Writing Process — “Rona of the Els”

Electric Spec posted my thoughts on my upcoming short story, “Rona of the Els,” which will publish in their May 2020 issue. I tried my best to keep the explanation brief and spoiler-free. I was 99% successful.

Here’s the blurb:

Electric Spec is a not-for-profit speculative magazine that publishes four times per year. “Rona of the Els” will be available on May 31st.

Published — “Blue Winter High”

While a graduate student at Houston Baptist University, I created Writ in Water, an annual literary magazine focused on Literature & Life (unlike Rune Bear and the Weird & Wonderful). The stipulation was that all contributors had to be students or alumni of HBU. No outsiders and no professors. To sustain the magazine’s leadership, the editor-in-chief of Writ in Water would be the Writing Coordinator of the University’s Academic Success Center.

Although I’ve long left the magazine, moving north to teach in Denver, Writ in Water has flourished under a series of amazing editors, most currently Hannah Gentry. A few months back, Gentry contacted me about my process for gathering submissions and publication. She also invited me to send a story, so I thought, eh, sure, whatever, I’ll submit something. (Corruption at its finest, right?)

Today I’m excited to say “Blue Winter High” has been published in the 2020 issue of Writ in Water.

“Blue Winter High” takes place in a near-future where public education is mostly automated. A human teacher struggles to be as efficient as the robots around her. I was hoping to create the sense that human vitality might be threatened by the inhuman mechanical processes we keep implementing into our daily lives.

Drabble — “Bird Lizard Coming On Strong”

A story in exactly 100 words.

Jim scratched his groin, itching fierce since last week’s romp at Ophelia’s. With a squint particular to these plains, he muttered, “I’m telling ya, that there’s a wyvern.”

Turner pulled from her scope, rested the rifle on the blue ridge of the roof. “It’s a dragon. Release the flare.”

Jim spat. “Wyvern! See the tail? Got a stinger there. That two-wings couldn’t burn down a barn.”

That two-wings released a hot beam of fire that took out Ophelia’s Place. The critter swooped overhead, a stingerless tail whistling by.

“One of them fire-breathing wyverns,” Jim muttered stubbornly, reaching for the flare.

Drabble — “Baby’s on the Wall Again”

A story in exactly 100 words.

Mother put down baby, avoiding kicking legs, all twelve of them. She wrapped a diaper around baby’s waist, whispering gently. Baby giggled, his mandibles clacking. Mother smiled. “He’s putting on weight. The diapers are getting tighter.”

Underwear secure, baby scurried up the wall.

Father was releasing torrents into the sink. “Another bite?” she asked. Father groaned, hurled, didn’t reply, raised an arm. Gauze barely hid where baby had bit freely. Mother came to the kitchen to hold her husband, to let the sense of wrong invade her, before the fog returned, before she pulled baby back down from the ceiling.

Published — “Carnaval de la Coccinelle”

The Were-Traveler published my speculative mystery fiction, “Carnaval de la Coccinelle.” For a long time I’ve wanted to write a locked-box style of detective fiction, specifically a story where the central mystery revolves around a cipher.

Meanwhile, the backdrop is the same universe as “Water Bees,” an alternate history where the world is populated by men and a menagerie of bugs. There are no squirrels, whales, or seagulls, and man is theorized to be some evolved form of worm.

“Carnaval” also follows the same protagonist as “Water Bees,” the gruff police inspector Henri Moreau, and the setting is yet again Arles, France, at the turn-of-the-19th-century.

The Were-Traveler is a fiction eZine that publishes speculative fiction in themed anthologies (my piece was published in a whacky carnival-&-circus anthology called SuperFreak: Freakpunk #2). The magazine is run by the delightful author, publisher, and editor, Maria (M.X. or Reo) Kelly.

Behind-the-Quarterly

For a long time I’ve envisioned Rune Bear Magazine divided between Weekly and Quarterly. We would publish weekly stories under 300 words, but we would also have a seasonal writing contest.

Unfortunately, the Quarterly page on our website has looked like this for two years:

The guy we put in charge of Quarterly turned out to be a dud, so we let him go and I took over the contest. Instead of long-form writing, I decided to pull back to the flashiest flash fiction — the Drabble. Stories of 100 words exactly.

With $10 rewarded to the winner.

