Release Day: No Need To Reply

It’s been a little over three years since I last embarked on a brand new publishing project (From Stage Door Shadows). It’s been 18 months since I last published a book through eMergent (The Machine Who Was Also A Boy). So today breaks quite a few droughts.

It’s somewhat fitting that my 13th publication is my first solo work.

Thank you to every who helped along the way–from those who got their hands dirty in the text or trained eagle eyes on the graphic design, to those who cheered from the sidelines. Even though this is a solo collection, it as always, feels like a team effort.

I hope you enjoy No Need to Reply.


“I used to think there was an unexpected freedom in unread letters. To know at the end of writing I’d be the only one intimate with the contents. Now I think it’s the worst kind of invisibility…that I’m disappearing slowly with each word.”

No Need To Reply new1Experimental in style, structure and form, the eight stories explore the pain and euphoria of finding your voice. From a man confronting the price of a lie and a woman wrestling with the legacy of her mortality, to a young girl lost in a war of misunderstandings, the collection delves into conversations that define the struggle to be heard.

ADD TO GOODREADS


TABLE OF CONTENTS

No Need To Reply
It Could Be
Squeezebox
Holding On
Olives
Shuffling
Wishing, Happily Ever After
Closure


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Recalibrate

or how a new plan usurped the pity party of The Year of the Snake

The moon slid into her new robes late last night, in the sign of Virgo. Kim Falconer wrote in her New Moon newsletter:

The New Moon in Virgo is perfect to bring more ritual into the daily routine, amping up both ‘heart’ and ‘production’. Virgo is about skill development, and the rituals in life that are constantly creating and re-creating our experience of reality. You start creating habits that make life better.

As it turns out, I was already leading myself to that very place. I like to think of writing as recreating the experience of reality and I was ready to start writing. Properly. Again. I jokingly said, when my serpent medallion arrived last week, that the Year of the Snake could now begin for me. Better late than never!

TIME TO RECONSIDER

Weedy Typewriter

(c) Jodi Cleghorn 2013

This week, in a closed writer’s group I belong to, the topic of goals was bandied around. My first instinct was to comment it is all too hard at the moment, with home schooling still in flux, my health only just on the mend (after being slammed with glandular fever for three weeks) and a puppy who is still fitting into the family. The idea of trying to shoe horn anything in, seemed mad. Destined to fail. The best I could do was try and find time to write and to continue editing Post Marked: Piper’s Reach. That was an almost goal, right?

That afternoon I ended up in a cafe without my computer and without my phone. I had my Sony and a notebook. I started to flick through what was written in my notebook. That was enough to inspire me to reconsider my whiny comment.

There are four months left until the end of my creative year, I said to myself. What could I achieve in that time, rather than bemoan all the missed opportunities that have already passed.

NEW GOALS

One thing about goals is they need to be specific. The other is to attach a time frame to them.

A piece of mousse cake and a pot of tea later I had two pages of possibilities downloaded into purple ink under a variety of sub-headings: everything from the short stories in progress or pitched, to novella possibilities, the editing and submission process for Piper’s Reach broken down. The stories had markets and deadlines attached to them. So did the novellas, along with possible windows for writing. The editing schedule went month by month.

On the start of the second page I wrote down some new habits (albeit, new rituals!) I wanted to foster.

NEW HABITS

The three most obvious for the readers here are:

1. sit at my desk five mornings a week for one hour

2. blog reguarly

3. submit every month

I think the new habits will go a long way to helping facilitate success. If I achieve a quarter of what is on that list, then I will be happy. If I manage to sit at my desk five mornings a week, I’ll consider the entire goal setting initiative a win!

Watch this space!

What new goals are you willing to kickstart this new moon.

Eighty Nine

Available today in full and free at Amazon USA and Amazon UK.

When it came time to create the third Literary Mix Tapes, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do an actual “mix tape” and base it in a single year.

I chose 1989 for many reasons, but the core of the inspiration came several years ago when I ran across someone from my high school days on Facebook and I was given a small insight to what might have been that year. A novel idea immediately followed, but in the interim I created EIGHTY NINE and wrote “Cocaine, My Sweetheart” which is a small glimpse into what that novel might be one day.

A Playlist of Champions

I asked all the authors from Nothing But Flowers if they’d nominate a song from 1989. Those 26 songs created the backbone of the anthology. There is everything from Bon Jovi to Bob Dylan on the list… and just about everything in between, from hit to obscurities. I contributed Deacon Blue’s “Real Gone Kid” and I find myself wondering what Rebecca Dobbie may have written had I chosen Madonna’s “Express Yourself”.

