Monday Morning Reset [5/1].

There’s something particularly nice about when a new week falls on a new month. I can’t believe it’s May! But the calendar insists it’s true, so I’ll roll with it. April was a blur, but so was March, so I’m just going to assume that’s what it’s all going to be like from here on in. A lovely little blur of time marching on, and it’s the least I can do to just keep step with it.

So we start the month and we start the week, with my usual look back and forward at what was and what will be.

Reading: I finished reading through Phantaxis Volume 2, which featured my story “Damsel in Distress,” along with others, and it was pretty good! My biggest gripe was that a lot of the stories didn’t feel like complete stories to me. They were cool concepts and ideas, but not much of a conflict-resolution type set up. There were exceptions, of course. My favorite one was probably Brian Koukol’s “Circling the Brain,” which took us on a wild trip through a really fascinating world through the eyes of a disembodied head in a jar.

Though I usually only start a new book on Mondays, I received a complimentary copy of Robert Allen Lupton’s new book, Foxborn, which I’m hoping to blow through quickly so I can provide a review. So far, it’s really fascinating, especially since I have a soft spot for shape-shifters. I also started Lindsey Davis’s Shadows in Bronze, though it’s been a long time since my last Marco Didius Falco mystery.

Speaking of Robert Allen Lupton, I hope to get his story from World Unknown Review Volume III up soon as the featured story of the month, which also means an interview with him soon, and that the chances to read Sarah Gribble’s “Lullaby Land” for free is almost at an end.

Writing: Not gonna lie, even though I did finish the (very) rough draft of Fearless this week, it’s been a really rough one for writing. I failed to meet a deadline for an anthology I was invited to participate in, but I’d rather pass on the opportunity than hand them a half-assed story that wasn’t really even that good. I got three rejections flowing in, including one for a story I was really hoping to get in, putting my current total at 49. So at least it’s not fifty yet? And even if I go through May without an acceptance, I’ll still be at five, which averages to a story a month, and that’s not too bad. I just have to keep plugging along and keep getting stuff done.

On a happier note, the Bards and Sages Quarterly that includes my story “The Space Between Worlds” is now available, and there’s a story from WUR author Karen Heslop in there, too. So definitely check it out if you get the chance. The latest Pulp Modern with my “Lady of the Masks” should be arrive soon, too, so, despite all the rejections, there’s at least a few reminders that I am actually getting work out there.

‘Rithmatic: Everything else has been pretty average, splitting my time between writing, working, and Breath of the Wild. I have also joined Fandom High again, which will be a trip. I can’t believe it’s been four years since I’ve been involved in that game that has shaped so much of my early twenties. I remember starting when I was in college, and it’s going to be really fun to get back. It’s a very time consuming game, so it’s weird for me to say this, but I think it’s really going to help with my productivity. Because it’s a game that requires me to be at my computer (although I guess I can do a little bit from my phone now), and that means getting other work done, too.

Nothing too exciting going on, though. I’m prepping myself for a seven-day streak at work coming up, but I get to end it with three days off in a row, so it’ll be worth it. I just hope I can keep my focus and get some stuff done, and not just be a lazy butthead about it.

How’s everyone else’s weeks going?

An Interview with Sarah Gribble [WUR 2016].

We’re quickly approaching the end of the month of April (how in the world does it seem to go by so fast?), which means we’re overdue to sit down and have an interview with this month’s featured author, Sarah Gribble. Her story, “Lullaby Land,” is a short, bittersweet look at loss and grieving, bringing a somber resonance to the pages of the World Unknown Review. So grab some coffee, maybe a few tissues, settle in, and let’s get to know this wonderful and engaging new author.

L.S>: Let’s get right to it. Who is Sarah Gribble, anyway?

S.G.: Well, this is quite the profound question! I’m an outdoorsy kind of person. If there’s a danger sign or a liability waiver, I’m all for it. Being away from my desk so much doesn’t make me the most prolific writer, but it does give me some life experiences to write about. I enjoy hiking with my dog and husband, reading anything that crosses my path, and lying on my yoga mat.

When it comes to a story like “Lullaby Land,” I’ll admit that I have some difficulty thinking of good questions, because the story itself is so compact and says so much on its own. Is this indicative of your usual writing style?

