Choose the Cover of My New eBook!

I initially intended to transcribe my collection of short stories published in print in 2000 (Rarely Well Behaved) and re-issue it as an eBook, but, of course, I had to tweak. I refreshed all the the stories and merged a couple of them into a novella length work and handed the file off to my proofreader. She had a wonderful idea–split the book up into two or more eBooks by type of story.

The result is Fences, which includes the literary short stories and some sci-fi/spec-fi/magical realism stories (See the cover in the right sidebar under “Update About the Update.”), and Blood Vengeance, which includes the espionage/thriller/suspense stories. The cover forFences is pretty logical and set, but I need a little help in deciding on a cover for Blood Vengeance.

Two of the stories in that volume involve the war in the Balkans in the 1990’s. The title story and another entitled “Giving the Dead Back Their Names” deal with the aftermath of ethnic cleansing events there. The latter story involves the forensic identification of the remains of the massacre at Srebrenica. The title story involves getting revenge for a massacre of men and boys in a small village.

Take a look at the possibilities below and leave a comment about which you prefer, or you can just leave the comment “Skull” or “Coffins,” per the captions, and I’ll know which one you mean. I’ll put all the names of commenters in a hat and let one of my grandkids pick a name to receive a signed postcard of one of my Friday Fictioneers’ stories. You have until April 22 to choose.

I know which one I’m leaning toward, but I think it will be fun to get some additional input. Thanks for helping out!

Coffins

Skull

Friday? It’s Friday Fictioneers!

I love it when people buy your book then send you an e-mail telling you they love it. That made my writerly week, I tell you. My collection of short stories is almost twelve years old, but the stories still resonate. That’s what every writer wants, to have people find their work meaningful. I’ve recently transcribed that book, Rarely Well Behaved, so that I can publish it on Amazon as an eBook. My proofreader had a wonderful suggestion: break it up into two or three eBooks with stories of the same genre in each book. What a great idea. I got started on it right away.

At my local writers’ group (SWAG Writers) open mic on Wednesday, I read a short piece which was a flash fiction exercise to write a story about an article of clothing. As soon as I saw the exercise, I remembered my mother complaining about the prosthetic bra she was supposed to wear after her mastectomy some thirty years ago, and the story happened. After I read the story, women in the audience, and a couple of men, came up to me to tell me how meaningful it was to them.

So, all in all, a good week for the writer-me, and now it’s capped off by Friday Fictioneers!

Here’s this week’s inspiration photo:

And I’m sure you know where I’m going with this story:

Appearances are Deceiving

He lured the child into the tunnel with the promise of Harry Potter.

“It’s like the train station. You go through the wall to get to the Hogwarts Express,” he said. “Come on, if you want to see.

He knew she followed him without question; he was her father’s friend.

“You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?” he asked, midway through the tunnel, where no one would see.

“Not at all,” she said.

He spun around at the sound of an adult’s voice.

She willed the disguise spell away and stood before him, a warrior now, with a blade.

—————-

If you want to read more 100-word flash fiction by other Friday Fictioneers, go to Madison Woods’ blog.

Politics Wednesday – So Long, Mr. Santorum, and Good Riddance

I actually respect the public reason given for why Rick Santorum quit the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Parents need to be with a child they know will never make it to adolescence, not to mention adulthood. I respect him for wanting to make his ill child’s life full and happy for however long she will be with that family. There is nothing more devastating to a parent than to lose a child, and knowing since her birth that you were going to lose her, that your time with her would be short, is unfathomable.

I won’t even mention the months the family has been on the campaign trail, other, home-schooled children in tow, while Bella remained at home in the care of others.

Well, you knew the snark had to come in an some point.

In truth, campaigns are exhausting and debilitating for not just the candidate, and Bella was better off at home and not exposed to those rigors.

