Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn, winner of 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

This year's deadline for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest is almost upon us: March 2, my dears. Time to finish that novel you've been working on and get it submitted by Saturday.

Or, if you think that's a tad outside your reach, you could read the winner of last year's contest in the SFF/Horror category, Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn.

I chose option two.

Poe is the story of Dimitri, a recent college grad working at a newspaper in a small town in New England, writing obituaries. His parents recently died in a fiery car crash, and he's stashed some of their belongings in a closet in his tiny apartment. One day, he finds his father's ring in one of the boxes. He puts it on and...

Ghosts. Spirits. Murder. Demons! A magical grid of evil numbers. Grimoires.

As the small town of New Goshen loses citizen after citizen, Dimitri must unravel the truth of what's going on, from why he woke in a morgue after having been submerged in an icy well for three hours and declared dead, to the unknown ghost who's leaving messages in magnetic poetry on his refrigerator, to who his parents really were.

I don't know what I expected from the contest, but I was somewhat surprised. Poe is a fairly deft mystery with solid writing, and the voice of Dimitri, the main character, is clear enough that you can picture him in your head. He's engaging, sometimes a knucklehead but bright enough, and he's much like any young guy in his twenties--a feat many writers would like to pull off, but usually don't. The mystery itself is twisty, and while it never truly scared or even thrilled me, I enjoyed figuring it out along with Dimitri.

If I had any criticisms, it's that the writer seems a bit enamored with shows like Supernatural and Buffy--hey, is that a bad thing? No, but I think the writer aspires to Joss Whedon-clever and falls a bit short, though the dialogue definitely is a cut above most books. And the motifs are a bit, "Seen that before." And, of course, our hero occasionally makes the dumb move that we just know we wouldn't make! Minor crits, though. Really. Overall, Poe is a fun read. As Publisher's Weekly called it, "gothic pop with a literate edge." Yep. Enjoy.

Monday, February 24, 2014


Or maybe just, awww, the heck with my life. If you want to know what it's like to be me, read on.

After the dentist—six month cleaning, performed with an ice pick—I went to Barnes & Noble, looking for books about pirates in the bargain section. Got jittery going in—hadn't been there in a while so was unfamiliar with the layout, felt like all eyes were on me, felt like I was being judged by whatever item I was looking at. Tried looking at Super Mario chess sets (really???)  to show how geeky I am (honestly, I love Super Mario, but I couldn't care less), and tried not looking at books about how one knows if one's cat is planning to kill oneself. Can't go into SFF section without feeling like an impostor, even though it's 95% of what I read. Forty-something year old woman, dressed decent, clean, mature(ish). Like I must be a spy. Or if they don't think I'm a spy, then they think I'm some sort of immature, childish person. Emotionally, mentally undeveloped. Because I'm in the SFF section.

Can't win no matter where I'm looking (except online!). New Age section = I'm sort of loopy hippy. Graphic novels = again with the "How old are you?" Humor = well, you get the picture. So I can't find books in the bargain section, and I'm about to leave, while feeling like they're watching me because I don't have anything and maybe I stole something, and what do I see in the first row of bargain books? Two books on pirates. Right there when I walked in. What an idiot. Disappointed at the lack of color pictures taking up whole pages, but it's fine. Got those and a BBT bookmark, Sheldon saying, "That's my spot!" Which is hilarious for a bookmark. Cashier tries to sell me their rewards program and a stuffed bunny and I have to mumble, "No, thanks," while looking down at the counter.

Next go to Ulta, because I saw they carry IT brand cosmetics online. Couldn't find them in store. Walked around the premium cosmetics sections jittery. Asked if I need help and I did, but what do I say? "No, just looking." Felt like all eyes were on me, like I'm being judged—I can't afford the cosmetics, or I shouldn't buy them because I'm so ugly, or I'm not that ugly but I obviously can't apply make-up. That sort of thing.

Wandered into cheaper, drugstore cosmetics, where I felt more comfortable. Saw they had a sale. After a while, got into the whole thing, loved shopping for stuff. Got two items. Would have bought a third but I didn't know if it was on sale and was afraid to ask. So take the two items up, they ask if I have an Ulta member card and I do but I haven't used it in so long, I'm afraid if I pull it out they'll say, That's an ooooooold card! And they'll know I haven't shopped there in forever. Which would make me somehow a bad person. So I say no, I don't have a card, and they ring me up and without the card I don't get the sale price, and instead of saying something then like, "Oh, I just remembered I do have a card!", I pay the full price on my two cosmetics and leave, defeated.

Defeated sometimes sums up my existence.

Rejected stories, defeated by mundane, impersonal interactions in stores, and I blew up the stick of butter in the microwave when I attempted to melt it half an hour ago.

Oh, life.

On the flip side: two pieces will be appearing in March (thank you, dear editors!), and while perusing the pirate books when I got home, got inspiration I needed for my book. Which is at 20,000 words. Which crushed me when I first added it up, thinking I was at, like, 40 or 50,000. But still. I somewhat have a book. 

Online and in person, I try to portray a nice, friendly, confident person. Helpful. Kind. But the truth is that I am a seething nest of nauseous snakes, wound in a slithery ball of insecurity. If you are too, then high five, friend. *clink* That's our beers tapping each other in salute.

Signing off,

Friday, February 14, 2014

Honey Bears! They've got a heart on for you!

I'm a dog groomer. Besides grooming, our shop sells products, such as homemade dog cookies. We recently got an order of Valentine's Day cookies. I thought I was the only one who thought the "honey bears" were a bit... interesting. So I took a picture and sent it to Cake Wrecks, and guess what? They're featured in today's Valentine's Day post!

Meet the Vag-abonds!

