Category Archives: Writing

My New Stories Published in 2019

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It’s that time of the year, and I thought I’d list the new stories I’ve had published. The score for this year may be my best ever, with four new stories published and four edifying reprints.

NEW STORIES

  • A Scent of Roses in Constellary Tales, February 2019. In a deeply traditional world, a newborn child isn’t allowed to survive.
  • Octonet in Escape Pod, March 2019. This is my Octopuses get Smartphones short story. It’s also a sweet love story in around 5K words.
  • In Dreams Awake in Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter, August 2019. Virtual Reality for a small child as the world ends.  It’s flash fiction, about 1000 words.
  • Dilemma, with Omnivore in Little Blue Marble, September 2019. A light-hearted Litttle Green Monster story, with a darker environmental subtext. Also a flash short story, about 1000 words.
Illustration - cute monster

Dilemma, with Omnivore

REPRINTS

I was delighted when Escape Pod republished my story, Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station, and did a fabulous podcast of it. And I was thrilled that Working Futures anthology chose to republish my story Genetic Changelings. And when the Two Hour Transport anthology republished my story, Nor Yet Feed the Swine.  Finally, Mysterion republished my story Lepers, which might now be my most-republished story.

 

“Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station” on Escape Pod

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Escape Pod has just republished my story, Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station just in time for Diwali, the Festival of lights (which falls on October 27th in 2019). The story is read by Farah Naz Rishi. But it’s more than just reading, she’s had experience as a voice actor, and that’s what she brings to this production. The result is a simply lovely reading. Some bits almost moved me to tears. And it’s hosted by SB Divya, who also talks about Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and the resonance with the story. I am soooo thrilled! Here’s the LINK.

The story was first published last year in Fireside, illustrated (perfectly!) by Saleha Chowdhury. That’s the picture above.

“Genetic Changelings” in Working Futures Anthology

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My story, Genetic Changelings, has been published (again) in Working Futures.  (A slightly shorter version of this story was published by Flame Tree Press in its Science Fiction Anthology.)  This anthology focuses on how work and lives will change with technological change. Genetic Changelings is about designer kids in a world where gene modification is easy – though expensive – and the social pressures developing around it. Excerpt:

““Randall, no! Get your tail off Imran’s neck right now!”
Two dozen squealing preschoolers are scampering around the rubber-matted playground, making infant mischief. They’re all Dezzies, designer kids, and they’re a handful.
“No wrapping your tail round anyone’s neck,” I say, crouching down to the boys’ level. “I don’t care if Imran raised his crest at you. Look guys, you’re both too smart to keep getting in trouble.”
Randall’s impish face, curly red hair and freckles somehow match his prehensile monkey-tail. Imran is darkly handsome, with a crest lying flat along his head and back. It’s mostly hidden under his weatherproof jacket, but he raises the red bit on top of his head to show me.
It’s bittersweet for me, being around small children – even these cute lovable not-quite-humans.”

 

“Dilemma, with Omnivore” in Little Blue Marble

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My story, Dilemma, with Omnivore, is out in Little Blue Marble!

The first part of this story was written long years ago, when I was a teenager. It reflects the feeling of magic I’d get at the marvelous little Tibetan shops in Janpath in New Delhi. One day, I ran across the old piece, typed it into my computer, and started to revise it.

Illustration - cute monster

All these years later, it’s a new story and it’s come out today. Click HERE to read the story.

“In Dreams Awake” in Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter

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I’m thrilled that my flash-fiction short “In Dreams Awake” has been published by the Flame Tree Fiction newsletter! This newsletter goes out to everyone who subscribes to it, and it’s free. (Here’s the link if you want to SUBSCRIBE.)

(Warning: It’s a sad story.)
The world is dying. “It was the kids that hurt most. We adults, we’d lived, realized some of our dreams. But the kids? What Dr K offered was a life. A dream life, but the kids wouldn’t know it from the inside.”

This story was written especially for their monthly flash fiction call, ‘Virtual Worlds’ and it’s only the second time ever that one of my stories has been accepted the first time I’ve sent it out. I’m delighted.