I usually like to make things as succinct as possible. I was a history major in undergrad, and they drilled compact writing into our heads. We’d have to write 20-page papers and fit a century’s worth of relevant information in there. You can’t help but tighten it up after four years of doing that.

Another thing that makes interviewing about a story like this is how deeply personal it is. A story like this rooted in so much emotion often can leave the reader wondering how much is fiction and how much is inspired by fact. So where did the inspiration for “Lullaby Land” emerge?

I predominately write horror, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time haunting cemeteries. “Lullaby Land” is based on a real section in a real cemetery. I was there soaking up some inspiration and saw that section, with its tiny gravestones and toys, and just had to spend some time there. I’m not afraid to admit I cried a little walking around looking at the memorabilia and dates on the stones. When I went to write about it, I just couldn’t bring myself to make it into a horror story. I kept picturing this woman in my head, standing there uncontrollably bawling. So I let her take the reins and what came out was something very different from what I normally write.

And it worked very, very well. The topic is a heavy one, but it’s one that many women have experienced, my own mother being one of them. I thought of her a lot when I read this story, and I know from talking to her that it resonated with her very strongly, right down to the contention with religion during such a tragedy. How does it feel as an author to touch on those kinds of emotions in a reader?

My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a child. I end up writing about children quite a bit, and I think that’s because losing one is the worst thing I can imagine. Of course, as a writer my goal is to connect with my readers, and I’m always glad when my writing elicits some kind of emotion, but in the case of this story that result is bitter sweet. No one should have to go through what Alina or your mother went through.

If you were in charge of a film version of your story, who would you cast as the main characters?

I kept picturing Alina as a Sara Ramirez-type while writing. Sara is just so good at playing devastation. I think she’d be great. I’m not sure about the rest of the characters, as they were more ‘blurry’. The story, for me, was purely about Alina and her anger and grief, so she was my main focus.

Read any good books lately?

This might seem like a crazy hodgepodge, but I like variety. I recently listened to Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and loved it. I really recommend the audio version because there are so many different languages in there, and he speaks them all. And who doesn’t love his accent? The Pretty Ones by Ania Ahlborn (or anything by Ania, really). Her novel The Shuddering scared the crap out of me. I also finally got around to Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, which was just as magical as the movie.

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

It varies. Sometimes I stare at the wall until something comes out, and sometimes I go looking for inspiration. Sometimes I type the rough draft, and sometimes only a pen and paper will do. I think the most effective (and annoying) thing seems to be jolting awake from the place in between consciousness and sleep and having to write whatever weirdness popped into my head.

What’s next for Sarah Gribble?

I’ve got a couple more short stories coming down the line, I’m in the planning stages for a new novel, and I’m currently querying agents for a YA dark fantasy novel about the afterlife. Fingers crossed!

Where can we find more of your work?

You can follow me @sarahstypos for the latest updates, or look me up on Goodreads or Facebook.

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I’d like to thank Sarah for taking the time to chat with me a little about her story and her works. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with her on Twitter and Facebook, and I’m really looking forward to seeing all the great things this author has to offer. “Lullaby Land” brought a lot of heart and soul to WUR 2016, and I know there’s a lot more where that came from.

Happy reading!

Monday Not-Quite-Morning Reset [04/24].

I’m getting this post out quite a bit later than usual, all due to recovering from my semi-big C2E2 weekend. I know I say this every year and have yet to do it, but next year, I definitely have to get a booth. I had a really great time, even though I guess my cosplays (Amaya Blackstone and “Lawyer” Morty) were a bit too obscure for much notice, but they served the purpose of making the three people who recognized them pretty stoked. I had a great time, spent way too much money, attended some really cool panels including a really sweet interview with Evanna Lynch, and I can’t wait to do it again next year! …well, okay, I can definitely wait, because I’m tired as heck and the apartment is a disaster from all the prep, but, still, it was a good time. I’m eager to spend today recovering and getting things back to normal.

Even with everything, I got up earlier than my usual time to do a little catch-up on some writing and reading, because my morning reading and writing time is the best time, and I’m keeping my eyes on my goals. So here we go with a little look at last week and the week ahead.

