Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Walkabout Cat and His Dog




This photo was taken a day or two after Shakir, our "Walkabout Cat," returned from his 3 week adventure (with our retired seeing eye German Shepherd Dog, Tajji).

You can read Shakir's story here and here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Story in The Shadow Conspiracy III



My novelette, "Among Friends," (featuring Quakers, the Underground Railroad, and a slave-catching automaton) will appear in The Shadow Conspiracy III (edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and Brenda W. Clough, with this gorgeous cover by Dave Smeds). ("Among Friends" previously appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2013). The book will be available June 28 in print and various ebook formats.

Here's the back cover copy:

In the world of the Shadow Conspiracy where the human soul has proven to be measurable and transferable to an automaton, the question arises: is the robot a person? The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 freed all the slaves in the states in rebellion against the Federal Government. What if that same document freed ensouled automata as well?

This third volume of the Shadow Conspiracy has seven stories that examine the question of humanity. We take you from an observation hot air balloon above the siege of Vicksburg to the soul-grinding Battle of the Crater, from simple farm folk who call themselves Friends, to the mysticism of Marie Laveau and Voudon. Our award winning authors ask the age-old question of what makes us human, what is the nature of slavery, and who deserves freedom? Only you can provide the answers.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Time, Patience, and the Beginning Writer

Beginning writers enjoy the unappreciated luxury of time. They can work without submission deadlines and crash and burn editorial demands. There’s an undeniable glee in such deadlines; they are the mark of a professional author, aren’t they? They demonstrate our commitment to our writing careers, and that our publishers take us seriously. Deadlines, especially short ones, imply an editor’s trust in our ability to work competently, even brilliantly, at speed. Surely, that’s proof of a high degree of Expertise, not to mention Importance.

If you haven’t picked up the sarcasm in the opening paragraph, please insert it now. Bleary eyes, aching shoulder muscles, unwashed laundry, family eating frozen dinners, and kids running amok from neglect are nobody’s idea of good working conditions. For many published and publishing authors, these things happen from time to time as a part of the publishing industry’s inherent chaos. If we can’t change them and don’t feel we have the option to refuse, then we make them more acceptable via glamorization of suffering. To be sure, when we were beginning writers, we may well have regarded the necessity of dropping everything to proofread a book that should have been done two months ago as a good thing. We wanted to see our work in print, the sooner the better, and too many of us jumped at the chance of being published anywhere.

The time during when we are writing seriously but not (yet) on contract offers its own gifts, and one of them is freedom from publisher- (or editor- or agent-) induced overwork frenzy. We may be overworking in a different way, juggling day jobs, families, and other responsibilities. Our friends and families may regard our writing as a hobby, no matter how seriously we take it, because we have yet made any money at it. (And when we do, the bar escalates: we haven’t sold a novel, we don’t earn enough to support ourselves entirely from our writing, we haven’t won a national award, etc., and with the achievement of each goal, we are subjected to another, even more difficult one.)

A beginning writer has the flexibility to accept external deadlines, like for submission to an anthology or contest, or to ignore them.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Short Story Sale!

I just sold "Sage Mountain" to Sword & Sorceress 31. Some of my stories are fluff and some are dark, and this one just took the bit between its teeth and ran away.

Here's a sneak peek:


The troll bent over to peer at her. “What you do here?”
Roseline had heard stories of people eaten by trolls, but she had never heard of a troll who initiated the process by asking a question. Without thinking, she blurted out, “I've come to ask you for help.”
The troll was so startled, it sat on the ground with a loud thump, thereby effectively blocking the entrance to the cave.
For lack of any better idea, Roseline assumed her most trusting expression. That had always worked with her father and, come to think of it, with Audric as well. The troll night be persuaded to sit on Audric and squash him into jelly, and that would solve her problem.
“I'm in terrible trouble,” she said. “There's no one else I can turn to. I have always heard that trolls are fearless,” which was perfectly true, although not necessarily in this context, “and so I came all the way here too beg for your assistance.”
The troll blinked at her. Being begged for assistance was undoubtedly outside its previous experience. “What you want?”
“There's this horrible boy who is forcing me to marry him. He has threatened to tell my father all kinds of lies if I don't. Please help me!” She did not elaborate further, for fear of confusing the troll with too much information.
The troll scratched its head. “Eat boy?”
“That's all very well for you,” she said. “You are big and powerful. I, on the other hand, am only a weakling human girl. Besides, the boy would object to being eaten. He’d much rather kiss me. Can't you do something?”


Sorry, you'll have to wait until November to read the whole thing.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Become a Literary Patron (and Support a Lipizzan Horse!)