“Nor Yet Feed the Swine” in the Two Hour Transport Anthology 2019

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First, let me talk about Two Hour Transport.

Cover picture of Two Hour Transport Anthology 2019It’s a wonderful monthly event held in Seattle, organized by Nicole Bade and Theresa Barker. On the fourth Wednesday of each month, they meet in Cafe Racer at 7 p.m. The first hour is open mic for anyone who wants to read their work for 5 minutes. (Sign-ups required.) The second hour is for two invited readers. I’ve been a regular at these events since I started spending time in Seattle, and really enjoyed both the community and the work being shared.

Last year, Theresa and Nicole decided to do an anthology. I offered them my story, “Nor Yet Feed the Swine” that was originally published in 2010 in Cabinet des Fees.  I was delighted when they accepted it.

Now the Two Hour Transport Anthology 2019 is available on Amazon, and there’s a launch party at Cafe Racer on June 15th, 2019, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you’d like to come and get autographs from the authors, you would need to buy your copy in advance (they probably won’t be for sale there).

[Edited to Add: Copies actually will be on sale, for around $20 including taxes etc.]

Octonet got Reviews!

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I am so thrilled with the reviews for my story, Octonet!

Here’s one from Cameron Coulter on the blog of the Skiffy and Fanty Show.

This is a story where the main characters “just happen to be” POC/disabled/queer. I definitely enjoyed Sue and Martina’s romance, but first and foremost, this is a love story about octopuses.

And one on BarnesAndNoble.com from Maria Haskins!

“After hearing that a bored octopus can get into all sorts of trouble, Suveera jokingly suggests the creatures might like to use cellphones. One thing leads to another, and when the researchers put adapted phones into the tentacles of the cephalopods, strange and wonderful things begin to happen (selfies aren’t just for humans, it turns out).”

Researching the Octopus

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“The people were interesting, especially in their various interactions,” wrote a friend to whom I’d sent my story, Octonet, recently published by Escape Pod, “but the octopuses were definitely the center of the action for me.  How did you happen to focus on them and learn so much about them?”

With most stories, the sources of inspiration are buried somewhere in my mind. Maybe something surfaces, like the end of a tangled ball of twine, and it pulls me into a story.

 

 

The octopus story might have started at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco back in 2012, when they acquired three Giant Pacific Octopuses that were bycatch for crab-fishers. We went to see them – and it was remarkably difficult, because they camouflaged so well, and could slide their ample bodies into tiny crevices. In fact, we only saw one of them – with the help of a docent and careful directions.

Fast forward to three books about octopuses: The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith. And Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, by Roland C. Anderson, Jennifer A. Mather, and James B. Wood. I read them all in the space of a few weeks, and then I knew I wanted to write this story.

Of course that meant a deep dive (sorry!) into octopus territory.  I found a 149-page care manual for GPOs from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. And a thirty-page Giant Pacific Octopus Husbandry Manual from the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums. An article in Cosmos magazine, How the Octopus got its Smarts. Any number of Youtube videos, including this one which was a literal deep dive into octopus territory! And lots more random articles.

When I had the first draft done, I wanted an authenticity read (Within the limits of a sci-fi story!). I wondered if one of the authors of the last book would be willing. Dr Anderson had sadly died in 2014, but Dr Jennifer Mather was kind enough to review the draft for me and provided some helpful comments. I’m very pleased to acknowledge her help.

(Octonet has been through many iterations and edits since then – and a big thank you to all my critiquers! That was the writing part, not the researching part.)

So that’s the story of the story. I’m delighted Escape Pod published it – and also had an interview Dr Mather for the podcast!

 

SOME REFERENCES:

  • The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery.
  • Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith.
  • Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, by Roland C. Anderson, Jennifer A. Mather, and James B. Wood.
  • AZA Aquatic Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group (AITAG) (2014). Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) Care Manual. Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Silver Spring, MD.
  • Giant Pacific Octopus Husbandry Manual, British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (2011)
  • https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/how-the-octopus-got-its-smarts

“Octonet” in Escape Pod’s Artemis Rising

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I’m thrilled that Escape Pod has published my story, Octonet as both a Podcast (read by S. B. Divya) and in text.
I love how it’s come out. And special thanks to Dr Jennifer Mather, co-author of Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, for reviewing my draft.

