Just finished attending the UND Writer’s Conference at the end of March. I came for Joy Harjo, stayed for Sonia Shah, and fell in love with the work of Ross Gay. It was a great conference.

Joy Harjo is one of my favorite poets, as well as being our first Native American Poet Laureate. Here is her page on the Poetry Foundation: Joy Harjo, and here is one of my favorite poems: The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window, by Joy Harjo. She also recently worked on a project as the editor of a collection of Native poetry: When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry.

I didn’t really know much about the other authors this year before the conference, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of them, Sonia Shah, was a journalist who had a book about pathogens and contagion that I had had on my Amazon wish list for some time! Of course, I finally ordered it! Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera To Ebola And Beyond.

But the biggest surprise was Ross Gay. I’ll admit I had never heard of him before, but he was the highlight of the conference for me this year. He was so upbeat, so full of joy; after the horrible year that was 2020, his optimism and celebration of the little things was just what I needed. No surprise, since two of his books are Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (Pitt Poetry Series) and The Book of Delights: Essays.

Speaking of delights and optimism, the camping registration window has opened, and I’ve started making our camping reservations for this summer. I’m a little apprehensive about how it will be, though, because our weather has been so strange. The weather has been good enough we could have started camping already. Normally, the weather now is awful. When we tried to pull our old camper for trade last year at this time, there was still snow on the ground in places and we tore up the yard due to the frost just starting to come out (causing the yard to be a wet mud pit). This year, there’s no snow anywhere and we have fire weather warnings in place. It could be a long, hot summer.

As for my writing, I’m juggling multiple writing projects right now. As I write this (in the last few days of March), I’m working on: a mid-term essay for my class; a short response to the Writer’s Conference paper for my class; a short story started last year (“started” equals some scenes written, but not even what I’d call a full rough draft yet) but now finishing up for a sub call deadline it fits perfectly; a long-ish flash piece from scratch, also on a tight deadline; and a bit of an edit on an older piece where I came up with an idea to enhance the story.

In other words, I’m swamped. But at least I’m not currently dealing with the “I don’t know what to write about” problem. In addition to all this work, I have five or six other ideas that are clamoring for attention, but like the rotten little spoiled brats they are, they are going to have to wait their turn. I’ve jotted down a few notes so that I don’t forget them and I’ll get back to them when time permits.

