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Fiction

Nifty!

My story “Two Kilograms and Counting” is the podcast this week at Every Day Fiction.

Please have a listen, and if you like it take a moment to review it, and tell your friends. If you don’t like it, please review it anyway, but you don’t have to tell your friends in that case.

Fungal fiction

I’m very pleased to tell you all that my story “Two Kilograms and Counting” has been published by Every Day Fiction.

If you enjoyed it, please take a look at my other short fiction and related nonfiction.

Cookies!

cookie-cover

I have a little present for you, a new short story set in Maggie’s universe but featuring her friend Karen.

You can download it here in mobi format (Kindle), or epub (Nook, iPad, etc.).

If you enjoy this story, please consider checking out Maggie Reichert’s first adventure, Horn.

Merry Christmas, or whatever holidays you keep, and enjoy any cookies that come your way.

BANG

BANG.

The crash was followed by the tinkling of broken glass on cement. Woody looked up from his midnight snack of pseudo-wine and formerly-cheese-like-substance and groaned. “Again? Really? That’s the third velociraptor this week.” Nobody was there to listen, he just liked to hear himself talk. Buzz wouldn’t be back from the future until next week sometime. Help with the velociraptors would have been nice, but Woody didn’t miss Buzz incessantly complaining about the food. It wasn’t Woody’s fault that shipping stuff through time made it taste funny. The special insulated capsules they used for people were far too expensive to use for food, except on special occasions: the birthday bar of chocolate, the New Year’s champagne and real cheese. Woody had tried shipping in a bar of chocolate by regular container. The smell of the orange slime had instantly convinced him to wait until his birthday in August.

Woody washed down the fluorescent green cheese with a last sip of perfectly clear wine. It still tasted like a merlot, but the alcohol had gone the way of the color. The cheddar? He actually liked the transported cheese better than the original, but only if he didn’t look at it. He was sure he’d seen it wiggle once, even if the boffins said that was impossible. Living things could only travel in the insulated capsules.

He put his empty plate and glass in the sink, then grabbed the spade that was standing by the door. Woody peered through the heavily-reinforced glass set into the heavily-reinforced door. Finishing his snack should have given the automatic systems enough time to take care of the velociraptor. Lately the defense systems had been leaving bits of the carcass behind, thus the spade. Buzz had utterly ruined a broom once; a spade worked a whole lot better, especially if you hosed everything down after.

He couldn’t see anything moving, and it was definitely time to clean the other side of the door. The glass was awfully foggy. Woody wished again that the garage had been as well-reinforced as the main living quarters. He was so tired of chasing critters out of it, or worse, shoveling them. Not that he wanted to chase velociraptors. They were only about fifteen kilos, but they were insanely fast, and those teeth were sharp. One of the first guys out had brought his dog. Woody had seen the video. The company had fought awful hard to keep it off YouTube, but if you knew what to look for you could find it. He thought it should be part of the official training, but the company disagreed.

Yep, there was the carcass, cut into several pieces and with that stupid tail sticking up. Woody unbolted the door and cracked it open. It had sounded like this one took out one of the windows, and something else could have come in. Not much that would fit through the window would follow a velociraptor, but so many things would come to the blood.

No sound, no movement. Looked like none of the little scavengers had snuck in yet, or any of the bigger ones either. Woody needed to get that broken window blocked off. What dimwit at the company though the garage needed windows, rather than reinforced steel? They were just about all covered anyway; maybe soon he’d be free of midnight velociraptors.

He traded the spade for a sheet of plywood. Getting the outside sealed out was more urgent than getting rid of the carcass. Woody got the window covered quickly, plenty of recent practice. He’d add some more screws in the morning, but that should do for now. It wasn’t going to stop anything determined, but should keep out the riff-raff. He’d have to request some steel sheet during the weekly conference call with the company, enough to cover all the windows.

Woody pitched the last spadeful of velociraptor out the door and sealed it. He’d hose down the floor and walls in the morning, along with the spade. He leaned it up against the wall by the slop sink, and only then noticed that his rosebush was missing. Not the pot, the improvised container and all its soil sat tucked behind the sink where it always had, out of the way so nobody would notice it, but near enough to the door that he could slide it outside for a sunbath when nobody was around. But all the greenery was missing, stems and all.

Woody bent slowly to retrieve a petal fragment from the floor. That bud never even had time to bloom. It would have been the first ever rose, the first flowering plant for that matter. He had smuggled a slip inside his pants, the thorns digging into his inner thigh for the whole interminable trip. Buzz knew, had gently touched the puncture wounds one evening before Woody switched off the light, but he’d never mentioned the plant itself. He did distract the company inspector once, though, drawing his attention to something on the other side of the garage when the inspector was looking too closely at everything.

The velociraptor must have eaten it. Right? Those sharp little teeth could chomp off a rose stem. Right? Surely nothing else came in tonight, nothing following the velociraptor, or leading it, nothing that would eat a rosebush, or drag it off outside, or introduce alien plants into a world they’d never evolved in?

