Spirit Notes Fading is out!

Spirit Notes Fading cover

This is my book. I bet you figured that.

If it’s news to you that I have been working to put out a short collection of  short stories, that’s because I’ve been basically awful at announcing it, or telling people at all.

So let’s get that out of the way: I published Spirit Notes Fading a few days ago. Currently, it’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The book is a short collection of fantasy short stories, all fairly different, but with a few threads in common. Magic, music, journeys, and a sense of eerieness come up across the four stories in the collection. Here’s the summary:

A punk band struggles to save their show when it’s upstaged by the wail of a real banshee.

Across impassable seas and beyond lonely cities, two wayfarers journey across a vast continent.

A tired wanderer fights his impulse to run when he is hunted down with a magic photograph.

An ocean-sick miner steals a submersible to escape from the oppressive priest caste of a deep-ocean settlement.

When I say, “I published Spirit Notes Fading,” I mean that I self-published it, and I did all the work myself, except for some of the proofreading. I wrote the stories, revised them, copyedited them, designed the cover, designed the interior for both print and digital versions, and converted everything into the correct formats. There is a general idea that self-publishing is easy, and that anyone can just slap up anything with basically no work put into it at all. There’s a bit of truth to that; you can take a lot of short cuts; you can skip a lot of steps. To publish my own work with diligence, I had to level up a lot of skills. I’ve actually spent a few years working on those skills, because although I didn’t know until a few months ago that I was going to publish Spirit Notes Fading, I knew that I was going to publish some book.

I keep wondering about things I should have changed. Story-wise, edit-wise, format-wise. Did I leave too many tree branches in the cover? Is it just a mess? That kind of thing. But overall, I’m proud of the work I did, and I think I met the standard I set for myself.

However, as I said, I’ve been ridiculously inept at announcing it. “I have a book coming out!” is the sort of thing you’re supposed to announce on your blog, your newsletter, and whatever social media you use. Aside from promotion, it’s an accomplishment. Sharing accomplishments is generally considered an ok thing to do, right? As long as you’re not being showy, narcissistic, and ridiculous, like so:

“Wow, that’s a great story about your dead uncle. It reminds me of how I wrote a book.”

“As the author-publisher of the short story collection Spirit Notes Fading, I think I’d like to order a hamburger, no bun.”

“Hi, can I get a couple of scratch cards? Oooh, I can barely scratch off this silvery stuff, my hand is still so sore from all the computer work I did to publish my recent short story collection.”

But I’m so far on the introverted end of the spectrum that I feel weird even mentioning it. Even on my own website! In the past week, there were three times that I ran into people I hadn’t seen in awhile and it went kind of like:

“Hey, long time no see! What’s up with you?”
“Not much. Working. Need more hours.”
Some talk about other stuff.
“Oh, by the way, I wrote a book. That’s the kind of thing you tell people, right?”

And so this, right here? This is me telling you. I wrote a book. You can read it, if you’d like.

“Smithereens”

bloghopThe Storytime Blog Hop is back, and now slated to be a quarterly event taking place in January, April, July, and October. If you missed the blog hop back in August, definitely check it out. We had a great mix of stories. I found out about this January’s blog hop just in time to finish a story I had lying around. You can read it below, then follow the links at the bottom to check out the other participant’s stories. All stories are speculative fiction (fantasy, sci fi, horror, or any blend of those three) and all are somewhere in the range of PG-rated: no graphic sex or violence

Smithereens

A story by Kris Bowser

“That was the last time I tell someone my daughter was carried off by rockbats,” Hintasa announced to the darkened alcove. The latest noble seeking aid from Her Ladyship the Geomancer had barely left, and the thud of the closing door echoed through the stone hall.

Skiomeir stepped out and stared through her with graphite eyes. He had been a shadow’s width out of sight the entire time. Too close. “You said they need the lie.”

“It’s an embarrassment.”