 

Sometimes at night when my mind is calm, I think I hear the octopuses. Around the world, the great network of molluscan philosophers.

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I had many reasons for moving to the Pacific Northwest – weather, closeness to potential clients and my big brother Rav, distance from a very ex ex. Slimy cephalopods definitely didn’t make the list.

But then Rav needed someone to fix their new IT system. And that’s how I met the octopuses.

 

Review of ‘Light and Death’ in Locus

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I was delighted to find that ‘Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station was reviewed in Locus at Locusmag.com. Karen Burnham mentions it as one of the two stories she most enjoyed in the October 2018 issue of Fireside (together with the amazing and powerful ‘STET’).

“Lord Yama, god of death, is involved with all the telepaths, and it is with him that Savi must eventually bargain.”

And because I really loved the art for that story, here it is again.

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“A Scent of Roses” in Constellary Tales

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Constellary Tales has accepted my short story, A Scent of Roses.

This story has been through many name changes. It started out as The Scent of a Dead Rose. (It actually was inspired by the intense perfume of a bouquet of dying roses in my room.) Then I changed it to A Duty of Grief, which better represented the story as I’d written it. Finally, I submitted it as A Haunting Scent of Grief... and Constellary Tales accepted it!

In the edits, they asked me to change the name to A Scent of Roses. They felt that the title I’d used gave away too much. I agreed, because why not?

I’m looking forward to seeing it published in Constellary Tales – soon.

Edited to Add (Feb 14, 2019):  And here it is! A Scent of Roses

“But when his grandfather returned home, too late for the birth, he was furious.”

(Warning: It’s not a romantic story. The earlier title gets the mood of it better. Trigger warning for dead baby.)

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“Lepers” in Mysterion

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Source : Central Railway / Indian Railways Portal CMS Team

I’m thrilled that my short story, Lepers, has appeared again. It’s an 1100-word horror story set in Mumbai, near VT – Victoria Terminus, now renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

You can find the story here: https://www.mysteriononline.com/2019/01/lepers.html

It was written way back, and has been republished several times – and morphed along the way.

The latest iteration is in Mysterion, “an ezine of Christian-themed speculative fiction…” I did a partial rewrite of the story for this version, and I think bringing in religion gives the story additional depth and draws out some of the dilemmas at its heart.

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My Eligible Stories – 2018

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It looks like everyone’s publishing their “eligibility lists” of works first published this year. I have three things published this year. They’re all short stories, under 3K words.

1) LIGHT AND DEATH ON THE INDIAN BATTLE STATION

Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station” in Fireside Magazine (2018)

Mom’s turquoise-blue saree morphed into her silver Battle Station uniform. She pulled us in for a long hug before rushing out the door. She’d be needed in the Situation Room with all the other Telepaths.

(And here’s a lovely review of the stories in this magazine on the Quick Sips blog, including one of this story.

Excerpt: “It’s about love and war and loss and bravery. And it’s also a lot of fun, taking some dark elements and still finding its way to a light and joyous end.”)

2) CHICKEN MONSTER MOTEL

Chicken Monster Motel” in Monstrosities from Third Flatiron Publishing (2018). Also published as a podcast read by Keely Rew. (Downloadable here:  http://www.thirdflatiron.com/chickenmonstermotel.mp3 )

Recent college graduate Jerry Patel wants to manage a motel. He and his boyfriend Peter visit one that’s listed for sale. But the Chicken Monster Motel is no ordinary hostelry.

The story originated in a mix of the images and ideas: Baba Yaga’s house, family relationships as children grow up, the generational changes in values among immigrants to the US. What happens with my stories is that layers of commentary get packed into a few words and an often lighthearted plot, and it can take me months or years to unpack what I’ve written. In this story, for instance, whether the mother is a supporter or enabler depends on the viewpoint.

The anthology (and this story) was reviewed in Tangent Online by Victoria Silverwolf. Her take: “…pleasant to read.”