Here’s my short story reading list for March 2021 #500Stories500Nights

  • 1: “The Wind,” by Lauren Groff (New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 1-26-21)
  • 2: “Hairy Legs and All,” by Stephen Graham Jones (Nightmare Magazine podcast, 2-17-21)
  • 3: “Silver Door Diner,” by Bishop Garrison (LeVar Burton Reads, 2-1-21)
  • 4: “A General in the Library,” by Italo Calvino (Selected Shorts podcast, 2-11-21)
  • 5: “Dogs, Cats, and the End of the World,” by Louis B Rosenberg (Tales to Terrify 468)
  • 6: “Godmouth,” by PL McMillan (Nocturnal Transmissions 96)
  • 7: “Mary Postgate,” by Rudyard Kipling (The Penguin Book of First World War Stories)
  • 8: “Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself,” by Radclyffe Hall (The Penguin Book of First World War Stories)
  • 9: “Tongueless,” by Julia August (Tales to Terrify 468)
  • 10: “Writing a War Story,” by Edith Wharton (World War I in American Fiction)
  • 11: “Blind,” by Mary Borden (The Penguin Book of First World War Stories)
  • 12: “In the Tunnels,” by Pauline Dungate (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • 13: “Hunger: A Confession,” by Dale Bailey (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • 14: “The Dunwich Horror,” HP Lovecraft (The HP Lovecraft Archive; hplovecraft.com)
  • 15: “Only a Moment,” by Lex Black (The Other Stories 59.4)
  • 16: “The Uninvited Grave,” by Jeffrey Thomas (Pseudopod 727)
  • 17: “A Challenge You Have Overcome,” by Allegra Goodman (New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 1-19-21)
  • 18: “Flyboys,” by Tobias Wolff (LeVar Burton Reads, 3-8-21)
  • 19: “Prince Amilec,” by Tanith Lee (Selected Shorts, 2-18-21)
  • 20: “The Idea of Marcel,” by Marie-Helene Bertino (Selected Shorts, 2-18-21)
  • 21: “The Sin of America,” by Catherynne M Valente (Uncanny 39A)
  • 22: “The One’s Who Won’t Be,” by Martin Munks (Drabblecast 441)
  • 23: “Cannabilism in the Inhuman Age,” by Jaye Viner (Drabblecast 441)
  • 24: “Storms of the Present,” by Christopher Hawkins (Tales to Terrify 469)
  • 25: “Stew, Britannia!” by Lyman Graves (Nocturnal Transmissions 98)
  • 26: “There’s Something Crawling on Me,” by Jordan Hirsch (Daily Science Fiction, 3-15-21)
  • 27: “Digital Olives,” by B. Renard (Wicked Libraryi WIHM 2021, 2-21-21)
  • 28: “Scare Tactics,” by Gary Wosk (The Other Stories 60.4)
  • 29: “Digital Nomad,” by Koji A Dae (The Overcast 144)
  • 30: “Three Wishes,” by Robert Bagnall (Daily Science Fiction, 3-19-21) 31: “Junie Proctor’s Panties,” by KT Jayne (Wicked Library WIHM 2021, 2-21-21)
  • 31: “Junie Proctor’s Panties,” by KT Jayne (Wicked Library WIHM 2021, 2-21-21)

In addition to reading a short story a day, I read All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. I was inspired to read it because we had to read an excerpt in my WWI class. It was good, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I’m enjoying our current long read for the class, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. (bleh!)

I’ve also tried to be a little more consistent with my reading (or else I’m never even going to make a dent in this TBR list before I die). I’m trying to systematically go through the list of stuff I want to read. I started with All Quiet, and now I’m moving back into my nonfiction stuff.

I set aside my start-stop Lovecraft and started back with Thacker’s In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy (Volume 1). That might have been a mistake, because it is a slog.

A small sample: “Let us call this spectral and speculative world the world-without-us. In a sense, the world-without-us allows us to think the world-in-itself, without getting caught up in a vicious circle of logical paradox. The world-in-itself may co-exist with the world-for-us — indeed the human being is defined by its impressive capacity for not recognizing this distinction. By contrast, the world-without-us cannot co-exist with the human world-for-us; the world-without-us is the subtraction of the human from the world.”

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Of course, that’s to be expected, though. Here’s the intro from his Wiki: Eugene Thacker is a philosopher, poet and author. He is Professor of Media Studies at The New School in New York City. His writing is often associated with the philosophy of nihilism and pessimism. 

There are definitely nuggets of wisdom here, but you have to put in the work to get to them.

This “album” he points to in the text is probably a good example, though I couldn’t put in the work to get to a nugget out of it. Go to YouTube and check it out yourself: Keiji Haino – So, Black is Myself. Or skip it, it’s probably all the same either way (yay, Cosmic pessimism)! I got through about five minutes of the hour-long video. Good luck to you.

After this book, I plan to jump back into the Lovecraft letters. I struggle with these non-fiction works because they require actual attention and contemplation, and I just haven’t had a lot of time for that lately. Now I’m going to try and make the time. My usual mode is I read a chapter, get busy, and then try to pick up where I left off two, three, or even four weeks later. Ask me what I did two days ago, and I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you; so I’m certainly not going to be able to dive back into a book I set down a month ago. Every time I pick a book back up again after a pause, I have to pretty much start over.

That’s it for this month. I’ve got projects calling my name. Until next month, Stay Spooky!

SURPRISE!

As you can see, I’ve been tweaking the website a bit. I know, you’re shocked. I never get around to updating the website.

