New Projects

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Hi everyone! I’m really excited to announce that I launched a Patreon page for my short horror stories last month. I’ve been hard at work writing short stories and getting it ready for announcement!

You can check it out and subscribe here.

For those of you who don’t know how Patreon works, it’s basically a way for people to directly support creators they like. If you enjoy my writing, you can sign up for various levels of support with different rewards at each level.

For example, for $1/month, you get access to all the short stories I post.
For $5/month, you get access to the short stories and a Tarot reading overview of the month.
For $10/month, you get all of the above, plus a personalized, private 1 card Tarot draw every month.

Some housekeeping: I post on the 1st and the 15th of every month, and I include TWs at the beginning of every story. And once I reach 150 patrons, I’ll release an ebook compilation of all the stories I’ve posted to be given for free to all my patrons!

So, if you enjoy my writing, please feel free to check out my Patreon page, and sign up to support me! Thank you! 🙂

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Guest Post-Ceillie Simkiss

LearningCurves

Hey everyone, I’m really excited to welcome Ceillie Simkiss to my blog today! Her new novella LEARNING CURVES is available for pre-order now and will be released on August 16.

Keep reading for a guest post where Ceillie talks about her inspiration for the novella!


LearningCurvesCoverElena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.

From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.


INSPIRATION FOR LEARNING CURVES
BY CEILLIE SIMKISS

My first burst of inspiration for Learning Curves came from the place that almost all of my best ideas came from: my dreams.

I regularly have absolutely ridiculous dreams, from murders to romances to entirely implausible science fiction. Once, I dreamed that my dad decided to run for President, and I got so mad because he would be a terrible President. In the dream, I was so upset I decided to run against him and hold a press conference on our front porch. I never learned how that election turned out, but it couldn’t have been any worse than 2016’s.

This dream was a little bit different. I dreamed about a girl driving from Chatham, Virginia to Greensboro, North Carolina, and talking to her girlfriend the whole way there about the new family member she’d discovered she had, and the store she’d inherited. I woke up with a pretty good handle on who Elena and Cora were, what they looked like, all of that, and started writing it.

Now, even if you’ve read learning curves, you won’t know anything about what I’m talking about with that dream. See, I started writing the story that became Learning Curves in October 2016, but it was a novel that I lovingly called “The Gift”.

About midway through the month of working on it, I wanted to write a flashback scene of when Elena and Cora met. And then one thing led to another, and instead of finishing the novel that I had intended to write, I wound up with a mostly finished draft of Learning Curves by July.

I still haven’t finished that novel, and now that I’ve written Learning Curves, I’d have to rewrite probably two thirds of the 15,000 words that I had written. It turned into something completely different, and I love it for what it is.

The other two pieces of main inspiration for this story were my friend Taylor, and my family. Taylor graduated with her Master’s degree in Social Work from NC A&T this spring, and I’m incredibly proud of her for all the work she put into getting there. I knew full well that if I had ever tried to get my Masters in social work, I would’ve flunked out after the first internship.

Much like Elena turned out in the book, I get way too attached way too easily to be an effective social worker, and that’s okay. But I built on that knowledge that there were other ways to help kids that are just as important as social work is to get Elena to where she was.

And of course, I would not be anywhere near the same person if I had a different family. My family is a lot like Elena’s, except the extended family tends to be much less accepting of anyone other than themselves. My mom is one of nine kids, and I have so many cousins that I lost count around 20. Until a few years ago, all of my maternal family lived within a 3 hour radius of my grandmothers house. I grew up at my grandparents’ kitchen table surrounded by people and noise and joy. I wanted to share that joy with Elena, but also allow her to have the supportive extended family that I wish I had.

All of that put together help me create Learning Curves. I’m incredibly proud of the novella that I’ve put into the world. I hope that you will love all of these pieces that I have cobbled together into the happy, fluffy romance that is Learning Curves.


IMG_1705Ceillie Simkiss is a queer writer of all stripes based in southern Virginia. She is also a blogger, public relations professional, and freelance writer. She has bylines at sites like Culturess, Global Comment, and Let’s Fox About It, in addition to her self-published novella Learning Curves

She started writing fiction as an escape from her day job as a small town journalist, and has been at it ever since, with the support of her partner, her dog and her cats.

Author Interview– Claudie Arseneault

Hi Claudie, welcome to my blog! Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Sure thing. I’m a fantasy writer, with the very occasional dip into science fiction. I tend towards longer stories, large casts of characters, but smaller scales and domestic scenes. I’m also both asexual and aromantic, and that’s reflected in my writing—in the characters, but also in how I gravitate towards non-romantic relationships as the center of my stories.

Your books are really fun and super queer. Where do you get your inspiration from?

A bit of everywhere, really. Sometimes it’s something I’ve read, or a trope in a video game I play. Sometimes it’s a tweet, or a long discussion with other writers on twitter. I tend to absorb a lot of ideas and want to write everything, so I try to cobble several inspirations together in a single, cohesive story. I find that with time, my brain has become used to coming up with new ideas, and anything from a Youtube video about glassblowing to panels brainstorming alien stories can send me into plot-bunny land. Usually, the moment I step into character creation process, it gets queered up.

Can you tell us about your new project, BAKER THIEF?

Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.Baker Thief_cover

Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of
witches’ souls.

When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.

 

Baker Thief is the first book of a series which will always have at least one aromantic MC, and which reapplies classic romance tropes but to platonic relationships. In this one, it’s Enemies to Lovers which becomes Enemies to Queerplatonic Partners, but I’m looking at things like Mutual Pinning but for friends, for example.

I set it in a created city that’s kind of a mix of Quebec City, my home, and Siena, which I was visiting while drafting. I love how familiar it is, while still having unique elements like the quartiers (neighbourhoods) and an annual wintry city-wide tournament.

BAKER THIEF is available for pre-order now, and will be released on June 25! You can find it on Gumroad or at any of these other stores.

I love hearing about other writers’ processes, so can you tell us what your writing process looks like?

I’m the kind of writer who needs an outline to start. Not knowing where a story is going will block me. But that outline can be only a handful of scenes ahead, and a few key points later down the line. I’m also very prompt to veer completely off route while I write my first drafts haha. Whatever feels right is what I roll with when drafting. I believe it helps me keep the heart of the novel alive and gives me better tools to make it shine after. Edits can take several rounds, and I tend to rewrite everything from start to finish at least once, after I’ve let the novel rest and considered what big changes I want to bring.

Any favorite snacks for while you write?

Coffee!! Or sake, if I feel like alcohol. I tend not to snack much otherwise, in big parts because most of my writing time is during evening, after dinner. When I’m home more (on weekend of vacations) I’ll go for pretty much anything in the fridge.

What media are you loving right now (books, shows, etc)?

I watch almost no TV shows, mostly because I have super limited leisure time, and I would rather have a book in my hands. I love discovering new indie writers and will devour anything from my favs there. Recent loves include Tone of Voice, the second book of Kaia Sonderby’s wonderful Xandri Corelel series, Revenant Gun, the last of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy, and Death Masquerade, RoAnna Sylver’s queer vampires in Venice series.

And where can people find you? 

The best way to get the regular, important news from me is to sign up to my newsletter. It goes out every month! You can also find me on social media on twitter, or check out my website for all useful information.


Claudie_AuthorPic_MediumClaudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic spectrum writer hailing from Quebec City.

Her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders
centered on aromantic and asexual characters. Her high fantasy series, City of Spires,
started in February 2017. Her next book, Baker Thief, features a bigender aromantic baker and is full of delicious bread, French puns, and magic.

Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her
involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!

 

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.

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.

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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.