Let’s Get Rocked

How about dem Saints? Damn, they look like the Alabama of the NFL.

A long day in the car stretches before me. Just thinking about it makes me tired, oh so tired.

So don’t think about it, bitch.

In exciting news, I can now announce that my story, “Neighborhood Alert,” has sold to Mystery Tribune.

“Neighborhood Alert” was one of the stories I wrote in the flurry that was the first quarter (or first half?) of the year. I’d had the idea for a long time; the inspiration came to me one day when we were living back on Camp Street. I never used the front door of the apartment–or rarely, at any rate–because we had off-street parking and I usually came in through the apartment’s back door. But one morning when I was coming home from training a client I noticed there was a white piece of paper stuck in the mail slot in the front door. When I retrieved it, it was one of those sex offender notices–we are required by law to let you know a sex offender has moved into your neighborhood–and while I certainly understand why this is done…at the same time, there’s an element of continuing to punish the criminal after they’ve served their time about it that makes me a little squeamish.  But if I had a child I’d want to know, and if I were a woman I’d want to know. So, therein lies the intellectual and moral dilemma.

And, in the back of my head, I always wanted to write a story which opens with a character getting one of those notices on his/her front door. And vóila, at some point early in the year I wrote that story and started shopping it around.

And now, it has sold. How lovely is that?

I will talk about the story more when it is closer to seeing the light of day.

I’ve successfully managed to download A Game of Thrones to my phone, so hopefully I’ll have that for listening as I drive north, and I’ll decide if audiobooks are indeed something I can make a part of my reading life going forward. I’ve added the Duolingo app to my iPad so I can continue with my Italian lessons–some of the words are starting to stick with me, but being able to hear and identify the words isn’t going quite as well.

I also read “The Nature of My Inheritance” by Bradford Morrow, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

In the wake of my father’s death, my inheritance of over half a hundred Bibles offered me no solace whatsoever, but instead served to remind me what a godless son I was and had always been. Like the contrarian children of police officers who are sometimes driven to a life of crime, and professors’ kids who become carefree dropouts, my  father’s devotion to his ministry might well have been the impetus behind my early secret embrace of atheism. In church, listening to his Sunday sermons, as I sat in a pew with my mother near the back of the sanctuary, I nodded approvingly along with the rest of the congregation when he hit upon this particularly poignant scriptural point or that. But in all honesty, my mind was a thousand light years away, wallowing, at least usually, in smutty thoughts. His last day in the pulpit, his last day on earth, was no different. I cannot recall with precision what lewd scenario I was playing out in my head, but no doubt my juvenile pornography, the witless daydream of a virgin, did not make a pretty counterpoint with my father’s homily.

One of the fun things about reading anthologies is discovering new writers, or rather, new-to-me writers. I’d not read Morrow before, but I’ve added him to my list of writers whose canon should be explored. This story is interesting and goes places I certainly never imagined; and the voice of the young man who is telling the story–a slightly amoral young man whose father’s devotion hid a lot of secrets, which his son will slowly uncover, is exceptional. The story could have just as easily been called something like “Lessons My Father Taught Me” or something like that; but this title is just fine–it doesn’t give anything away, and it’s truly a wonderful, fun story. I was very pleased with it.

Once I get caffeinated and clean the kitchen, I’m hitting the road.

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I Can’t Make You Love Me

GEAUX SAINTS!

So, it’s another chilly Sunday here in the Lost Apartment. It’s sixty degrees now outside, but it dipped into the forties overnight, so it’s going to take awhile for the Lost Apartment to recover–if it ever does. Today I need to pack up for the trip tomorrow morning. I’m not taking the MacBook Air with me, so I am not entirely sure how I’ll be able to crosspost the blog–should I write any entries–to Facebook and other social media because cutting and pasting on the iPad confuses me.

Don’t judge me.

The LSU game last night was a romp; never in doubt from the first snap, and ending with a 42-10 score. It was 28-3 at half-time and was never in doubt. As such, there was very little-to-no tension on my part, so I was able to sit in my easy chair like a millennial, scrolling through apps on my phone while also taking some time to read. I stopped by the Latter Library yesterday to pick up another book I’d reserved (Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken–more about that later) and also renewed Bibliomysteries Volume 2 for another week. I am taking both books with me to Kentucky, and am also taking A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin; I think it’s time I got started writing A Song of Ice and Fire, now that the end of the television series is in sight with this past week’s announcement that the final season will begin airing in April.