It all started with bookmarks. Not web browser bookmarks, actual cardstock bookmarks you put in a dead tree book.

My current class uses multiple books at the same time, so I had to dig out a few extra bookmarks to keep my place. When I dragged out the extra bookmarks, I used my bookmarks (my author bookmarks), and I was reminded how I find myself reluctant to handout my bookmarks and business cards because I’m not quite happy with the website, and I’m not crazy about sending people to it. I always find myself giving the disclaimer, “Don’t mind the website, it’s a work-in-progress, ha, ha, ha” (yes, it’s a writer’s pun; I have no shame).

It’s not that the website was bad. It looked good—but not great—on a mobile. On the computer, though, there was something just not quite right about it. And, of course, the “comment on blog post” functionality was broken (in the sense that it was a function I disabled, but couldn’t get rid of the buttons). And, just like the last site design that I had for a decade or so and absolutely loved, the design was retired and no longer supported, so I couldn’t even get tech help with it. Rather than leave it with that not-quite-right feeling and a bit broken, I decided I’d go ahead and change the design again.

I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with this design. It’s far from perfect, but I like it better than the last one. Of course, the perfect design is STILL the one I had for ten years or so (LOL), but this one isn’t bad. Not saying that I still might not try to replicate that perfect design someday on my own, but this new design will do for a while. And it looks good enough that I might not have to add my writer’s pun disclaimer when I hand out my cards and bookmarks! Of course, this probably means this particular template is doomed to be discontinued in the next month or two…!

You’ll also notice that I upgraded my Cthulhu dividers. Rather than doing a color-matched background, I made it transparent. Why, oh WHY, didn’t I do that months ago? Beats me. I actually used to goof around with graphics quite a bit, so, while I’m rusty, I do have some skills. I’m much happier with these little guys now, too.

Speaking of my class, I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. I’m not a history buff, but I have been enjoying the stories and poems of World War I. Also, I have discovered (RE-discovered?) that I love explicating poetry. Yes, I must be nuts. I like it so much that I entertained making a monthly poetry explication part of this blog, but then I thought better of it and decided to spare you . . . for now. I make no promises about the future.

Because I was training in a new person, I didn’t listen to podcasts as much as I usually do. I actually had to use my eyeballs to make sure I made my February reading quota. That’s good, because it was a goal I was working toward anyway, so I’ll pretend reading more (as opposed to listening) was intentional rather than something born of necessity due to the current situation. So without further ado, here’s my February 2021 #500Stories500Nights list:

  • 1: “I Let You Out,” by Desirina Boskovich (Nightmare Magazine Podcast, 1-27-21)
  • 2: “The Best We Can,” by Carrie Vaughn (LeVar Burton Reads, 4-23-19)
  • 3: “Tyrannosaurus Hex,” by Sam Miller (Uncanny 38A)
  • 4: “The Dandelion Man,” by Jack Nicholls (Drabblecast 409)
  • 5: “The Hammer-Royal Model For Making the Superhero A-List,” by Jason Kimble
  • 6: “The Lighthouse,” by Donyae Coles (Tales to Terrify 460)
  • 7: “The Spider,” by Lauren Mills (Tales to Terrify 460)
  • 8: “Irreconcilable Differences,” by “Brooke Warra (The Wicked Library 733)
  • 9: “Sleepyhead,” by Brooke Warra (The Wicked Library 733)
  • 10: “Stalemate,” by Liam Hogan (The Other Stories 54.4)
  • 11: “Bear Day,” by Kathryn LePage (The Overcast 140)
  • 12: “Teeth Long and Sharp as Blades,” by A.C. Wise (Pseudopod 728)
  • 13: “Study, for Solo Piano,” by Genevieve Valentine (Fantasy Magazine podcast, 5-2-11)
  • 14: “How to Identify an Alien Shark,” by Beth Goder (The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy: 2019 Edition, edited by Rich Horton)
  • 15: “Fear the Dead,” by Ramsey Cammpbell (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • 16: “You Will Never Be Forgotten,” by Mary South (New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 1-21-20)
  • 17: “Mr. Hadj’s Sunset Ride,” by Saladin Ahmed (LeVar Burton Reads, 4-30-19)
  • 18: “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E Harrow (The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy: 2019 Edition, edited by Rich Horton)
  • 19: “The Hanged Man of Oz,” by Steve Nagy (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • 20: “Rocket Surgery,” by Effie Seiberg (Drabblecast 439)
  • 21: “Intervention,” by Kelly Robson (The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy: 2019 Edition, edited by Rich Horton)
  • 22: “From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review,” by Marie Brennan (Cast of Wonders 405)
  • 23: “The Seed from the Sepulchre,” by Clark Ashton Smith (Nocturnal Transmissions 95)
  • 24: “The Donner Party,” by Dale Bailey (The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy: 2019 Edition, edited by Rich Horton)
  • 25: “Mara,” by Michael Chislett (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • 26: “The Price of a Dragon,” by Charlotte H Lee (The Overcast 87)
  • 27: “The Sea Thing,” by Frank Belknap Long (Pseudopod 742)
  • 28: “Cell Call,” by Marc Laidlaw (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen, edited by Stephen Jones)

