Monday Morning Reset [05/22].

Did you ever sit to look back on a week and it all feels like just some blur? Yeah, I’m going through that right now. It wasn’t as if anything too taxing or strange happened, either, I just think last week was a bit of a fluke where I, in a fugue, just sort of went through the motions. Some things got done, some things didn’t, there were some annoyances and some fun as well, but nothing really stood out or even seems very clear. I’m just going to blame the weather changes, because it’s been nuts and the Illinois air runs rampage with my allergies. So that’s entirely a possibility.

I have a cat on my lap now, though, purring up a storm and pouting at me for not paying more attention to him, so that’s a good start to this week. But let’s break it down, with a look forward and back.

Reading: My plan to finish The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today was foiled by complete laziness and distraction, and that’s okay. That just means I didn’t finish a book this week, but, as long as I don’t let it happen two weeks in a row, we’ll be okay. The world won’t end. All will be well in the world. I did start reading through Pulp Modern Volume 2, which includes my short story “Lady of the Mask,” and I’m pretty sure that’s going to be a quick read. I’m really excited to read the other stories included, especially Nick Manolillo’s and Calvin Demmer’s.

Writing: I also failed my attempt to finish up a story this week, but my untitled piece that I plan to submit to Ghostlight this year is nearly finished, just wrapping up the ending, so it’ll be done for this week. I got one rejection, putting my current rejection count to 52. Both acceptances and rejections moving at a snail’s pace. But it’s one of those moments where I remind myself that this industry is a very slow industry indeed….I got an email from an editor with edits to a story that I actually forgot was accepted for an anthology because it had been so long since I received the initial email….

Still looking for that Fearless notebook, but, to be fair, I haven’t really made the time to search through all my piles and piles of notebooks yet.

‘Rithmatic: Last week, for all the off-ness, was actually pretty quiet. This week is going to start out nicely with two days off coming up tomorrow, but then things get weird and way too social for comfort, with some long-ass days ahead of me. I’ve got a store meeting early in the morning on Thursday, followed by a closing shift. On Friday, I have a closing shift plus a going-away party for my supervisor afterwards. And on Saturday, I have a closing shift followed by a karaoke birthday party for a friend. I’m bracing for a hazy weekend floating between annoying (work) and fun (parties!). That sort of haziness is the only way I can manage not beating myself up over the fact that I won’t have much time for my usual routine on those days. But it’s important to be able to let that go sometimes, a fact I really struggle with in all my obsessiveness.

So I’m set and determined to really enjoy these next few days until the crunch time hits on Thursday. Hopefully, I’ll emerge on Sunday without being too stressed out or addled, but, hey, then we’re only a day away from another Monday and another fresh new start.

Happy reading!

An Interview With Robert Allen Lupton [WUR 2016].

The last few days here in Chicago have been really hot and humid, finally with a cool down with a fantastic thunderstorm last night, but that kind of muggy weather is just the thing to turn my mind toward this month’s Featured Story, “The Scrimshawed Ostrich Egg,” from author Robert Allen Lupton. It’s been a real joy getting to know Robert and his work since he became part of the World Unknown Review family. As I was in the process of getting last year’s WUR out, we stumbled upon another connection: both of us were to have stories in Alban Lake Publishing‘s Potters Field 6! So I’m very please to get the opportunity to bring more of Robert to my readers with this interview. Sit back, relax, and enjoy getting to know more about this very unique writer.

L.S.: Hello, Robert! “The Scrimshawed Ostrich Egg” immediately caught my attention because it immediately ticked off two boxes of Things I Really Like: pirates and New Orleans. I especially loved the richness of your descriptions of the Louisiana swamps. What’s your own personal connection to that area, and what inspired you to bring it into this work of fiction?

R.A.L.: I was fortunate enough to live in New Orleans from 1975 to 1984. I was in upper management for a large national restaurant chain. I learned about gumbo, oysters, crawfish, andouille sausage, and bars that never close. I fished in the swamps with friends and watched the sun come up in the French Quarter a few to many times. Laissez le bon temps rouler, or let the good times roll.

Jean Lafitte is, of course, an actual historical pirate, lending a nice authenticity (for lack of a better word!) to the story. When did you first learn of Lafitte, and why has he resonated with you enough to be written into a story?

