Out Now: The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity

ModernDeityCoverI’m thrilled my new story, “Charon Taxi & Limo Corp.,” about a New York City cabbie who transports lost souls, is included in The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, out now from Zombies Need Brains in: a limited Kickstarter edition ($20), trade paperback ($17), eBook/epub/mobi/pdf ($7), and on Kindle ($7).

Working with editors Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier was a true joy and I’m so grateful this story landed in their hands and alongside all the truly excellent work in this collection.

Please check out all the ZNB anthologies, especially Modern Deity’s pub-day siblings, When Worlds Collide and Derelict. The Kickstarter for ZNB’s next three anthologies launches in August, so keep an eye on Twitter and/or Facebook for details.

A little about this story…

There are as many New York Cities as there are New Yorkers—every one of us has our own set of people, places, and memories that create our unique version of New York City. I fucking love this about New York.

Some days*, it is the only thing I love about New York.

“Charon Taxi & Limo Corps” is a tiny piece of my New York heart, a hug goodbye to versions of the city, and me, that only existed for a few years, or an evening, or a heartbeat. At any given moment, New York City (like most cities, I assume**) is changing. These changes happen slyly, over time, like that little crease that pops up now whenever you smile (but don’t worry, you have an amazing fucking smile!). These are often bite-size losses—your favorite pizza place becomes a cell phone store; that club where you danced your ass off becomes a dorm (or a gym!); that bar where you spent so many nights with your friends that they’ve blurred together into one infinite and untouchable evening…fucking condos. (Million dollar condos at that.)***

Other times, New York City changes abruptly—a hard reboot. Before COVID, I’d lived through two of these—9/11 and Sandy. (I could also make a case for the dotcom bust and the 2008 recession and Ghouliani’s disneyfication and Bloomberg’s billionaireapalooza, etc. but those shifts, while massive and destructive, lacked the abruptness of the hard reboot.) The hard reboot, as I see it, is real life time-travel, dimension warps, alternate realties—I got on the train for work in one New York City, and arrived in another. I went to bed in one New York, and woke in another.

With the pandemic though, the reboot happened in an instant and also over 16+ gutting months. During the early days of NYC’s lock-down phase, at home in Queens, I spent hours watching live-streams of Manhattan streets and parks, and even tourist spots, on YouTube, stricken by the pervasive emptiness and silence and feeling so cut-off from my life and my home. I missed being an active part of “my city;” I didn’t realize yet “my city” was already long gone and still disappearing by the minute. For weeks, my mind clung to this stubborn idea that once the curse was lifted, like a fairytale, or The NeverEnding Story, the city would be restored.

But of course, that was never going to be true. Grieving this, adjusting to it, will likely take far longer than most of us expect. Because in addition to all the lost businesses, restaurants, arts venues, resources, jobs, homes, infrastructure, etc.—all significant and terrible losses on their own—we’re also missing so much of the mesh that makes putting up with the more exhausting aspects of sharing space with 8.4 million other people worth it—the other people.

There are as many New York Cities as there are New Yorkers. When we lost 33,484 New Yorkers, we also lost 33,484 New York Cities.**** Even this is an entirely inadequate and inaccurate means of gauging everyone and everything that’s missing from the city right now. I know some people won’t will feel it, and that’s okay. There are lots of ways New York is still New Yorking, and I’m glad the energy is coming back, but I don’t know when New York City will feel whole for me again, or that it ever should. So, even though I wrote “Charon Taxi” long before the pandemic, I can’t think of a better time to share this tiny bit of hometown love, and grief, with you all.

Please get vaccinated.

P.S. I want to send so much love to the many people who kept the city alive, literally and figuratively, while the rest of us were home. “Thank you” is also woefully inadequate here, but it’s a start—so thank you.


The footnotes are the best part, right??? 

* Like, when one must leap over a squirming pile of maggots left behind by a garbage truck in order to cross the street; or when one must dodge the considerable output of a man pissing into the wind; or when one steps into a subway car that’s been painted with human feces; or when…(I limited myself to a single subway example, but I have hundreds people).