Reading: I’m setting out to finish at least one book per week because I’m way far behind, and I managed to kill Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked this Way Comes, which I was honestly a little disappointed in. There was a lot of great bits and pieces in there, but it just didn’t come together for me. And today I also started to tackle Piers Anthony’s Firefly, which should be…um…interesting. It’s a very controversial, disturbing sort of book that came into my radar when I was reading about how poorly Anthony’s Xanth series (which had always been a favorite of my father’s that makes me feel kind of uncomfortable now) has aged. I’m intrigued by the challenge and I’ve read some pretty disturbing stuff before, (Edguardo Vega Yunque, I’m looking at you…) so, uh….I guess we’ll see…

Writing: I got little bits and pieces done here and there, but I was pretty distracted with the build-up to C2E2. A couple of rejections, no new acceptances or publication, although the author list for the new edition of Pulp Modern, which comes out in May and includes my story “The Lady of the Masks”, was released. I was particularly pleased to see Calvin Demmer and Nick Manzilillo on the list, too! Calvin was in Phantaxis Issue 2 with me and Nick has a story in World Unknown Review Volume III! It’s always a thrill to share space with familiar faces. I can’t wait to dig into their stories.

‘Rithmatic: Nothing too much to report here. The cosplays are done, time to focus on a wedding coming up, when to schedule a Ren Faire trip, decide whether or not to go to ACen, and to start figuring out next year’s coplays and the potential of having a booth. And playing Breath of the Wild again. I barely touched it all weekend. I’ve missed it so.

Oh, and getting back to work. Boo hiss! The weekend off has been nice as hell.

How has everyone else’s weekends been? Are you much a convention goer? Any ones you’d like to recommend? Were you even at C2E2? That’d be pretty sweet!

Anyway, happy reading, everyone!

Monday Morning Reset [04/17].

You know, I have the worst time trying to think of ways to start these posts. It’s probably not nearly as tedious as my brain makes it to be if I were to simply say, “Oh, hey, look, it’s Monday again!” or “I can’t believe how quickly [insert month here] is going!” Those seem to be my default, most popular directions to take. But this time I decided to go the route of acknowledging that I’m bad at introductions and running with it. But it is another Monday of another exciting week, and here’s my weekly look at what is and what will hopefully be.

Reading: I finally killed David McCullough’s acclaimed 1776, which was definitely interesting and inspiring but not quite as epic as I was expecting it to be. It put things in an interesting perspective to read about the very unlikely and astonishing steps that lead to the birth of the United States as a country in light of recent political events, that’s for damn sure. It was really hopeful; Washington and company were up again some pretty wild odds, but they stuck through it and succeeded in the end, which is something to keep in mind when things start to feel overwhelmingly troublesome.

Hoping to get Something Wicked This Way Comes and Lulu in Marrakech this week. Maybe even The Throne of Tara, but that might be a bit ambitious for this particular week, what with working straight on into C2E2, but more on that later.

I started reading The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu, and I’m pretty eager to really dig into it. It’s a collection of tales Yiwu was collected by talking to people at the bottom of China’s society, those who others would rather forget about. Life in Communist China is an area of particular interest to me, so it’l be really intriguing getting to hear some of the stories rarely told.

Writing: Once again, only one rejection, bringing my new total to 44, and no new acceptances left for a pretty quiet week. I’m kind of itching for more information on my three pending publications, but I have to remind myself to just be patient, they’ll get there, this industry is slow as fuck. In the meantime, I really need to get a story written for another anthology typed up, especially now that I’ve given it some more thought and altered a bit to have a much darker twist that will fit better with the anthology. Before I was worried that it wouldn’t fit, but now I’m sure it will.

I did an interview with Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha over at her Cooking Pots and Twisted Plots blog, so head on over there and check it out. I talk a lot about my writing process and my typical day, as well as my cats! I’m also going to be posting my interview with WUR 2016 Featured Writer Sarah Gribble by the end of the week, as well.

Also, I guess I kind of finished Fearless? I was honestly expecting about fifty more pages, was just writing a long, and my brain suddenly said, “This. This is the place to stop. This is the best ending right here.” And I completely agreed. There were stuff in those fifty pages that didn’t get in, obviously, but i have ideas of where else they can do in the book, and I plan to add them when I transcribe the thing. It was such a bizarre experience, though, this feeling of finality that just appeared and settled in. Is it just that I got sick of writing it? I don’t think so. Part of me is, admittedly, totally done with The Slayer Saga, but there really was something beautiful in how the end was shaping before my eye, unexpectedly and just so fittingly. It was bizarre, but kind of lovely, and I feel much better about the book now than I did last week.

