Jump to content

Blogs

 

Guest Post: The Metaphysics of Science Fiction

I occasionally offer my blog to fellow creative travelers and today it is my great pleasure to hand over this space to Lancelot Shaubert. 
I first met Lance through the Writer Unboxed community and attended several writing retreats with him in the past few years. He is a bright, driven, passionate artist in all senses of the word. A writer, a musician, a filmmaker, Lance is someone whose vision includes collaboration and connection. I am honored to know him. Honored to be named a mentor by him. Honored to be part of his anthology.
Lance sent this to me when I was experiencing a low moment - feeling as if my creative work was at a dead end and not reaching or touching an audience. I didn't know until reading this how profoundly my story had moved Lance. He saw in it elements I did not consciously intend, but as all art is a construction between artist and audience, I am honored by what he sees in it. 
I leave you his thoughtful piece to consider. The Metaphysics of Sci-Fi
Lancelot Shaubert



Since the meaning of anything is first and foremost the meaning of everything, sci-fi stories can carry a heavy metaphysical burden by virtue of containing lots of things: big things, small things, multiple planets full of things and so forth. When it comes to awakening the metaphysical import of science fiction inside of me, no living author has done so both through their craft and friendship more than LJ Cohen.

It seems every time we get together, she and I end up talking about meaning and philosophy and metaphysics. Time and again, both in those talks and through her work, she proves that sci-fi carries that burden better than any fiction genre other than fantasy. Take her most recent short “Perpetual Silence” from the Of Gods and Globes anthology I edited this summer. For starters, I cry every time I read her story. No exaggeration. I cry every time I read her story for the amount it says in so little, the weight it carries with such honesty and curiosity and melancholy: this is a story that gets the essence of nostalgia, of Sehnsucht.

Spoiler alert for those of you that care about such things (though I tend to think spoilers enhance rather than detract from the reading experience), but her story features a young woman researcher creating an instantaneous comms link in the distant heavens through a satellite. It’s like internet for deep space, a phone call to the other end of the galaxy. Strictly speaking, this should be impossible, but they figure it out. Problem: this instantaneous communication works like a virus and erases all lag from all communication between satellites. It’s inconvenient to the scientist long-term and she terminates her team’s life’s work in an instant of code. Why?

“She’d called the universe. The universe had called back.” She sought the ultimate consciousness behind infinite being and total reality and that consciousness responded. It scared her enough that she shuttered the program.

Think about that: she discovered and verified prayer. The story’s a metaphysical and astronomical argument for prayer. And for why we don’t pray: we’re actually scared of an answer, scared of the grounds of all reality, of the necessary and sufficient cause of being having... well... a mind of its own.

It’s not the only time an author asks such questions in a sci-fi story.

Star Wars quite famously proffered a sort of gnostic dualism as the grounds of its magic system. Dune dealt with the nature of prophecy to affect not only space, but timelines, and what time means for one’s identity. Firefly asks classic existentialist questions over and again: particularly the "Out of Gas" episode where they ask why does a screwdriver exist? Why is there such a thing as a screwdriver when there should be nothing? When a screwdriver and none of the material or efficient causes of a screwdriver can possibly contain the cause of a screwdriver’s being, moment to moment?

Heady questions from space cowboys...

The Martian, of course, asked if raw conscious courage can trump mindless matter. The Foundation (poorly, I think) asks questions based on the Hegelian picture of history (bolstered poorly by the Wellsian picture of history and mythology), questions that Sanderson picks back up in Elantris and... in a way... stumbles through to something like a more holistic picture.

The Man in the High Castle more than any asked if America would ever create true art, a true work of beauty (one that delights in making intimate the great distance between two things while preserving said distance) when we Americans obsess on the one hand with our hyper utilitarian purgation of art and on the other hand with profiting off of commodities and frauds?

If art, in other words, makes a new culture by preserving our own special uniqueness via a singular intimate encounter with what’s us and no one else, then we ought not (1) worry about profits first, for art is not advertisement, nor (2) worry about how many copies of our work exist, for art is about preserving that beatific distance in an intimate encounter and not about the proliferation of our namesake, nor (3) the efficacious or tangible or systematic affect of our work on the immediate society, for art is about the seventh generation and not about us and therefore the virtue it forms in us is far more important and far-reaching than whatever system it could tweak or technology it could inspire.

Though, strictly speaking, the Elon Musks of today are a few generations removed from the scifi of yesterdecade.

And then there’s Station Eleven, a sci-fi book written by a literary author (whatever that means) who typically writes for The Millions. Emily St. John Mandel builds a whole book out of graphic novel meta references and quotes from Star Trek claiming things like SURVIVAL IS INSUFFICIENT as well as songs and skits from a rag tag traveling orchestra and theater company — all of this points to the value of science fiction and dreaming of the future in a post apocalyptic world mostly killed off by the flu.

She ends the book with the first set of folks taking off in the first plane since the plague, dreaming of the first ships sailing in the dark since the crisis, and drawing a clean line between the sci-fi of today and the best parts of that science fiction vision which motivated The New World mythos, Columbus and all...

Whether or not the metaphysics of the 17th century was true — or whether or not the Manifest Destiny it upheld is just or beautiful or good — is a question for another day, but no one can deny that the idea of Manifest Destiny showed up first in 17th century science fiction. After all, the metaphysicians and fictioneers of that time were only following in a literary tradition solidified by Dante — an author only willfully stupid readers would claim had no metaphysical impetus behind his description of that great reversal of gravity the protagonist of Inferno experiences while passing down the frozen demon’s belly button.

____

Lancelot Schaubert has sold hundreds of stories, articles, and poems to markets like TOR (Macmillan), The New Haven Review, McSweeney’s, The World Series Edition of Poker Pro, The Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, and many similar venues. 
To grab a free copy of chapter one of his best written work (slated for 2019) and his best song, click here. 

Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Guest Post: The Metaphysics of Science Fiction

I occasionally offer my blog to fellow creative travelers and today it is my great pleasure to hand over this space to Lancelot Shaubert. 
I first met Lance through the Writer Unboxed community and attended several writing retreats with him in the past few years. He is a bright, driven, passionate artist in all senses of the word. A writer, a musician, a filmmaker, Lance is someone whose vision includes collaboration and connection. I am honored to know him. Honored to be named a mentor by him. Honored to be part of his anthology.
Lance sent this to me when I was experiencing a low moment - feeling as if my creative work was at a dead end and not reaching or touching an audience. I didn't know until reading this how profoundly my story had moved Lance. He saw in it elements I did not consciously intend, but as all art is a construction between artist and audience, I am honored by what he sees in it. 
I leave you his thoughtful piece to consider. The Metaphysics of Sci-Fi
Lancelot Shaubert



Since the meaning of anything is first and foremost the meaning of everything, sci-fi stories can carry a heavy metaphysical burden by virtue of containing lots of things: big things, small things, multiple planets full of things and so forth. When it comes to awakening the metaphysical import of science fiction inside of me, no living author has done so both through their craft and friendship more than LJ Cohen.

It seems every time we get together, she and I end up talking about meaning and philosophy and metaphysics. Time and again, both in those talks and through her work, she proves that sci-fi carries that burden better than any fiction genre other than fantasy. Take her most recent short “Perpetual Silence” from the Of Gods and Globes anthology I edited this summer. For starters, I cry every time I read her story. No exaggeration. I cry every time I read her story for the amount it says in so little, the weight it carries with such honesty and curiosity and melancholy: this is a story that gets the essence of nostalgia, of Sehnsucht.

