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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…)


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?


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.


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!

That’s odd

It’s Homecoming weekend at Penn State, so you expect crowds and noise and odd behavior. But it’s awfully early in the morning, and those don’t sound like drunken moans.

Gunshots? Must be fireworks. Although it is raining…. Weird.

I wonder what’s going on. I need to take the dog out shortly. Maybe I can find out more then. The dog doesn’t like the rain, so it may be a little while.


Edit, 11am. We’re far enough from downtown that I don’t see any football celebrants as long I’m not foolish enough to try to leave the house. Usually. Homecoming must be extra exciting this year: I’m seeing a steady stream of drunken students shambling down my street. And it’s a dead-end street, too.

According to twitter, some strange things are going on around the country.

A true story

I started writing this as a comment on my previous post, but thought it might almost be interesting enough to stand alone.

“Horn” originally started with my favorite opening line ever: “I saw a unicorn this morning.”

Which is a true story. I did see a molting unicorn wandering through a cornfield along I-80 in Pennsylvania the morning I started plotting this tale.

Or it might have been a piece of rusting farm machinery, but where’s the fun in that?

Someday I’ll find the story that actually goes with that opening line, since this wasn’t it.

Thanks for the congrats, everyone: much appreciated.


I am enormously pleased to announce that my story “Horn” will be appearing in Issue #3 of Nine. There are no zombies, but there are unicorns.

“Horn” is the first story I ever finished, outside of class assignments, and was my first submission to a fiction publication (in April 2009). It’s been completely rewritten twice, once before and once after Viable Paradise, and went through an enormous number of less-aggressive revisions. I learned a few things during that time.

It’s also Nick’s favorite story; he gets to read everything before it goes out. Finally I won’t have to listen to him asking whether I’ve sold the unicorn story yet every time I talk about submitting things. (Instead, I get to listen to him ask whether I’ve written any more stories about Maggie yet, and why not?)

There is virtue in persistence: it took me three-and-a-half years to sell this story. It only went to five potential outlets, though: one of them is notoriously slow and had it for nine months. The second rewrite was key. More need for persistence: this is the first piece of fiction I’ve sold since I attended Viable Paradise two years ago. The rejections have been piling up, along with a couple of short-listings that ended in rejection. And piling up is what it takes, along with telling the best stories you can, and a generous dollop of luck.

There are things I’m very proud of in this story, and I hope you like it.


“That’s silly.”

“How would you know?” I wanted to scream at him, but managed to choke it back to a more moderate volume. After all those years in children’s programming, I had trouble expressing myself even when anger would be entirely justified. He’d probably cry. I hated that.

And cursing? Forget about it. Though the Sanskrit chants I’d learned for an episode that was never filmed? Those were even better than foul language in English, if said with the right inflection. I didn’t know what they meant anymore, just how the syllables felt rolling off my tongue.

I tried a few, just to see if they felt as good as I remembered. Bird’s feathers tightened around his body. I almost thought they paled from their usual brightness, but that had to have been a trick of the light. Sanskrit chants: even more effective than I’d thought. And since I learned them for an ep, they couldn’t really be anything not G-rated.

I stopped after the first stanza, but he took half a step back anyway. Partners for so all those years, and he still didn’t know me as well as he thought. Assuming we were still partners, something I wasn’t at all certain of.

The newspaper rolled in my trunk, no obstacle to Sanskrit or English, or even Spanish, led with “He’s REAL,” above the fold even. Must have been a slow news day. I waved it in his face.

Bird wiped off a bit of spittle from his head-feathers. Excited snuffling wasn’t the neatest activity, but I didn’t really care. “You didn’t read it. How do I know? Because you’re illiterate, that’s why.” And that would be a bombshell bigger than my reality or lack thereof, now wouldn’t it.

“But everyone has known you were real since 1985. So why does it matter what they said?”

“Bird. Remember the difference between television and reality?”
“Um, yes?” Bird looked at me with wide eyes.

“No you don’t.” I sighed. I explained this at least three times a week, and had for decades. “When the cameras are on, that’s television. It isn’t real. The television people thought I was imaginary, then they thought I was real.”

Bird nodded, his gaze fixed on me.

“The other people, the ones who watch the television? They’ve always thought I was imaginary, that there was a giant fur suit with people in it.” Bird opened his beak to say something, but I kept going. “They think you’re made-up too, that there’s a person inside you who moves your head and hands.”

“There is?” He looked down at himself, eyes even wider. It was a good thing they were permanently attached.

“No, there isn’t.” Talking to Bird was like, well, talking to a bird. “You’re real all the way through, just like me. But people think that you’re a muppet.”

“What’s a muppet?”

“Don’t worry about it. Here, have some candy.” I handed him a bag of wine gums, a reliable distraction. Really, why would Bird care what the world thought of him? He had a safe, secure life and made people happy.

I did too, but I was bored. I knew better than to go out for a walk; that’s how the tabloid got those photos. Last time they claimed to have evidence of Bigfoot. I got into a fair bit of trouble for leaving the compound. That’s when they added human security guards. It still wasn’t impossible to get out, even at my size, but I saved it for occasions when I might start smashing people if I didn’t get away for a while. Use the escape route too many times, and it was bound to be noticed.

The guards hadn’t caught on, but the paparazzi had. I was going to be stuck inside for years. Once in a great while I got a vacation: the producers put me in a semi and hauled me off into the wilderness for a week or two. Which wouldn’t be so bad, if a whole entourage didn’t have to come with me. Hello? Mammoth? I can handle a few days in the woods.

Maybe they’re just afraid I won’t come back. Nobody else is as good as I am at getting Bird to do things.

Anyway, no unauthorized expeditions. The fuss would die down, even assuming it spread past the second-rate newspaper that ran the photos. I’d keep doing my thing, and I’d keep Bird doing his, and everyone would be happy, except me.

At least there was still twitter.

This was twitter flash from a few weeks ago.

I’d solicited ideas then bailed on writing the story until tonight. Thanks to @random_michelle (A.S.’s thoughts about being outed as a real creature (rather than imaginary), @qitou (Sanskrit chants), and @J00licious )bags of wine gums, and people watching on the Tube).