Right?

Those were just stories, right?


It’s been a long time since I did a speed flash story. The game: I solicit ideas on twitter, then have an hour to write a short story that incorporates all of them. Sometimes it works remarkably well, sometimes (as today), it falls rather short. But it’s always fun.

Today’s prompts:

@evilrooster – a missing rose
@thc1972 – Woody and Buzz slash
@mishellbaker – a bump in the night
@marjorie73 – cheese, and a spade

I like the setting, but the story really needs to be longer than I had time for.

Latest adventure

The first story in a planned seriesx about Maggie Reichert, field agent for the Department of Supernatural Resources, and her friends was originally published in Nine: A Journal of Imaginative Fiction, but that magazine promptly folded, leaving Horn unavailable.

I thought I’d use it to experiment with self-publishing. I have the rights to the story, so why not? I’d like to have the skillset to do this, and how better to learn than by doing? (My motto, I suppose.)

Horn cover

Horn is now available through Amazon and soon Barnes & Noble.

Dan provided this apropos cartoon.


I’d hoped to have this up on Monday, to celebrate the third anniversary of my first fiction publication on my fortieth birthday, but the flooded basement adventure interfered with the timing of the self-publishing adventure, so it’s a Friday treat instead of a birthday/publication day treat.

(If you’re reading this at sarahgoslee.com, yes I know everything is centered, and no I don’t know why. Something is broken somewhere…)

Progress

I have four stories out right now, one of them brand-new. That’s a personal record. One is a story I feel strongly about, one is a story Nick feels strongly about, one is perfect for the venue I sent it to (in my admittedly biased opinion), one I’m not sure about but Nick likes. Submitting is the part I can control; publication is out of my hands.

Let the rejections begin!

If only I had four journal articles out right now… those take inordinately more time, but pay a whole lot better. (Salary, that is, nothing for the article itself, and often quite a lot of money in page charges. Academic publishing is almost entirely unlike fiction publishing.)

Edit: Yep, I now have three stories out. Nice rejection letter, though. (Enjoyed it, but can’t use it; please send more.)

Edit: Back up to four stories out, subtitled, or what’s a late lunch break for?

Shoveling

I really didn’t mind shoveling snow: all the different colors laid in layers, or sometimes in wind-blown stripes. Iridescent, a peacock’s tail shimmering in each shovelful I lifted.

How could you not like that?

Sometimes the snow would be light and fluffy, and I’d throw each scoop toward the edge of the sidewalk. The stream of flakes would curve in the breeze, nearly always making it off the walkway. The hues would separate and blend and fly apart again, an effervescent rainbow intertwined. Those days I needed a scarf tied over my ears and heavy gloves to stay warm, even with the exertion of moving all that snow.

Sometimes the snow was wet and heavy, and I had to heave each scoop off to the side. The colors were muddier then, heavy on navy and mauve. Shovelfuls would pile up along the curb, guarding me from passing traffic. Sometimes when the snow was like that I would take off my coat and drape it on the corner fencepost because I was melting.

I hated snowplows, though. They’d churn the colors into a gray mush, solid and deep, hard to lift and difficult to move. I always left that part for last, even though I was most tired, because if I shoveled the plow berm first then inevitably the snowplow would be back through, filling my gap with monochromatic sludge.

If the snow was right and I had any energy left after the walkways were cleared and the car dug out, I’d make a snowman in the yard.

Sometimes I tried to roll the snowballs so that they were solid colors: a teal base, with a ruby red belly and a golden head, or brilliant blue all the way up, or… so many lovely combinations. I’d roll them back and forth in the appropriate patches, and even pick the snowballs up and carry them to another part of the yard to get more emerald, or lavender.

Sometimes I just rolled the balls around the yard, letting them pick up whatever colors accrued. Sometimes they were lovely, sometimes they made me wish I were colorblind. I tried to create a plaid snowman once, but I couldn’t get the base going in the right directions. I suppose I could have rolled a big ball then packed snow onto it by hand, picking the colors and blending them to get the pattern.

I’ve seen people do that, but with cold snow: like sand paintings, but even less permanent. You have to be so careful not to breathe on your work and accidentally melt it. I don’t have enough patience for that.

The sun came out as I finished the driveway, lighting up the last few jade flakes as they fell: big fluffy flakes, settling slowly onto the bare asphalt. I left them. They’d melt soon enough, and I liked the contrast against the black.

I didn’t much mind shoveling snow, though I can’t imagine how boring it must have been when it was all white.

Not in the mood

It’s not that I don’t have things to blog about, both here and at String Notes. I have photos, links, anecdotes waiting patiently for their turn. But somehow these things are not making it into WordPress and thence to you.

I blame the boxer.

At least in part, that’s not untrue. I walked 57 miles last week, 22 miles more than my pre-boxer average, and that time has got to come from somewhere. But it’s not entirely true, since I often blog on my lunch break and the boxer has nothing whatsoever to do with that. I blame the boxer anyway.