I took yesterday as my day off for the weekend; I didn’t clean anything, nor did I organize or file or edit or write. I was basically just a lazy slug, sitting in my easy chair and flipping between football games while reading. I’m still rereading ‘salem’s Lot but have now reached the end game, the final section of the book called “The Empty Village,” and the tracking down of the vampires concluding with Ben and Mark running away to Mexico while Ben writes his book isn’t as interesting to me as the opening of the book; as I said when I discussed the reread initially, I am more interested in how King depicts the town more than anything else, which was the impetus for the reread. And how much do I love this sentence, which opens section 2, “The Emperor of Ice Cream”:

The town knew darkness.

It’s very Shirley Jackson-esque, and the passage that follows is perhaps my favorite part of the entire book.

I also think I am going to give The Shining  a reread; The Shining is, for most fans, critics and readers, King’s best work. I couldn’t get into it when I first bought the paperback, with the boy’s head with a blank face drawn on a shiny silver cover. I picked it up again a few years later and tore through it in one sitting; but as creepy and horrifying as it was, and how nasty the Overlook Hotel was…it was one of the few I never reread completely. I’ve picked it up and started it again, flipped through it and read sections, but I’ve never read it from beginning to end. I think the complexity of Jack Torrance as a character cut a little too close to home for me, but now that I have over fifty books out there with my name (or a pseudonym) on the spine…I don’t have to be too stressed about the failed author character being too close to home for me anymore.

At least one can hope so.

Tomorrow is the dreaded twelve hour car ride through Mississippi, Alabama, a bit of Georgia, and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I need to go get the mail before I leave town and possibly stop by the bank, so I am going to be getting a later start than I would have perhaps wished, but a twelve-hour drive is a twelve-hour drive no matter when you get started, and I am most likely going to shower and go straight to bed when I arrive in Kentucky. I am still trying to figure out what digital book to download and listen to in the car–who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?–but none of A Song of Fire and Ice are available as audiobooks from the library, and the library’s app isn’t as intuitive as I would like (translated: I’m too old to figure out the easiest way to use it). I wanted to start Charles Todd’s brilliant series set during the end of the first world war, but the first book isn’t available from my library (BASTARDS!!!!) and so I have to choose something else. I’ll spend some time on there today–maybe on the library’s website, which is easier for a Luddite like me–and perhaps the second Louise Penny Inspector Gamache novel might do the trick.

Or maybe The Shining. Ooooooh.

Most of today is also going to be spent on odds and ends. I may get some writing work done, or I may not. I think after the Saints game we are going to watch either Love, Simon or Call Me By Your Name; both are available for free streaming on one or another services I pay for now. I also am assuming I’ll finish watching Knightfall while I am in Kentucky, as my parents both go to bed early every night.

And yesterday I also managed to read “The Gospel of Sheba” by Lyndsay Faye, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Letter sent from Mrs. Colette Lomax to Mr. A. Davenport Lomax, September 3rd, 1902.

My only darling,

You cannot comprehend the level of incompetence to which I was subjected today.

You know full well I never demand a private dressing room when stationary, as the very notion implies a callous disrespect for the sensitivities of other artists. However, it cannot pass my notice when I am engaged in a second class chamber en route from Reims to Strasbourg. The porter assured me that private cars were simply not available on so small a railway line as our company was forced to book–and yet, I feel justified in suspecting the managers have hoaxed their “rising star” once again. The reek of soup from the dining car’s proximity alone would depress my spirits, even were my ankles not confined one atop the other in a padlock-like fashion.

I do so loathe krautsuppe. Hell, I assure you, my love, simmers with the aroma of softening cabbage.