‘Rithmatic: The big news for this week is, of course, C2E2, Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, easily the biggest comics convention in the area and one of my favorite things each year. No more going for just Saturday, either, I’ve got weekend passes this year, and two cosplays planned. I even actually made my costume for one of them, bought a sewing machine and everything. It doesn’t look great, it’s amateur as fuck, but you know what? It’s a start. Next year’s costume will be better, and even better the year after that, so on and so forth. If any of my lovely readers are going, let me know, and maybe we can touch base. It’s always a blast to run into people at these things, especially with so many other people out there.

Of course, taking the weekend off means having to work pretty solid in the days leading up to it. Gross. But I’ve just got to keep my nose to the grindstone and my glorious nerdy four-day-weekend will begin and be awesome.

So I’m off to slave away and try to finish the last details of the costumes, and, maybe, just maybe, I’ll get some writing in there somewhere, too.

Happy reading!

Monday Morning Reset [04/10].

Another Monday is here, and I have to admit, the last week sort of went by in a blur. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little odd. Was it because my schedule was significantly different than I’ve been used to? Was it just that I got a lot of things done? Was it just the nature of the beast and my bad memory working together in harmony? Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, because I do feel really charged up and ready for the upcoming week, and Monday are always exciting for me if only because of the fresh perspective and clean slate I try to give myself every week.

So bear with me as I try to look back on the muddle that was last week to parse out what was done and what should be worked on.

Reading: I finally finished a second book for the year in Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum, because you can never go wrong with Discworld and witches and vampires (oh my!). CP is far from my favorite Discworld novel, but I still immensely enjoy it, though I somehow felt the vampires played in much more in my previous reads. Ah, well, maybe I just knew what to expect so that shaded it a little. Anyway, I’ve got two books that look like they might get finished up for next week, too, which is great, and I started up on Haruki Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, which I’m quite excited about. I haven’t read nearly as much Murakami as I should, and I’ve never read any of his short work, so I’m really excited to get lost in his words. He’s just brilliant, and the book started out with such a wonderful dissection of the differences between writing a novel and writing a short story that was as relatable as it was beautiful.

Writing: Only one rejection last week, so my current total is 43, but I’ve received another acceptance, bringing that total to five! My story “Ursula,” about a man looking to save a friend from the nefarious machinations of a mental institution, was picked up by MacKenzie Publishing for an upcoming anthology, so it’ll be exciting to share that with you all soon. I’ve been plugging away at Fearless and Rosewood and various short stories, but the progress has been pretty light. Still, any progress is still progress.

‘Rithmatic: Most of my spare time this week will be going into finishing my costumes for C2E2, only two weekends away! I still have to finish my Amaya Blackstone dress, probably help out with the boyfriend’s Graham cape, and then do a few things for my second-day cosplay, which I’ve finally decided on but don’t want to say too much about it because I want it to be a surprise. I have also applied to Fandom High again, which will either be awesome or a big fat mistake. Only time will tell! But I’ve gotten the itch to play again, and I think being involved with something on my computer like that might help me balance things to get more computer work in. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but, trust me, it’s a thing.

So, yeah, feeling pretty good about this coming week, dreading the week after, where I have six days in a row in exchange for a weekend off for a change. But it’ll be worth it to have the freedom to go to C2E2 all weekend if I want. Are any of my readers planning on going? I know there’s a few of you in the Chicagoland/near Chicago area, and it’s a pretty big con, so I’d love to potentially touch base there…if we can find each other!

Until then, happy reading!

New Featured Story: “Lullaby Land” [WUR 2016].

At the beginning of the year, April seemed so far away, which was good, because April is C2E2 month, which meant I had plenty of time to get together my cosplay. But now April is actually here, and March seemed to fly by in a bit of a blur. I suppose there was a lot going on last month, but now it’s time to focus on new things. And that includes a new Featured Story from last year’s World Unknown Review.