Whatever the cause, this is important enough to me to get me out onto the internets: for those who don’t subscribe to Daily Science Fiction (you should!), my story “The Cries of the Dead and Dying” is now online.

Some of the nifty things accumulating:

Plotto: This summary of all the plots ever (there are 1,462) is rather nifty. I might have to get a copy. Also, I so want a plot robot.

The rest of these are from a single day last week (Tuesday, that would be). I had fully intended to post them that day, but, um, boxer! Yeah, that’s it!

There’s still time to get in on the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation fundraiser. You need to check this out: Jim Hines is raising money for charity AND lampooning horrible book covers simultaneously. Win-win! The more money collected, the crazier it gets.

London Bridge opens for 50-foot rubber duck. Need I say more?

That’s it. I’m giving up gingerbread construction. No way I could compete with this.

This is now on my office door. So wonderful!

Lunch break

My new short story, “The Cries of the Dead and Dying,” will be published by Daily Science Fiction on 12/12/12. A free subscription will get you a new short work every weekday, and stories are published on the website a week after they go out to subscribers. But why not just subscribe?

I just started reading The Naming of Names last night, a history of botanical names by Anna Pavord. Think it sounds dull or esoteric? Ursula Le Guin liked it, and the illustrations are wonderful. I’m only a chapter in; I’ll let you know what I think later.

Homecoming

Another hotel room, industrial beige with a patterned bedspread to hide the stains: apples, grapes and bananas on this one; mixed with paisleys. Instead of the usual mail-order, this one had travel posters from places nobody within a hundred miles of here had ever been: Neuschwanstein castle, panda cubs, even a lovely image of a glacier calving. It looked like Greenland to me, though it had been a while since I was last there.

I turned on the tv to cover up the kinds of noises you got in every cheap hotel in the world, especially when it was only one for miles around. Some bad science fiction movie was the first thing to come on: huge implausible robots chasing hatted and spurred cowboys armed with six-shooters. My money was on the cowboys. I turned it up until I couldn’t hear the vacuum cleaner down the hall, or the mid-afternoon quickie happening in the next room.

More importantly, nobody else could hear the quiet voices that would soon be coming from my room. I pulled out my suitcase, the kind of battered leather case used by traveling salesmen since the dawn of time. I pictured someone opening such a bag in front of the Egyptian pyramids as they went up. “Fancy some new spindle whorls? Or how about these lovely needles? I have some dice, they’re the latest thing. So much more fun than knucklebones.”

I lifted the display of dinosaur figurines out of the way. Museum-quality, and molded and painted using the best theories of modern paleontologists. Schools liked to buy them, and sometimes even parents. But that’s not what I was after. Under the tray of brightly-colored plastic dinosaurs was another tray of dinosaurs. Beneath that were a couple of not-too-raunchy men’s magazines, to convince anyone snooping that they’d found all there was to hide.

Under that, a palm-leaf manuscript, brown and frail. It looked like Sanskrit, but it wasn’t. I pushed aside the remains of my lunch, a few stray jalapenos and the last smear guacamole, and laid the manuscript down gently. The glyphs, or letters, or syllables, or whatever they were, seemed to wiggle if I looked at them too long. I ran my fingers lightly over the surface, feeling the electric tingle that proximity to the manuscript brought. I would have liked books a lot more as a kid if they made me feel all fizzy. If they’d all had ghosts attached, I never would have left the library.

I didn’t know how to make the ghost appear on command, and I couldn’t understand him when he talked to me. Maybe I’d see him tonight, maybe I wouldn’t. He looked a bit like a hologram from Star Wars, only in sepia instead of blue: a glowing tiny figure, gesturing sadly at me as if that would help me understand.

I’d never seen him smile, laugh, do anything other than scowl in frustration. I’d thought about taking him to a university language department, but he was mine. I didn’t want to share him with anyone else, even if they might understand the language he spoke. It was probably extinct anyway, some long-gone product of India or Africa. I couldn’t tell for sure where he was from, only that his skin was dark. His head was shaven. Did ghosts have to keep shaving, or did death stop growth for spirit and body both?

My husband had shaved his head since before I knew him, but by the end he didn’t need to. He joked that chemo had saved him so much time since he didn’t need to shave every day, even when he was too weak to play his beloved slide guitar.

That was before. Before I traveled all the time, when I still had a home. When I didn’t know anything about dinosaurs that I hadn’t learned in kindergarten. When I had friends, family, not just a frustrated ghost for company.

Maybe he was trying to warn me of the end of the world. Maybe there was something I could do to hasten it.


This is twitter flash: 687 words in an hour and a half, with the following prompts:

@sandykidd slide
@marjorie73 a sad ghost, bananas
@ticia42 panda
@j00licious dinosaur figurines
@quasigeo jalapenos, Neuschwanstein castle, glacier calving, Sanskrit
@notmoro cowboys vs robots
@qitou vacuum cleaners and guacamole

Thanks, everyone!