** I don’t want to speak for other cities, not having lived in any…(yet?).

*** But that newsstand, where you sobbed to your friend because the guy you loved didn’t love you back (a refrain), is somehow, impossibly, still a freaking newsstand in 2021, and maybe you think of that night every. single. time. you pass it, but now it’s only with gratitude for the friend who held your bruised heart so gently, rather than with regret for the dude who didn’t want it in the first place.

**** At the time of this post.

Part of the milky way from the Trouvelot astronomical drawings (1881-1882) by E. L. Trouvelot (1827-1895)

A Winter Update

The last few months sure have been SOMETHING, haven’t they? I don’t even know where to begin this post. I’ve never been great at small talk–a condition that’s only grown more pronounced this past year. How do you respond to, “How’s it going?” when the inside of your brain is just alarms, Swamps of Sadness, and one long, guttural scream that started sometime in the early 90s? You don’t. Thankfully, Zoom makes it easy for me to briefly embody my favorite emoji (😬) and move on. So let’s just pretend I did the same thing here, with a bonus, “I hope this finds you well…” (because I do).

Lacking any immediate solutions to offer for deadly global pandemics and/or deadly domestic terrorism, I can only (again) urge you to look for ways to help others in your community. Volunteer, donate, signal boost–whatever you can do with the time and resources you have. Small changes are all most of us can offer, but they do add up.

On to the update…

[Art by: Alexis Goble] Glowing golden sparkles and stars rising from an old, opened wooden treasure chest. Darkly lit on a planked surface with black chalkboard background.

[Art by: Alexis Goble]

Cast of Wonders surprised and delighted me earlier this year, by selecting my story, “The Half-Life of a Broken Heart,” as a 2020 Staff Pick. This story originally appeared in Factor Four Magazine (gone, but never forgotten) and then appeared on Episode 413 of Cast of Wonders in May 2020. You might recall that editor and host, Katherine Inskip, brought me to tears with her gorgeous commentary at that time. Well, Cast of Wonders is two for two now, because host Denise Sudell, the Cast of Wonders Community Manager, did it again with her moving commentary, specially recorded for this Staff Pick reissue. Denise’s analysis captured the heart (pun!) of this story as I originally imagined it and you can’t ask for a better feeling as a writer–or, as a person–than to have your heart be so clearly seen and understood. “The Half-Life of a Broken Heart” is one of my favorite stories and I’m so grateful it found such a wonderful second home…twice! Listen at the link below…

Cast of Wonders 446: The Half-Life of a Broken Heart (Staff Picks 2020)


In February, as part of the Women in Horror Month festivities, I was thrilled to join Nicole Givens Kurtz, Meghan Arcuri, and Kaaron Warren for HWA-NY’s Galactic Terrors reading series. Watch the recorded event here and subscribe to the Galactic Terrors newsletter for info on future readings.


In April and May, I’ll be leading a new slate of workshops for young writers (Spellcasters, Cryptozoolapalooza, and Super Spies & Top-Secret Tech) at The Center for Fiction–read all about it here!

Note: These online sessions sold-out last time, so if you have any young writers (ages 9-12) in your life who might be interested, please don’t wait to register! Also, please help spread the word on Twitter (and anywhere else)!


Finally, I have several exciting new short story publications coming up, but I don’t think I’m supposed to officially announce any of those sales yet. So I’ll just say this: these stories are three of my absolute favorites (which I know I say a lot, but I think I only try to publish the work I love the most), involving (respectively) haunted hotels, nature vengeance, and a taxi driver who transports the dead. More details coming soon!


[Image art by E. L. Trouvelot]

Awards Eligible Stories 2020

Yay! A 2020 awards eligibility post! I had four new stories published in this hellfire year and I’d be thrilled if you’d read and consider them for your Bram Stoker/Nebula/World Fantasy/Hugo /Shirley Jackson Award nominations, recommendations, and reading lists, and/or for any Best of 2020 anthologies.