Spoiler alert for those of you that care about such things (though I tend to think spoilers enhance rather than detract from the reading experience), but her story features a young woman researcher creating an instantaneous comms link in the distant heavens through a satellite. It’s like internet for deep space, a phone call to the other end of the galaxy. Strictly speaking, this should be impossible, but they figure it out. Problem: this instantaneous communication works like a virus and erases all lag from all communication between satellites. It’s inconvenient to the scientist long-term and she terminates her team’s life’s work in an instant of code. Why?

“She’d called the universe. The universe had called back.” She sought the ultimate consciousness behind infinite being and total reality and that consciousness responded. It scared her enough that she shuttered the program.

Think about that: she discovered and verified prayer. The story’s a metaphysical and astronomical argument for prayer. And for why we don’t pray: we’re actually scared of an answer, scared of the grounds of all reality, of the necessary and sufficient cause of being having... well... a mind of its own.

It’s not the only time an author asks such questions in a sci-fi story.

Star Wars quite famously proffered a sort of gnostic dualism as the grounds of its magic system. Dune dealt with the nature of prophecy to affect not only space, but timelines, and what time means for one’s identity. Firefly asks classic existentialist questions over and again: particularly the "Out of Gas" episode where they ask why does a screwdriver exist? Why is there such a thing as a screwdriver when there should be nothing? When a screwdriver and none of the material or efficient causes of a screwdriver can possibly contain the cause of a screwdriver’s being, moment to moment?

Heady questions from space cowboys...

The Martian, of course, asked if raw conscious courage can trump mindless matter. The Foundation (poorly, I think) asks questions based on the Hegelian picture of history (bolstered poorly by the Wellsian picture of history and mythology), questions that Sanderson picks back up in Elantris and... in a way... stumbles through to something like a more holistic picture.

The Man in the High Castle more than any asked if America would ever create true art, a true work of beauty (one that delights in making intimate the great distance between two things while preserving said distance) when we Americans obsess on the one hand with our hyper utilitarian purgation of art and on the other hand with profiting off of commodities and frauds?

If art, in other words, makes a new culture by preserving our own special uniqueness via a singular intimate encounter with what’s us and no one else, then we ought not (1) worry about profits first, for art is not advertisement, nor (2) worry about how many copies of our work exist, for art is about preserving that beatific distance in an intimate encounter and not about the proliferation of our namesake, nor (3) the efficacious or tangible or systematic affect of our work on the immediate society, for art is about the seventh generation and not about us and therefore the virtue it forms in us is far more important and far-reaching than whatever system it could tweak or technology it could inspire.

Though, strictly speaking, the Elon Musks of today are a few generations removed from the scifi of yesterdecade.

And then there’s Station Eleven, a sci-fi book written by a literary author (whatever that means) who typically writes for The Millions. Emily St. John Mandel builds a whole book out of graphic novel meta references and quotes from Star Trek claiming things like SURVIVAL IS INSUFFICIENT as well as songs and skits from a rag tag traveling orchestra and theater company — all of this points to the value of science fiction and dreaming of the future in a post apocalyptic world mostly killed off by the flu.

She ends the book with the first set of folks taking off in the first plane since the plague, dreaming of the first ships sailing in the dark since the crisis, and drawing a clean line between the sci-fi of today and the best parts of that science fiction vision which motivated The New World mythos, Columbus and all...

Whether or not the metaphysics of the 17th century was true — or whether or not the Manifest Destiny it upheld is just or beautiful or good — is a question for another day, but no one can deny that the idea of Manifest Destiny showed up first in 17th century science fiction. After all, the metaphysicians and fictioneers of that time were only following in a literary tradition solidified by Dante — an author only willfully stupid readers would claim had no metaphysical impetus behind his description of that great reversal of gravity the protagonist of Inferno experiences while passing down the frozen demon’s belly button.

____

Lancelot Schaubert has sold hundreds of stories, articles, and poems to markets like TOR (Macmillan), The New Haven Review, McSweeney’s, The World Series Edition of Poker Pro, The Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, and many similar venues. 
To grab a free copy of chapter one of his best written work (slated for 2019) and his best song, click here. 

Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Playing the Long Game

I'm taking a brief break from the long and twisting tale of my adoption search story to return to some hard numbers about my publishing journey. I do this periodically, mainly because I believe in transparency and it helps me maintain perspective.

First caveat: I am almost entirely self-published.
Second caveat: I do very little promotion or paid advertising. I have a small mailing list of under 1000 subscribers. I could probably earn more/sell more if I focused on this side of the business.
Third caveat: I walked away from amazon page reads to keep my books widely available. This resulted in a definite drop in income that I'm starting to recover from. It was a long term choice to eschew the immediate money for long term sustainability.
Fourth Caveat: I have learned I can write/publish a book a year and no more than that.
Fifth caveat: YMMV


This is an overview of my earnings from January of 2012 through yesterday, August 7, 2018.

I've marked when each of my 8 novels were published. They are color coded for the series they belong to.

A few things to notice:

2014 was an anomaly year. In June of 2014, I published DERELICT, the first novel in my space opera series, Halcyone Space. I did little that I hadn't done for my prior books, but this one (forgive the terrible pun) took off like a rocket.

There were fewer books being published in 2014 and Amazon's algorithms (impenetrable to mere mortals, then and now) somehow picked up on a week or so of modest sales and decided to promote the book in its genre newsletters.

Unfortunately, I had no way of capitalizing on this good fortune directly, as Amazon doesn't share its sales intel. While I had my social media links in the book and a link to my newsletter, I had no way to directly promote to all those readers.

One year later, when ITHAKA RISING was published, (book 2 of the series) I had no way to let all the readers of book 1 know it was out. And Amazon didn't magically do it for me. You can clearly see the tiny bump in income for that release. However, sales of all books over the following months were slightly higher than in the prior year.

In 2016, I had greater traction with the release of DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE, again mainly due to the power of Amazon: At that point, I had taken the newer books exclusive to Amazon in their Kindle Unlimited program and a big chunk of my income that year was through page reads.

Book 5 (PARALLAX) debuted in 2017, when I had pulled out from KU to have all the books available wide. My income between mid 2017 to mid 2018 was given a lovely boost by a .99 Bookbub feature on DERELICT.


This second graph is a yearly comparison of earnings between January of 2012, when I published my first novel, through yesterday, August 7, 2018.

With 8 novels in the marketplace, and a completed series, and greater traction on non-Amazon marketplaces (especially Kobo), I'm on track to exceed my KU exclusive/boosted-by-page-reads 2016 income.

If you omit the outlier of 2014, and factor in the switch from Amazon exclusive to wide, the trend is towards higher earnings year on year with more books available in the marketplace. (Note: the 2018 bar is only 7 months of the year and doesn't include the earnings from my latest bookbundle participation.)

Take Home Messages Publishing is a long game More of your books in the marketplace translates to more potential points of contact and sales Amazon is still the biggest player in the market. Some writers choose to stay exclusive with them and can do extremely well on page reads and the specific promotional tools that gives them.  Going wide entails risk and it can take a long time to gain audience share outside of Amazon Of my 8 novels to date, 4 have earned back their production expenses, the 5th is on track to do so. 3 have not and probably will not. This is the case even in traditional publishing: good sellers bankroll poorer sellers. This is not the business to be in if you need a steady income. AKA keep your day job or have a partner with one.  Luck and timing play a larger role in financial success in publishing that any of us want to admit.  You have no direct control over luck or timing.  Hard work is necessary, but it's not enough. If you, like me, find creating as necessary as breathing, there is no hope but to keep working. 
Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is Me: An adoption story, part 5

For anyone just stumbling on this story, the earlier installments are here:
After that intense, emotional, incredible first conversation with my new uncle, Paul and I continued to talk - via phone, email, and text. Over the next weeks, we got to know one another.