Sarah Gribble‘s “Lullaby Land” is a short and bittersweet about the deep cuts caused by loss. It’s a story that resonated with me on several levels. It was so different from many of the stories I received, which is always a stand-out for a publication that seeks to have a diverse range of stories. But the subject matter was also very personal, as the main character Alina reminded me so strongly of my own mother, who suffered a similar loss before I even came into this world; my mom was very close to my heart the whole time reading it. And, lastly, Sarah has managed to convey so much with so little. The storytelling is simple and sparse and allows for a few words to speak volumes, which is effective for the subject matter and a very impressive writing style to boot.

“Lullaby Land” will be available to read for free on the Featured Story page until the beginning of May, so take the time to check it out. Maybe bring a few tissues, too. And it should be noted that today is actually Sarah’s birthday, too, so you owe it to her to read it for her birthday. And keep an eye out for an interview with the author herself later in the month, where we’ll talk about the story, writing, and other interesting things.

Happy reading!

(And happy birthday, Sarah!)

Monday Morning Rest [04/03].

What a strange week I’ve had. Trying to look back on it, it all seems a little bit like a blur, mostly due to playing way too much Breath of the Wild, which I cannot regret at all because the game is amazing. Even with the constant distraction of wanting to traipse around Hyrule and panicking about defeating my first Lynel, I actually did manage to get some stuff done in the meantime. It’s just everything’s sort of a haze. I can’t believe it’s already Monday again. I didn’t get any other posts out between here and last Monday, and I don’t particularly like posting two Resets without anything else in between, but it’s too late now. I’ll just have to be better about it this week, which I’m sure I will be, as it’s time for a new featured story from World Unknown Review Volume III to go up soon.

As for everything else, let’s break it down a bit.

Reading: I finally finished up a book, though it’s one from last year so it’s not going to be going onto the total count for this year. I found Women of Wonder in the clearance section of Half-Price Books, and, man, what a great two bucks spent. This massive collection has some really inspiring stories from some real pioneers of science fiction, and, as a result, I’ve been tapping into my own sci-fi a bit more (definitely a genre I love but don’t have as deft a hand in as I do fantasy or horror). And for this week, I’ve picked up James Clavell’s Noble House, because, apparently, I only want to read big heavy bricks of books this year. Maybe I should get in on that reread of A Song of Ice and Fire or an attempt at the Wheel of Time books again, too, while I’m at it! I’m really close to finishing up Carpe Jugulum and Lulu in Marrakech, so hopefully those will be killed this week.

Writing: It’s April, which means time to finally stop pissing around and beating the crap out of Fearless to get the draft finished and typed and ready for betas and all that good stuff if I want it out by August. I am taking a little bit of a back seat on the story writing for now (or so I say, but I know me and I’ll still probably plug along), as well as the submissions. I just feel I’ve got so much out there without too much response that trying to put more out every day is just taxing and frustrating and a little depressing. So I’m focusing on keeping my current numbers the same. When I get a rejection, I’ll send out another story, or maybe if I see an opportunity I can’t pass up, or there’s a deadline approaching. But I’m not going to worry about the every day thing. On the, um, bright side, I’ve gotten three rejections this last week, bringing my total to 42 for the time being, so some things are moving. I’ve also got a contract with Pulp Modern to attend to, as well as the release of the latest Bards and Sages Quarterly with my “The Space Between Worlds” in it. So that’s some encouraging news amid some more disheartening ones.

‘Rithmatic: I decided to use some of my birthday money to get a membership at the Art Institute of Chicago again, especially since I had three days off in a row last week and really missed my weekly trips to wander the museum and get inspired. It truly is one of my favorite places, and, since it was really busy the day I went (spring break + rainy weather + Friday), it was all kind of a whirlwind of refamiliarzing myself with the place and visiting my favorite pieces, I’m looking forward to future visits being more productive and inspiring. I also bought a sewing machine to help out with the construction of my cosplay for C2E2, which is fast approaching. You know, I’ll admit, it’s not that great, what I’ve constructed so far, but it still blows my mind that I’m making a dress myself, a dress I will wear and everything. I’ve always wanted to do something like that, so it’s really cool to finally actually do it.

This week and the following week, at least, I’m back to a full-time schedule, which is bumming me out a little, but, as I tell myself, the money is always welcome. I just hate feeling like I have so little time to squeeze in all the things I want to accomplish each day. I definitely don’t get as much writing time as I would like, but I’m still getting it in there and plugging along all the same. Sometimes, it really is the most you can do.

Happy Monday, everyone!