Lyndsay Faye has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (for The Gods of Gotham, which I adored, and for Jane Steele, which is still in my ever-growing and enormous TBR pile), and she is also a delight to know in addition to her enormous gift for writing. Lyndsay is an enormous Sherlock Holmes fan (Sherlockian?), and even her first novel, Dust and Shadow, was a Holmes tale; she recently published an entire collection of Holmes short stories. “The Gospel of Sheba” is sort of a Holmes story; both he and Watson do appear in the story, but it’s primarily told from the point of view of a sub-librarian, Mr. Lomax; he is married to a professional singer who at the time of the story is currently on a tour–her presence in the story is either through her husband’s point of view or epistolary; we get to see occasional letters from her. Her husband’s point of view is seen through diary entries where he talks about the mystery of the Gospel of Sheba, a grimoire a member of a private men’s club with an interest in the supernatural has discovered and that makes anyone who reads it ill. One of the things I love the most about Faye is she writes in the formal style of the nineteenth century, but it always reads as organic and never forced. There’s never a sense from the reader of Oh I see what you’re doing here or from her as the author of see how clever I am? She’s somehow modernized that formal style, breathed fresh life into it, and uses it to help set the mood and the time and the setting. You can almost hear the hiss of gas in the lamps, and see the flickering gaslight. This is a terrific story, and reminds me of why I loved The Gods of Gotham so much, and also reminded me I need to dive back into her backlist.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Dancing Machine

Thursday, and the weekend looms. The weather has remained cold, gray and damp here in New Orleans; it will stay cold through the weekend but next week the temperatures are going to go back up to something more normal for New Orleans in November; sixties and low seventies, with potential lows in the high fifties after dark.

Work on the book proceeds apace. Not well; I managed to crank out both chapters four and five over the last two nights, and reached, in Chapter Five, a final crucial point in the story, which is cool. I don’t know if that means writing the rest of the book is going to go any better than the beginning, but progress is fucking progress.

I also started–with one sentence, mind you–a new short story called “One Night at Brandy’s Lounge.” I’m not sure what the story is going to be about, but I’ve had the title and the story prompt–a picture my friend Erin posted on social media a few months ago–floating in my head for a while, and last night while I was eking out the last words of Chapter Five the first sentence of the story came to my head (I wouldn’t have even stopped at Brandy’s Lounge that night if I hadn’t gotten fired that afternoon) and I thought I should start a new document so I wouldn’t lose the sentence (which has happened before and is incredibly frustrating and infuriating on so many levels.

I really need to get back to “The Blues Before Dawn,” too. I need to get so much work done before I leave for the holidays on Monday….and the cold weather doesn’t help because my kitchen-office is the coldest place in the house. Those lovely windows that give me so much beautiful natural light most of the year? Well, they are COLD TRAPS when the temperature drops.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But I paid all the bills yesterday, which was lovely; it’s nice to be all caught up and actually have some money left over–which is entirely because of how paydays fell this month and has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of magic spell I unleashed over my checking account and my bills–usually all my end of the month and first of the month bills, along with the car payment, have to be paid from the same paycheck, which is nightmarish. But this time, we get paid again on the 28th this month, so the end of the month bills and car payment fell due from this paycheck, and so I can pay the beginning of the month bills with the 28th paycheck.

Sweet.

Although whenever something happens like this and I have extra money…I always wonder what I’m forgetting to pay. But I kind of went through everything last night and I am relatively certain I’ve paid everything.

I also forgot to leave the water slightly running overnight during the hard freeze so you can imagine how terrified I was this morning when I got up and approached the sink to brush my teeth with some severe trepidation…but no worries; all was well. *Whew*.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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The Way We Were

Cold and damp. That’s New Orleans this week. Which doesn’t really make me want to do anything other than curl up under a blanket with my love-to-cuddle kitty with a good book. I didn’t do that on Monday night, because I made groceries on my way home and then I had to clean the kitchen preparatory to making dinner when Paul got home and by the time we were finished with dinner, I sat down and tried to finish Chapter fucking Four of the book, to no avail. I did manage to get about another three hundred words done, with the ease of extracting an impacted molar; but last night when I got home from the office I was able to–despite shivering–finish that miserable chapter and try to get started on Chapter Five.

Which went about as well as you might expect. Sigh.