Seriously, I was the only one who saw it. Even pointing it out to others, they kind of stared for a minute and I had to graphically describe why they're "wrong." Thank god that Jen & Crew from CW are out there, so I know I'm not the only one with... imagination. Yeah. Imagination.

Well, that just makes my Valentine's Day complete.

Enjoy your VD, everybody!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Review: Lysistrata of Mars by Tory Hoke

Strange Horizons has a fab one this week: Lysistrata of Mars by Tory Hoke. Kay (let's call her Neon... or Diamond) is about to get evicted from her apartment in Tower Twelve, but that's okay because New Plymouth on Mars is nothing if not just the place for a girl of few skills and a matching set of underwear. After taking a job pole dancing (hey--everybody's got to make a living), she finds things are all right. No real friends, enough money to get by, but she's hanging in there.

Until a Sigma 9 comes to visit the Club and really, really, really likes the way she scratches his head. And Kay lets him know that she has limits, dammit.

Chaos ensues, and if you think the sharp wit and quick pace are ever gonna give up, you would be wrong, dear one. Hoke's got style and flash and substance. Loved this one.

The last Strange Horizons story that I loved this much was, as you may recall, Rachael Ack's Significant Figures, in which Stephen's waffle iron attempts to tell him something very important. What you should take from this is: female SFF writers rock.

Enjoy your day, and remember: aliens are people too. Which means they can be complete douchebags.

*Ahem. Excuse me. I forgot to tell you that LoM is particularly NSFW. I mean, the language itself isn't graphic, and, well... Listen, it's NSFW. So read it now before you go in.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Little Talks: more vampires in Prague

Little Talks

Now that the vampires have stopped confiding in him, Stan is feeling somewhat bereft. Centuries of secrets--oh, little things, but still! He was almost party to them. Almost there at the moment Mina broke the vase and refused to admit it. Almost there when Count D forgot to tip a bellhop, and bathed in shame, cannot return to that hotel in Budapest. How mundane they'd seemed, how petty. But now they've told him all, and what more use does a vampire have for a small time bookie? They've lost a few coins, true, but more precisely: unburdened the place where their souls used to sit. Now there is room for something else, but what, they will not tell him.

Eugene Atget, The Confessional

I am bound and determined, apparently, to prove that vampires are as boring as you and me. :)

Inspired by OneWord.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February Femmes Fatales--anthology now out!

Very exciting! Lily Childs, she of the Feardom and all-around shiveringly gorgeous lady, has released a volume of the February Femmes Fatales. Along with dear Asuqi (who may or may not be a robot) and many, many other of the best dark writing female authors around, I have a couple of stories in this anthology.

The Kindle edition is only a few bucks. Amazing price to pay for such stellar dark fiction. Do check it out!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

DOM4 now accepting submissions; Bell's scotch commercial

The Leaky Pencil is once again engaging in my favorite form of March Madness, Days of Madness 4!

Editor Chris Allinotte is looking for flash fiction pieces between 1000-1500 words around the theme of "hidden horror." You can find more at the submission page here. They run in March, and deadline's coming up, so get yours in! I just submitted mine. We'll see how it goes. The theme stumped me a bit; I went broad and loose with it.


This commercial shreds me. Every. Time. A commercial for a South African scotch, it features a man learning to read. Beautiful, beautiful and -- get the tissues out.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Submissions; Vampires in Prague

So, yesterday, I submitted a story to Strange Horizons.

If any of you felt faint reading that, you are my peeps! Strange Horizons is my favorite speculative fiction mag on the web. I would be bowled over if I were to have my work accepted. With a 99% rejection rate, it's a slim, slim, chance, but for some reason, just submitting makes me giddy.

Second fave? The weekly Tor stories (it's really close, actually), followed by the Molotov Cocktail.

I also love 101 Fiction's seasonal issues, which combine spec fic with a theme. Reading the prismatic takes on the theme is an absolute joy. 101 Fiction is currently accepting subs for their spring issue, and you can read more here. Please submit! I did, and if another idea comes to me, I shall submit another. They're all frankly erotic at the moment; I had to clean up my first submission. Maybe I'll just let the next one go and see what Mr. Xero thinks *g*

Speaking of which, I was in love with vampires last issue. Here are two of what I call my Vampires in Prague series:

Prague in December

Winter in Prague is cliché. All the vampires slump into coffee shops, safe in the perma-gloom of December. They sip hot cocoa and listen to university students talking about Miller, Bessenyei, Proust. They remember reading a Magyar version of some play by an absinthe-soaked dramatist, and how the boards squeaked when the actors moved around on the old stage at the Estates.

They think of taking a protégé from among these, teaching them Latin, putting on a new show. But January is a stake to the heart of even the undead; so they drain their cups and wait for spring.

(ah, but one did take a protege! read about it here)


Renfield, of Late

Candle-snuffer for vampires. Decades on, and this is what he's become. He was promised so much more: young women in thrall, an exciting nightlife, a glimpse behind the pale curtain.

If they can wave them all into existence with a finger at dusk, why can't they put them all out? He stamps between rooms, uncaring how his steps ring out on the stones.

Maybe he'll leave Prague. Their candle bill will skyrocket.

In the last room, a note beside the coffin: Thank you! xx Mina

He folds it carefully and puts it in his pocket.

Maybe he'll stay another winter.


I love these little vignettes, an entire community in the shadows (and sometimes not!) of an old, old city. Ah, vampires! You are not all bare-chested demons with tight buns. 

Trust me, as one gets older, one appreciates imperfection more.

So this is it. I hope you enjoy our next foray into wintry horror--I know I shan't. Fucking winter. Fucking snow. Fucking fuck fuck fuck.