I found out more about my sprawling family tree, including cousins and an aunt (Paul's half sister through my maternal grandfather) who is almost a decade younger than me! I had several phone and email conversations with her and she is lovely, kind, thoughtful, and welcoming.

She put me in contact with Robin's late second husband Ed, who she had kept in contact with.

I then had a long chain of email conversations with Ed, learning about Robin as an adult. They were very much in love and had a very happy life together. She's been gone now 8 years and I know he misses her keenly, still.  He was even able to find and send scans of some old photos of Robin, from when she was in her 20s.

My birthmother, Robin, late 1960s? Ed was thrilled to know something of Robin's survived her death. Even he hadn't known about me. He and I continue to be in contact.


I mentioned in an earlier episode of this tale that my uncle Paul and I had mutual friends. It goes deeper than that. We had been at the same science fiction & fantasy conventions, not once, but several times. Balticon in the Baltimore area and Arisia and Boskone in Boston.

These are not huge conventions. It is more than possible that he and I were at the same sessions and never knew there was anything other than a fan connection between us. In fact, we were both invited guests at cons and might have bumped into one another in the 'green room'.

Paul retired from his teaching and his work with SETI (yes, the listening in outer space for sign of alien life!) and performs as a filker - think a combination of Weird Al and Tom Lehrer with a science fiction twist. He is unbelievably smart (2 PhDs), a lifelong geek, and with a sense of humor that prizes cleverness over mockery. Reader, I adored him. Even before we met (spoilers! We got to meet!) I knew I would feel comfortable with him.

We discovered that we were both invited guests at Boskone, to be held in Boston February of 2018 - just a few months away. I was thrilled that I'd have the chance to meet him and we made plans to have my family join me there as well.

Then a few conversations later, he asked me if I would be attending Arisia - another Boston con, one that takes place in January. Because he was able to attend and was hoping to meet me even sooner.

And yes, I was also on program there. And yes, I was eager to meet my uncle in person.

And here we are.


We sat near the con's registration area and talked for hours. He would often break off in the middle of a thought to stare at me and smile, remarking how much a particular expression of mine was so like Robin's.

Was it weird?

Yes.

Was it remarkable and incredible?

Yes.



To be continued. . .

Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is Me: An adoption story, part 4

If you've been following along, this is part 4 of my adoption search story. While it reads very much like the end, truly, it marks the start of a new journey of discovery that is ongoing. Stay tuned!


After I had my hard, ugly cry and caught my breath and washed my face, I was ready to call the phone number, ready to speak with my Uncle Paul.

With shaking hands, I called..

I honestly can't really remember much of that conversation. My whole body was trembling. I'm sure my voice was strained.

Part of me was still afraid he would hang up on me, or angrily insist on proof of my story. I half expected the same kind of hostility and rejection I had received from his mother, despite the email he'd sent.

Instead he expressed wonder and astonishment.

And he welcomed me.

As I quietly cried, we traded our histories - sketches of a lifetime compressed into an hour-long phone call.

I learned that he hadn't known of my existence. That his parents and sister had kept the secret all these years, and took it to their graves.

Paul was a year older than his sister - my birth mother. He was away in college when she got pregnant. All he knew was that his sister deferred her college acceptance for a semester, saying she had some kind of job or internship in San Francisco.

What she did, was have a baby and give her up for adoption.

Then she started college in January of 1964.

Paul gave me so much more than the answers to my lifelong questions. He also helped give me context for my maternal family.

My sketchy handwritten notes
As Paul describes it, my maternal family tree is less a tree than a vine. Part of that is because my maternal grandfather (Ben) was married and divorced multiple times and had children with several of his wives.

Ben was born in Eastern Europe, walked across much of the continent, got passage on a British freighter to Liverpool where he learned English. A self-educated man, my maternal grandfather became a British citizen and traveled to Toronto. He then took a train to Chicago, because he knew they didn't check papers. He married my maternal grandmother Phyllis and enlisted in the army in WWII, and became a citizen afterwards.

Ben was a poet and he worked as an advertiser. A man who came here as an illegal immigrant and self-educated, self-taught in English.

I told Paul about my experience with his mother, all those years before. After a brief silence, he expressed regret that she had reacted in such a negative way. That she had been a fierce family matriarch and he was sorry I had been rejected.

And he told me about Robin.

She was the one who introduced him to science fiction. Yes, my birth mother was a science fiction fan. She also was a writer, a theatre costumer and set designer, and was outspoken for social justice.


I remember telling Paul my greatest regret was that I never had the chance to tell Robin that I was okay. More than okay. That I had a wonderful upbringing and harbored no anger about the circumstance of my adoption. That I had two grown sons and a family and a life that I loved.

Paul was silent for another long moment. There was a sadness in his voice when he said how much Robin would have liked to have been a grandmother.

He also told me that she had been married and had had a child - a son. My half-brother. J (and I'll be using initials for some of the people in this story, first names for others, all to protect people's privacy) had estranged himself from the family decades before. Paul had no idea why. Only that when Robin was dying, J never responded to their emails and didn't attend her funeral.

She was divorced from her first husband, but had found happiness in her last years with her second husband, Ed.

Sadly, she died at 65, of cancer and I will never know her.

The best I can do is learn about her from the stories of those who loved her.

And that will have to be enough.


To be continued . . . 



Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is Me: An adoption story, part 3

I had to laugh when several people who I'm connected with on social media mock-chided me on ending the first 2 installments of this story on cliffhangers. Yes, I'm a novelist, so part of what I do as a storyteller is to ramp up the stakes to keep the reader interested. However, where I chose to stop each piece of the story mirrors my own experience during this journey. As I replied to them: #sorrynotsorry

Here's part number 3.

Pat 1: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-1.html


Part 2: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-2.html



For several days, I sat with the knowledge that I had a new uncle in the world, and that he'd had a close relationship with his sister - my birth mother. I studied her image in the photos my friend had linked me to, searching for the kind of resemblance she clearly saw. But mostly, I tried to read between the lines of my uncle's website to figure out what kind of person he was.

Clearly, he was a geek. That was a huge point in his favor. And a scientist with an interest in astronomy and space. He'd been involved with SETI, which set my own geeky heart racing with excitement.

So in the quiet of the house one day, I decided to send him an email, through his website. I clearly stated who I was, who my mother had been. The circumstances (as I understood them) of my birth and adoption.

And then I waited.

And waited.

A few days went by and I was convinced that this, too, would be a dead end.

And I realized I didn't want it to be. More than that: I needed to make contact.

Maybe that sounds selfish. I'm willing to admit there is an element of selfishness in pursuing old secrets, regardless of how revealing them might affect other people. But there's also some degree of feeling I had a right to know my own history. And certainly, I had a duty to my children to find out about our genetic legacy.

So when I didn't get a reply, I searched for my uncle on Facebook. I figured that someone with such a large internet footprint would likely have a Facebook profile.

And he did.

That was not really surprising.

What was surprising was that we had several friends in common. People I had met and interacted with over the course of several years. One an editor of a small press out of Brooklyn. The other, one of my fellow members of Broad Universe.

By this time, I had traveled with my husband to Denver, where he was attending a conference and where in a few days, I would be attending a science fiction convention.

So from our hotel room, I reached out to my editor friend, and sent him a private message on Facebook.


And when my friend replied with his email, I sent him this:

My friend wrote back right away, that he indeed did know my uncle and would be happy to forward a message from me.