But I did get some good news on another front: I sold a short story! Because I am superstitious I don’t want to say what story and to what market, until the contract is signed…but this hopefully will end the long horrible fallow period of no sales I’ve been working through for slightly over a year. I am really pleased, and I really like this story, so I am glad it has found a home–and one that will actually PAY me for using it.

Yay!

I do have two other short stories that will see daylight in 2019; “This Town” in Holly West’s Murder-a-Go-Go’s, which of course is crime stories inspired by the music of the Go-Go’s, and “The Silky Veils of Ardor,” in Josh Pachter’s The Beating of Black Wings, crime stories inspired by the music of Joni Mitchell. I’m very proud of both stories, and look forward to their publication.

That’s the weird thing about this business. Maybe the upper tier of writers–those who are not only making a living but doing very well–might view things differently, but for me it’s a constant struggle to stay positive and believe in myself and what I’m doing–or rather, trying to do–with my writing and my stories. It can be quite disheartening, like when I am struggling trying to get Bury Me in Satin written, or at the very least, continue moving forward with it; rejections from short story markets or non-responses from agents can be a blow, no matter how hard you try to stay focused and positive. So these small victories–even a fifty dollar sale of a short story–really do help.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines.

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Keep It Comin’

Hello there, Tuesday–how you doin’?

Today’s high in New Orleans is going to be fifty degrees. Yes, that is correct; and looking ahead, it may get into the thirties on Wednesday. In November. In New Orleans.

Now, I freely admit I overstate my deep and abiding loathing for the cold sometimes. But I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that this kind of cold weather in mid-November in New Orleans is a bit….unusual. I mean, it snowed last year in December–but it was December. We’ve had cold snaps and hard freezes and needed to leave the taps on slightly overnight to keep the pipes from freezing. I’ve sat here at my desk with gloves and sweats and tights and a T-shirt and two pairs of socks and my house shoes with a blanket around me, clutching my cup of coffee and trying desperately to leech the heat out from it somehow into my body. But that was always sometime between mid-December and mid-January; never in November. I remember getting sunburned in Tiger Stadium, wearing a jersey and shorts one year the day after Thanksgiving. Granted, that was unusually warm for late November, but still. 

Just saying–it’s unusual.

I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is next week already. I know it’s kind of early this year because of a calendar fluke, but it really does seem early this year–I don’t think time is passing any faster now than it has before, no matter how much I’d like to believe that for some reason which is probably some kind of subconscious denial that I am old.

I’m struggling with Chapter Four of the novel. I’ve been fighting with it for four days now, and it’s still not finished (hopefully tonight).  This struggle has, naturally, put me behind on the manuscript, which I’d hoped to have finished by the first of December (at least in a first draft). Next week is Thanksgiving and my annual trip up north to Kentucky; I doubt I am going to get very much done there, and I also have to work on Royal Street Reveillon while I am there as well–polishing so it’s ready for the editorial process. I also need to finish revising the two stories I am adding to Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories.

So. Much. Work. To. Do.

I’ve also fallen behind on my Italian lessons with Duolingo. Ah, well. That’s certainly something I can also do in Kentucky every night before going to sleep. I’ve slept well these last two nights, which has been lovely, since I’ve had to get up early both days. I suspect that will also be the case tomorrow; the building is still not completed enough for us to start offering services just yet, which kind of sucks but what can you do? I am not worrying about it as it’s beyond my control. No sense in worrying about things that are out of your control; that’s the swiftest path to madness…and I don’t need any help on THAT particular road, thank you very much.

And tomorrow is payday; I can start getting caught up on the bills and so forth before the trip. Heavy heaving sigh. It truly never ends.

And now back to the spice mines.

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I Will Remember You

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day; which originally was called Armistice Day. The day began as a remembrance of what was then considered, and called, the Great War. There had never been any war prior that was so awful, so horrific, so bloody. It changed the face of the world…empires crumbled and new nations rose from the ashes of the old. But the peace treaty that ended it was short-sighted and vengeful.