I don’t respect what’s probably the reason behind Santorum’s “suspension of my campaign,” which is that he was about to be rejected again by his home state. Rick, nobody thinks well of a quitter, especially one who quits when he knows he’s going to lose. Just a few weeks ago, he had a commanding lead over Willard Mitt Romney, a lead significant enough to encourage him to stay in the race and prolong it. As Republicans began to accept The Inevitable Romney, that lead shrank, then Santorum lagged behind Romney. Despite that hard shell of sanctimonious judging Santorum surrounds himself with, that had to hurt.

Of course, Santorum’s exit just encourages Newt Gingrich, who has vowed to stay in until Tampa, though what good it will do him is beyond me. Oh, wait. It’s no longer a campaign. It’s an extended book-selling, picture-with-Newt-and-Callista-selling tour, funded by people deluded enough to think Gingrich cares about them.

Ron Paul is still just your eccentric grandfather you wish you could relegate to a locked room in the house where no one can hear his backwards, racist ranting and worship of Ayn Rand. (Didja figure out why his senator son’s first name is Rand?)

And now we have the Inevitable Mitt, who stayed in his place in line, dutifully, like most Republicans, and waited his turn. Some people think this Republican penchant for “bide your time, and it’ll be your go” is somehow orderly and logical. At one time it was, but when the Republican Party was co-opted by first the pro-lifers (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) then by the wiggy Tea Party, from your perspective in line, you decide you have to lurch right as well. That’s why we got to hear Romney say he’s always been a “severe Republican.” No, Mitt, you haven’t. You were indistinguishable in some areas from a liberal Democrat, except for the whole Bain Capital, make a gazillion dollars and hide it in off-shore accounts thing.

Democrats are more like a pinball machine–bouncing from the likes of Carter to Dukakis to Mondale to Clinton to Gore to Kerry to Obama. Republicans always sneered at the disorganization (their term) of the Democratic Party, but from chaos we got President Obama, and that’s enough for me and a lot of like-minded people.

Over the weekend, when rumors of Santorum’s exit stirred, someone suggested that he should wait as all good Republicans do because in “eight years” he’ll still be younger than Romney is now. (The pundit’s assumption was that we’d have two Romney terms–fat chance of that.) After eight years, what will an older, more judgemental, more self-righteous Santorum look like? I shudder to think–except that he’ll have morphed into some Gollum-like creature no one can stomach, and that’ll be a good thing.

So, Republican Party, how’s that whole inevitability thing working for ya?

My thoughts go out to little Bella Santorum, that she may have a happy life without pain or suffering. She is the best of them.

Reality is Just a Crutch for People Who Can’t Handle Sci-Fi

The title of this post I took from a small sign I bought many, many years ago at a sci-fi convention called Balticon. I always put it in a prominent place in every cubicle or office I’ve ever had. I’ve loved sci-fi since I first started to read something other than Dick and Jane and endured ridicule for it from friends and family. My mother swore reading sci-fi would give me nightmares because covers of paperbacks books back then were pretty lurid–a lot of big-headed, bug-eyed, multi-limbed aliens menacing a buxom blonde. Many times, the story within had nothing to do with the cover, but covers sell the book.

And, of course, I gave writing sci-fi a try, thinking I was good enough as a teen to submit to the venerable sci-fi genre magazine, Fantasy and Science Fiction. The rejection didn’t discourage me from writing, but it did make me realize that I was a better sci-fi reader. One of my short stories, published last year in eFiction Magazine, has a sci-fi hint–it’s the story of a professor hired for what seems is her dream job, then she finds out it involves time travel. Since it was a character study, I didn’t need to go deeply into the physics of possible time travel.

I know I’m about to offend some, but to me sci-fi is space, spaceships, space travel, traveling to other planets, encountering aliens (“new life and new civilizations”), living or co-existing with same with the concomitant problems, and time travel. To me it’s not telepathic cats, even if they live on another planet, any form of elves, pixies, ogres, orcs, dragons, or quasi-medieval themes. That’s fantasy or its derivative, sword and sorcery. But Sci-Fi as a genre is very forgiving and has fans who are always open to genre smash-ups.

