sale, Viable Paradise

Sale Announcement!

I’ve just received an acceptance letter! Excited to announce that my story, “Two Letters Crossing Paths through the FairyMail” will appear in the anthology 99 Fleeting Fantasies, a collection of flash fiction fantasy stories. From the call for submissions:

Magic and mystery, gods and goblins, curses and crystals. Give us your fleeting fantasies. All of them. From traditional to epic to urban to science to whatever you can come up with as long as it is fantasy. Give me fantastical stories that delight, amaze, frighten, and mystify. Gritty and low level to universe shaking. Swords and sorcery. Djinns and elder gods in the garden. Fairy rings in space. Spells gone awry. Broken curses. Stolen artifacts. Prophecies come true. Wishing wells with personality. Any type of fantasy is on the table as long as it has a fantastical element to it.

In addition, I’m also pleased that I’ll be sharing the table of contents with one of my VP XVII cohort, Elizabeth Walker, for the first time. So awesome!

I don’t have much more information right now, but I’ll be sure to make more available to you once I have that info–as if you had any doubt, lol. Anyway, it makes a great start to a short, post-holiday week.

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life

Autumn’s Arrival

Even here, in the heat and humidity of central Florida, it’s clear that the season is shifting from summer into autumn. For the last few weeks, the oaks, in particular, have drooped a bit more as if weary from battling the heat, and their once-intensely-green leaves have shifted to a drab olive. Now they’re beginning to drop acorns onto the sidewalks, where they crunch mightily underfoot (and boy do I enjoy that crunch, the way it pops and the sense of that pop shivers up my foot and ankle with the sound!)

Add to this the mushrooms suddenly sprouting everywhere–small ones under the oak tree. A huge one in the neighbor’s lawn where just yesterday nothing marred the green of their St Augustine grass, and another like it halfway around the block, and equally isolated! Such mysteries they are, secretive yet lovely.

The squirrels are busy eating every magnolia seedpod, stripping the “fluff” to get the nutritious red “berries” nestled within, and the hawk who earlier this year was catching anole lizards has finally–finally!–progressed to eating squirrels! The ibis flocks are all the of white adults, with no more brown or speckled juveniles in their midst, and the tiny ducklings are grown.

And, finally, after weeks and weeks of little rain, the rain has returned, and now the National Hurricane Center is tracking two disturbances that could become hurricanes, one red (very likely to progress) and the other orange (maybe will progress). So, yes, it’s autumn, even here in the south.

I’m looking forward to opening my windows, to sitting outdoors, to becoming more active in my gardens–all the things folks up north do in the summer, I do in fall and winter, when it’s cool enough. Even Dasher’s been perkier during the evening walks, since the rains leave the temps dropped to bearable for a few hours, at least. His pace is fast, and I’m forced to speed-walk–something I’ve almost forgotten how to do since all the long summer I’ve been the one pushing him forward!

Did I mention fall is my favorite season? Even here, in the south? LOL, I bet you guessed.

I do miss nature’s vibrant leafy displays from up north, and those first frosty nights, and the hearty meals to counteract them. But I’m looking forward to the new crop of fresh citrus, and freshly-pressed orange juice for breakfast, and eating outdoors. Raking leaves? Well, not so much joy there. St Augustine grass has runners that the rake catches and it’s just annoying. But it’ll be that time all too soon, and the exercise will be good for me.

Until then, back to writing, and reading, and other indoor pursuits. And may fall be glorious for us all.

goals, Writing

Draft Finished!

Yesterday I finished the first draft of my calligraphy-magic novel, The Mastery Books.

Let me repeat that: I finished my novel’s first draft! OMG you have no idea I just…HURRAY!

I’d anticipated the book coming in between 90,000-95,000 words, with an goal of the finished book (however many edit drafts later that comes) to be closer to 90,000 words. And guess what? This draft ended at 91,450 words. I just…Wow. I’m in shock. It’s so close to my anticipated goal!!! I’m done and 100% on target!

I used a new outlining method for this one, and man did it work for me like nobody’s business! My outline was 2-3 columns in an Excel spreadsheet for each chapter, one column for actions, the next for emotions and immediate reactions that lead to the next chapter, and the third for “hey don’t forget this; the bad guy is thinking this,” etc–notes to myself more than story plotting.

Now I get a couple weeks to play with short fiction, read a crit partner’s book, drink daiquiri’s in the sun… well, okay, maybe not that last one (not too much, at least). But some time away, to let me forget this story so that when I come back to read and edit, it’ll seem fresh and I’ll see the stuff I need to fix.

How am I celebrating, you may ask. Well, the AC repair guy is here…so with continued air conditioning! (yeah, not my favorite way to celebrate, either) Actually, I’m giving myself an entire day to play one day next week. A complete day off, no time spent at the keyboard at all, no errands. It sounds glorious.