3) THE CHURAIL AND THE CROW

The Churail and the Crow was published in Asian Birds and Beasts anthology  from Insignia (2018).  I’m not sure of its eligibility, though, because it builds on a flash story earlier published as “Lena” in Ruthless People’s Magazine. It’s gone from 1000 words to >2000 words, but it’s built on the same armature.

If you’re reading for awards, I’d be delighted to have mine considered.

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On the Cover of Fireside, October 2018!

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ETA: It’s not on the cover… but it’s still a gorgeous, perfect illustration!

ETA2: It *is* on the cover, of the E-book edition. (Fireside comes out monthly in e-book, and quarterly in print. So it’s the cover of the October e-book but not the Quarterly. See the last picture below.)

I was thrilled when Fireside accepted my story, Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station, and now it’s out.

I was *even more thrilled* to discover that my story was on the cover, with an the illustration by Saleha Chowdhury!  Thank you Fireside, and Saleha, you nailed it!

I grabbed the kid away as the thing ricocheted against the ceiling, fizzed, and exploded. “Ritika! That’s so stupid!”
But before I could scold her properly, the sound of divine footsteps echoed in the hall and inside our heads. We froze…

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“The Churail and the Crow” in Asian Birds and Beasts anthology from Insignia

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There’s a new anthology in the Insignia series of Asian-flavored speculative fiction: Asian Birds and Beasts. Here’s the cover, with the same styling as the previous five anthologies. It’ll be coming out August 20th, 2018 as an ebook.

I’m thrilled that one of my stories will be in this one. Here’s the table of contents:

CONTENTS

‘Reborn’ by Nidhi Singh

‘The Star Ball’ by Amy Fontaine

‘Raising Words’ by Stewart C. Baker

‘Apsaras’ Dance’ by Kelly Matsuura

‘Ravens’ by Russell Hemmell

‘The Azure Dragon’ Lorraine Schein

‘The Churail and the Crow’ by Keyan Bowes

‘Vermillion Nights’ by Joyce Chng

My story is a sort-of-reprint – it’s a greatly expanded version of a flash piece first published as Lena. I’ve always wanted to flesh out that story, and I’m happy it found a new home.

 

Ten Things That Changed in Ten Years – The Speculative Fiction World

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Ten things that I’ve noticed have changed in the last ten years:

1. Nearly every major market now accepts electronic submissions. (The Big Three were paper-only until just a few years ago, prompting this essay by John Scalzi in 2009.)

2. It’s so easy now to write and submit (in a physical sense) that there are thousands of writers out there. For short-story magazines, an acceptance rate of under 1%  is not unusual. (It used to be much higher.) Most magazines now have “reading periods” or “submission windows” during which they accept story submissions, so that they’re not deluged continually and have a chance to clear the backlog.

3. The converse of that is, even if you’re a good writer, rejections are usually a lot more common than acceptances, even with semi-pro magazines. (The Science Fiction Writers of America uses 6 cents/ word as a cut-off for “professional” rates. Below that is “semi-pro”, token payments, or “for the love” meaning no payment at all.

4. With a low cost-barrier to entry for an on-line magazine, there are a lot of small markets. Many of which are single-person efforts. Some of them evaporate quickly, others survive for years and get quite well-known.

5. For novels, Amazon has been a complete game-changer. The stigma against self-publishing has evaporated, with Amazon and e-publishing being a possible route to success. (Self-publishing short story singles except tied into a novel series is mostly pointless.)

6. With the advent of successful e-publishing of novels, the series cycle is much tighter. The conventional wisdom used to be that you should aim for one novel a year in a series, because that’s what publishers want. Now, according to successful self-published novelist Annie Bellet, you ideally want one a month. Or hold off until you have six books ready to go, so you benefit from reader momentum.

7. People are always trying to game sales algorithms, and the owners of those algorithms are always fighting the games. This means the rules continually shift, and non-gamers can get caught in the cross-fire.

8. In traditional publishing, just selling a book doesn’t mean you’ve made it. Publishers are more and more impatient with books that don’t take off. They may cancel a series that’s selling, just not as well as they’d hoped.