World War I was a horrific experience. “The war to end all wars” was what it was called; in the United States it was sold to Americans as “making (sic) the world safe for democracy”–despite being allied with the despotic autocracy of the Romanov empire in Russia. It was a most hideous war, one that left both the winners and the losers heartily sick of the waste of war and its pointlessness…yet merely served as a prelude to the much more horrific second world war; its conclusion set the stage for the rise of the Fascists in Italy and Germany, and the utter collapse of the German empire around the world, as well as the utter exhaustion and weakness of the surviving empires of the French and the British, set the stage for the rise of Imperial Japan in the Pacific and Asia…this rise ultimately led Imperial Japan into conflict with the United States. So, the “peace” of the first world war planted and fertilized the seeds for the second.

The flower of Europe’s youth died in this war,  in the trenches, in the mud and the wet and the cold. PTSD was first recognized after this war in soldiers who came home; only it was called shell shock back then. The boys who went off to this war came home as men forever changed by what they’d seen and experienced and borne witness to. It was a new kind of war, one presaged by the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. It would take yet another war for humanity to begin to rethink war.

And of course, the existence of nuclear weapons also had a lot to do with that critical rethinking.

I abhor war because I’ve studied it; for me, supporting the troops has always, for me, meant not putting them in unnecessary danger. Wars might sometimes be necessary, but they are, above and beyond all else, waste. Waste of lives, waste of money, waste of resources, all in the service of what is far-too-often an unclear, amorphous goal or purpose. I value the lives of our military, and not only the sacrifice of those serving but of their families, and I don’t think their lives and limbs should be placed in jeopardy without being absolutely certain there is no other alternative, and if they are to be place in such jeopardy, it should be for clearly defined, well understood objectives. I also believe they deserve everything we can, as a country, can do for them after their service. Our VA Hospitals should be the best in the world. No veteran should be homeless or unable to get the help they need to get back on their feet. No service family should be on food stamps, or go hungry, or worry about how to pay their bills or feed and clothe their children.

It’s the absolute least we can do for them.

Happy Veterans’ Day, and thank you for your sacrifice and service.

The Saints won big! Huzzah! GEAUX SAINTS! That was a lot of fun to watch, and I must say, the Saints are looking pretty amazing this year.

I also read “The Compendium of Srem” by F. Paul Wilson, from Bibliomysteries Volume 2, edited by Otto Penzler, for the Short Story Project.

Tomas de Torquemada opened his eyes in the dark.

Was that…?

Yes. Someone knocking on his door.

“Who is it?”

“Brother Adelard, good Prior. I must speak to you.” Even if he had not said his name, Tomas would have recognized the French accent. He glanced up at his open window. Stars filled the sky with no hint of dawn.

“It is late. Can it not wait until morning?”

“I fear not.”

“Come then.”

With great effort, Tomas struggled to bring his eighty-year-old body to a sitting position as Brother Adelard entered the tiny room. He carried a candle and a cloth-wrapped bundle. He set both next to the Vulgate Bible on the rickety desk in the corner.

I’ve not read F. Paul Wilson before; I know of him, of course, and have always meant to get around to reading him…but you know how it is, Constant Reader: too many books and authors, not enough time.

But “The Compendium of Srem” is a terrific story; about a mysterious book that comes to the attention of Torquemada and the Inquisition in Avila. Wilson provides just enough background for the story to place it firmly in its time period: Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella, during the time after the reconquest and after Columbus sailed; when they were purifying the country of heresy (Moors and Jews). This story shows how simple it can actually be to write historical fiction–just a dib and a dab lightly dropped into the story, to place it in a context of time and place, without over-embellishing or over-explaining (the dreaded info dump); which of course has put ideas into my head. I greatly enjoyed reading this story, and look forward to reading more of Wilson.

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Keep Coming Back

It dropped into the forties overnight, and this morning, it’s struggling to get up into the low fifties. This is utter and complete madness; we even are looking at a possible freeze alert by Tuesday–a freeze alert in November. Utter, total, unquestionable madness.

The LSU game…well, they won and let’s just leave it at that.

The Saints play Cincinnati today at noon; I intend to write all morning and then take a break to watch them play, after which I will try to get some more writing done. I wound up spending most of yesterday relaxing and reading. I dove back into ‘salem’s Lot, my Halloween reread for this year (you see how well that went), intending to only read a chapter, but promptly got sucked into the narrative. I finished reading part one, and chose to stop with Part II, “The Emperor of Ice Cream.” The essay about ‘salem’s Lot that is currently brewing in my head–“Peyton Place, But With Vampires”–is slowly taking shape within my head, which is lovely. Whether or not I am ever going to have the time to write it is an entirely different question, of course.