My first exposure to Jean Lafitte was the Yul Brynner movie, The Buccaneer, in 1958. I was ten years old and the thought of a pirate with a heart of gold helping to save America resonated with me. (Besides, what ten year old doesn’t love a pirate? There’s a little Captain Hook in all of us.) I visited the Battle of New Orleans battlefield and walked the area, including the battle line that the pirates were charged with holding. The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Jefferson Parrish has been around since 1907 and is worth a visit. Jean Lafitte disappeared around 1823, and his fate is still unknown. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The grave of Marie Laveau is readily accessible. Use a piece of brick to scratch a cross on the monument and make a bad wish about someone. I might have visited a few times and left a red clay scratch mark or two on the marble.

What’s your boating experience? I don’t have much myself, but I still found Pat and Pierre’s troubles getting out into the swamp really fascinating.

I owned a small sailboat when I live in New Orleans, but you don’t take a sailboat into the bayou. I never wandered into the swamps and bayous alone. One of my old friends, a true Cajun from Chalmette, Louisiana, took me fishing more than once. The bayous are an absolute maze, without street signs. It would be easy to get lost.They’re full of dead ends, twists, turns and blind alleyways with only one way our and one way in. The channels change from year to year as the storms and tides uproot trees, shift debris, and create and destroy temporary islands.

If you found your own scrimshawed ostrich egg, would you try to follow it to the treasure?

I have a beautiful scrimshaw ostrich egg. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a map, it has a whaling expedition on one side and a close up of a whaler ( the ship ) on the other. It doesn’t make me want to go whaling, a barbaric activity, at best.

However, if there was a map, I would be packed and ready to go in an hour or two.

Who would you cast in the roles of your characters if you were in charge of a film version of your story?

Jonny Lee Miller is definitely Jean Lafitte, and Halle Berry is Marie Laveau. The two lost boys are Johnny Galecki and Kevin Hart. I visualize Kevin Hart caught in the bayou on a pirogue pole and screaming at Galecki to bring the boat closer. It would be amazing.

Read any good books lately?

Always, I read more than I should. Golden Prey by John Sandford was excellent. The Turn by Kim Harrison was a great prequel. I read everything Kelley Armstrong writes. Her new series, the City of the Lost, is excellent. I recently discovered Arthur Conon Doyle‘s non-Sherlock Holmes novels. His two novels that feature Sir Nigel are unappreciated and mostly unknown treasures. Sir Nigel and The White Company are outstanding.

Do you have a method for your writing? If so, what’s it like?

I write for three or four hours every morning, then I run five or six miles. My goal is to write 2500 words a day, 15,000 words a week. Sometimes I get caught up in the story and write seven or eight thousand words at a setting. I use a brief outline. One sentence can indicate several pages. For a short story, I write the story straight through, it’s important to get it on paper. Revise. Revise, again. Check for contradictions. (If I said that a character doesn’t have a shirt, I don’t want to have him wipe his face with his sleeve.) Revise and punctuate. Let the story set for a few days and then do a final review. Send the finished story to a publisher. A story sitting on the shelf doesn’t do you any good.

I use a more detailed outline for novels, at least for the two I’ve written. The major change in technique for the novels is that I read and revise yesterday’s work before I put anything new on paper.

What’s next for Robert Allen Lupton?

My collection of short stories, Running Into Trouble, will be published in June. Fifteen short stories where the protagonist is a runner. This book won’t teach you how to run. The stories range from science fiction, horror, fantasy, and adventure. There are bad things out there, run away.

I plan to edit a collection of feral child stories later this year. A call for submissions will be forthcoming, once I get off my butt and set up my website.

The second book in my Foxborn series, Here There Be Dragons, will be published next spring.

I’m working on expanding my unpublished short story, “The Valhalla Arms,” a retirement home for old superheroes, into a novel. It’s got a long way to go.

My completed Barsoomian novel, Dejanna of Mars, is making the submission rounds and someday may see the light of day.

Where can we find more of your work?

Visit my Amazon Author page and my Goodreads page. Enter Robert Allen Lupton for the search criterion. My novel Foxborn is available on Kindle and paperback. Amazon has both versions.

Crimson Streets (http://www.crimsonstreets.com/)is a great free website. My short story, “Sunset for the Tattooed Lady” is available there. The other work on the website is excellent as well.

I have a couple of drabbles (100 word stories ) available on the excellent website, http://www.horrortree.com.

I have been contributing to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association, on and off, for thirty years. Several ERB themed short stories have appeared only on those pages. You can join ERBAPA by Googling ERBAPA, and following the instructions. The current issue includes my short story, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Back issues are available from time to time from EBay, Alibris, and other used book sellers.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My wife and I are commercial hot air balloon pilots and will be flying our balloon, The Lady Jester, a female Mardi Gras Harlequin shaped balloon again this year at various events around the country. We don’t post a schedule.