Constructing EIGHTY NINE

The interpretation of the theme by the authors is as varied and colourful as the music and events of the time. ~ Alan Baxter

I struggled to succinctly articulate my vision for EIGHTY NINE. I started the project just before my first fall into depression last year. It was frustrating when the concept for Nothing But Flowers had been so easy to share. So I told the authors they had to create a story using:

  • the song they’d be randomly assigned
  • an event from 1989
  • spec-fic parametres

A Rolling Stone Gathers….

By using lyrics to inspire authors, editor extraordinaire Jodi Cleghorn has compiled a body of work that doesn’t have a single cementing theme… In a way it led to the creation of its own theme: a bunch of writers having a whole heap of fun. ~ Zena Shapter

It was one of those experiences (of which I seem to be accumulating) where stepping away from the concept allowed authors and their stories to blossom across genres which include, but are not limited to, alternative history, horror, science fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal fiction, cyberpunk, ghost stories and modern mythology.

Who You’ll Find

Journeying into worlds populated by book-burning terrorists and shape-shifting political activists, by ghosts, vampires, devils and a cybernetic freedom crusader with one last trick to play, “Eighty-Nine” is a testament to the imagination. ~ Zena Shapter

There are some brilliant characters in EIGHTY NINE: creepy wax workers, a lost Russian soul, a revolutionary who is more than the sum of his parts, a Japanese seer who is consort to the Emperor, a band of futuristic criminals looking for the ultimate jailbreak, a book-loving air-guitar playing priest, aliens in the skin of secret police and a vampire with tragic imprinting.

Some of my all-time favourite stories are in this anthology. It was a pleasure to publish stories from a number of authors I’ve worked with for a long time, who really producing tour de forces for this anthology.

Why Am I Blathering About EIGHTY NINE?

Today for the first time EIGHTY NINE is available in full and free at Amazon USA and Amazon UK. You don’t need a Kindle to read it. You can read it on your phone, tablet or computer with a quick click of one of the nifty Kindle apps.

So you want the official low down…

Blurb (abridged)

Eighty Nine re-imagines the social, political, cultural and personal experiences at the end of the decade which gave the world mullets, crimped hair, neon-coloured clothing, acid-wash denim, keytars, the walkman, Live Aid, the first compact disc and MTV.

Table of Contents
Ashes to Ashes – Adam Byatt
Shrödinger’s Cat – Dale Challener Roe
Diavol – Devin Watson
Nowhere Land – Maria Kelly
Chronicle Child – Lily Mulholland
Angelgate – Tanya Bell
All I Wanted – Rob Diaz
Drilling Oil – Kaolin Imago Fire
30 Years in the Bathroom – Icy Sedgwick
Amir – Benjamin Solah
Over the Wall in a Bubble – Susan May James
Disintegration – Stacey Larner
Choices – Laura Eno
Divided – Emma Newman
Blueprints in the Dark – Rebecca Dobbie
Eighteen for Life – Jo Hart
New Year, Old Love – Jim Bronyaur
Solider Out of Time – Laura Meyer
The Story Bridge – Josh Donellan
If I Could Turn Back Time – Alison Wells
An Exquisite Addition – Paul Anderson
Maggie’s Rat – Cath Barton
The Banging on the Door – Jonathan Crossfield
Now Voyager II – Monica Marier
Cocaine, My Sweetheart – Jodi Cleghorn
Paragon – Jason Coggins

Go forth and enjoy some truly amazing stories and if you are inclined, consider leaving a review or rating on Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Goodreads.

Next week’s free promo is Emma Newman’s FROM DARK PLACES. A truly nifty pick up considering the gorgeous Emma has just signed a three book deal with Angry Robot for her Split World project (which is the world her story, Divided from EIGHTY NINE, is bound in).

Eighty Nine


Here we go on the next Literary Mix Tapes rollercoaster ride of speculative fiction goodness.

The cover is getting rave reviews and so it should. Blake Byrnes our newest cover artist (incidentally born the year the books revolves around) has done a stellar job under a demanding schedule. If that artwork doesn’t wow a future employer for Blake (who is a little over a month out of completing his uni degree) I don’t know what would.

So what is EIGHTY NINE all about. The blurb goes something like this:

1989: a cusp between decades.

The year the Berlin Wall came down and Voyager went up. Ted Bundy and Emperor Hirohito died. The birth of the first Bush administration and computer virus.