Now, I have enjoyed some fantasy–Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, Anne McCafferty’s Pern series, Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, Tolkien’s books, among others. I’m currently on book five of George R. R. Martin’s multi-volume A Song of Ice and Fire. But I always go back to what, again to me, is pure sci-fi. Bradley and McCafferty infused some sci-fi into both series, but the sci-fi aspects were always secondary, so far in the past, they were myths and legends, and I could never accept how women were treated in Bradley’s Darkover novels.

One of my favorite books of “pure sci-fi” is a collaboration by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote in God’s Eye. This book involves a quasi-military, human space fleet sent on a first contact mission to a newly discovered planet with life. It’s a well-written and well-spun tale of the things that go right, and wrong, with a first contact, and Niven and Pournelle meshed so well as writers, you can’t tell two people wrote the novel.

A few weeks ago, another writer from my local group, SWAG Writers, approached me with an offer to collaborate on a sci-fi piece. I demurred because I still don’t think I’m a sci-fi writer, but his concept was interesting. Then, I remembered finding a snippet of something I wrote probably more than thirty years ago (I could tell it was type-written.), and I pulled it from its hiding place and re-read it. There was something about it that could fit with my fellow writer’s premise, and I transcribed it as is as a Word file and sent it off to him. What came back was great–excellent enhancements of what I’d written, including an incredible character name, and an addition of a blaster-battle (somewhat requisite)–and I riffed off that to the tune of about 2,500 words late on a Friday night.

I get it now that I don’t have to be an astrophysicist to write sci-fi, and sci-fi has always issued a wealth of memorable characters. So, I’m having fun with collaboration, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s going to go–short story, novella, novel, who knows? But that’s the anticipation, and the lure, of writing.

How about you? Have you ever collaborated in your writing? How did it go? Who are your favorite collaborators? Would you take up an offer to collaborate?

Another Friday Fictioneers!

And Friday rolls around again, and it’s a busy day. Friday Reads, a hair appointment (yeah, I’m hiding my age as long as possible), and–drum roll–Friday Fictioneers! After a lifetime of working, Friday was always my favorite day of the week. Friday Fictioneers is just icing.

I’m sure a shrink would have a field day with my psyche, given the fact that Madison Woods posts these beautiful pictures of nature, and my mind immediately goes to the Apocalypse. It has to be all those sci-fi B-movies I saw as a kid, but today’s 100-word fiction will just prove I’m eccentric. In a good way.

Here’s the lovely photo:

And here’s yet another end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it story.

Survivor

The beauty of the sunrise let him ignore reality.

Inside his cave, he had supplies to keep him for months, perhaps a year, and the river meant fresh water.

He wondered how long before survivors made it this far. By the time that happened, starvation and survival at all costs would have rendered them something less than human. That thought made him check his weapons and ammunition again.

But he would have some time before he had to face the inevitable. Until then, he had the murmuring river, a soft wind rustling the leaves, and the beauty of the sunrise.

———————-

I’m really not a survivalist, and I don’t really think we’re doomed. Honest. Anyway, go on over to Madison Woods’ blog and read some 100-word fiction from normal people.

A Note to Nikki Haley

Dear Gov. Haley,

You don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I mean, I’ve known many women politicians who go against their own interests simply to win an election and curry the favor (no pun intended) of men, and not just Republicans like you.

On a recent broadcast of “The View,” you said something to the effect of “Women aren’t concerned about birth control. They’re concerned about the economy and jobs.” Respectfully, ma’am, your chief of staff needs to change the channel on the gubernatorial television from Fox News to some alternative. Then, you will see women are concerned about birth control and the loss of access to it because, well, it’s pretty simple–women can’t participate in the economy and have jobs if they’re perpetually pregnant. And the other, simple matter is that women get to decide whether or not to be pregnant, something I’m sure you’ve done at some point in your life. I suspect you were very careful not to get pregnant during that alleged affair you supposedly had, so I bet you were pretty concerned about birth control then and gave no thought to the economy.

