publication

Sale to DSF!

Now that the ink is dry, I’m happy to announce that I’ve sold my second flash fiction story to Daily Science Fiction‘s online magazine! I don’t have a publication date yet, but “Jancy8146 and the RealHouse” will be published there within a year’s time, and I’ll be sure to update you when it’s available to read!

Or you could subscribe to DSF and find out even earlier–it’s free, after all. And if you’re feeling the love for the stories you read there, you could tip them a small monetary contribution to help keep them up and running, and keep the good stories coming your way.

That’s it for now. I’ll make my usual “behind the story” post here once the story is up. Until then, stay home, wash your hands, stay safe.

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

Writer’s Desk, 3/19/20

Out the window: Clear blue skies and oaks in greens shading from newly leafed spring green to a contented have-been-here-a-month-now darker green, while the grass is turning a crispy shade of tan.

On the desktop: oh what a mess! Notes, a water glass (it’s the dry season, and not only the grass gets crispy without hydration), a pack of gum, the dog’s toy (so he’ll just nap already!), about 15 gagillion notebooks (no I don’t have a notebook problem why do you ask?), more notes, a scattering of various pens, a to-do list, the type of toner cartridge my printer needs written on yet another note, printouts of chapters for editing, and a Lamy fountain pen containing beautiful Diamine Red Dragon ink.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  I’m doing another pass of Unspoken, this being the final one before beta (alpha?) readers get their hands on it. It’s nerve-wracking, seeing what you thought was “really good” writing at the time, and now seeing all the problems with it. Like, “What was I thinking, this is terrible and why didn’t I just do thing X here instead? The whole novel is a trashfire” type of problems.

And yet, my friends tell me this is completely warranted at this stage of writing. I’m sick of this book, seeing and reading the same stuff, over and over. And yet, I still love this world, and my characters, and…

I gave myself a break this past week. I worked on short story editing. It felt great. Like a huge breath of fresh air and energy. Subbed out a few shorts, and now have two stories on hold–YAY! “On hold” doesn’t always result in a sale, of course, so there’s still room for disappointment. But it did the trick and I feel ready to attempt novel edits with renewed enthusiasm.

And Another Thing: Novel corona virus. Social distancing. Isolation. Ugh. This stuff is real, and really bad. Wherever you are, I hope you stay safe and healthy. Wash your hands, please, and stay home whenever possible.

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Writing

Spring Changes

This week, the sandhill cranes have been gathering into great flocks that swirl up the late morning thermals into the higher altitudes, their melancholy voices calling and overlapping into a overwhelming, bittersweet chorus as they begin their long journeys northwards. Yesterday morning, the far end of the alley, where the trees are thickest, was overrun with robins. Hundreds of them, chirping and calling and catching every bug they could find before they, too, flew off in loose groups of tens and twenties for their northern mating grounds.

My windows are open all night, and local strawberries are in at the farmers’ market. On the afternoon dog walk, we seek out the shady path instead of the sunny one. And the plum tree has burst into fluffy white bloom, promising another bumper crop come summer. Even the wee new blueberry bushes are in blossom!

Plum tree in blossom

It’s official, then. Spring is here. The groundhog was right. Despite the snow and ice still plaguing the north, the birds are flying spring up to you.

Spring is a season of change. Of renewal and rebirth. And in that light, I have some news of a wonderful change in my life: I have been accepted as an Active Member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America! This has been a goal of mine for a very long time, and I’m thrilled to be able to join this organization, and to nominate and vote on the Nebula Awards!

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Writing

Finally, It’s Fall

This morning I woke to a thick blanket of fog rolling up from the low spaces. It hung heavy over the earth, dampening sound as well as grasses and shrubs. As the sun rose, it shrouded the sky higher up, making distant trees indistinct and grainy, and obscured the yellow ball of the sun until just recently. Even the crows respected the fog, remaining quieter, longer.

A sure sign of transitional weather, this is the first fog I’ve seen this season. It means cooler weather to come, and a quick check of the weather proves this to be true. I’m ready for fall–real fall, that sticks around instead of fleeing at the first sign of Summer’s pushback, letting temps climb back into the upper 80s and above. I’m ready for long sleeves, and long pants, and maybe a roast or stew for dinner. Change: it’s good, and it’s time.