“Only to you. The rest are terrified of the rockbats. Shall we invent another commoner to have been carried off?”

Hintasa crossed her arms and stood rooted in place. Unyielding as stone, she thought, then chased the thought away as a ridiculous bit of irony.

“I’ll do it this time. I never would have thought I’d have the imagination for it, but it’s been enjoyable. Let’s see… Ataminosz, age thirty-four, came with that caravan. His brother found cover in time and saw the whole thing.” As always, his speech tripped along lightly, water over brook-bottom pebbles.

Hintasa narrowed her eyes. A mother, a monarch, a shaper of stones, she had honed a gaze of disapproval to move a granite cliff face to contrition. “You’re the one who took her from me.” Anger heated her chest.

“Never mind. I should leave the fictions to you. Amazing natural talent. But you know this can’t last.”

Below Hintasa’s clenched, shaking fists, the stone floor had risen up into two stalagmites. “I’m too young for this,” she muttered.

A knock resounded through the hall, and Skiomeir leapt to the side of the throne. As Hintasa turned to face the entry, stone cracked from behind her. One of the guards strode in, her eyes flicking to the twin stalagmites. “My apologies, Lady Geomancer, if my interruption angered you.”

She sighed and held her palms level above the floor. The stalagmites calmed back into flooring as she steadied her breath. “Now, what is it?”

“Lady Otanivar requests an audience.”

Hintasa had only seconds to glare at the spot where Skiomeir had stood, and then to calm her face as she had calmed the stone, before Lady Otanivar walked in with an air of bureaucratic righteousness bolstered by requests and concerns and dull ideas for committees to contend with the scourge of the rockbats. Every time such a meeting occurred, Hintasa toyed with the idea of blurting out the truth, but always her mouth remained clamped.

Assured that her land would be protected, Lady Otanivar lay a hand on Hintasa’s arm. “And how are you doing?”

The answer came automatically. “My daughter was carried off by rockbats.”

“Yes, but how are you?”

“Busy. You’ll have to excuse me.”

As soon as the guard escorted Lady Otanivar out, Hintasa turned back to the throne, to the lurking statue that had not existed before. “Now she’s going to notice next time when there isn’t a statue in that spot.”

The statue flowed back into life and color, and it was Skiomeir who stepped toward her. “You’d be amazed, the things I’ve found out as a statue.”

“Only because you can’t read,” Hintasa snapped.

“Do you know how fitting everyone thought it was, when the Lord of Spire took a geomancer for his wife? What lady could be better to preside over barren mountains and used-up mines? Only someone who sees life in the stone itself could see it in this land.”

“Are you as prone to speeches when you’re a statue? I think you matched the hall after all.”

“Sarcasm? I am stone. But I finally figured out why I am. Out of your loneliness, you thought to create a new companion for yourself. Your husband was gone, but you see life in the stone.”

She nodded admittance, because she would say nothing out loud. If he would only leave. The day’s business was far from over.

“I think if you wanted to love me, you shouldn’t have made me from the things you hated, that you happened to have on hand: the flagstones that didn’t sit quite right, the statue of the general on the second floor landing. The smithereens that fell from the ceiling when a storm hit the Old West Tower. And I think you have no right to be angry that someone else could love me.”

***

Hintasa kneaded the rock arms of the throne while the midwife took care of things. Let her deal with the element of flesh, and Hintasa would stick to the stones.

It was Skiomeir who brought out the tiny bundle of blankets. “Here. Your grandson. Poetic, we thought, that this is the grandson of the Lord of Spire.”

Graphite eyes blinked sleepily, unaware of the nine months of rockbat casualties that had been invented to conceal his entry into the world.

“I had an idea for pair of Suong gypsies, another caravan. But you can’t keep it up for the rest of his life.”

Hintasa stroked his tiny forehead. “You had better hope he doesn’t look like the Old West Tower when he grows up.”