THE WORDS I STARVED FOR
Horror / Dark Fantasy
Fireside Magazine
January 2020 | ~2,300 words

“It’s powerful, and wrenching, and beautiful.”
Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews

I can’t promote a story in Fireside Magazine without also talking about how it and its publisher, Pablo Defendini, recently treated Dr. Regina N. Bradley and her work, publishing a racist audio adaptation of her essay (described as an “audio version of blackface“) without her knowledge, input, or consent. The publisher issued a standard Dude in Publishing™ apology, but declined to comment for this Washington Post piece covering the lack of communication and oversight that contributed to this aggressive failure. Rather than allowing Dr. Bradley’s writing to be further overshadowed by the publisher’s behavior, please take a moment to read “Da Art of Speculatin’” and consider preordering her forthcoming book, Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip Hop South, from your local bookstore on Small Business Saturday (or on any day of the week).


TAG, YOU’RE IT
Horror
Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
September 2020 | ~1,400 words
*Please reach out via my contact form if you are reading for awards and need access to a review copy.


LET IT STAND
Horror / Dark Fantasy
Lovecraft Mythos: New & Classic Collection
November 2020 | ~3,000 words
*Please reach out via my contact form if you are reading for awards and need access to a review copy.


DO NOT WRITE TO WRONG
Fantasy
Community of Magic Pens
May 2020 | ~2,800 words
*Please reach out via my contact form if you are reading for awards and need access to a review copy.


 

Out Now! Lovecraft Mythos

Lovecraft Mythos, from Flame Tree Press, is out now and includes my new story, “Let It Stand,” alongside stories from Ramsey Campbell (who also wrote the foreword), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Victor LaValle, Rachael K. Jones and many others. To celebrate, Flame Tree Press recently posted interviews with contributing authors about the inspirations for their stories as well as a series of Q&As. They’ve also got video interviews in the works, which will post on December 6th.

Usually I write a little about my story and its genesis here, but since I’ve already done that on the Flame Tree blog (hint: it includes dudes behaving badly on Twitter), I’ll cut right to the shopping info. As of this posting, there are many (many, many) Black Friday deals going on (and a huge Am@zon strike), so shop wherever works best for your budget. But I’d like to highlight that Flame Tree Press is offering free shipping over $19.97* and these gorgeous hardcovers (with foil FX!) make extra fancy and excellent gifts.

Lovecraft Mythos is available from:
Flame Tree Publishing
B&N
Kew & Willow
Astoria Bookshop
IndieBound
(Amazon Workers are Striking Today, But You Can Buy It There Too)


*and also a 3-for-2 sale on journals!!! Save me!

**[Reposting my take on “Lovecraftian” from an earlier entry] I’m a big fan of the movement within the horror community for using “cosmic horror” to describe this branch (tentacle?) of the genre. It feels increasingly unnecessary (and inaccurate) to tie it to a known racist and bigot when–with every new voice and story–cosmic horror continues to expand far beyond the constraints of its early foundations.
UPDATED (8/5/2020): Adding a link to this excellent piece on the subject from Tor Nightfire.

Coming Soon! Horror Writing Workshops for Kids at the Center for Fiction

Illustration of a castle at night background for HalloweenI’m thrilled to be leading a new series of horror workshops for young writers at The Center for Fiction next month, kicking off the Halloween season *AND* the CFF’s KidsWriting program!

We’re going to have a lot of fun exploring some of the genre’s most popular branches and playing around with its most infamous tropes. Halloween is my very favorite holiday and even though I know this year will be different, I’m still all-in for celebrating the spooky season, and, IMHO, this is a perfect way to do that safely and creatively.

We’ll be meeting via Zoom beginning on October 10th, with the first of three sessions (detailed below), which can be bundled or taken individually. Registration is open now, but attendance is limited, so please don’t wait.

Additional info from the CFF event page:

Designed for young writers, ages 9-12, these writing workshops will focus on fostering creativity in a fun, encouraging environment. Each session breaks down a different branch of horror and will include writing sprints, interactive discussions of story structure and common tropes, and opportunities to share and review our work. Parents are encouraged to register for individual sessions based on their child’s interests or for multiple sessions at a discount.