I’ve been writing on the novel, but my written words aren’t as prolific as they were at my residency. This makes me feel like I’m slacking, or shirking, while in reality, it’s just life slowly gobbling away my time and attention. I’m trying not to let it get me down, but (like with so much in this world, and this life), it’s hard.

To counter the sense of getting nowhere fast, I’ve re-started a daily word count spreadsheet that some of the people I went to Taos Toolbox with use. We keep it on a Google Docs spreadsheet, available to all of us, so there is a small public accountability built in. And I’ve got to admit, seeing the “smaller” daily word count building up is helping me see that I am making real progress after all.

I’m also taking one day a week to work on editing short stories that I’ve written which have been languishing, unsubmitted, unedited–sometimes only half-written–in favor of the novel. This, too, feels good. The “instant gratification” of a short story, or a short story submission, is a shot of endorphins straight to the brain. “Look, see–I am a writer! I do have submissions out!” Brains, they’re such silly, manipulatable things, amiright?

Things to look forward to:

  • I’m approaching the mid-point of the novel! Things really pick up pace after that.
  • Thanksgiving! (and Thanksgiving leftovers!) Yum.
  • Hearing the return of the sandhill cranes as they wing overhead.
  • Watching Dasher get frisky, and run and play longer in the newly cool weather.
  • Anniversary travel in early December. Even though our wedding was in September, our big trip is planned for December. You’ll see why, once I post some photos. 🙂

Well, the crows have ceased their calling, so it’s time for me to start the writing day. Enjoy fall, in whatever form it takes for you (or spring, if you’re in the southern hemisphere!). Linger in the moment, make it a good memory. Something you can see and feel and smell again, over and over, when you need it. Yes, there’s definitely magic in that.

Personal Life, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 5/29/18

Out the window: Low, dense clouds that sometimes spit sprinkles of rain. The forecast calls for storms later this afternoon, and as it’s getting darker, it looks like the forecast may be right. Oops. There it is–heavy rain, hitting the metal roof hard enough to echo and reverberate in a mysterious, lovely way that makes me crave a good book, and a nap.

On the desktop: Not much, really. The usual odds and ends of notebooks waiting for words, my glasses case, Burt’s Bees lip balm, and a pack of gum.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  Structural edit notes to my novel, Unspoken. I’ve gotten a printout of the novel and am marking it up by hand, so I can see at a glance the length of each scene, how many pages each one is, and how many slow or fast scenes are bunching up. I can flip pages to see how long the pace has been fast, or if it’s gone from “a breather” into “catatonic,” and make notes to fix this, as necessary.

Sometimes this is a faster process than writing, and other times, it’s far, far slower. Regardless, it’s a process that definitely needs to happen, and I’m learning much from it–about myself as “a writer” (vs as “an editor”),  about my craft and skill levels, about my protagonist, and about what the novel is really, really about.

And, while yes, I wrote these words, I’m reading them from enough distance now that they’re almost new to me. And this is a good thing. I’m not just slipping over them, but I’m reading them the way I’d read another’s novel, and seeing all those flaws (OMG, the flaws! There are so many!). I’m also seeing the things I did really quite well. Which is always a pleasant surprise.

And Another Thing: Oh my gosh, the plums! The little tree is just ripening those fruit so fast now that it’s a challenge to keep up with them all, and the rains keep knocking them off the tree to the ground… We’ve had plum jam, plum cake, and plum ice cream. Next up is a plum crumble, I think. And of course, more plum jam. I think I’m going plum crazy!

plain silliness, Writing

On Not-Writing

The dog sleeps contentedly, the chores remain caught up.
Looks around for something else to do, but the eye rests on nothing undone.
Even the cat has been waxed, and run off yowling.
(It is not my cat, but a friendly neighborhood stray. I fear I may have offended it.)

Nothing for it then.

Pours Japanese green tea in fancy Thai teacup.
Sips. Dreams.
Opens file and at last, and begins to write.

Links, publication, Writing

A Little Late, but Better Than Never…

Monday was Tell A Fairy Tale Day, and I meant to post this here then…but, ya know, life, yadda yadda. Anyhow, I’m here and posting now, so that’s going to have to work for this year.

Here’s a little story I wrote a few years back. I hope you like this darkly funny tale, and can find the various stories and nursery rhymes it references.

 

Jack Spratt: The Real Story

by M. E. Garber

 

Jack Spratt could eat no fat,

His wife could eat no lean.