I think it was only a matter of a few minutes when I received an email.


Alone, in a hotel room in Denver, Colorado, I had the biggest, loudest, ugliest cry I've ever had in my life. Huge gulping sobs. It felt like my heart was heaving so hard it was going to tear itself apart.

I couldn't catch my breath. I couldn't sit still.

I wasn't alone in the world. After losing both my folks in a five year span, I had felt as if I'd been orphaned. All my aunts and uncles had passed away and an entire generation was gone. Never mind that I was a married woman in my 50s with a family of her own. Never mind that I had a sister, cousins, neices, nephews, in-laws, I was suddenly among the oldest generation in my family or origin. And I felt that I had no one to call on to ask for advice, or look to for their experience. It was a very lonely place.

But in that moment, I knew no matter what came next, I was not alone. That some part of me was still alive and welcomed me home.

To be continued. . . 


Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is me: An adoption story, part 2

Yesterday, I started to tell the story of my search for my birth family. If you haven't yet seen part 1, it's here: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-1.html

So, we're at the point last December when I realized I hadn't lost my adoption file in our 2010 house fire and that the paperwork had been in a box in the attic for the prior 7 years.

My birth mother's information
The file consisted of about a dozen pages of handwritten notes - information about my birth mother, her parents, birth father, his parents, 2 letters she wrote to the adoption lawyer, a CA birth certificate, and the court proceedings ratifying my adoption.

The last time I had googled her name was early in the 2000's and didn't find anything helpful. This time, my search turned up a genealogy website with her name on a family tree. The limited information that was there matched - including her birthdate and my first shock was finding that she had died in 2010.

My second was that she had been married and had had one child.

Somewhere in the world, I had a half-sibling.

I spent some time looking for her husband and finally found him and his email address. I sent him a message, but never got a reply. (7 months later, I still have not.) Another dead end.

I told a friend what I had found and she decided to do some internet sleuthing. She found that Robin's brother had a large internet footprint and even found his online family holiday letters, including photographs of Robin in adulthood. And though his website, I had his email address.

Everyone I showed the photos to told me how strong a resemblance they saw.

Suddenly I had to make a choice. Do I try to contact this man? How would I be received?

This was no small matter.

Because this wasn't the first time I had held these papers in my hands, facing a similar decision.


*

                  
In 1992, my first child was born. A son. With my blue eyes and black hair. My round face. It was like looking down at an infant version of my own face and it was an incredibly powerful moment: Here was the first time in my life where I was actually in the presence of someone I was related to.

It shook me.

It made me understand that my past wasn't just a matter of my own curiosity, but a deep need to connect my history with my future; especially for the sake of this new life I had helped create.

And, as a mother, I had a surge of emotion and empathy for my birth mother. If I had to give up a child, I would want to know that child was okay. That I had made the right choice for that child's best future.

I was determined to let Robin know I was okay. I was more than okay. And I felt she deserved to know she had a grandchild in the world.


These were the notes the lawyer wrote ahead of his first meeting with my birth mother

I've redacted the identifying information, but included in this document was her parents' address and phone number as of June of 1963.

I gathered all my courage. By this time, my son was about 5 months old, and looking more like me by the day.

I called the number.

A woman answered.

It was Robin's mother.

When I told her who I was, she had her husband pick up the other line, and she began to interrogate me.

I don't remember the exact conversation - it was almost 25 years ago, and I was in a highly emotional state - but the gist was she didn't trust me. She kept demanding to know what I wanted. When I tried to tell her I just wanted to make contact, to let Robin know I was okay, she strangely responded that she wasn't going to give me any money.

I tried to tell her I didn't need money. I was a physical therapist. My husband was a physician. We had just bought a house. We were fine.

After making no headway in trying to get any information about Robin (they told me she wasn't married and had no children, which I later was to discover was not true), I asked for a photograph of her.

The woman who was my grandmother offered this: she would send a photograph if I swore never to contact anyone in the family ever again.

I was stunned.

I didn't know what to say.

I stammered something about that being emotional blackmail.

They hung up on me.

I sat in front of our home computer shaken and weeping.

It took some time for the hurt to fade, but in some ways, it made me even more grateful for the incredible family I had.

*
So fast forward to December of 2017.

I have a name - my Uncle. I have his email address.

And I have the painful memory of being rejected by his mother.

More importantly, I have a decision to make.


To be continued. . .









email:

Free eBook Free/DRM-free short fiction publication news
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is Me: An adoption story, part 1

How’s this for irony?

In 2010, I was finally ready to locate and contact my birth parents after years of struggling with what was right and if my own need to know superseded both my adoptive family’s feelings and the chance of exposing old secrets in my birth family.

I wrote this poem in the fall of that year. It helped me realize it was time to dig out the records I had received years earlier. I was going to do what it took: search on the internet, hire an adoption detective. But life got busy, as it always does, and I figured I’d have time during the kid’s winter school vacation.

On December 1, 2010, we were woken up by the smoke detectors blaring. Our house was on fire. And we fled barefoot and in our pajamas. Dealing with the emotional impact of the fire, being displaced from our home for almost a year, and the overwhelming amount of administrative work that followed drove my adoption search to the bottom of my priority list.

In hindsight, 2010 was a really awful year, and not just because of our housefire: It was also the year my birth mother died. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The following year - 2011 - when we moved back into our rebuilt house, I believed that the large envelop with my handwritten adoption paperwork had burned in the fire. With the lawyer who handled the adoption now long dead, his office closed, I knew there was no way to recreate the files. I only had what I remembered from them, which was incomplete.

In the years that followed, I would occasionally search for my birth mother’s and birth father’s names on google, but wasn’t able to find anyone either on the internet or on social media who matched what I knew of them.  I had registered my information on several adoption matching sites, but with incomplete information, I wasn’t very hopeful.

And it was during those years that my parents were becoming ill and their safety and medical needs occupied so much of my time and focus. There were other family crises during those years, too, and my own “curiosity” (such an incomplete word to describe my deep, primal need to know about my past and my history) took a back seat to everything else.

Parents. Adoptive parents. Birth parents. We just don’t have enough precise language to describe all these relationships.

Me, Mom, and Dad, Florida Vacation, 1969

When I say parents, I mean the mom and dad who adopted me and raised me. Hanford and Bea Cohen, both now of blessed memory. They embraced me into my new family when I was just 5 days old, never hiding the fact that they had adopted – chosen – wanted me. And there was no one in the extended family on either side who didn’t embrace me as family.

I grew up surrounded by love, encouragement, emotional security.

And yet. . .

And yet, there were always unspoken questions. Questions I knew would make my mother sad if I asked them. Which didn’t make the questions go away, it only buried them deep in my psyche.

Why was I given up?

To a young child, the unspoken, terrifying answer to that question had to be that something was wrong with me, or that I had done something wrong to not have been wanted.

It didn’t matter that my rational brain knew that wasn’t the case. As I’ve said many times: humans are not primarily rational creatures. We are emotional creatures who justify our feelings with a coating of rationality.

So my need to search wasn’t really a need to find a new family, but a need to find myself and release a hurt I didn’t really know I was holding.

And it was completely serendipitous that one day, in December of 2017, I found myself in our attic looking for the old clock radio I knew my husband had put up there because he doesn’t throw things away.

Next to the radio, were several banker’s boxes of papers we had rescued from the house and tossed in the attic when we returned after the fire, six years earlier. Boxes I had never looked through.

Until I did that day.

And inside one of the last boxes was my adoption file.