According to one of those date calculations apps, I will achieve my official 500th story on March 15, 2021, but I’m not going to stop there. I’m going to try and keep reading at least one short story per day ad infinitum.

Last month, I wrote one new flash fiction story (my first new story of the year! Yay, me!) and had one short story published. You can read “Nomad’s Land” in Cosmic Horror Monthly #8. It’s a modern take on the epistolary form, and it’s about the search for the Mongolian death worm.

Though I’m thrilled I finally finished a new story, I’m waaaay behind on all my other writerly duties (but, hey! Website, Amirite?). I have at least two or three stories that I started last year that still need to be finished, stories that need to be sent out to find their home, AND I should already be working on my next new story. To top it off, I’m also behind on my Letters of Lovecraft project. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it too much, and let all the fun be sucked out of being a writer (and, hey! WEBSITE, Amirite?).

That’s about all I have for this month. Until next month, Stay Spooky!

Wow! I don’t know about anybody else, but I feel like January just sailed by!

This first month of the new year, I’ve been busy with the new semester of school (Poetry and Prose of WWI) and work (training a new minion, er, I mean, a new person).

I’ve also been trying to get back on track with my workouts. No, I haven’t turned into a yoga nut. I have pretty practical motivations for wanting to workout. Though I love being in the great outdoors and love hiking, I am NOT a winter person, especially not these extreme winters of North Dakota where -60 with wind chill isn’t unheard of (though this winter has been very mild). Ice fishing sounds like the seventh circle of hell to me. Seven months out of the year, I’m pretty much entirely indoors, getting out of shape. Then, when outdoor season begins, I’m too out of shape to enjoy it as much as I’d like. By the time I start getting my endurance up enough to enjoy a good, long hike, camping season is winding down and the temps are starting to drop below freezing. So my goal has been to workout more and maintain an “enjoying the great outdoors” fitness level.

One of my newest favorite workouts is the Bollywood Dance. You can check out one of the free ones I’ve been doing at: Bollywood workout. They are so much fun. I have a hard time keeping up, and afterwards I’m a puddle of sweaty jello, but I laugh the whole time. It’s so much fun!

On the publishing front, my story, “US Portal Service,” is available as a podcast at Third Flatiron Publishing. You can listen here: US Portal Service, by Brenda Kezar.