One of the interesting things about rereading ‘salem’s Lot is also seeing how carefully King structured his novel; the book isn’t–which is the point of my essay–so much about the vampires and the fearless vampire killers (well, they are hardly fearless), as it is about the town. I love that King shows how the other people in the town react to what’s going on; they of course aren’t privy to what the main, core characters (Ben, Mark, Susan, Matt, and the doctor–whose name is escaping me now) are; one of the other things King does so remarkably well in this, only his second novel, is depicting how small towns really work–hence the comparison to Peyton Place. His depictions of small towns only got better and more realistic as his career progressed; I think the secret strength of Needful Things is the honesty and truth in how he depicted Castle Rock; with all the resentments and anger and feuds all simmering just beneath the surface (I also need to revisit Needful Things).

I plan to get back to Bury Me in Satin today. I wrote less than three hundred words yesterday, and this shall not stand; I also need to get back on track with this manuscript. I am a little torn about how to proceed–I am also having questions about the time line and so forth–but these things should sort themselves out as I write and move the story forward. We’ll see how it goes today. I also need to work on these short stories. Heavy heaving sigh.

I also managed to read something yesterday for the Short Story Project: “Remaindered” by Peter Lovesey, from Bibliomysteries Volume 2, edited by Otto Penzler:

Agatha Christie did it. The evidence was plain to see, but no one did see for more than a day. Robert Ripple’s corpse was cold on the bookshop floor. It must have been there right through Monday, the day Precious Finds was always closed. Poor guy, he was discovered early Tuesday in the section he called his office, in a position no bookseller would choose for his last transaction, face down, feet down and butt up, jack-knifed over a carton of books. The side of the carton had burst and some of the books had slipped out and fanned across the carpet, every one a Christie.

Last Sunday Robert had taken delivery of the Christie novels. They came from a house on Park Avenue, one of the best streets in Poketown, Pennsylvania, and they had a curious history. They were brought over from Europe before World War II by an immigrant whose first job had been as a London publisher’s rep. He’d kept the books as a souvenir of those tough times trying to interest bookshop owners in whodunits when the only novels most British people wanted to read were by Jeffrey Farnol and Ethel M. Dell. After his arrival in America, he’d switched to selling Model T Fords instead and made a sizable fortune. The Christies has been forgotten about, stored in the attic of the fine old weatherboard house he’d bought after making his first million. And now his playboy grandson planned to demolish the building and replace it with a space-age dwelling of glass and concrete. He’d cleared the attic and wanted to dispose of the books. Robert had taken one look and offered five hundred dollars for the lot. The grandson had pocketed the check and gone away pleased with the deal.

Hardly believing his luck, Robert must have waited until the shop closed and then stopped to lift the carton onto his desk and check the content more carefully. Mistake.

This is actually my first experience with reading Peter Lovesey.  I mean, I know who he is and that he is in the upper stratosphere of crime writers, but I’ve not read him before. Reading “Remaindered” certainly has made me want to change that. The story is multi-layered, and exceptionally cleverly structured. It begins with the sad and sudden death of a second hand bookstore owner; due to a crate of Agatha Christie novels he’s just purchased, as indicated in the excerpt above. And that is where the story starts to twist and turn, changing shapes and throwing out the occasional surprise, twist after twist after twist; all of them organic and foreshadowed, and the story itself does an excellent, highly honest job of depicting the characters, their needs, their wants, and their incredibly surprising histories. I do highly recommend it.

The entire point of The Short Story Project was intended to be a sort of graduate course in short story writing for me. At the beginning of this year, the intent was for me to write a lot of short stories and to work on my craft with them, to improve as a writer. I’ve not had that much success with any of the new stories I’ve written this year; the rejections continue to stack up. But I shall continue to try writing them. I also realized last night that two stories I have coming out in anthologies next year are similarly themed, and I have like two or three more following not only a similar theme but a similar pattern in the works. Ruh roh.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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