My editors came up with a list of prompts, democratically selected one, we hired an artist, and boom—I’m proud to announce that Rune Bear Quarterly is open for submissions until April 30, 2020. May will be a reading & selection period with the winner announced on May 31st.

The Spring 2020 prompt is “Weird Wild West” and the inspirational image (by no means the only interpretation of the prompt) is a dragon stealing a cowboy’s horse. This piece was made by the very talented Hari Nezumi, although in the future we will be relying on in-house artist Robin Stranahan.

 

Naming a Therapy Robot

Art by Lucy Arnold

I needed a name for a therapy robot, so I turned to the Facebook masses. While I’ve decided on my character’s name without their help (Selor, short for Counselor), here are some of the best suggestions:

    • 6MUND
    • Sigmund Droid, Siggie for short
    • Counselor Troid
    • IKR-4U
    • RU-OK
    • OK2BU
    • ANX-13T (“anxi-i-e-tee”)
    • HAP-E (Humanlike Artificial Psychologist, Model E)
    • DAD (Disease Analytic Droid)
    • FRIEND (Fully Relational Interpersonal Emotional Nurturing Device)

Nonfiction — “Chee Chuk”

Few people know that I grew up in Indonesia. As a writing exercise, I decided to reflect on some of my experiences in the jungles of Sumatra, specifically on my first encounter with a local lizard species.

Chevron put an oil camp in the center of a village previously unspoiled by Western advances except for Disney Princess shirts and dirty motorcycles. There they placed us, protected from friendly brown-skinned neighbors by fences and barbed wire and border guards armed with clubs and slingshots until the Bali Bombing when they upgraded to rifles.

It was always raining except the days they burned trash. Then the misted air filled with the green acids of plastic. Sometimes when it rained I would let out the cats. There was a gray sidewalk that wound around the house, kept dry by an extension of the roof and gutter. The cats, mewing softly, would scour the perimeter for shelter-seeking beetles. We didn’t have to watch them; the rain made an excellent cage.

At night, the windows went chak chak chak. Mom thought the villagers were tapping sticks against the glass.

My room takes some explaining. Our house was a one-story American imitation, but it had a porch that made an L across two sides, and this porch was enclosed, sealed by walls and long windows with metal bars that made a lattice instead of stripes. My room was created by partitioning some of the porch.

There were three doors in this room—one to the porch, one into the house, and the last led to the cement path and green furry grass. I had a strip of glass that peered outside and a strip of glass that looked into the living room. At night, I could look through the window at my parents watching television, like a forgotten child peering into a house, seeing how happy everyone is without them.

I made the discovery in the middle of the night. Lying in bed, two cats forming a ying-yang on the covers, woken by the purple-white call of lightning, I heard beyond the tah tah tah of rain the relentless sound of chak chak chak.

You have a reckless spirit when you are young with a theory and animal companions (even if they are selfish little cats). I crept to the window and peered into the wine-dark. Finding no one, I unlocked the door to the outer elements and pushed until the wood-rust cracked and the door swung open.

My impressions of this moment include the: wetslick air, the cascading wall of water, the creep of feet and paws, meows emitted by cats (meong meong in Bahasa), no one in sight but me, and still the sound of sticks.

I paused, the cats padding softly around me, and looked to the window. There, a thin, brown lizard emitted the sound: chak chak chak.

The lizard noticed us and leaped away, was caught by the cats, squirmed out its tail to distract them, and, dignity lost, escaped into the grass. Relieved, I closed the door, and as I fell into slumber, I return from the backwaters of memory to my home in Texas – a place far-flung from the fantasy of the jungle, but no stranger to mystery and the hug of humidity.

Fiction — “When Men Came”

“When Men Came” was published in the college mag Writ in Water in 2018. Enough time has passed that rights to the story have reverted back to me. Since the publication was only distributed on the Houston Baptist University campus, I thought I would share the story here to the internet. Spoilers: The narrative is about an oak tree in the Middle Ages.

When men came, they scratched against my brothers, kicking up a dust of innards, until I was surrounded by stumps. Then men removed the stumps.

I waited for the cutters to strike my knees but men must have feared the look of me. My gray shoulders, my nine arms, my armaments of acorn.

They burned the land.

I smelled the screams of grass—that fragrant wetness—before smoke. The fires ran up the bowl of the valley, and behind it men with long poles turned over char and removed the stones. If it reached me, the fire would burn across my flank, mutilate my face, but not kill me.

The fires stopped before the crest, and I was spared.

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