To be continued. . .


email:

Free eBook Free/DRM-free short fiction publication news
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Spring 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners

Here are the winning stories from F-BOM’s Spring 2018 flash fiction contest, Someone Is Watching, judged by C.A. Hartman. Did you miss the contest this quarter? Our next topic will be revealed in August, during our interview with Fiona J.R. Titchenell. Follow us on Facebook for updates. Click here for submission guidelines. First place: Societal Ants by Agajem Jemima Japhet… Read More The post Spring 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners appeared first on F-BOM.
View the full article
 

Out of the Pocket: F-BOM Book of the Month Review

Here’s our spoiler-free review of Out of the Pocket by Fiona J.R. Titchenell. Get your copy by becoming a member today and then join us in the F-BOM forums. We look forward to hearing your thoughts! Angela Ironwright is a sixteen-year-old girl that I am very familiar with. Insecure? Check. Self-conscious… Read More The post Out of the Pocket: F-BOM Book of the Month Review appeared first on F-BOM.
View the full article
 

Happy Birthday, F-BOM! Here’s Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

It’s our birthday!  Well, kind of. We began in November 2016 when Lindsey registered F-BOM as a business with the state of Minnesota. And before that, we were a media review blog Her Story Arc. And before that, we were Lindsey’s personal blog. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But one year… Read More The post Happy Birthday, F-BOM! Here’s Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going appeared first on F-BOM.
View the full article
 

4th Street Fantasy convention recap

I had worked up the courage to finally talk to one of my favorite authors at the convention this past weekend. It was right before a panel was about to begin and I wasn’t sure there was enough time. Scanning the other seated attendees frantically, I was worried she might not be in the room. Perhaps she left the convention early? Then I heard her voice directly behind me. I turned around and there was Mary Robinette Kowal, author of Shades of Milk and Honey and one of the voices on the Writing Excuses podcast. She said “You listen to my podcast, don’t you?” When I asked how she knew, she said because I had turned around when she started to talk and had recognized her voice. While she signed my notebook (because her books are on my kindle) with her own fountain pen, she told me a story about meeting one of her own favorite authors, asked about my writing, and talked about the crochet project in her lap. She is as lovely a person as you could ever hope to meet. In my notebook she wrote “Be kind to yourself”. Another author I adore, Caroline Stevermer who co-wrote Sorcery and Cecelia (using the letter game!), wrote me a note saying it was lovely to meet me. The panels were a gold mine for sure, but that was only half of what made 4th Street amazing. They’re just a bunch of lovely human beings who somehow manage to have a tight knit community that is still welcoming to newcomers. 4th Street Fantasy convention, to me, was like drinking from a fire hose while having an IV drip sustenance into my veins at the same time. There was so much to take in. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. But there was also something incredibly energizing about being immersed in the atmosphere of 200 or so other writers and readers. This was not CONvergence, which is my only other con experience, where thousands of people create a lot of noise and there is occasionally a panel on how to write. This was a little known gem filled with authors and editors who are dedicated to their craft. There was so much knowledge and experience in the room, that often the audience would take over the panel, offering comments and suggestions as well as asking questions. I’ll never forget when I saw one man interrupt the first panel I attended and the entire panel stopped to listen to him, and he had a lot of good things to say. I found out later he is a Senior Editor at Tor books. I’ll probably occasionally rehash some of the panels here on the blog as I have time to decipher and type up my notes. No promises on accuracy, cohesion, or doing it in a timely manner. I have a lot to think about now and I’m excited to get back to writing. And reading, of course. I came away with no less than 231 book recommendations that aren’t your ordinary recommendations where you put them on your list because you have a nebulous feeling that you ‘ought’ to read them. These recommendations each came with a reason, as they were mentioned in the panels as examples of authors who wrote a particular thing well. I know which books to turn to if I want to encounter well-written examples of moving the plot forward without the use of war or violence, realistic depictions of war and violence and the fallout from that, what books have good soft magic systems or hard magic systems, authors who have done well at restrictive writing and cutting things out. Even video games, plays, and podcast recommendations. There was talk about how to end a series, or kill off characters, the emerging genre tags Grimdark vs. Hopepunk and how they’re not mutually exclusive, and how cities are built in layers over time and how we communicate with people across time by what we leave behind. There was even a lovely older gentleman whose hobby is finding toys and fixing them, who gave my ten month old daughter a Happy Apple that he had repaired. I also came away with a pair of dinosaur bone earrings made by Elise. Elise even had a piece of meteorite in a bottle sealed by wax from one of Neil Gaiman’s beehives, so it was pretty much straight out of the Stardust novel. I cannot say enough good things about my experience and I hope that if you have any desire to further your craft of writing, or to discuss your favorite fantasy novels with high-minded thinkers, that you’ll take a good look at attending next year. (Especially if you want to meet Mary Robinette Kowal or Caroline Stevermer.) Of course, since I’m all about reading, I’ll be posting the book recommendations soon, and hopefully with the reasons they were recommended. Stay tuned!
View article on original site

Reesha

Reesha

 

What are we afraid of?

I went to morning services at my temple this morning. I went because someone in the community had a yartzeit - the anniversary of a death of a loved one - and the laws of Judaism require a minyon, a quorum of 10 participants in order to recite the memorial prayer.

So I went, more in service to the community than for my own beliefs, which are conflicted and complicated.

But that's not why I'm writing today.

I'm writing to sort though my emotions and thoughts about the conversation the group had after the service, over coffee. We were talking about the incarcerated children, about immigration, and I was disappointed and upset by the opinions of my fellow congregants. And this is a community that prides itself on its commitment to social justice and social action.

Ultimately, the consensus was, sure, babies and children in detention centers is sad, but what else are we going to do? Several times, my view was challenged with this question: So would you rather have open borders?

Behind that question (and I'm sure the querant looked at it as a rhetorical one), I see fear. Fear of the other. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear, couched in the language of law and order and reason and fairness. And hours after the conversation, I sit here wondering what would happen if we stopped trying to logically justify our emotions and were truly honest about what we felt.

Instead of calling humans illegal, would would it be like if we could admit:

I'm afraid of people who don't look like me I'm afraid of people who don't act like me I'm afraid of people who don't worship like me Sitting in a room with a handful of people, most of whom were working hard to make me wrong and them right, many who were clearly ready to dismiss my passion as naivety, it was hard to muster any kind of answer that they could hear.
When I got home, I started to understand that using logic and reason only made it easier for them to hold to their arguments. That for every fact I checked, they would throw two more for me to counter - a hydra of data. It was a powerful defense mechanism, a way to wall away uncomfortable emotion.
As a woman, I'm far too familiar with being told not to be emotional. To being called hysterical. To being dismissed for leaning on my feelings. But to be human is to be a bundle of emotional reactions. We feel first; rationalize after. We know this. It is neuroscience, not opinion. 
I know now how I will respond to the kinds of questions posed to me today after services. I don't know what kind of answers I will receive, nor if it will change the conversation, but I will ask it anyway. And keep asking.
What are you afraid of?
 
 



email:

Free eBook Free/DRM-free short fiction publication news
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

The Werewolf Whisperer Book Review

This past weekend I was lucky enough to get to sit down with Camilla Ochlan and Bonita Gutierrez, co-authors of The Werewolf Whisper, an independent urban fantasy series about a pair of women who team up in the aftermath of a “werewolf apocalypse”. When the Kyon Virus infects huge portions of the population, it has… Read More The post The Werewolf Whisperer Book Review appeared first on F-BOM.
View the full article
 

Playing Hooky

For much of the past week, I've been at StarField Farm with my friend Jayne.