In San Francisco and Newcastle the ground shook, in Chernobyl it melted. Tiananmen Square shocked the world and Tank Man imprinted on the international consciousness. Communism and Thatcherism began their decline, Islamic fundamentalism its rise.

It was the year Batman burst onto the big screen, we went back to the future (again), Indiana Jones made it a trifecta at the box office and Michael Damian told us to rock on.

Based on a play list of 26 songs released in 1989, Eighty Nine re-imagines the social, political, cultural and personal experiences at the end of the decade which gave the world mullets, crimped hair, neon-coloured clothing, acid-wash denim, keytars, the walkman, Live Aid, the first compact disc and MTV.

Included in the author line up are the usual suspects, along with a raft of new authors debuting for LMT (you’ll see them in intalics):  Paul Anderson, Cath Barton, Tanya Bell, Jim Bronyaur, Adam Byatt, Jodi Cleghorn, Jason Coggins, Jonathan Crossfield, Rob Diaz II, Rebecca L Dobbie, J.M. Donellan, Laura Eno, Kaolin Imago Fire, Jo Hart, Susan May James, Maria Kelly, Stacey Larner, Monica Marier, Laura Meyer, Lily Mulholland, Emma Newman, Dale Challener Roe, Devin Watson, Icy Sedgwick, Benjamin Solah & Alison Wells.

You will be able to pre-order paperbacks shortly with a release scheduled for late October/early November. After a very long wait in seeing this anthology make publication, I’m impatient to finally get it in readers’ hands.

Ponies, Admin Aversion, Dark Erotica & Kicking Bad Habits

My friend Tom Dullemond, one half of the fabulous Literarium directed my attention to the story Ponies by Kij Johsnson on the Tor.com site last night and asked me what I thought of it. In short – it is one of the most powerful stories I have read in a long time, as well as the most settling and thought-provoking. I’ll be talking about this story for weeks, if not months to come. Only after we’d had a back and forth for a few minutes about it over twitter, did he tell me it was the joint winner of the 2011 Nebula Prize for the short story.

The upshot of it was Tom didn’t think much of it was a story. Which got me thinking – was there an inherent gender bias in the reactions to the story. Yes, it’s about girls and their ponies… but it is about so much more than that. Just scratch a little under the surface. I feel it is an important read for anyone who is a daughter or has a daughter.

It is interesting to note also, in livestock handling there is a term called ‘Cutting Out’ which refers to a stockman and his horse targeting an animal and ‘cutting it out’ of the herd. You’ll see aspiring rodeo heroes doing it across the world. Knowing this, it gives a whole new level of meaning to the story.

But don’t take my word for it… go across and read. I’d love to know what you think.

– – –

Today is admin day. See if I don’t dedicate some time to it, I just won’t do it. While I’m saving the fun of doing the front cover of The Red Book for later, I have a list of ISBN’s to register with BowkerLink. This was a job Paul used to have, but it made better sense for me, given I’m in the same time zone. Plus, it was a pain in the arse, the easy submission system never worked for him and it must have taken him all of half a second to agree to hand the job over to me.

When we bought our first block of ten ISBNs back at the end of December 2009, we both looked at the list of numbers and wondered how the hell we would ever fill them. Well we filled them within a year and having bought the next block of numbers, we’ve already allocated ALL of them. Amazing.

Later on, once I’ve done battle with BowkerLink its time to pen some new bios. I’m not sure yet how I feel about admitting in such a public way that I am the recipient of ‘The Hembury’, or even how you actually wind that into a bio. I write fiction right – it should be a sinch. Ha!

– – –

When Dan Powell asked me to be part of his My Life in Short Fiction I was more than willing to be part of it. I found it a useful process, to think about the short stories which might have influenced me. I realised there is a close link between what I write and what I read, and how that pattern was strongly shaped by the writing and reading I did at high school.

We were only ever encouraged to write short stories. I have a folder full of them. But we were never exposed to short stories to read. I read a totally of ONE, yes read, ONE, fictional short story through my English years. This hangover remains… I write short fiction and my bed side table is full of novels.

This is something I am working to address. As May is Short Story Month – I committed to only read is short fiction for a month and I’ve been surprised at how much I’m enjoying it. I’ve read Cate Kennedy’s Dark Roots, #50 Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and I’ve almost finished Dead Red Heart. From now on there will be more anthologies on my bed side table. Which just goes to show, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

– – –

My re-writes on “Saw Him Standing There” the story I penned for Susan May James Sunday Snaps: The Shorts are complete and the story is submitted (yes almost two weeks ahead of the deadline!)