Here is my #500Stories500Nights list for this month:

  • 1: “Toward Happy Civilization,” by Samanta Schweblin (LeVar Burton Reads, 5-21-19)
  • 2: “Christmas in New York,” by Jeanette Winterson (Selected Shorts, 12-24-20)
  • 3: “The Things I Miss the Most,” by Nisi Shawl (Uncanny 24B)
  • 4: “From Asteroids to Dust,” by Priya Chand (Cast of Wonders 439)
  • 5: “Toxic,” by Eleftherios Keramidas (Third Flatiron Publishing)
  • 6: “How I Became a Professional Liar,” by Angela Yuriko Smith (The Wicked Library 1018)
  • 7: “Backup,” by Edward Ashton (The Overcast 86)
  • 8: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” by Ted Chiang (LeVar Burton Reads, 6-5-19 & 6-11-19)
  • 9: “Crazy They Call Me,” by Zadie Smith (Selected Shorts, 12-17-20)
  • 10: “Hot Streak,” by Roy Bishop (Tales to Terrify 466)
  • 11: “The Seahorses,” by William Hope Hodgson (Nocturnal Transmissions 39)
  • 12: “Horseplay,” by Rich Larson (Daily Science Fiction 1-12-21)
  • 13: “Coming Soon,” by Steven Millhauser (The New Yorker: Fiction, 1-1-21)
  • 14: “Wolves,” by Edward Ashton (StarShipSofa 650)
  • 15: “Flying Carpets,” by Steven Millhauser (LeVar Burton Reads, 5-28-19)
  • 16: “The Luncheon,” by Jeffrey Archer (Selected Shorts 12-31-20)
  • 17: “Love is Not a Pie,” by Amy Bloom (Selected Shorts 12-31-20)
  • 18: “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny 23B)
  • 19: “Krampus Tales,” by Jeff Speziale (Nocturnal Transmissions 93)
  • 20: “Wunjo,” by Daniel Loring Keating (The Other Stories 60.3)
  • 21: “A Thousand Bites. And One,”by Calie Voorhis(Daily Science Fiction 1-1-21)
  • 22: “The Radiant Web,” by Mia Moss (StarShipSofa 651)
  • 23: “It’s Just Not Ragnarok Without the Naglfar,” by L.L. Lamando (Flashpoint Science Fiction 1-15-21)
  • 24: “The Best Scarlet Ceremony Ever!” by Shaenon K Garrity (Drabblecast 415)
  • 25: “Swift Bear & Laxon: Boss Dannon’s Boss,” by Richard Reynolds (The Other Stories 59.2)
  • 26: “Workday,” by Kurt Fawver (Pseudopod 737)
  • 27: “The House of Gears,” by Jonathon L Howard (Fantasy Magazine podcast 4-18-11)
  • 28: “Eulogy for Ulysses Jefferson Lee,” by Bret Parent (Daily Science Fiction 1-28-21)
  • 29: “Kecksies,” by Marjorie Bowen (Pseudopod 740)
  • 30: “The Rivals,” by Andrea Lee (The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 12-29-20)
  • 31: “They Tell Me, Now I Know,” by Shay Youngblood (Selected Sports 11-19-20)

To make up for the shorter blog post, here’s a little video of my evil corgi muse, Honey Booboo. This video was taken in my writing room while I was *trying* to get some work done.

That’s it for this month. Too much to do and too little time!

Until next month, Stay Spooky!

JUMANJI!!! There. It’s over now, right? Well, maybe not, but at least a new year brings new hope!

I am INSANELY busy trying to get my writing life back on track in the new year. The last few months I have done nearly zero writing, and I have even let my resubs lapse. For you non-writers, re-subs are what happens when a story we send out is rejected by the publication. Afterwards, we have to research and find another market to send it to. I’ve let my resubs go so long that I literally only have one story still out at a magazine, and the only reason IT is still out there is because the magazine is a slow responding publication. It has been “under consideration” at that magazine since last February! So every story I currently have written and available for publication is sitting here on my laptop, waiting to be sent out to find its new home.

Also, all my submission calls have to be updated. Although some publications/podcasts are open all the time, many have specific submission periods, limited times when they accept stories to consider for publication. I keep a file called “upcoming deadlines” so I know which publishers will be accepting stories and when. Of course, just like everything else, I haven’t been keeping that up to date these last few months. So now I’m going through, clearing out the old sub calls, and updating with new deadlines.