May the words you write give someone a moment’s reprieve from the world outside. Calm winds and soft landings.

___________________________________________________________________________

And many thanks to Robert for taking the time to share his thoughts and answer my questions, as well as providing us with a classic adventure story of pirates and intrigue! You can read the “The Scrimshawed Ostrich Egg” through the end of May, and then it’s onto the next one, so catch it while you still can. Or consider picking up a copy of the World Unknown Review for yourself.

Happy reading!

Monday Morning Reset [05/15].

I hope all the mothers out there had a wonderful Mother’s Day! I’m not a mother (yet), but I certainly have an appreciation for all the strong women who have been there for me as I grew up, and supported me as I continue to do so, especially my mother, my grandmothers, my stepmother, and my aunts. They’re all crazy ladies whom I’ve been very luck to know! Me, I spent the majority of the day with a terrible head cold and having to forge through a really boring shift at work. I’m not good with holidays, they tend to give me anxiety, so part of me is usually just glad that we’re back to it being just another old Monday.

Mondays are also my reset days, which always makes me a feel a little better, to sort of look at what I’ve done through the week and get started on some new things for next week. Let’s have a look:

Reading: I finished up The Throne of Tara by John Desjarlais, an old book from a local author that I found in a Goodwill. It was a really interesting idea, taking an old Celtic figure and attempting a juxtaposition between the old pagan world and the new Christian one. It started out strongly with a good balance of that line, but, as Colum’s life progressed, it just kind of got dry and dull and lost touch with its beginning, I felt. I also had some major issues with the handling of female characters in the book, but that’s something to be saved for a dedicated post. Either way, I’m clearing through a good chuck of the unfinished books from last year (only three more left!).

This morning, I picked up Sir Walter Scott‘s Ivanhoe for a reread. It’s one of my dad’s favorites, and I’ve only read it once, so I figured it would be a good one to revisit.

In case you missed it, we’ve got May’s Featured Story, “The Scrimshawed Ostrich Egg,” all posted for your reading pleasure, and an interview with author Robert Allen Lupton will be landing sometime this week!

Writing: Still searching for that Fearless notebook, but, to be fair, I haven’t really had time to do an extensive search. Wednesday is my next day off, so I plan to do a proper scouring of the notebooks. Also, I think I might go back to trying to finish a story every week, because I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve completed something new, the Fearless draft excepted. I did only receive one rejection this week, though, putting me at 51, and I found the file for an old story I thought I’d lost that I brushed up and sent out into the ether.

The latest edition of Pulp Modern, which includes my story, “The Lady of the Masks,” also hit the Amazon shelves this week. They’re dong a special promotion for the first 25 people who review it on Amazon, too, so if you get a chance to pick up a copy and devour it, I know the publishers will really appreciate some kind words and stars.

‘Rithmatic: I managed to get in an art day last Thursday, where I go and just hang out at the Art Institute of Chicago, one of my favorite places in the world, to get all inspired and stuff. It was such a beautiful day, though, that I ended up leaving after a few hours to walk around Millenium Park, the new Maggie Daley park, over to Buckingham Fountain and then to the Museum Campus, where the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium are located. It was great, and, really, it doesn’t take that long to hit up all those spots. That, plus wandering the Art Institute, got me nearly 10 miles of walking in. I was feeling it the next day, but I felt awesome.

They’ve finally hired on another person for our department at work, too, which means that I might finally start getting my part-time hours back, which means finally more time to write! They realized how necessary it was the moment me and the other should-be-part-time-stuck-working-full-time employee asked for the same weekend off. That’s hard to manage when you’ve only got three people, ya’know?

Other than that, though, nothing left to report. Fandom High is distracting me nicely and getting me creatively energized, and I’m really looking forward to a Sunday off later this week. How’s everyone else’s week treating them? I’m hoping for plenty more of this great weather and getting a lot of stuff done, but I’m always hoping for the latter.

“The Lady of the Masks.”

Good news everyone! The latest edition of Pulp Modern has arrived, and I’m very excited to say that my short story, “The Lady of the Masks,” is one of the stories you’ll find within. Not only is my work in there, but you’ll also find stories from WUR author Nick Manzillio and fellow Phantaxis Volume 2 author Calvin Demmer in there, too, so it’ll definitely be worth it. I’m excited to discover some other new authors (new for me, anyway) in there as well.