***

As the midwife prepared to leave, Hintasa pulled her out into a corridor. “I want to thank you for helping my daughter through this. You know she’s had a tough time of it these last few months.”

“Yes, I had heard—”

“She was carried off by rockbats. In her condition. Eventually, I went to the mountains myself and fought them off.” Hintasa paced the corridor, and a stone punched out of the wall as she made a triumphant fist. “There’s no need to worry about the rockbats anymore. You can tell that to anyone who asks.”


And now check out the other stories!

Justine Ohlrich Two Deaths on My Birthday
Rabia Gale House Bound
Juneta Key Consequence
Mel Corbett If It’s Not Yours
Elizabeth McCleary Untitled
Katharina Gerlach Scars
Karen Lynn My Story
Angela Woodridge Uninvited Guests
Barbara Lund New Space
Kris Bowser Smithereens

“Tantrums” and other tales

The Storytime Blog Hop is here, so welcome, blog hoppers. If you’re coming through from one of the other writers’ blogs, you know the deal.

Does anyone else think a blog hopper sounds like a type of shoe?

If this is the first you’re hearing of the blog hop, here’s how it works: this post contains a short story that I wrote. You can read it, and then follow the links to over one dozen other stories. Every story is either short or flash fiction, and somewhere in the genre of speculative fiction—fantasy, sci fi, horror, or any crazy cocktail of those three. Stories in the blog hop are all somewhere around PG-rated: no graphic sex or violence.

I’m excited about this. From what I’ve seen, there’s a nice variety of speculative fiction represented in the link list. Also, it’s probably the closest I’ll come to having a miniature library installed on my website.

My own story is about a powerless noble in the frigid city of Yauglesk, a place where an uneasy two-hundred year occupation is beginning to falter. The story universe is a secondary world fantasy with a sprinkle of gears and steam. Within it, I’m currently working on two novels, Stars Fall Out and Bitter Machines. This story takes place between them, and is one of five telling how the principal characters of Bitter Machines come to be involved with a rebellion in Yauglesk.

[EDIT 5/16/2016: “Tantrums” has been removed from the site, at least for the time being. Feel free to check out “Banshee” and “Smithereens,” as well as the stories below from other authors.]

* * *

Now read on…

Virginia McClain: Rakko’s Storm

Grace Robinette: Georg Grembl

Elizabeth McCleary: The Door

Dale Cozort: Two Letters In A Fireproof Box

Katharina Gerlach: Canned Food

Rabia Gale: Spark

K. A. Petentler: The Twisted Tale of Isabel

Shana Blueming: Paper & Glue

Amy Keeley: To Be Prepared For Chocolate

Cherie “Jade” Arbuckle: After I Died

Karen Lynn: The Family Book

Angela Wooldridge: An Alternative to Frog

Thea van Diepen: Are You Sure It’s That Way?

Paula de Carvalho: Body Double

Kris Bowser: Tantrums

Pumpkin Goblins–Coming Fall 2015

There’s been a glaring omission on my part. Though, it’s not so much glaring as it is a one thousand dollar fireworks display that some guy sets off in his yard at midnight. The omission is a book, one that I’m revising and trying my hardest to publish this fall. I’ve mentioned to it, and alluded to it, and even wrote the blog post “Halloween Profanity—for Children!” about a process I’ve been using in the revision.

I announced it on my mailing list. But I didn’t announce it here, on my blog, as one is supposed to do in this situation.

Pumpkin Goblins is a middle grade chapter book in which a Halloween-deprived child and a squad of pumpkin goblins work to generate Halloween spirit when a mysterious source of summer magic threatens to destroy Halloween for good.

Check out the Pumpkin Goblins page for the full summary.

Scribbled-on manuscript.

My revision manuscript, a survivor of the Traumatizing Coffee Spill of 2015 and also the horrible, disfiguring plague known as My Handwriting.