Saturday, October 10, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Haunted Places & Ghostly Faces
In this workshop, we’ll be writing ghost stories, urban legends, and crafting original “local lore” about hauntings, cursed places, and other spooky, unexplained phenomena. Poltergeists welcome!

Saturday, October 17, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Movie Monsters & Creepy Creatures
From vampires, werewolves, and zombies, to shape-shifters, ghouls, and mummies–and everything in between–in this workshop, we’ll be writing stories about the terrifying things that go bump in the night (or in your closet)!

Saturday, October 24, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Scary Science & Techie Terrors
Whether it’s extraterrestrial invasions or evil scientists, destructive blobs or sentient computers—in this workshop we’ll be writing Sci-Fi Horror about the places where science and technology meet the unknown and the unexpected.

 

Glowing golden sparkles and stars rising from an old, opened wooden treasure chest. Darkly lit on a planked surface with black chalkboard background.

Out Today! “The Half-Life of a Broken Heart” on Cast of Wonders

[Art by: Alexis Goble. Glowing golden sparkles and stars rising from an old, opened wooden treasure chest. Darkly lit on a planked surface with black chalkboard background.]

The year was Tuesday, May 5th, 2020. It might have been the same day that drinking bleach as a means of preventing illness was suggested by a sitting president of the United States…or maybe that happened on a different day. Linear time is more of a gesture in 2020.

ANYWAY. I’d written this post, then failed to publish it before being sucked into the next void and for that I am truly sorry, because this is one of the big highlights of my year. My story, The Half-Life of a Broken Heart appeared in this week’s edition of Cast of Wonders (alongside a gorgeous story by Kelly Sandoval), in an episode appropriately titled, Little Wonders: Hearts in Boxes.

When I wrote this story, I was utterly lost in grief. So it always felt like it held an extra little bit of my soul. I couldn’t have entrusted it to better hands. Narrator Caroline Reid perfectly captured the heart of this story, and Katherine Inskip, who hosted this episode, shared a piece of her heart, with a personal story that moved me beyond words. I encourage you all to take a listen and then subscribe for more. The Escape Artists family of podcasts have been doing incredible work for years and I don’t believe they’ve received even a tenth of the credit they deserve for their contributions to speculative fiction.

My deepest gratitude to Caroline and Katherine and everyone at Cast of Wonders who was involved in this episode’s production, especially audio producer, Jeremy Carter; co-narrator Nichole Goodnight; and artist, Alexis Goble. Also, a big thank you to editor Richard Flores IV, who first published this story in Factor Four Magazine.

Subscribe to Cast of Wonders:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Spotify
Android
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
RSS

Art by: @ArtisticJ0urney

Out Today! Community of Magic Pens

Cover of The Community of Magic Pens. The background is a soft buttery yellow, with doodles on the border. Four anthropomorphized writing instruments pose under the title: a tan mechanical pencil using a cane; a purple marker, a black roller ball pen wearing a rainbow hajib, and a wood fountain pen in a jaunty beret.

Cover art by: Artistic Journey

I know it’s been a minute (2.7 decades in pandemic years) and that here on Earth we’re still firmly in the vice-like grip of these “Unprecedented Times” (© 2020). As always, I encourage you to help wherever and however you can, either in your community or on a national/global scale. Consider supporting a local food bank (find one here, here, or here) or support World Central Kitchen in their relief efforts.

But, it’s not all bad news, good things are still happening and I’m excited to share one of these good things–Atthis Arts’ latest anthology, Community of Magic Pens is out today!

Community of Magic Pens includes my new story “Do Not Write to Wrong,” which I first drafted back in 2018 as an outlet for my rage frustration rage re: certain stable geniuses in America. After I submitted it to my crit group (of excellent humans who are also excellent writers), and revised it based on their notes, I immediately…just…stalled…out. I loved the story, but I wasn’t sure where it would fit and I froze in an indecision loop. Flash forward almost a year, to when I saw the submission call for Community of Magic Pens. My quirky story (about a magic pen) seemed a perfect fit for a new anthology entirely about magic pens (interpreted in all sorts of inventive and unexpected ways), and, to my delight, the editors agreed.