Pooka hug
I am constantly heartened by the community of readers/writers/horse-lovers and the many ways we support one another. Now one of our own -- a true treasure of our field -- needs our help. Judith Tarr is an icon of historical fantasy; she's also written other sorts of fantasy and even some very nifty space opera. She's inspired a generation of new writers. In addition, she breeds and trains Lipizzan horses ("dancing white horses")
-- check them out
here. And now she needs our help.  See her letter below.

What you can do:

  • Pledge a few dollars a month through Judy's Patreon
  • Sponsor a horse (see below) in full or part
  • Buy her books. If you have an ereader, buy them from Book View Cafe, which gives authors a whopping 95%. You'll find a wonderful range of books, including the essential guide "Writing Horses"
  • Post reviews of her books on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads
  • Tell your friends! (Maybe get together to sponsor a horse?)
  • If you're a writer, especially a newer writer, consider engaging her services as a mentor or editor
  • Boost this signal!



From Judith Tarr: May 3, 2016: I'm continuing the editing and Horse Camp sale, and the Patreon page for new fiction is ongoing--many thanks to those who have joined the adventure so far.

Those who know me well know that when I break down and offer a sale, it's because I've run out of options. The past few years have been increasingly difficult, and last year was brutal. This year has been, emotionally, much less awful--and I have my writing mojo back. But in all other ways it's been worse than any year before it.

Right now I do not know how I'm going to feed the horses for the rest of the month. I have managed to scrape out enough to pay for the last load of hay (if that late check finally gets here), but once it's eaten, which it will be in about ten days, I don't know what I'm going to do. The farm will be gone by midsummer unless I find a steady source of sufficient income. I've been hustling like a hustling thing but so far with minimal results.

The market does not want either me or the horses. The horses are all old and therefore retired and unsalable, or else would require thousands of dollars' worth of training and show fees to have any sale value. No one can take them. The market is saturated with unwanted horses and the rescues are overloaded. I am over 60, hearing impaired (ergo, unable to use the phone), and with chronic fatigue syndrome which makes office or minimum-wage work difficult to impossible. And minimum wage would not support the animals, let alone me. All my income streams from backlist books, editing, writing, etc. have shrunk to a trickle or dried up. No one has booked a Camp in over a year.

I have had a few small things come through, but as with everything else, they've fallen short or failed to produce. I continue to push, and with the fiction writing regaining its old fluidity, I may manage to make something happen there. I've been urged to try an Indiegogo for a short novel, and I am closing in on that. (Indiegogo, unlike Kickstarter, offers an option that pays even if the goal is not met. The goal would be enough to cover mortgage, horses, and utilities for a month.) Since for the first time in my life I'm able to write more than one project at a time, that means I can continue to meet my obligation to backers of last November's Kickstarter for a science-fiction novel, and also write the novella (and short stories, too).

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Return of the Walkabout Cat

When last we left our story, our indoor-only cat Shakir had escaped and was so freaked out, he no longer recognized us. After spotting him several times in our yard, we decided to try to trap him. To this end, we borrowed a raccoon-sized humane trap and set it out with a dish of extra-palatable food nearby. Each night, the food was eaten. We braced the trap open and placed the food halfway inside. Finally we set the trap with the food all the way inside, so that the cat would trigger the trap.

And the next morning the food was untouched. The most likely reason was that earlier in the day, I had been sitting on the porch, enjoying the beautiful weather and view of our garden as I wrote. In the process, I also moved several cardboard boxes at the far end of the porch. Apparently, Shakir found these changes intolerably threatening.

The next night, we set the food outside the trap, thinking that by backtracking and making the setup less threatening we could tempt him. For the second night in a row, the meal was not eaten. At this point, we began to wonder if Shakir had somehow gotten out of the yard. Our chain-link fence is 6 feet high and there aren't many gaps underneath. It would be possible for a determined mountain lion to scale the fence, and also for a determined dog (or cat) to dig underneath it, although we saw no evidence either had happened.

I watched myself begin to grieve again., only this time with more acceptance. It had been two weeks since we lost our cat, and that is a long time, especially in these mountains.

My husband, however, did not give up. The next night, he set the food down by the place we thought the cat was hiding. And presto! the next morning, the plate was licked clean. We had no way of knowing who had eaten it, whether it was our cat, a raccoon or skunk, or a neighbor’s cat that had somehow gotten into the yard. We continued to leave out food and to move it closer to the porch and the trap. Again we reached the point leaving food halfway inside the trap and having it gone the next morning. Our patience seemed to be in a contest with our sense of urgency, because the longer a cat is missing, the lesser the chances of ever finding it.