9. TV possibilities may exist even for short stories, and definitely exists for novels series.

10. Podcasts are no longer a marginal medium, and are increasingly interesting.

Anyone with further thoughts – your comments?

“Picnic, with Xels” in Third Flatiron Best of 2017

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My story, Picnic, with Xels, has been reprinted in Third Flatiron’s Best of 2017 anthology. It’s currently available only as an ebook, right HERE. (If anyone would like to review the antho for Goodreads or Amazon, now would be an excellent time.)

This story was first published in their Kurt Vonnegut Tribute Anthology, Cat’s Breakfast. Then, out of the blue, they asked if they could reprint it for the year-end anthology. I was, of course, delighted!

“Happily Ever After in Twelve Stained Glass Panels” in Expanded Horizons

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My second Rumpelstiltskin story, “Happily Ever After in Twelve Stained Glass Panels” is on line at Expanded Horizons. It was first published in the Mosaics I anthology.

“Usually, the Queen rode alone to her hunting lodge deep in the forest. This afternoon, she’d brought her son King Rushken, recently come of age. Now she had to steel herself, resist the urge to turn back, to postpone.” (Read on)

 

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My Norwescon 2017 Panel Notes: Advanced Self-Publishing

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Advanced Self-Publishing (Tori Centanni (M), Annie Bellet, Mark Teppo, K. M. Alexander, Elliott Kay)

The discussion started with genre silos – writing books that are strictly within a genre, vs cross pollination. Also: If you write in more than one genre, should you consider different pen names?

Annie: It’s important for new writers to stay strictly within a genre, because of the way Amazon algorithms work. The most important element is the Recommendation engine, which will tend to recommend books similar to the ones a reader has already bought. The “also-boughts” are key: If people who bought your book also bought other books within the genre, then the also-boughts will give the correct signal. If you use the same name for two separate genres, you might get some cross-over readership – people who liked your Urban Fantasy may also enjoy your Adventure thriller series. But percentage-wise, most genres are separate readerships, and the result is the also-boughts get confused and give the wrong signals. So if you’re writing in two genres, at least use slightly different pen-names – like adding in an initial – to distinguish them. The Romance readers are more likely to cross into other genres than most other readerships.

Series are good for self-publishers; if readers like one book in the series, they buy all the others. The best thing you can do for your sales is to publish the next book in the series. It gives a boost to all the previous books.

How soon should you publish your next book?

For traditionally published books – about one a year was the conventional wisdom.

For self-published books, the ideal would be every 30 days (!) in the same series. If you can’t do 30, go for 60. If you can’t do 60, go for 90. If you’re a slower writer, then wait until you have at least 3 books in a series ready to go, and then release them once a month. This again comes from an Amazon algorithm. They have a 30-day “Hot New Release” list. If your next book comes out in time to get on the list *again* it will boost your series’ profile. They also have a 60-day list and a 90-day list.

Writing fast is important.  She said that when her pace of writing slowed, her income dropped every month. If you want to write faster, Annie recommends the book: “2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love” by Rachel Aaron.

What’s the difference between paper books and e-books?

For much of the readership – they’re two different things. People who buy paper books don’t always read e-books. But people who read e-books often read paper as well.

For a self-publisher, paper books aren’t worth the trouble. The pricing is hugely different – an e-book can be priced at 99 cents to maybe $7.99, while the paper book will be $15 or more. The margins are tiny. You don’t have the reach to get them into bookstores. That’s where the traditional publishers have a stranglehold on the channels. Annie said she makes more (per book) on a $3.99 e-book than on a $25 hardcover book. On Amazon, at any price above $2.99, you get to keep 60-70%.

Annie sold the paper rights to her “20-sided Sorceress” books to Saga, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. They called her when her series took off on Amazon, and asked if she was interested in a deal. She crunched some numbers, and said it would require an advance of around $2 million. There was complete silence from the other side. Then after a few minutes, they asked about print-only rights.

“That… would be a lot less,” Annie said. So she sold them the print rights (and, she says, immediately turned round and paid it to the Federal Government as tax!), and took down the print version of her books. They were selling only a few copies anyway.

 

 

 

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