Betwixt the two, 

They licked the platter clean.

***

Jack leaned back from the evening meal, a dark-furred hand going up to pick at his large teeth.

“Mr. Spratt, if you please! Do not pick your teeth at the table!” His wife’s deep voice so close behind him made him jump like a nervous hare. He was glad, therefore, that she had just eaten her fill of the roasted goat. He, meanwhile, had made short work of the salad and carrots. It was a stem of said salad that was stuck between his teeth just now, but he ignored it due to the racing of his heart.

“Sorry, dearest. But I do wish you’d quit sneaking up behind me. It’s not good for my nerves.”

Elsa, his wife, came beside him and cleared away the plate, smiling wolfishly. She liked displaying her large, yellowed canines prominently; he knew she liked the way it made him squirm. Normally he had little qualms over his wife’s peccadillos, but in two nights the moon would be full, and Elsa was growing restless earlier with each moon that passed. It leached away her good sense, and he grew more and more fearful of her during the fullness of the moons.

He retreated to the hearth and poked at the fire, trying to calm his breathing and flatten his gooseflesh. Letting her scent his fear would be bad. In as calm a tone as he could muster, Jack spoke over the sounds of her washing up.

“I thought I might go to the village tomorrow. Leave in the morning, do some trading. Stay a couple nights. Maybe visit my friend Hamm.” He kept his eyes on the snapping fire, but he felt her glowing eyes caressing the back of his head.

“Ohhh, why, Mr. Spratt. I don’t think that’s such a good idea. You know I can use you here during the full moon. To keep things … settled … during my time of the month.”

That’s what she called it, now. Her ‘time of the month,’ as if a werewolf’s curse was something entirely normal. She’d rampage over the countryside for a night and a half, maybe two depending on the moon-cycle, then come straggling back home, naked and bedraggled, flushed with a shameful joy. Lately she’d been staying closer to home during her change. He’d heard her snuffling outside the door, howling in the forest behind the barn.

Jack shook his head. Ever since they’d refused to help the old witch of the wood the year before, when she wanted to lure children, Jack’s ears had grown, and a fine hair grew over his arms and hands, then his whole body. His eyes got sharper, and while living with a woman cursed with lycanthropy never made a man calm, Jack had gotten more high-strung than ever. He refused to admit it for the longest time, but there was no denying it any longer: he was turning into a rabbit. He knew that his wife knew, and found him … interesting.

“Besides,” Elsa murmured, turning her gold-flecked eyes back to her dishes, “you were just to the village two weeks ago, so I can’t imagine you need to visit again so soon.”

Jack froze. His heart hammered once more, and his ears heard the low, throaty laugh his wife gave. He scented his own panic, and knew mortal fear.

#

Jack shut the door to the chicken coop behind him. He’d barricaded the henhouse doors from the inside. Now he prepared to nail boards across the doorframe to secure it — he hoped — from entry. He lifted the hammer, set the nail and swung.

Hot breath on his neck made him leap and twirl, but the hammer landed on his thumb anyway. He hopped a few steps, sucking his thumb, as he took in his wife’s narrowed, gleaming eyes and hungry smile. He noticed the way she tensed at his hopping, and he immediately froze.

“What are you doing, Mr. Spratt?”

“Just protecting the chickens, Mrs. Spratt.” His heart hammered at his throat and made his voice come out as a squeak. Her smile widened.

“Good instincts, but somehow I think the hens will be safe. There are better things on the menu tonight, I do believe.” With a last wolfish grin, she turned and loped back to the house.

#

The moon rose early that evening. His wife never left the house, but sat watching Jack, pinning him to the dark corner of the room with her intense eyes. As soon as the change rendered her immobile, he raced out the door, zigging and zagging in a panic. All too soon, he heard the howl of pursuit, and in a burst of speed, Jack zipped up to Hamm’s dilapidated, straw-mortared hovel. At his panicked knocking, his short, fat friend opened the door. Jack burst inside, slamming the door behind him.

“Why, Jack. Whatever is the matter? Onk.” Hamm always caught his breath after each utterance, sounding like a goose. Or a pig.

Before Jack could explain, Elsa was upon the house, howling for Jack’s blood. The two friends cowered in the center of the room as the wolf shouted, “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!”

“Go away! Onk. Onk.”

Elsa rammed the door, and it gave way in a shower of wood and straw. Jack and Hamm sprinted out, to Hamm’s brother’s house nearby.