Magic of the Everyday, Writing

On Hitting the Mysterious, Mayhem-inducing “75% Done and It All Sucks” Spot

Yes, it’s true. I’m 75% done with this novel. (cue the cheering and confetti.) It’s been slower going of late due to many “real life issues,” but I’m chugging along just as fast as I can when I can, and I’m seeing great progress, which I love so much! It’s heartening to see the end approaching, and that encourages me to write more–a good positive feedback loop, for once!

Buuuuut … (there’s always a “but,” isn’t there), on the other hand, I’m at the 75% point. Which is the time when I start to feel omg this is all trash, I don’t even know what I’m doing, or why I thought I could ever write, and yes it all suuuuuucks! Yes, the self-doubt goes into overdrive, and my brain only thinks bad stuff and is sure that the entire novel is flawed beyond repair. And this happens even while a part of me realizes what’s going on and knows that it’s just part of the process (and not just for me, but for many, if not most, writers; I’ve read about so many others who struggle with this! So if it’s you, too–you’re not alone.).

I think I’ve mentioned that this is the most-planned novel I’ve ever written, and that is helping me immensely. When I sit down to write, I always know what I’m writing toward, and where it’s going from there, on both the internal and external arcs, so I can write faster than ever–YAY!

Yet even so, I’ve deviated a bit from that intensive planning here and there, when, as I go along, I realize that no, this character wouldn’t think that, or I discover a better emotional response to a development, or whatever. Is there’s still the thrill of discovery going on in each day’s writing, too. Without that, I’d get bored. And if I’m bored with writing something, you’re sure gonna be bored reading it!

Anyway, all this is to say, “YAY GO ME! Write write write!” And also to encourage you, if you’re writing or doing whatever creative thing you’re doing, and at some point all the energy and positives seem to leak away. Just keep on going, and finish your project. It’s not the project actually being bad. It’s just your brain being overwhelmed at this stage. If you push on, you’ll see your brain was lying to you (man, I wish my brain would stop lying to me. It does it too well!). And then, when you finish, I’ll be cheering and sending virtual confetti to you, too!

food, publication, Writing

Publication Day!

I have a new story available over at Nature: Futures today. Titled “Grace and Flavour, Under Pressure,” it’s about food and cooking, in spaaaaaaace! I hope you’ll click the link and head over to read it. While you’re there, you might peruse some of the other Futures stories, too–they’re quite good.

As “The Story Behind the Story” block indicates, this came about because of a misread prompt on a Codex contest, wherein my brain swapped “Seasoning” for “Season.” As an avid cook, I was happy with this. And yes, before you ask, I have made this recipe–although not with those types of apples, or heritage pork breeds, etc. It is delicate and delicious and delightful, and one of my favorite fall meals.

Ironically, the first time I ate this meal, it was at a French restaurant in Nürnberg, Germany: Prison St. Michel, on Irrerstraße. I’ll admit to being flummoxed at walking in and being greeted in French, not German (I mean, I should have expected it, but I was already living in one foreign-to-me language, and I was young), but the tiny restaurant was simply amazing. In a kitchen the size of my bathroom, they made delicious, freshly-made meals for the patrons of the narrow, two-story restaurant shoe-horned onto a non-touristy street. Ahhh, the smells wafting out from that place every time the door opened. I can still smell it!

What I guess I’m saying is that, although I’m no Daumont — I don’t have a grandmere but a grandma, and I’m far from the wealthiest person on earth — there is a part of me in his character. I’d definitely miss the flavors of earth, should I ever leave.

Right now, though, for some reason I’m feeling the need to go cook. Maybe a plum coffeecake…

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Today's Desk

Writer’s Desk, 6/14/22

Out the Window: hazy, hard-edged pale gray-blue skies with huge white puffs of tall-climbing cauliflower-clouds and super-high humidity. Meaning it’s going to rain this afternoon/evening. Again. It is the rainy season, after all. Yay?

On the Desktop: a small bowl of carrot bites. I’ve discovered that I like crunching things while I’m thinking my way through hard story bits, and carrots are the perfect thing! Also my water bottle, nearly empty. And a folder of pertinent novel notes and maps and such.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Today’s Work-in-Progess: I’m over halfway through my next novel, tentatively called “The Mastery Books.” It’s split alternating chapters of two POV characters, and I simply love them both so very much, although they’re also so different from one another.

This is the first time I’ve tried this new work process, and I have to admit that it seems to be working for me rather spectacularly (so far, fingers crossed!). I haven’t written a novel so fast and so painlessly ever before. We’ll see how it goes in edits, but I think this method I’ve stumbled on through trial and error (and error and error) may be the one I keep!

And Another Thing: We’re hip-deep in kitchen renovations! Which basically means I have no kitchen in the kitchen. It’s wallboard and cement, wiring, and right now, new tile floors being installed. Maybe tonight or tomorrow we can grout. (Grouting Day comes twice this year! My knees are complaining already.)

