New Reprint

Digital Fiction Publishing has put out a Kindle edition of “Ye Shall Eat in  Haste” as part of its digital fiction horror shorts.

If you’d like to see the story that sets the stage for my novel, Only The Dead — which I’ve recently rewritten — follow this link to pick up a copy.

The story garnered an honorable mention in Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 1, edited by Ellen Datlow, after its original appearance in Black Static #4 back in 2008, so I’m happy to see it available again for people to enjoy.

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Past, Present, Future

Last year was a year for transitions. Lost my job. Laid off because the new owner wanted to cut costs to increase their profits, and I’d worked there 22.5 years. Which sounds like I made too much money and was an easy out.

Found a new job selling furniture of all things, and I’ve been with Art Van since the end of March. I can’t believe I’ve been there for going on 10 months. You’d think retail work and hours, and straight commission pay would make things dicey (and it does to some extent), but it’s actually less stress than my old job. I still get to help people, solving problems, just in a different way.

Down side, however, is retail hours. I walk a little more than 5 miles a day the days I work, adding up to a marathon a week. While that means I’m healthier and stronger than I was, my weekends are now Tuesday and Wednesday, my day starts later and ends later, and I still haven’t figured out how to work gym time into the mix.

All of which means I need to tackle 2016 with a plan. I need to schedule schedule schedule, so I use my time as efficiently as possible. That way I’ll have more time for work around the house, more time for my family, more time for me to read and write.

First, I’m going to try my hand at the 68-day challenge promoted by Art Van, so I’m accountable for (a) exercise and (b) writing. That means that between tomorrow and March 13 I need to have gone to Planet Fitness at least three times a week for nine weeks and I need to have written between 275 and 300 pages. That’s enough time to get even more fit than a weekly marathon does for me now, and that’s also enough time to get a good start on a new book.

I’ve lost 52 pounds since I started tracking my weight in December 2014, but I’m at a plateau, and I’m ready to leave that behind. Hopefully I’ll have better numbers to report by this time next year. Or I’ll pleasantly surprise some of my peeps in Columbus when World Fantasy comes around.

Because if you do see me in Columbus, it’s going to be because I’ve succeeded, both physically and mentally.

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How To Fix The Hugos

I offer sincere congratulations to the nominees, but the list clearly illustrates the kerfuffle I’ve read about on Facebook.

Best Novel (1,827 nominating ballots)

 Best Novella (1,083)

Best Novelette (1,031)

  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog 6/14)
  • “Championship B’tok”, Edward M. Lerner (Analog 9/14)
  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”, Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show 5/14)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”, Rajnar Vajra (Analog 7-8/14)
  • “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons)

 Best Short Story (1,174)

  • “On a Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2 11/14)
  • “Goodnight Stars”, Annie Bellet (The End is Now)
  • “Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge 7/14)
  • “Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons)

 Best Dramatic Presentation – Long (1,285)

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Interstellar
  • The Lego Movie

 Best Dramatic Presentation – Short (938)

  • Doctor Who: “Listen”
  • The Flash: “Pilot”
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”

 Best Related Work (1,150)

 Best Graphic Story (785)

 Best Professional Editor Long Form (712)

  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Editor Short Form (870)

  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt
  • Edmund R. Schubert

 Best Professional Artist (753)

  • Julie Dillon
  • Jon Eno
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid

Best Semiprozine (660)

  • Abyss & Apex
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Lightspeed
  • Strange Horizons

Best Fanzine (576)

  • Black Gate
  • Elitist Book Reviews
  • Journey Planet
  • The Revenge of Hump Day
  • Tangent Online

Best Fancast (668)

  • Adventures in SF Publishing
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast
  • The Sci Phi Show
  • Tea and Jeopardy

Best Fan Writer (777)

  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson

Best Fan Artist (296)

  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer [Not a Hugo Award] (851)

  • *Wesley Chu
  • Jason Cordova
  • *Kary English
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric. S. Raymond

*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

There were 2,122 nominating ballots received from members of LonCon 3, Sasquan, and MidAmeriCon II.

***

I’ve seen at least one comment on Facebook that “No Award” will get a lot of votes in some categories, and I can understand the sentiment. But I also feel that if someone wants to encourage/advocate their friends/fans to nominate and vote for them to win the award that’s their right. It is a popular award, and reflects the choice of fans during a particular time period.

The novel category is interesting, and all seem worthy contenders. The novella category is a shambles and some of the chaos evident within it has filtered down into other categories. Again, this is a popular award. That some works earn support (and dollars for the works themselves and the cost of nominating and voting) is proof of a some value. Your personal mileage may vary, but the answer is always to express your opinion by voting.

So if the ballot does not suit you or represent what you want, fix it by voting. There were 2,122 nominating ballots cast to create this list, but there’s no reason more ballots can’t be cast to vote on the nominees. If you want No Award to win, buy a membership to the convention, even if you’re not going to attend, and vote for who (or what) you want to win. It’s that simple.

It doesn’t hurt anyone if you express your viewpoint. So if you’re unhappy with the ballot, fix it in the best way possible.

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Determination (or F The Ides)

I’ve reached the halfway point of March — those dreaded Ides of March — and I should feel a sense of panic, as the end of my severance pay nears with every tick of the clock. I’ve had a couple of interviews, one of which was clearly questionable, and I don’t have any job offers yet.