At Pudge’s wooden house, the scene repeated itself, and Jack and the two little pigs squealed in terror as they zipped to the eldest brother’s home. Porky’s home was stout brick, and when the wolf arrived hot on their heels, Porky laughed at the wolf’s foolishness. Jack cowered by Porky’s feet, panting, as his friend’s brother told off the wolf.

The door shuddered once, twice, three times, but held. Elsa snarled and snapped on the other side, cursing Jack, cursing bricks, and doubly-cursing Porky. Jack looked up, his pulse slowing as hope bloomed in his heart.

There was a long silence, then the sound of footsteps on the roof.

“The chimney!” Jack shouted. But Porky was already stoking the fire higher. He placed a large soup pot in the hearth. The wolf popped out the chimney and fell into the pot, and Porky threw the heavy lid onto it. Jack and the others raced to hold the lid in place as the wolf who’d been his wife struggled to escape.

As the bangs and knocks came to an end, Jack grinned at his friend.

“Looks like you’ll have soup tonight, my friends. Thanks!”

“No thanks needed. But you know, there’s one thing that goes perfect with soup.”

“Oh?” Jack looked back towards the kettle, sniffing appreciatively as Porky lifted the lid. “What?”

“Roast rabbit.”

As the lid hit his skull, Jack heard the pigs cheer, and he saw only dark.

###

(This story was first published in Short Sips; Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2)

If you liked this short tale, here are links to a few other people who played along this year–and they actually got their stories posted on time, unlike me. (Drat them! Um, I mean, good for them!)

Cecile Cristofari

Melissa Mead

Karlo Yeager Rodriguez

 

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Writing

NovemberJoys

While the days get darker, and the nights get longer, this year I’m finding much to be happy about.

First of all, our new solar panels were turned on yesterday! I am overjoyed. From now on, seeing the sun shining in the clear sky will make me happy, regardless of how hot it may be. Our excess energy will backload into the grid, feeding our neighbors’ electrical needs, so let it shine, baby!

Next up: Today is Fountain Pen Day!

What, you didn’t know I’m a bit of a fountain pen freak? Well, I am. I’m not a “power user,” if there is such a thing. I’m not really a collector, even. I just have a few pens that I love to use, and I love looking at other pens–the beautiful ones, the stunning ones, the bright ones and the sleek ones. Old-fashioned or modern and new, fountain pens are beautiful.

A fountain pen is (or in my mind, should be) a work of art as much as a functional thing. If I merely wanted “functionality,” I’d use a cheap throwaway, right? But no. I want something pleasant to look at, something that feels right in my hand, and whose ink I can change to match my mood. And oh, the inks they make these days! Try looking at these. And that’s just one brand of ink at one retailer (a favorite retailer, I might add)! Check out the other brands there by clicking the “brand” on the left side. A couple favorites of mine are J. Herbin’s Stormy Gray, Pilot Iroshizuku’s Fuyu-gaki, and Diamine’s Eau de Nil. But there are so many more to try!

Thirdly, this is November, and for writers, November means NaNoWriMo–NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. I’ve never been much of a fan of this event. It’s just not my type of thing, and never really has been. I’m all for others doing NaNo, mind you; if it works for you, go for it! But I don’t do well chugging out words to meet an arbitrary word count in a long-haul kind of way. I get exhausted partway through, crash, then get depressed that I couldn’t “make my goal.” Bleah.

And yet…this year, I’m doing a modified version of NaNo, along with a group of like-minded friends. We’re calling it “Nearly NaNo,” and each of us has made his or her own private goal for the month. Since I’m already partway through a novel, my goal is another 20,000 words on this novel–not a crazy amount by any means, and utterly achievable IF I don’t slack off at the end of the month!

Cooler weather is another fine thing on this list of happy things. The AC is off, the windows are open. I’m even wearing sweaters in the morning. Sometimes long pants all day! Rotating to a new set of clothes–look! I can wear sleeves!–is such a joy. Enjoying long walks outside is even better.

Speaking of walks outside, don’t forget here in the US, on Sunday we roll back into Standard Time. Which, well, yeah. Time change is not something I’m happy about.

But so it goes. Happy November, all. Go write something with a pen today. Yes, by hand. Maybe sitting in a sunbeam at lunch. You might be surprised how much you enjoy it.