It’s a whole lot of work, but I only have myself to blame.

So far, as of this post, I’ve sent out four resubs, pulled two stories that need to be edited before they can be sent as resubs (to some quickly impending deadlines, I might add), and found three themed anthologies I’d like to write stories for (one of which, of course, also has a looming deadline).

PS Classes start again in less than two weeks, so I’m trying to “get my poop in a group” before my level of busy-ness increases!

With that in mind, this blog post is going to be short and sweet!

Here is my reading/listening list for the December 2020 #500Stories500Nights

  • 1: “Dark Satanic Mills,” by Fraser Sherman (The Overcast 138)
  • 2: “Proof,” by J. Courtney Sullivan (The Chronicles of Now, 7-22-20)
  • 3: “Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit,” by Rebecca Curtis (New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 11-10-20)
  • 4: “Nawabdin Electrician,” by Daniyal Mueenuddin (New Yorker Fiction, 4-1-19)
  • 5: “Top Tier,” by Harold R Thompson (StarShipSofa 624)
  • 6: “Introduction to the Horror Story, Day 1,” by Kurt Fawver (Nightmare Magazine Podcast, 11-18-20)
  • 7: “Cuisine des Mémoires” by N.K. Jemisin (LeVar Burton Reads, 8-26-19)
  • 8: “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny 25A)
  • 9: “Two in One,” by Deborah Davitt (Tales to Terrify 459)
  • 10: “Read This First,” by Bob DeRosa (Saturday Morning Horror from Perpetual Motion Machine, 12-5-20)
  • 11: “The Crystal Ball That Lied,” by GB Burgess (The Overcast 139)
  • 12: “The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter,” by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Pseudopod 731)
  • 13: “Mother of Invention,” by Nnedi Okorafor (LeVar Burton Reads, 11-16 & 11-23-20)
  • 14: “The Pit and The Pendulum,” Poe (Nocturnal Transmissions 50)
  • 15: “Oh Ghost of Mine,” by Zach Bartlett (The Overcast 91)
  • 16: “The Extinction Show,” by Manuel Gonzales (The Chronicles of Now, 7-8-20)
  • 17: “A for Alone,” by Curtis Sittenfeld (New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 10-27-20)
  • 18: “The Colonizers,” by J. Weintraub (StarShipSofa 648)
  • 19: “Cultural Relativity,” by Charles Johnson (Selected Shorts Rites & Rituals, 12-3-20)
  • 20: “Maternal Instinct,” by Chris Lester (Drabblecast 435)
  • 21: “Rapture,” by Reggie Oliver (Nocturnal Transmissions 91)
  • 22: “The Dogfisherman,” by Edward Ahern (The Other Stories 59.1)
  • 23: “The Twenty-Sixth Second,” by George Fox (Selected Shorts Rites of Passage, 12-10-20)
  • 24: “Just Desserts,” by Mary Soon Lee (Daily Science Fiction, 12-18-20)
  • 25: “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Podcast 25B)
  • 26: “The Shallow One,” by Matthew Sanborn (Drabblecast 437)
  • 27: “How to Influence Friends and Make People,” by Austen McGee (The Overcast 88)
  • 28: “The Ponz,” by Jess Walter (The Chronicles of Now, 5-27-20)
  • 29: “The Pet,” by Nadine Gordimer (The New Yorker: Fiction podcast 2-1-19)
  • 30: “Ghost Collecting,” by Sheila Massie (Flash Fiction Online, October 2020)
  • 31: “It’s a Bird,” by MA Dosser (Daily Science Fiction, 12-16-20)

All I can say is, thank goodness for podcasts! I’d never be able to enjoy as many stories without them!

Speaking of stories, I have two upcoming stories for your enjoyment. My story, “Nomad’s Land,” will be appearing in Cosmic Horror Monthly next month. My story, “US Portal Service,” which appeared in Third Flatiron Publishing’s Brain Games anthology will be produced as a podcast by Third Flatiron. I’ll provide links for both when more information is available!