I can understand–but not excuse–your dismissal of the importance of birth control. After all, the country of your heritage once used abortion as birth control when couples discovered they were having a daughter. I can see how that would mark you, that is, if you bothered to acknowledge that heritage. India, by the way, distributes birth control, free of charge, because they’ve grasped the concept of over-population and its deleterious effect on the economy.

Let me tell you a little story about my Irish grandmother. (Ireland is the country just west of England–I remind you because your narrow-mindedness about birth control makes me wonder if you know of anything beyond our shores.) My grandmother was a midwife in Virginia. One of her patients in the 1930’s had married at the age of 15, quite common in rural areas back then, even rural areas of South Carolina. By the time that woman was 30, my grandmother had delivered her 13 children. The thing that stood out for my grandmother, who was only a few years older than her patient, was that this 30 year old woman, who had been “a beautiful child,” according to Gramma, had gray, thin hair, weighed barely 100 pounds, had lost half her teeth, looked 60, and could barely stand. My grandmother tried to teach her the rhythm method of birth control, but the woman explained she couldn’t say no to her husband. She was dead before she was 35 and had three more children. The last one killed her.

Is this what you want us to go back to? Is this what you want for your daughter? Or your son, for that matter?

If you think women aren’t concerned about birth control, you haven’t paid much attention to the polls showing that independent, women voters are not supporting Republican candidates or their policies and are citing the recent birth control brouhaha as their reason. As a Virginia woman’s sign said at a recent protest in Richmond, “I can’t believe I’m still fighting about this shit.”

Women are concerned about birth control because that’s the single thing which has allowed us to be full partners in the economy. We’re concerned about birth control because we understand family planning is to the benefit of the family. You might say birth control is a family value.

Sincerely,

A Post-Menopausal Woman Who Always Will Be Concerned About Birth Control

Oh, To Be in Paris Now that April’s Here

I’m a little behind in my movie-watching, but tonight I watched “Midnight in Paris.” I can take Woody Allen’s movies or leave them. Some have been brilliant, and some are just the same story retold. “Midnight in Paris,” however, is like porn for writers–it gets your writerly blood moving to all the right places. Seriously.

In the movie, an aspiring novelist on vacation in Paris with his fiancée is somehow transported each night to the Paris of the 1920’s. There, he meets every famous author and artist from that period. Gertrude Stein helps him polish his manuscript, and despite a tempting offer to stay in the past from a mistress of both Picasso and Hemingway, he goes back to his present and, ultimately, his future as a writer in Paris.

I started wondering how I would react to meeting the writers I studied in high school and college or the ones I’ve read and admired over the years, other than being speechless with shock. I’ve never been a Hemingway fan, with the exception of the short story, “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and the novel The Old Man and the Sea. So, he and I would probably have little to discuss. He would be a great drinking companion, however.

Fitzgerald, though, would be someone I could talk to all night. He and I could compare notes about how he dealt with Zelda the nutcase and how my father did the same with my mother. And Gertrude Stein–wow, that would be an amazing conversation. We could discuss lost generations–hers and ours in the 1980’s.

Several years ago, for a trip to New York City, I had the opportunity to stay at the Algonquin Hotel–the Dorothy Parker room, no less. I ate dinner there and could almost hear the voices of Parker, Sherwood, Ferber, et. al., at their famous Round Table. (The first editor I worked for as publication assistant was a “adjunct member” of the Round Table, and I loved her stories about those famous lunches.) I felt pretty cool, sitting at table in the Algonquin Hotel dining room, having a delightful dinner and wonderful wine, while jotting story ideas in my Moleskine. Yes, I thought that was an authentic touch.

Do writers imbue places with their essence to inspire future writers? Who knows, but maybe the inspiration comes from walking the same streets or sitting the same room. Maybe the inspiration is ours, and a shared history brings it to the surface.

If you were the 21st Century author in “Midnight in Paris,” which writers would you want to go back in time and meet? Believe it or not, I’d want to meet Thomas Hardy. Why? I’ll write about that some other time.