One of the interviews was clearly for a questionable job, well outside my bailiwick as a B2B salesperson. Plus, it was over in Troy, so the commute and extra mileage on the car wasn’t a good fit. But I’m actually feeling pretty confident, despite that block; when I went into the interview I realized I’m a good guy and a darn good catch, and that sort of understanding can only help me in the long run as I zero in on the right job. It certainly helped with the other interview I had early last week, and which is being followed by what the employer is calling a “final” interview tomorrow. I’ve also got a followup with another company later in the day, so I think things are looking up.

The only downside to everything is how much spam keeps showing up in my mailbox, so much so that I actually have to look through it for “real” mail, like email from both of tomorrow’s potential employers.

The first interview tomorrow is outside my bailiwick as well, but I’m not the same person I was at the beginning of the year. I can’t be the same person. When life hands you lemons, when you get knocked down, the clichéd responses are the only way to respond. Otherwise you’re apt to go crazy.

An upside to these changes is that I was able to go to a movie for the first time in probably a decade without worrying about a pager call. My old job had me carrying a phone to field after hours calls, and it’s a relief not dealing with the stress involved with always being on the clock. Even though I could handle the problems that arose, there was this sense that there was always someone out there in the world who might be angry with me just because they weren’t having a good day. That I was there to help them, and turn those frowns, wasn’t enough because when shit hits the fan you’ve got shit all over the place. Even after things are cleaned up, the customer still knows what happened and a polished turd is still a turd.

I’m done with shit. :-)

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In Which I Find Out About Scams

It’s been a month now (give or take a few days) and there still isn’t any light on the horizon or at the end of the tunnel regarding the job search. I’ve had a few nibbles, but I’ve still haven’t gotten my foot in the door anywhere. No face-to-face interviews, though I’ve gone through some “evaluations” that amount to personality and logic tests.

Those aren’t bad, actually. The personality tests of “who I am” provide an honest assessment. I’m self-assured enough to recognize they’re fairly accurate if you want to use broad strokes. And while I don’t like story problems, I handle the logic tests well enough. Of course, being smart doesn’t necessarily make me “employable.” All of which means I’m moving more and more toward starting over.

If that wasn’t bad enough, all the job applications and resumes  I’ve submitted have put me on the radar of what look like scammers. Without naming anyone, I’ve gotten emails and phone calls from people wanting to place me with D2D commission-only sales or connect me with questionable online degree mills.

Am I angry? No, I can’t say that. More frustrated and chagrined at my prospects. Living off your retirement savings more than decade before you retire wasn’t in my plans. :-)

And I can’t rely on writing as a career, as I’m subject to the whims of the publishers, editors and agents. They want to put out a superior product and make money as much as my former employers. There’s nothing wrong people looking out for themselves. They have to make a living, too. As far as writing is concerned, it’s always been a situation where I have to provide the “superior product” that jumps off the shelves, turns the pages. Luckily, it’s a career I’m mentally suited for and one that I can teach myself by honing by craft. I can only get better by putting words down on the page.

But it’s not a plan. It’s not the same as nearly 30 years in the workplace, though if I’d applied myself to writing in that same timeframe I might be the guy who came up with story X and novel Y rather than an also-ran.

And that’s not bitterness you see in those words. I know that where I am is on me. It just may turn out that “where I am” is also going to be somewhere other than Michigan if I have to relocate.

You might ask what’s next? Well, since our global warm Mother Nature decided to drop a few inches of icy accumulation today, I’ve got to shovel out the driveway and sidewalks. Only plus side about this is the muse likes the distraction found with physical labor, so I’ll be ready to put some more words down this afternoon. I’ve knocked out about 5k in the last two days on the ghost story novel, and I’m about ready to wrap up the first section.

I could also look at self-publishing the two books I do have finished. I haven’t tested those waters yet, but I’m curious as to whether the pool is nice or not. I don’t look down on self-publishing through a place like Amazon. I just haven’t gotten to that point yet while I live off my severance.

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Three Weeks and Counting

More job apps submitted, some rejected, some still in the works, and there’s a possible interview in the offing, but it’s been three-plus weeks since I started on this new path — this unemployed path — and the jitters don’t hit as often as they did in the first few days but the days seem darker.

I could have driven down to North Carolina for a job interview in Raleigh, but the place paid next to nothing. Add to that scenario the fact that the weather worsened with the recent polar blast last week, and a road trip didn’t seem like a good idea.

Still waiting on a few replies for story submissions, but with the rejections that already came back, it’s hard not to find the prospect of a writer’s life discouraging. You definitely — one hundred percent, no ifs ands buts about it — need to have steady work in the pipeline and good news coming all the time to have that kind of career. Oh, and lots of savings. Kudos to the people I know who are full-time writers. It’s damn hard to do, and you deserve everything you’re given, because I know you’re working hard.

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Firsts

Rejection is the keyword for this past week. Primarily rejections for some of the stories I’ve submitted to several venues, but I did have one company (on the south side of Flint) take a second look at my resume but nix an offer because of the distance I’d have to travel for work. It wasn’t feasible, even with gas prices being as good as they are nowadays.

Can’t sleep tonight, only getting about two hours of restless rack time, as I’ve got a phone interview later this morning. It’s like the nights before a travel volleyball tournament when the girls played club; I knew I had things to do the next day and anticipation kept me on a knife’s edge.

Whether this interview results in a job or not is still an unknown, but it is a first step to getting back what I’ve lost. Life can only look up next week, whether I’ve got a job to go to or not, as I’ll be able to get into a solid routine once Ann Arbor schools return from break and I’ll be up at dawn to shovel the driveway and sidewalks, move the car so the spouse can go to work, and I can go right to the gym before sending out more resumes and knocking out more pages. I’m winning by losing, remember — except I know I don’t want to lose during the interview. It’s better to win by winning.

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