She had a week's vacation and needed a major recharge. I was more than happy to have an excuse to spend time in the quiet of my personal "Rivendell" and recharge as well.

For the first time in a long time, I let myself just be. No deadlines. No writing projects. No to-do lists.

I immersed myself in the quiet and the day to day.

Watched the day lilies and was rewarded by seeing the first bloom.

There has been a little swallow's nest tucked in the beam of the back door porch. The babies had finally fledged and were looking mighty cramped in the nest, but were refusing to leave.


It's hard to see with my cellphone photo, but there are three fully fledged swallows crammed into this nest. The parents spent the better part of several days swooping over the nest and yelling at the babies to get off their asses and fly, damnit. Well, that's my translation of bird anyway.


Our most ambitious endeavor of the week entailed making strawberry rhubarb jam. The strawberries were ones I'd picked last June and frozen, when I knew I wouldn't have the time to deal with them. The rhubarb was fresh picked from just outside the kitchen door.

Until this year, I didn't know rhubarb was something to cook with or eat. It looked like weird celery. It's leaves are poisonous. Who looked at this strange plant and decided it was food?

The jam was fabulous. I adore making jam. For those of you interested, I don't use a recipe, per se, but have honed my methods from these sources:

https://nwedible.com/how-to-make-pectin-free-jam/ My favorite resource for playing with making jams.

https://www.southernfoodways.org/southern-summer-in-a-jar-jam-secrets-from-april-mcgreger/  same method as above,but with the basic ratio I've found the most helpful for fruit and sugar.

http://justhungry.com/strawberry-jam-copious-detail

And a few links from this blog, along with photos of past year's jamming: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2012/06/strawberries.html
http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2013/08/we-be-jammin-blueberry-edition.html

Speaking of local food, we also ate tons of local asparagus and strawberries. It's hard to pass up local food in season. So we didn't. :)




I also culled the peach tree. (Full disclosure - this is a photo from last year, but the peaches were about the same size this year when I culled them.) This city-mouse has never had fruit trees before, but I have learned that peaches (and many fruit trees) do best if you cull the fruit when it is small to avoid overloading the tree and having it use all its energy to make fruit. Otherwise, you get decent harvests every other year rather than every year.
There is a kind of patience you learn living like this. You can't hurry peaches. They ripen in August, no matter how impatient you are for them.
Most of the nights this week were overcast, and while there wasn't a lot of opportunity to stargaze, we did experience a wonderful consolation prize: fireflies. Jayne and I spent most early evenings on the swing out front watching the dusk deepen, waiting as the birds settled for the evening, spotted the dragonflies dancing, and the first swooping bats. And then the fireflies would rise. I know they're just bugs, but there does seem to be something magical and otherworldly about them.
So Jayne and I spent a lot of time watching the world go by. Over the course of the week, we saw birds and hawks. The aforementioned dragonflies, bats, and fireflies. A deer came to visit on two occasions and I lost count of the rabbits. (The dogs, I'm sure, did not.) Jayne thinks she saw a bobcat slink by one morning. There is a deep silence here and it sinks into your bones. 
And then there was one clear night. I had fallen asleep with the dogs in the living room. When I woke up is was well past midnight. I took some time to stand out on the front stoop and watch the stars shine overhead.
It's easy to forget the stars. It's easy to forget to look up. It's easy to forget to breathe. 

email:

Free eBook Free/DRM-free short fiction publication news
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Trusting the future self

Something I discovered about how I write is that I find it hard to trust myself. That is, it’s hard to trust both my future self and my past self. I think I outline so much because I am scared that my future self will be some kind of uncreative zombie and I have to give her all the tools I possibly can right now. There is always an immediacy to my writing. If I don’t write it down now, it will slip away and never get written, or worse yet, I will try to write it later and it will be something completely different than what I want it to be now. As a result, my outlines tend to be around 40,000 words. (Ten thousand more words and it would officially be novel length, people. I’m crazy.) When I sit down to write from an outline later, I look back and think “who was the person who wrote this?” It feels contrived and false. Like I was trying to jam as much stuff in it as possible instead of letting it grow organically over time. I think I sense my former self’s distrust of my future ability and it dampens me. I’ve gone back and forth with this ever since I started writing, until June 2015. We took a vacation out to Portland and Seattle. On the plane ride back, I was determined not to get motion sick like I usually do. So I had my notebook handy and tried very hard to only focus on writing. To just get stuff on the page and not pay attention to how the plane was moving. And it worked. But it also worked for my writing. I almost never write by hand anymore. It’s too slow and my hands are already hurting from working them so much that grasping a pen just seems like a silly idea. But I didn’t want to get out my laptop because I was in the middle seat and there was hardly any room. This also meant that I had no notes on the story I was about to outline. I was going to be starting Camp NaNoWriMo in a week and a half and still didn’t have an outline. This kind of freaked me out, so I was like “yeah, I better write this outline right here, right now, before we touch the ground.” But I had to do it all from memory. The story in question is one I wrote many, many years ago, then stuffed it away because it was horrible. Still, it had some good stuff I can reuse (I hope), so I had planned to rewrite it during camp. I suddenly had to recall an entire, intricate novel’s worth of outline from over five years ago. This was the beauty of it: I was only allowed to write down the important things that moved the plot along, because I couldn’t remember all the other parts. When I got home, I typed up the outline and was pretty proud of it. Then I looked back at the old version to see if there was anything I had forgotten or wanted to salvage. And I felt my inspiration faint on the fainting couch in a dramatic fashion: the previous version was not only pretty readable, there were some downright good parts I didn’t want to throw away. I told myself that my outline from the plane was rubbish and I was just going to have to keep the storyline the way it was from the old version, just make sure I updated the language and caught any inconsistencies. I was tempted by the concept of an easy rewrite. I was also scared of my airplane outline because it was honest and I had to dig deep for it. It stripped out a lot of things I loved about the story, and I wasn’t willing to admit that it was better for it. So camp started and I got about 15,000 words into my novel before I realized I was struggling. It was like pulling teeth to write even 400 words during a word war when normally I can beat out at least 1,000 in ten minutes. Discouraged, I took an honest look at my airplane outline. I faced up to the fact that it scared me because it was so swift, lean, and clean. I was scared because with all the stuff I’d left out, it meant that my voice and good writing would have to carry the load, and that wasn’t the easy way to write a book. (But it is the best way.) So I started over using the airplane outline, and things flowed so much better. I started to sympathize with the villain, care about the characters again. As to voice, well, I won’t know if I have that until I take another good, honest step back to look at it, when I have time to do that. But it sure felt good to drop all that baggage from the past and moved on with a trimmer, faster story. Two take aways from this for me: Writing an outline by hand with no notes is definitely something I will practice with my stories in the future. Even the language I used was different because I wanted to write as few words as possible. It made me say things differently, and made the outline come out so well. It also forced me to trust my future self a little more. Instead of spelling everything out, I had to just say one or two words to convey what was to be written next. Being that future person now, I appreciate the trust and the freedom to interpret it as I see fit. Trusting my future self and my past self saves time and energy. And if for some reason I do turn into a noncreative zombie in the future, having a massive outline won’t help anyway. I need to consume some brains (aka, read other people’s good writing). A lack of an outline is not the problem, nor is it a very good bandaid for the problem. I need to look at other factors that affect creativity (health, diet, exercise, enough reading, enough rest, enough honesty, etc.) In honor of my new discovery, this post is brought to you without an outline for once. Hope it wasn’t too bad. If you need me, I’ll be over in this corner going through outline withdrawal. Please only talk to me in bullet points. Also, I mistyped “bullet points” enough that autocorrect wanted to change it to bull sh*t. Lol. Please don’t only talk to me in bull sh*t. That will not help.
View article on original site