The fridge is in the living room, there’s a camp stove and the microwave out under cover in the lanai, and the dishwashing station is now the largest bathroom’s counter. It’s like camping, with dust and too many tools, inside your own house. (I highly recommend it to anyone who’s taking the conveniences of modern life for granted!) But when it’s functional again, and the pans, food, dishes, etc, are restored, the new kitchen will be wonderful and lovely. I just have to keep holding onto that dream until reality reaches it. (Hey, it’s kinda like writing, then, isn’t it! LOL)

Magic of the Everyday, poem, RIP

What the Ending Ought to Be

My baby came home from school today
Crying, afraid. 
There had been gunshots, and lockdown
Not a practice but for real.

My baby came home from school today
But his best friend didn’t.
He went to the hospital in an ambulance that didn’t scream,
Without the lights running at all.

My baby came home from school today
And now all I want
Is to hold him, hug him, let him cry in my lap
So he doesn’t see my tears and terror
Because too soon, I’ll have to send him back.

This isn’t what the ending ought to be,
So I’m going
to write a better one, for every other 
Teacher, parent, and child.

My baby came home from school today
Waving his test in hand.
That A meant ice cream
Cool and sticky as it melted and ran
Down a smiling face.
Not a tear in sight as I kissed the top of his head
And ruffled his best friend’s hair.

My baby came home from school today,
And so did everyone else’s.

–M. E. Garber

Guest Post, Links, Taos Toolbox, Writing

New Release Radar: Assistant to a Judge of Hell and Other Stories

Shannon Rampe is joining us today to talk about his new story collection, Assistant to a Judge of Hell and Other Stories. Here’s the description of the book:

  • In Assistant to a Judge of Hell, San Guan finally has a crack at reincarnation after a thousand years as a bureaucrat in hell, but only if he can convince a slanderous, insubordinate, and recently-deceased Pan Xiaojian to take the job.
  • In BabiesBradley notices that his wife Anne is acting strangely after he finds a litter of babies in the street.
  • In WarniksNimit Okeke, the Speaker of the Solar System, is facing the worst crisis of his administration, and it isn’t the teddy bear-shaped aliens who just gravity-bombed Jupiter.
  • In Bad SoulJade Blossom laments how nothing ever changes, but when he enlists a crude and charismatic poet to push his radical ideas, he unwittingly unleashes a force of nature along with some questionable poetry!

These four stories from the warped brain of Shannon Rampe are darkly twisted, using unexpected violence, vicious snarkiness, and wanton chaos to wildly comedic effect. Terrible, nasty people get their comeuppance and good people—okay, slightly superficial and moderately selfish people—come out on top.

But what does Shannon love most about the book? Let’s find out:

This collection contains some of my favorite stories that I have written, and certainly the most fun. The jokes always crack me up. (I know, what’s worse than laughing at your own jokes? But these stories are populated with exactly the sort of people who laugh at their own jokes… and worse!)

Really, these stories are about bad people getting their just desserts and slightly less bad people putting those bad people in their place, and those are the most satisfying moments in the stories. But I really love the stories behind the stories.

For example, the title story was written while I was living in London, working 80+ hour weeks as a contractor for a global banking megacorp while my soul was slowly ground to dust. One day, I took an actual lunch break and walked to the British Museum, where I encountered a Ming Dynasty-era sculpture of a green-faced porcelain bureaucrat, the Assistant to the Judge of Hell, and this story sprang to life in my head. At the time, being trapped in the gears of a nightmarish bureaucracy that felt like it was stretching out before me for a thousand years gave me a very personal insight into the sense of desperate insanity in the story.

Babies was written at Viable Paradise in a single, frenzied five-hour rush. This story gets laughs and cringes in equal parts whenever people read it. I love the fact that everyone who reads this story has a strong reaction to it—usually laughter and disgust! I’ve written four full-length novels but this story remains one of the pieces of writing that I am most proud of because the imagery and descriptions are so shocking and visceral.

Finally, one of the things that happens when you put together a project like this are the happy accidents. You only discover them later when reading through the text. For example, in Warniks, Nimit Okeke accuses his political opponent of eating babies. In the next story, we encounter babies who eat people. 

I think anyone who has a twisted sense of humor will really enjoy these stories!

LINKS:

Assistant to a Judge of Hell and Other Stories on Amazon.com

Shannon’s Website

Shannon’s Twitter

BIO:

Shannon Rampe is a writer and project manager living in southern California. He has attended the Viable Paradise Writing Workshop, the Taos Toolbox Writing Workshop, and Paradise Lost, amongst other programs. 

His works have appeared in Speculative City, Abyss & Apex, and The Gallery of Curiosities podcast, amongst others. His first book, When Stars Move and Other Stories is also available on Amazon. His hobbies include yoga and craft cocktail-making, though not usually at the same time.

Shannon is represented by Susan Velazquez Colmant at JABberwocky Literary Agency.