Until next month, Stay Spooky!

I may have set a new personal record last month: most days without writing. I’m guessing a big part of it is pandemic fatigue. It’s hard to keep up the creative flow in the dumpster fire that is 2020. Plus, when the world you live in is a real-life dystopia . . . Anyway, my writing is at a total standstill.

However, it’s that time of the year: time to review old goals and set new ones. I did learn one good lesson from this year: sometimes I get so wrapped up in my “to do list” (particularly my writing “to do list”) that I forget to live. While writing is a huge part of my life, focusing on my writing too much is actually BAD, both in general and for my writing.

This was best illustrated in camping season this year. I was really excited about camping since we didn’t get to camp last year. However, I ended up getting caught up in my writing deadlines and submission calls, and I spent a big part of my camping days sitting inside the camper, writing and editing. Toward the end of the season, I finally put away my laptop and got out and actually enjoyed the camping trips. Then I was sad because I’d wasted most of my camping season inside, pounding away at my laptop!

Hemingway said, “The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

https://azevedosreviews.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/ernest-hemingways-20-quotes-on-writing/

This is great advice, especially considering the uncertainty in these crazy times. I mean, if I end up lying in my death bed, what do I want to look back on? The camping trip with my daughter where we got lost in Pembina Gorge, or the night I stayed up until I was exhausted trying to finish off a story before the deadline?

So, as important as writing is (and all the other things that occupy my “to do” list), I need to remember to set them aside more often. I need to remember to live with gusto. So, to circle back to the original topics of goals, I’m going to revise next year’s goals to leave more room for living with gusto.

Keeping my new “live with gusto” philosophy in mind, here’s the breakdown on how I did for 2020 and what my goals are for 2021. Three goals are my “set in stone goals” (the personal goal of exercise, the writing stories goal, and the 500Stories500nights–which I intend to keep long after 500 stories). The rest of the goals are moving to the same priority as “Fix my website.” 😉

Set in Stone: On a personal level, one of my goals is to get back on the workout track. I’ve built a pretty decent home gym over the years, but my use of it has been sporadic. I’m going to do better.

Flexible: Read more scholarly work. This is a goal new to this year. For that, I’m starting by reading the collected essays of Lovecraft.

Flexible: Fix my website. In 2020, I made some progress, but there is a lot more work to do. For 2021, I’m going to continue improving my website.

Set in Stone: (was) Write and submit eight new stories. In 2020, I finished six, and the seventh is nearly done. I’m lowering the quota on this one. For 2021, I plan to write and submit six new stories.

Flexible: Submit three reprints. In 2020, I achieved this goal. For 2021, I plan to keep the same goal.

Set in Stone: Participate in the #500Stories500Nights Challenge. November marked one year of participation in the challenge for me. For 2021, I plan to keep the same goal, and I plan to take it beyond the 500 and just keep it as “I’m going to read/listen to one short story every day for the rest of my life.”

Speaking of #500Stories500Nights, here is my reading list for last month.