I am thrilled to be part of this hopeful, joyful collection, alongside so many fantastic authors, especially during such grim times. Huge thanks and mad props (the kids still say that, right???) to our wonderful editor for this collection, E.D.E. Bell, and everyone at Atthis Arts.

Community of Magic Pens is available in print and ebook format from:
Atthis Arts
Bookshop
Apple Books
B&N
Kobo
Amazon

If you’re not in a position to buy this book right now, please consider asking your local library to order it, adding it to your “Want to Read” list on Goodreads, and/or spreading the word online!

Please stay safe and well. (Also, please wear a mask/face cover in public spaces–all the cool, considerate humans are doing it.)

Image description (since I still can’t get the bleeping alt text to appear): Image is the cover art for Community of Magic Pens. The background is a soft, buttery yellow, with doodles on the border. Four anthropomorphized writing instruments pose under the title: a tan mechanical pencil using a cane; a purple marker, a black roller ball pen wearing a rainbow hajib, and a wood fountain pen in a jaunty beret.

Cover art by Carlota Suarez

New Story at Fireside: “The Words I Starved For”

Cover art by Carlota Suarez

Cover art by Carlota Suarez.

Wow…and I thought publishing a story during an inauguration was difficult! In all seriousness, I hope you and yours are safe and well and that you’re doing everything in your power to flatten the curve. If you can spare money or supplies, please consider helping others in your community. As I mentioned in a previous post, local food banks need money, food, and household basics, find one here, here, or here; or support World Central Kitchen in their relief efforts.

Okay, so today’s the day! My story, “The Words I Starved For” is out on Fireside Fiction. Even though this is technically a ghost story, at heart, it’s also a deeply personal one. So writing it, submitting it, and publishing it, all felt slightly-to-entirely terrifying at times. But I was lucky to have the supportive company of many fine people (including my wonderful therapist!) along the way…

First up, big thanks to the Draft Zero writing group, which at the time included Frances Rowat, Beth Tanner, Asha Bardon, and Shannon Fay, who are all incredible writers and you should read their work immediately.

Also, special shout-outs to Allison Escoto, Karen Bischer (preorder her book!), and Richard Shealy who lent their years of professional experience to me while working on this story.

Of course, last but not least, heaps of gratitude to Fireside’s Pablo Defendini and Chelle Parker (and everyone at Team Fireside), to Daniela Acitelli who narrated the audio version (available on podcast apps and libsyn), to Winter 2020 issue artists Kieu Vo, Carlota Suarez, and Omar Gilani, to Julia Rios who acquired this story, and especially to Dominik Parisien, who edited it. Thank you, all!

I hope you’ll take a few moments to read (and share) “The Words I Starved For.” Also, please consider supporting another very cool project from Fireside, Puestes pa’l Futuro on Kickstarter. Even if you can’t back this project, you can help by spreading the word!

Be well and be kind, all!


If you’d like the Winter 2020 print edition of Fireside Quarterly, I believe you can still get one by subscribing here. To purchase the digital edition of Issue 77, click here.

Cover art by Carlota Suarez

Sneak Peek at Fireside Quarterly Winter 2020

Cover art by Carlota Suarez

Cover art by Carlota Suarez.

The Winter 2020 issue of Fireside Quarterly, which includes my story, “The Words I Starved For,” begins shipping soon! It’s not too late to subscribe for Winter 2020, plus a whole year’s worth of incredible writing and art from Fireside.

This issue, edited by Dominik Parisien, with stories acquired by Julia Rios, also features cover art by Carlota Suarez and work from Taimur Ahmad, Annika Barranti Klein, Amy Griswold, Veronica Brush, Vajra Chandrasekera, Sam Kyung Yoo, nwaobiala, H. Pueyo, Michael Robertson, LH Moore, Mike Loniewski, Hal Y. Zhang, and Nibedita Sen, as well as illustrations from Kieu Vo, Carlota Suarez, and Omar Gilani.