Reesha

Reesha

 

Guest Post: Some Doors Will Open, but Not All: Traditional Publishing with a Small Press

Some Doors Will Open, but Not All: Traditional Publishing with a Small Press
KJ Kabza
I've known LJ Cohen since 2008, when we met in a local writing workshop and later became part of the same critique group. Since then, our approaches to our careers have taken somewhat different paths, since (happily) authors now have many publication options and ways to make a profit.
LJ mostly self-published novels. I tend to traditionally publish short stories, selling my work for flat fees in anthologies and magazines. Recently, my career got a big shot in the arm with another move in traditional publishing, the publication in January of my first print short fiction collection: THE RAMSHEAD ALGORITHM AND OTHER STORIES. Hooray!
 "Kabza's stories [are]... powerful work that is wholly original, delightfully strange, and emotionally resonant." —LJ Cohen, blurbing my book, because she is awesome

I've dabbled in self-publishing before with two ebook-only short fiction collections, IN PIECES and UNDER STARS, but unlike LJ, I lack the fortitude to make self-publishing my primary career tactic. So I was excited to see the difference that having a real publishing house behind me would make.
Well... I did see a difference. And doors did open. But my publisher, Pink Narcissus Press, is very, very small—only five people, who each have varying degrees of part-time involvement—and if you publish with a small press, be warned that not all of those Magic Traditional Publishing Doors will swing open for you.
Here are some doors that DID open, working with Pink Narcissus:
Greater chance of gorgeous cover art (and interior illustrations). My editor, Michael Takeda, dealt with finding and paying an artist, which I know almost nothing about. Access to better production quality. Pink Narcissus has vastly more experience in font selection, layout, ISBN registration, actual book printing, and so on than I do, and that experience is reflected in the finished product. More outlets, reviewers, and bloggers hearing pitches for my book. My publisher wrote the review pitch we used, and with my editor's help, I could query far more places than I ever could have on my own. Coverage by major review outlets. RAMSHEAD got good reviews in Booklist, RT Book Reviews, and Publishers Weekly, which are all outlets that are (to say the least) wary of reviewing self-published work.
However, here are some doors that did NOT open:

No possibility of coverage on several big review platforms. Many outlets were explicit about saying that they only covered books published by a "big 5" publisher. Almost impossible to organize a blog tour. For the same reason as above. Separate, harder process for asking Barnes & Noble stores to stock physical copies. I had to follow a procedure for small press books outlined via the B&N website, which is not a procedure that "big 5" books have to follow—meaning that the odds of B&N stores carrying RAMSHEAD are much slimmer. No placement in Books-A-Million stores. Pink Narcissus, like many small presses, prints their copies on demand, and Books-A-Million does not accept POD titles. Some stores are only willing to sell RAMSHEAD under certain conditions. Two local bookstores are currently selling copies of RAMSHEAD on consignment, which is great—they're selling it!—but not quite as great as being an author with a big publishing house whose books are more likely to be ordered from a bookstore by a distributor.
Of course, these are only the circumstances that surrounded THE RAMSHEAD ALGORITHM AND OTHER STORIES in particular. Other small presses may be able to step up (or have to step down) in different areas. And in RAMSHEAD's case, there are other variables at play: it contains both science fiction and fantasy (and some reviewers aren't interested in things outside one or the other), and it's a collection of short stories (and many outlets only want to review novels).
Still, I've learned a lot. The launch of RAMSHEAD was a rough road, but at least I have a few data points now. I know where the doors are.
So if, next time, all those other doors DO swing open for me, I'll be ready to sprint on straight through.
—KJ
Thank you, KJ, for your post. I'm a big fan of your work and have been since that writing workshop so many years ago! And to my readers here - if you are looking for short fiction that is magical, unsettling at times, and always unique, please go read KJ's work.


email:

Free eBook Free/DRM-free short fiction publication news
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

WisCon 42 Roundup

We love WisCon! F-BOM founders Cecelia and Lindsey have been attending WisCon for the last 5 years and each time it has been a wonderful experience. For those who don’t know, WisCon is a feminist science fiction and fantasy convention. Located at the Concourse Hotel in Madison every Memorial Day weekend, the con features panels,… Read More The post WisCon 42 Roundup appeared first on F-BOM.
View the full article
 

I’m probably bad for doing this…

Me: “I’m probably a bad administrator for doing this, but I just don’t care right now that I’m letting the database automatically sync with our mailing list.” Friend: “Um, that’s just you doing your job well. That’s what databases are supposed to do.” Me: “Yeah, I’m just going to throw off these heavy heavy shackles of expectations that tell me I need to enter data by hand. I can’t handle that right now, even though I’m sure some judgy admin out there could.” Friend: “Uh, no one expects that. That would actually be bad because you’re bound to make more mistakes entering by hand.” Me: “I’m sure someone out there will say I’m a bad admin for answering so many emails today, but I just don’t care.” Friend: “Uh-huh. That’s not— can we talk about a topic where you don’t feel compelled to chastise yourself for doing things well? It’s annoying.” This is what it sounds like if I talked about my job like some moms talk about their parenthood. Seriously moms. This topic came up FOUR TIMES in my news feed today. When someone talks about their profession, they never say whether they are a good ditch digger or a bad one, a good dentist or a bad one, a good teacher or a bad one. They talk about it as if that is just what they are. They don’t invite others to pass judgment on them being good or bad at it by bringing the subject up. I don’t care if you think you’re a good or bad mom for doing such and such. All I know is that you are a mom, and I don’t want to be invited to judge you. I will snooze you on facebook until your kids are grown up if I keep seeing this stuff. /rant (I promise I almost never rant and you won’t see that often on this blog. Just strongly felt this one needed to be called out. I love you, fellow moms, and you’re amazing. I hope this only encouraged you and didn’t discourage you.)
View article on original site

Reesha

Reesha

 

