When she pushes forward, alarmed, the rest of her hand follows.

She jerks it back.

The boy reaches the porch, touches the bottom step. For a moment, the house settles in Calliope’s vision, and she sees it as if for the first time.

The porch swing hangs drunkenly from one chain. The welcome mat is gone. The kitchen window is broken, mold-black curtains hanging dirty and frayed.

It’s disorienting, like stumbling into a carnival and searching for a familiar strain through the cacophony of clashing tunes.

The boy hurtles back down the walk while his companion giggles.

Calliope is heat. She pours it into her fingers, curls them around the handle, and hurls the lunchbox with all the substance she has left.

The boys scream when the box hits the fence. They run.

Calliope sinks once more to her knees and tries to piece it all together, her thoughts no more solid than the ground beneath her feet. She will grow too heavy for the surface and descend through layers of earth, forget her place in time and fall through the years, until everything exists at once. She will hear the reason for the cockroaches, and how they keep the melody of the world from tilting off key.

The day slinks on.

*

Calliope cannot convince her blood to circulate.


Kate Sheeran Swed loves hot chocolate, plastic dinosaurs, and airplane tickets. She has trekked along the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, hiked on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in Iceland, and climbed the ruins of Masada to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea. Following an idyllic childhood in New Hampshire, she completed degrees in music at the University of Maine and Ithaca College, then moved to New York City. Her stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Electric Spec, and Fantasy Scroll Magazine. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Pacific University. You can find her at katesheeranswed.com or on Twitter @katesheeranswed.