I’m delighted to be included among all these talented authors, poets, and artists. As for my contribution to this issue…”The Words I Starved For” is, in many ways, a story that has taken me years to tell. It’s a ghost story that also happens to be some of my most personal, belly-baring writing, and I am hella excited about it being out in the world. I hope you will subscribe, read, and enjoy!

 

 

All Kinds of Updates: Spring 2019

There is much to discuss and I keep intending to do individual posts, but work-work has been intensely busy this year and there just hasn’t been time. (In addition to writing fiction, I also run a freelance copywriting and work-for-hire business–so get in touch if you have an upcoming project you’d like to discuss! Yay, self-promotion-within-self-promotion! Incepromotion??? Probably!)

In order to get to everything before it is covered in the ash and brimstone of this dark and relentless timeline, I’m trying something of a round-up/newsletter¹ format.  Let’s see how it goes…

In case you missed it, I have a story coming out next year in NEW SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK! It’s a tribute anthology to the classic series by Alvin Schwartz (which featured those incredibly iconic and nightmare-inducing illustrations by Stephen Gammell), and is edited by Jonathan Maberry (who has been delightful to work with). I don’t have an exact pub date yet, but it will be out sometime in 2020 from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Speaking of horror-related things, I’ll be at StokerCon again this year! I’m doing a reading and a couple of panels, both involving the intersection of horror and the YA reader/horror fan. Please stop by and say hello if you’ll be there too.

Looking further ahead, I’m thrilled to be a 2019 National Park Service Artist-in-Residence this summer. As an AIR, I’ll have two glorious unplugged, uninterrupted weeks of writing at Fire Island National Seashore in New York. For those unfamiliar with New York’s geography, Fire Island National Seashore is a gorgeous, coastal park on a section of Fire Island, which–according to the Native Land app, (support them here)–occupies the traditional territory of the Unkechaug. (If you’d like to learn more about the Unkechaug, check out this recent episode of WSHU’s “The Full Story,” in which Unkechaug Indian Nation chief, Harry Wallace, discusses efforts to preserve Native American culture.)² I love our national parks system–they were formative for me growing up and I’ll be writing lots more about this incredible opportunity as my residency draws closer.

Even further ahead–as in, sometime in 2020–Fireside Magazine, one of my very favorite fiction magazines, will be publishing my story, “The Words I Starved For,” and I don’t think I could be more excited. Fireside recently announced some editorial changes, so there’ll be more news and a longer post to come, including details on the issue and editor, but for now a deep and heartfelt thank you to departing editor, Julia Rios, for believing in this story–all the heart emojis!

What else is new(ish) and of note, you might ask? Or not. I’ll still tell you!

  • I recently taught a writing workshop for kids at the Center For Fiction‘s gorgeous new space. We had a lot of fun and I hope to host similar workshops in the future, so stay tuned…
  • Check me out on Curious Fictions, a site which features short fiction (mostly reprints) and posts from some of your favorite authors. If you love short stories, definitely take a look around.
  • I’ll be reading at Summer Dark, on Friday, June 28th at 6:00 p.m.

² For additional reading, check out (and support!) Jeremy Dennis’s excellent resource, On This Site.

¹ Back in olden times (the mid-naughts), when I worked in online marketing, newsletters were all the rage. “Newsletter! Newsletter! Newsletter!” the people cried in joy. Then Twitter and Facebook stomped in, newsletters lost traction, and in the new world of social mediocrity, the people just cried. But now, in the toxic wake of those sites, it seems like newsletters are staging a comeback–just in time for the apocalypse and possibly thanks to the Patreon model, which may also be floundering I hear? idk. I didn’t board that particular train, not having that kind of platform at the time (or really ever) and now it seems like there isn’t any point and–to complete the metaphor–that maybe the Patreon train has left the station. I should probably join Patreon. We’ll see. Maybe we can all try this app called Real Life. But it would have to be spelled without vowels, right? RLLYF? Is this app’ening? Where’s my hoodie and TED Talk and IPO?

³ I know these footnotes are out of order, but honestly, an ambling tangent about newsletters doesn’t deserve top billing.