Sneak preview

Last week I talked about the letter game and how it started my story. This week, I’d like to give you an unedited preview of that first letter I sent, which sparked all the things that led me to create this unique world of cyberpunk weirdness. Please note, there are mistakes in this letter. I’m choosing to leave them because this is the actual letter I sent to my pen pal. A little background: we decided that my character would be an ambitious hacker nurse who has driven herself so hard that she hates her daily routine, and so has decided to enroll in a pen pal program just to have a social life. She thinks the pen pal program is probably fake, with letters generated by an AI, but goes along with it anyway. (Where the replies come from is actually much weirder, but that was my pen pal’s side of the story so I won’t go into it.) I decided to start my novel years later, after she has written to this pen pal program for quite some time, had adventures, and grown up a bit. So when you read the actual book, you’ll be encountering a much older Alexia. Behold the first letter, in its unedited state. Sunday, January 7, 2596 Salisbury, Smallbone:Realm 3, Earth Dear unknown pen pal, I am not a lonely person. Everything I’ve heard about your program seems to indicate that you are a tool for lonely people to help them feel some sort of companionship. Please do me the courtesy of believing that I am perfectly happy in my current fellowships. I’m not even sure why I feel like I need to explain this. It’s just, I’m afraid I’ll get some kind of letter back from you filled with psych-net links and subliminal hacks to my neural implant meant to make me feel more fulfilled. I’m only writing to you because of an article that claims successful people give themselves something to look forward to at the end of the day, and the bitty-box-of-the-month club is too expensive. Also time consuming. I hear the usual edgezones and real-time deep reality plays will consume my soul to the point where I don’t want to do anything else. They sound amazing. But I don’t have that kind of time. You are just the diversion I need and will never be captivating enough to get in the way of my work. Sorry, but I think it’s important to be honest. You’ll understand why my work is so important when I say that I’m the youngest stitcher at work they’ve ever had. Just in my hospital. Not in the world, obviously. But hopefully I won’t be a stitcher for long. They can’t keep patients coming in fast enough to keep me busy. I’ve only been working there for six months and already I’ve worked with more variety of cases than some of the stitchers who have been there for three years. Mostly it’s because none of the other nurses want to use the virus cleanser, so I get all the difficult cases. That’s ok with me. I need all the experience I can get. So what about you? I mean, I know you’re probably some artificial intelligence, (or a person pretending to be an AI,) but that doesn’t mean you don’t have aspirations or passions. All AIs were created by humans so we can’t help but put ourselves into them. So you’re probably more sentient than some of my co-workers. Especially after a double shift. What do you do when you’re not answering letters? Do you have family? I live with my mother and it’s not what it sounds like. I’m not late to leave the nest or anything. She needs a lot of care, and my father is gone. If you’ve heard of the Neural Digression virus, you know what I mean. ND isn’t exactly deadly. Just debilitating. Her entire neural plant is almost gone now, so it’s impossible for her to keep up with such a slow interface. I used to think this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but trust me, it is. It’s amazing the things she doesn’t know, and I have to dumb down my language just so she can understand me. Being cut off from the marketplace of ideas and the great voices of our time really puts you out of touch. It’s terrible, and I feel so sorry for her. Even her eyes look like they are dull and unhappy because she is confused about her world. The other day I found her trying to login directly to a part of the net she’s never been to before, instead of being directed by one of the chaperone links. One of these days she’s going to get herself hurt. Anyways, that’s about all I can think of to write before bed. Um, in case you are incapable of experiencing a good day, I will wish you a happy consciousness and good interfacing. Love, Alexia   Well, that was a trip down memory lane and a little bit cringe-worthy. But despite the all-too-common feeling of looking back at old writing and thinking of all the ways it is so bad, Alexia’s story is still vibrant and alive in my head. I can’t wait to share it with the world. Hopefully soon. I’m still working on edits.
View article on original site

Reesha

Reesha

 

The Letter Game

I once read a book by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede that was written as the result of the Letter Game (you can find the book here). Here’s how the letter game works: Two people decide on a genre, a setting, and the character they will write in the voice of, and who will write the first letter. After initial details are set, no more discussion is allowed. Communication about the story may only happen through letters. Letters are written back and forth between the two people in the voices of their characters, progressing the plot as they see fit. Of course, I was inspired to start letter games of my own with other writers and friends. A lot of them got off to a really good start but petered out quickly, as life gets busy sometimes. One of these games, I sort of went overboard with creating the world and plot from which my character was writing her letters. I had plans for a long game, and anticipated that after two years of writing letters and building up to it, I would produce this great denouement that would blow the mind of my fellow epistle-creator. Well, life got busy and the letter game remained a shiny jewel in my imagination until I couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to turn it into a book. That book is what I’ve been working on for the last several years, and which I hope to publish very soon. I am so excited to see this come to life, and will be posting a cover reveal soon. This thing that has only existed in my imagination now has a cover! I can’t believe it! Until then, if you have an inclination to start a letter game, let me know! I’m always willing to start something new. It’s a super fun exercise, and can range in depth from a light-hearted few exchanges to a serious commitment on par with your monthly D&D group. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that the letter game is the second best storytelling method I’ve come across to date (D&D being the first). If you want to be notified via email about my book news, sign up to get my newsletter. I promise, I won’t flood your inbox and will keep it relevant to stuff happening with my writing projects. Thanks, friends!
View article on original site

Reesha

Reesha

 

On Twenty-four Years of Mothering

Me and my eldest, circa 1994

I have been a mother for twenty-four years.

It has definitely been a wild ride; one that no piece of advice or prior childcare experience could have prepared me for. I'm not sure this is a bad thing. There is no 'life hack' for mothering. No 'top 10 secrets of effective mothering'. No way to know what challenges and joys you will face along the way. Instead, mothering has taught me a kind of awareness and attention I didn't understand before.
Not that I was always good at it.There are a host of mistakes I made that I hope my sons have at least grown to understand, even if they haven't forgiven me for them. If I could send a message back in time for that young mother sitting on the steps with her firstborn, it would be this:

If this seems simplistic and simple, I assure you it is not.

I was 30 when my eldest was born. By then, I had been married 5 years, had been working and financially independent for 7, established in my career. My husband and I had settled in Boston and had bought a house.

I thought I was ready.

When I look back, especially at the years when my boys were small (youngest added to the family when the eldest was 2 1/2), I see a woman always on the edge of exhaustion and pushing as hard as she could. Despite having the advantages of a partnership with my spouse, a safe home, good childcare, my anxiety was always there. The background noise of my 30s and early 40s.

There is so much of those years I simply don't remember. Looking through photographs is like sorting through a stranger's life. But there are some events that are etched in my memory. Times when I was able to stay present, find that space, practice self care.

I wish I had spent more of my mothering years in that place.

It has been twenty-four Mother's Days since I became a mother. My youngest son graduates from college in a week. He and his older brother are in the process of moving into an apartment together.  They have become wonderful young men I admire.

They have helped shape the woman I am today. After all, I have been a parent for more than half my life. That is a significant role and one that I will continue to perform, even as the specific responsibilities change. 
This Mother's Day weekend, my husband and I are at StarField Farm - the place we bought to be our big next step in our lives. After twenty-four years of parenting and raising two boys to be capable young men, it is time to re-focus on our relationship. It's not a turning back the clock -- we are both very different people from the young kids we were when we first met. We're not even anywhere near the 20-somethings we were when we got married.

This place we're in -- both the literal place and the metaphorical -- reflect all the places we have been. I think we are more forgiving, more patient, more nurturing with one another because of those parenting years.

As we move forward in our lives as parents of adult children, I will remind us all: stay present, make space between your emotions and your reactions,  and practice self care.

After all these years, perhaps I am finally learning how to parent myself. 


email:

Free eBook Free/DRM-free short fiction publication news
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

some poetry for your day

April was poetry month. I’m clearly late on this, but wanted to send some poetry your way. I know I don’t stop and appreciate poetry as often as I should. So below is a poem that I’ve been contemplating lately. Also, did you know that the Poem a Day challenge is a thing? I totally meant to participate this year but April has already passed me by. But if you want to still get in on the action, you can check out Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog where he posted poetry prompts for every day in April. I’ve had this poem hanging on my wall for a couple years now, ever since my co-worker shared it with me. It has faded into the background of my life as I got tired of looking at it, then completely forgot it was there. Until a couple weeks ago when we started painting sample colors on our walls and I moved it to make room. This wonderful reminder to slow down and let creativity mature has been there in front of me every day but have I done that? Nope. The mind is forgetful. I’m hoping this will pop up in my feed a year from now to remind me again, because I likely will have forgotten by then too. A prayer of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability– and that it may take a very long time.   And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually–let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.   Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
View article on original site

Reesha

Reesha

© 2017 F-BOM

Company Information:

F-BOM Story
F-BOM Vision






POWERED BY INVISION COMMUNITY


Contact Us:
 
Support: info@f-bom.com 
Submissions: submissions@f-bom.com 

F-BOM
PO Box 18664
West Saint Paul, MN 55118



The F-BOM Blog: Her Story Arc
Her Story Arc