I’ll be honest. It feels nice to say, “Coming Fall 2015,” but the fact is that I set my deadline for September 20th, and “Coming Fall 2015” is a cheery way to obscure my deadline. September 20th may be slipping out of my grasp. I’m worried that Fall 2015 could slip away as well. But I’m trying. I’ve cut some bad habits as I work to find the remaining revision time I need. Even better, my TV actually broke.

Unfortunately, I can’t quite kick the habit of “having a full time job.” I’ll be cutting my hours in September and October so I can take a course. That’ll net me some Pumpkin Goblins time as well.

Despite all that, I’m ridiculously happy with how the revision is coming along. Every aspect of the story is becoming a story I want to read myself. It’s funnier, scarier, and more goblinish, with stronger characters and better descriptions.

Every now and then, I mention my writing to people. They often say something like, “So, you enjoy writing, huh?” And sometimes, when this happens, it’s a frustrating writing day and I’m irritated with a draft. I’ll shrug and say, “Yeah, I guess,” because at that moment, I can’t muster the enthusiasm.

I think if anyone ever asked, “So, you like revision huh?” my answer would be more excitement than they want to deal with. Like the fireworks of my glaring omission. And that’s how I feel about the Pumpkin Goblins revision: fireworks and excitement, fall leaves and that chill in the wind that makes you feel alive.

Here’s an excerpt of some dialogue I like:

“What’s your name?” asked the first goblin.
“Amber.”
“Ember?”
“We like embers,” said another.
“Because we like fires,” said the third, all of them talking so fast that Amber could hardly tell which one was speaking.
“No, Amber. Like dead bugs that were fossilized a million years ago.”
“Oh.”
“Amber.”
“Like dead bugs.”
“That’s a lovely name for a girl.”

The really cool part is that a friend of mine is doing some illustrations for the cover and the chapter headers.  I’ve improved my drawing a lot in the past few years, and the process no longer seems mystical to me.  But I still can’t do figures well, and I’m always impressed by his characters.  They have an awesome cartoon style, and they really look like they’re moving around on the page.  I’ll definitely post some sketches if he lets me.

The Storytime Blog Hop

bloghopIn a little over a month, on August 26th, the Storytime Blog Hop is coming.

What manner of Internet nonsense is a blog hop? I can hear you ask. Because I’m in your thoughts, thanks to the dark magic of internet cookies.

Remember the web rings of old? If not, pretend I never mentioned them. A blog hop kind of reminds me of that. Except, it’s also like a pub crawl, without the irritation of leaving your house. And without the alcohol, unless you provide that yourself.

What happens is that, on August 26th, I will post a short story, along with links to stories from other writers in the blog hop. None of them will be very long; some will even be flash fiction.

All the stories will be somewhere in the genre of speculative fiction—fantasy, sci fi, horror, or any crazy cocktail of those three. We could have anything from woodsprites to lasers, clockwork dragons to genetically engineered tentacle beasts. All of the above, even.  Stories in the blog hop will be somewhere in the realm of PG-rated.  No graphic sex or violence.

My own story will be about a powerless noble in the frigid city of Yauglesk, a place where an uneasy two-hundred year occupation is beginning to falter.

So, stay tuned for that. And also for the potpourri of upcoming blog posts, about things like pudding, typefaces, artwork, and monsters.

It’s not Halloween yet, but here’s a story

It’s about six months until Halloween. Since I’m not really a glass half-full kind of person, I can’t help but notice that they are some of the absolute worst months to be standing between me and a chilly fall night lit by jack-o-lanterns.  My spellcheck wants me to change “jack-o-lanterns” to “storm-lanterns,” because it obviously hates Halloween.

I could use more Halloween now. If you, too, are parched for eerie happenings, check out Banshee, a flash fiction story about a punk band struggling to save their show when it’s upstaged by the wail of a real banshee.

Brought to you by the mind-mingling of various Halloween thoughts with the music of X-Ray Spex.

hanginthere