“The Lady of the Masks” tells the story of a young man who considers himself a member of a high society that meet for elaborate parties and events at a mysterious mansion on a hill, though he’s starting to get a bit bored. After a while, the glitz and glamour tends to wear off and it all seems like the same old thing night after night. So when he spots someone new in an elaborate mask, he’s instantly as captivated with her as she is with him. They start their flirtations, which culminate into her leading him into the dark halls of the manor, dark halls that contain dark secrets, dark halls that will echo with his screams.

That’s all I’m going to say about it. You’ll have to read it if you want to find out more. This is a story I enjoy immensely, a little on the weird side, but not so weird that it would easily find a place with more extreme markets. I’ve sent it out many, many, many times, to the point where I was about to give up on it, but editor Alec Cizak finally saw in it what I was hoping others would see: just a good solid creepy story that will hopefully resonate with you well after the final page.

Please check it out if you get a chance, and I know we’d all appreciate if you left a review of the magazine as well. You can find it for kindle or in paperback here.

Happy reading!

Monday Morning Reset Button [05/08].

Oh, man, I’ve got to admit, last week felt like a pretty good one, although I think most of the reason I’m feeling it was so successful was because I managed to get several blog posts up, more than I usually do and more along the amount I’d like to do regularly. Hopefully, that’s the start of a beautiful trend, but Fandom High has officially started up, so let’s see how much that manages to distract me. I’m still holding out that it requires me to be at my computer more which mean also getting other things that require my computer done because I’m addicted to multi-tasking.

In case you missed it, there’s a new Featured Story from last year’s World Unknown Review up this week. This month, I bring you Robert Allen Lupton‘s exciting tale of pirate treasure in the swamps of Louisiana with “The Scrimshawed Ostrich Egg.” I love anything with voodoo and New Orleans, so he really managed to catch my attention with this one, and I really loved the mess the main characters get themselves into.

But before you go and read that, let’s have a look at the week that was and the week to come from little ol’ me:

Reading: I started reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe this morning. This book and I have an interesting relationship. I never had to read it for school somehow, but I picked it up in high school because it was so iconic and you always heard about how influential it was. I remember trying to start it a million times, but always getting distracted by other books. The copy I started today is that same copy I tried to read nearly two decades ago, but this time, I’m hunkering in for good. Even though all I can think of half the time is the Little Rascals episode Spanky.

HEY GOAT, HOLD IT!!

I also finished Lulu in Marrakech by Diane Johnson, which I thought was a very dumb book. It almost made me like Elizabeth PetersVicky Bliss books by comparison, and I’m sure some of you know how much I loathe Vicky Bliss. That’s how little I thought of Lulu, and that’s saying a lot.

Writing: Some of you may also know that when I write a first draft, I do it long hand, and I have a particular style of small notebook that I like to use. The only probably with this notebook is that it usually takes two of them to complete a novel. And I’ve currently misplaced the first notebook with the draft of Fearless, preventing me from really getting started on the second draft. Luckily, I have the next few days off so I can tear the apartment up looking for it, and then getting started on finally concluding The Slayer Saga.

I got in a few more rejections, putting me at a neat 50. The halfway mark! I honestly expected to have gotten there sooner, but it’s well before the half-way point of the year, so I’m sure I’ll easily get to 100 by the end of it. No new acceptances, but my story “The Lady of the Masks” will be arriving in Pulp Modern soon, hopefully tomorrow! I’m really excited to share this gruesome, sexy tale with you guys.

‘Rithmatic: Not a whole lot else going on. Work has been stressful as usual, but my manager is really striving to get some more people in to take the load off of me and the other part-timer right now, especially since our supervisor is leaving at the end of May. So there could be some interesting times ahead there. Weight loss is going well; I feel that the results are finally starting to show, and playing Fandom High during my lunch breaks is helping me to not eat as much. There’s an unconventional weight loss tool for you! I’ve also got three out of the four Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild, which is a little bittersweet. I just don’t want it to end, although I know I’ve still got a lot more of my journey to go.

I’ve got to chug my way through this last day of work before I have a sweet little three days off, which I hope will be productive and enjoyable. How’s everyone else doing out there? Anything exciting to share in your world?

Happy reading!

New Featured Story: “The Scrimshawed Ostrich Egg” [WUR 2016].

A new month means a new featured story, and I’m pleased to announce that the month of May will be featuring another great selection from last year’s World Unknown Review. May tends to bring a lot of rain to the Chicago area, and, since Chicago was basically built on a swampy mudflat, that means a lot of flooding rivers and wet marshy ground. However, I’m pretty sure what we experience here is nothing like the swampy mess that Pat and Pierre get themselves into down in New Orleans in Robert Allen Lupton‘s “The Scrimschawed Ostrich Egg.” This story has so many of the things I’m interested in: New Orleans, pirates, voodoo, all that jazz.