The story is inspired by another short story I wrote, based in a churchyard. The thing I’m most happy with (and my beta readers too) was the mastery of the imagery. Anyone who knows me, knows descriptive narrative is my Achilles. I write as little of it as possible. I find descriptive narrative totally boring in novels and short stories alike (yes, I will actually skip ahead if there are paragraphs of it). It has to be unique or beautifully written to hold my attention. It’s been beta reading for Jason Coggins which has really given me the shove to take my descriptive narrative more seriously and try to excel at it, rather than simply avoid it.

I’m thinking this time around the descriptions works so well because worked from a photograph– something I could actually see (given I don’t see things, only hear voices when I write my work). It was the clear leadlighted windows in the church which appealed to me most and I actually blew the photo up to look intimately at the detail in the window and then paced around the bedroom trying to work out the best way to describe them.

Jen Brubacher who worked on the piece as a line editor said in her email:

“It’s dark as you say, but it isn’t unbalanced. Your description is terrific, from the church yard to the sex and even the women by the mirror (familiar sight for most of us I guess). The pace and length are right on and I love the way you circle around “what goes around come around,” and the idea that it’s deathly serious.”

The best bit about it all… this story was a joy to write and after months of writing being a hard slog, it’s given my confidence a well timed injection. I didn’t think the redemption of my writing confidence would be in a dark, erotic tale! You’ll have to wait a few months, to read it though. The slated release date is 19th September – which will pair the photos and stories. A text only paperback and eBook will be available in October.

Thanks to Jason Coggins, Chris Chartrand and Jen Brubacher for being the best darn pit crew any writer could ever wish for.

The Chameleon Accepted for Publication

Late last year a fellow Chinese Whisperings writer Tina Hunter contacted me about Absolute Xpress’s Flash Fiction Challenge. She told me to keep an eye out for the 1st December when the prompt for the challenge would be announced, adding my writing would definitely suit the anthologies they were producing.

Thieves and Scoundrels is the third anthology, coming in the wake of Creatures of the Night and The Seven Deadly Sins (Tina had stories published in both!) cementing Absolute Xpress’s committment to the Flash Fiction form, which is growing in popularity with writers and readers alike.

There is nothing like someone making, even the smallest investment in your writing life, to spur you on to bigger and better things. In many ways it was the indebtedness to Tina which made this a priority once I had submitted to the 12 Days Project (work begets work… I’m convinced of that!)

The prompt was:

Would your characters try to swindle a dragon out of his treasure? Perhaps they’d try to steal the fastest spaceship in the galaxy? Or are they after something a little more sinister that’s in need of taking? Where ever and when ever they take place, the stories of these Thieves and Scoundrels will take hold of your imagination and ransom it back to you.

I had a couple of ideas floating around in my head, especially after Vasia Markides and Anna Barros posted to their Facebook pages an article about a group of elderly Cypriots being charged with illegal gambling. The youngest was in their mid-70s. While it didn’t end up firing for this competition but it is latent waiting for the right trigger.

It was a moan about shopping hours which lead me to ask: What could possibly happen to someone in the dead of night in a supermarket.  ‘The Chameleon’ answers that and is my debut story in the sci-fi/spec-fic genre. This from someone who said two years ago, “Oh but I don’t write sci-fi.”

While I’m indebted to Tina for encouraging me to enter, I’m also indebted to some wonderful people who read the first draft, commented and compelled me to distill and capture the essence of the story. These wonderful beta readers were Chris Chartrand, Annie Evett, Dan Powell, Diane Ballard and Jen Brubacher… oh and my Mum, who is captured here mid-story. Why mention them… because these amazing folk are the real powerhouses behind any writer, the unseen who help to sculpt and solidify creative flights of fancy. Who ensure a piece goes from “er, yeah,” to “OMG!”

The anthology is scheduled for release later this month, so watch this space.

Dirk Hartog Series #3: The Rain

Benjamin stood looking up. Up to the top of the building and the turbines of the water mining units, capturing the moisture in the air, turning it into water. Water from the air running down pipes – not up pipes like it had once.

Propellers spinning round on the same trajectory. Turning, turning. Caught. Stuck.

As a kid he thought it looked as though the city was trying to escape. Somehow the buildings would gather enough lift and would fly away. Helicopter Buildings enmasse flying to Somewhere Else. Maybe somewhere it rained. A place the rain would wash away the sins of the city instead of allowing them to become ingrained. Where the wounds would be salved. A chance to heal. The building would take him and Clarice away with them and they would start again. A new beginning – in the rain. Read more