  • 1: “Thank You for Your Life,” by C. Bryan Brown (The Wicked Library 1014)
  • 2: “Market Value,” by Gerri Leen (The Overcast 93)
  • 3: “Breeze Point,” by Curtis Sittenfield (The Chronicles of Now, 8-12-20)
  • 4: “An Infinite Number of Idiots,” by Robert Jeschonek (StarShipSofa 626)
  • 5: “Sibyl,” by Carys Davies (Selected Shorts 10-22-20)
  • 6: “Love in the Balance,” by David D. Levine (Drabblecast 417)
  • 7: “Ages of Death,” by SW Pisciotta (Tales to Terrify 456)
  • 8: “Dead Man’s Shoes,” by Ashley Thorpe (Tales From Beyond the Pale 41)
  • 9: “Cordona’s Skull,” by Mary Elizabeth Counselman (Pseudopod 719)
  • 10: “Ghoul,” by George Saunders (The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 11-3-20)
  • 11: “Face Value,” by Sean Williams (LeVar Burton Reads, 9-9-19)
  • 12: “A Drama,” by Anton Chekhov (Selected Shorts, 11-5-20)
  • 13: “I Decline,” by Cat Rambo (Daily Science Fiction, 11-6-20)
  • 14: “Vis Delendi,” by Marie Brennan (Uncanny Magazine 27B)
  • 15: “A Shadow Over Innsmouth,” by HP Lovecraft (Drabblecast 434)
  • 16: “The Soup Witch’s Funeral Dinner,” by Nicole LeBoeuf (Cast of Wonders 431)
  • 17: “Status Report,” by John Wray (Chronicles of Now, 7-29-20)
  • 18: “Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts,” by Anthony Veasna (The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 2-4-20)
  • 19: “Little Man,” by Michael Cunningham (LeVar Burton reads, 10-26-20)
  • 20: “In Paris,” by Ivan Bunin (Selected Shorts, 10-29-20)
  • 21: “Rats,” by HP Lovecraft (Drabblecast 413)
  • 22: “Eight to the Eighth,” by Liam Hogan (Cast of Wonders 412)
  • 23: “The Lightkeepers,” by Jude Reid (Tales to Terrify 458)
  • 24: “The Horror in the Museum,” by Hazel Heald and HP Lovecraft (Nocturnal Transmissions 41 & 42)
  • 25: “Eyespots,” by Shannon Fay (Daily Science Fiction, 11-23-20)
  • 26: “Indispensable,” by Wendy Nikel (Flash Fiction Online, November 2020)
  • 27: “In Synch,” by Paul A. Freeman (Every Day Fiction, 11-30-20)
  • 28: “The Mystical Art of Codeswitching,” by Sydnee Thompson (Tor.com, 10-19-20)
  • 29: “The Science and Artistry of Snake Oil Salesmanship,” by Timothy Mudie (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 11-19-20)
  • 30: “The Blue Cube,” by Lee Frazier Davis (Daily Science Fiction, 11-11-20)

I didn’t get much television time in last month, but I watched two episodes of the first season of the new Creepshow series. The first story, “Gray Matter,” was a little bit of a disappointment, but I expected it would be. It happens to be one of my favorite King stories, and television/movie adaptations almost always fall short of their books/short stories. After seeing how bad the television version of “The Raft” was, I was really worried. I did appreciate that Adrienne Barbeau starred, so that was a plus. The second story, “The House of the Head,” was better, though the ending left a little to be desired. Episode two was better because those two stories (especially “Bad Wolf Down”) really seemed to capture the old Creepshow feeling. Of the two stories in episode two, “The Finger” was my favorite. That story gets bonus points, too, since DJ Qualls was the main character and I’m a big fan (#CitizenZForever<3)!

On a sad note, we said goodbye to our beloved Abigail last month. It was sudden and unexpected, but she was an older dog (ten years old). I’m glad we got one last camping season with her. She wasn’t much for camping per se, and she wasn’t super crazy about going for walks in the woods, but she *loved* staring out the windows from her air conditioned, king-sized bed comfort at the squirrels.

A bit of good news for the month is that one of my short stories is available on the Nocturnal Transmissions podcast. While you listen to the fabulous voice talents of Kristin Holland, add a few episodes of Nocturnal Transmissions to your podcast feed. I know you’ll love it!

Also, don’t forget to pick up Brain Games ( from Third Flatiron Publishing), which includes my short story, “US Portal Service.” I love, love, LOVE these anthologies from Third Flatiron. The anthologies are all organized around a theme (like inventions, or alternate histories, or longevity), and it’s fun to see how different authors interpret the themes and the great stories they come up with (aliens and Jimi Hendrix? Yes, please!).

That’s all for now. Until next month, stay spooky!