New Orleans is one of those places I’ve yet to visit, but I’m utterly fascinated by it in fiction. So when this story appeared in my inbox, I knew it was going to have a special place in my heart. There’s adventure, there’s ghosts, there’s a treasure to be found, and a legend to be uncovered. Robert has a fantastic ability to transport his readers to a particular place with a particular feel to it, so I hope you get the chance to read his contribution to making WUR Volume III such a great collection of tales.

Keep an eye out for an interview with Robert later this month, but, if you can’t wait until then, he does have a new book out called Foxborn that you can check out in the meantime.

“Women of Wonder: The Classic Years.”

“What else had there been to do?
Bravery, courage–what was courage? She had never figured it out.
Not fearing, some said. Fearing yet going on, others said.
But what could one do but go on? Had one any real choice, ever?”

–from “The Day Before the Revolution” by Ursula K. Le Guin–

There are plenty of things I’ve been slacking on this year, but I’d have to say that the biggest one has been reviewing the books I’ve been reading. I used to this fairly regularly, but, lately, my time management skills have been abysmal and the stack of books I’ve finished but having reviewed has been growing taller since March. Recently, World Unknown Review author Robert Allen Lupton finished and published a new novel, Foxborn, and graced me with a copy for review. Which made me realize that I haven’t done any review for any of the books I’ve read so far this year. And it made me realize that I really need to get back on that wagon.

So here we go, back on the review train. Yes, I’m mixing my metaphors. Deal with it!

One of the first books I finished this year was Women of Wonder: The Classic Years, an anthology of science fiction written by women in the 1940s through the 1970s. Edited by Pamela Sargent, this was a real gem of a find for only $2 in a used book store, featuring some of the most iconic and influential names in science fiction: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Vonda M. McIntyre, Ursula K. Le Guin. 21 in all, all women, all writing in the Golden Age of sci-fi. It was such a trip, seeing how the subject matter and the styles developed and grew through the year, reflecting not only the political and social landscape of the time they were published, but also with a distinctly feminist bend. These are women and stories that paved the way for women like me, stories like mine, so I felt just honored to discover these tales that should have been in my lexicon from day one.

“Terrans have something called tragedy.
It’s what one of them called being a poet in the body of a cockroach.”

–from “When I Was Miss Dow” by Sonya Dorman Hess–

There really weren’t any stories I disliked, but there were certainly stories that stood out for me as particularly good and meaningful and inspiring. “No Woman Born” by C.L. Moore is a familiar story, a classic tale with a modern bent, one that we’ve seen repeated many times since, of a man-made woman intended to fit the mold, only to find herself wanting to break it. “The Ship who Sang” by Anne McCaffrey also struck me, about ships being sentient and what that means for humanity. Sonya Dorman Hess’s “When I was Miss Dow” explores the idea of alien lifeforms taking the place of human people, from the perspective of the alien, which again takes into consideration what it means to be human. So many of these stories reflect on that idea, what is humanity, what are humans, and they do it so beautifully. They seem familiar, but that’s because these are the stories that brought these subjects to the forefront, leaders in presenting these questions in science fiction that gripped us and made us yearn for more. Shades of The Handmaid’s Tale ring in Kate Wilhelm’s “The Funeral.” We get the meta of a writer’s life in Eleanor Arnason’s “The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons,” which reminded me of another Margaret Atwood book, The Blind Assassin. And we end on such a beautiful, heart-rendering note with “View from a Height” by Joan D. Vinge, of a woman sent out into space with nothing but a broken heart and a pet parrot. The loneliness and the cycles of depression and hope are so staggering and real that it lingers with you for a long time, as nearly all these stories do.

“My God, they hated.
That’s who wins, who hates the most.”

–from “The Funeral” by Kate Wilhelm–

I’ve listed just a few highlights here, and I didn’t even cover all my favorites. And there are so many more stories, and the back of the book includes advice from the writers themselves to accompany their biographical information, which in itself is worth the price of admission. Any lover of science fiction would do well to track down this amazing collection of classic stories. I know my science fiction will be greatly improved by having met these women through their groundbreaking tales, and I’m excited to see what Women of Wonder emerge in the current era and beyond.

“Space is even emptier than anyone dreamed,
you could count on both hands the bits of cold dust or worldlet I’ve passed in all this time,
lost souls falling helplessly through near-perfect vacuum…all of us together.”

–from “View from a Height” by Joan D. Vinge–