Tag Archives: friendship

In My End Is My Beginning

Big news! My short story “Makeisha In Time”, first published at Crossed Genres in August 2014, appeared yesterday in audio at PodCastle with an outstanding narration by K. Tempest Bradford (seriously, it’s one of those incredible, blood-stirring narrations that makes you want to go have adventures RIGHT NOW!).

Even more than that, this PodCastle episode marks the announcement that Dave Thompson and Anna Schwind are stepping down as coeditors after 5 years at the helm. You can read more about it on Dave’s blog.

As a longtime PodCastle fan, I have a lot of strong feelings about this. I’ve been listening longer than I’ve been writing. Getting into short fiction podcasts is in many ways responsible for the fact I’m writing at all now. There’s something unreal about seeing anything I wrote become a full episode in turn. And it’s even more surreal, knowing it’s the first and last time Dave and Anna will host a full story of mine. In my beginning is their end.

It’s the mark of the very best stories that you never want them to end. I think I can speak for all PodCastle fans when I say that Dave and Anna’s editorial stint was one of those stories. I would’ve loved another sequel. Hell, another page or two. But nothing can go on forever, and anyway, nothing good is truly lost.

Truly fantastic editing is an underappreciated art form, especially from the outside. Over the years, Dave and Anna created a unique space through their story curation and hosting: a place of escapism and great stories, where their listeners–especially those who belonged to marginalized groups–always felt safe, important, and relevant. They treated all of us with dignity and love. When they thought about their audience, ALL of us were included in that picture. Women. People of color. LGBTQIA people. People from around the world. People with disabilities. The neuro-atypical. Survivors of violence and assault. None of us irrelevant. All of us deserving a safe space, if Anna and Dave had anything to say about it.

So I’d like to encourage everyone who’s enjoyed Dave and Anna’s run on PodCastle to take a moment and let them know what their work has meant to you. Consider dropping them some proper fan mail at their Escape Artists email (dave {at} escapeartists {dot} net and anna {at} escapeartists {dot} net). I’ve already done so myself. I know they’d love to hear from you, too. Let’s flood them with love.

Dave, Anna: go chase those dreams. We’ll all be here for you, cheering you along. 🙂

As the weeks turn to months to years, it all runs into one smooth stream, and amid the worst there was still good, because we did it all together. We got through it with our greatswords and glaives, and with kind words and clever plans. We learned not to worship Agani. We learned to see ghosts in the gallery, and little gods in the cinnamon.

We met angels in the shower. We balanced tiny assassins on our fingertips and fed them our blood. We held hearts in hands and pumped them, lub-dub, the lives of our friends resting in our palms, and at night we slept and dreamed. We called down foxes and furious suns. We caught paper tigers which were letters from our dead mothers. We were sorcerous puppets and apprentice dragons and we did not speak of our dreams. Our memories bled away into wind, and we got drunk in the human fashion with dead Jane Austens. Our brothers were bad gods. Our sisters spoke to crickets. On Easter, we became werewolves and on Christmas, Tim Pratt. All of us slept with Karnun Nameless Dae.

In our end is our beginning.

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A Faulty Camera In Our Minds

I was talking with a friend of mine about memory, and asked him if he ever had those moments where you think, “I’m going to remember this forever.” And as he’s one of those people with a propensity for saying wise things, he answered, “Mostly I think, ‘I hope I never forget this.'”

You know what? He’s right about that.

I’ve sat down to write a 2014 retrospective half a dozen times in the last two weeks, and each time I’ve come up short. Partially it’s because 2014 was a really good year for me, and it just feels weird to go on and on about my personal victories. But partially it’s because the whole tapestry of experiences, friendships, joy, and tears that make up the last year of my life is already blurring at its farthest edges.

I think about a favorite song of mine, “What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie, whose lyricist is another one of those with a propensity for saying wise things:

“It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds.”

You know what? He is right, too.

It’s a tragedy of human existence that this is so, all our memories running out like sand in a sieve, with only a few pebbles remaining to us, and not always the ones we would’ve liked or chosen. It’s also a great blessing: trauma fades with time. So does anger. It makes radical healing possible, and radical forgiveness.

So I think I need to record what I want to remember, if only to stash away a few pebbles that I hope won’t dissolve away with time. My first impulse was to catalogue all the writer-benchmarks I hit this year: first sale, first ten sales, reprints, reviews, Codex and SFWA memberships, seeing strangers discuss my work critically. And these things were all hugely important and exciting experiences, to be sure.

But instead, I can’t stop thinking about my last published story of 2014, “The Mercy of Theseus”. The one that, in so many ways, sums it all up for me. How a year ago, I met this group of guys who liked to write, and how we became friends. How we shared ups and downs, both professionally and personally. How a few of them made it to my living room and had beers with me as we swapped jokes and stories. How months ago, while I was in a pretty low place, they came through for me.

So I wrote this story for them, because their friendship inspired me. And then the zine which brought us together bought it. And one of these guys narrated it. And then they all turned their brilliant minds on the story and discussed it, and told me some things I didn’t even know about it. And I think, What kind of world do I live in, where such things are possible? Where friendship and art can exist as a call-and-answer, and that our purpose can be to inspire each other?

This is to say nothing of the many, many other people whose love and friendship profoundly moved me this year, and who inspire me to do better. I hope some of you are reading this. You’re what made 2014 nothing short of outstanding for me, and I’m grateful to have you in my life.

I hope I never forget this.

Coffee is Hospitality: The Art of Friendship on the Internet

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to mention it on my blog, but last Friday, the Drabblecast featured one of my stories on Episode# 299 – “The Revelations of Morgan Stern”. For those of you who are regular readers, it was my story Dear John, a little tale framed around themes of loss and hospitality. The production of my story absolutely blew me away, and I was especially moved to have this one picked because of the story behind it, which you can read about in the original post.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been blown away by a series of loosely connected events that have left me moved and humbled by the kindness, thoughtfulness, and love of people I’ve only ever met online. It took me by surprise; to a degree I’ve always carried the unspoken assumption that there’s a clear and obvious distinction between the people you deal with face-to-face and those you deal with on the internet. As if the one is more “real” or counts for more than the other.

And while nothing will ever replace my friends and family, I think I’m wrong to undervalue the extended network of friendships made possible through the power of technology. We’re something like pen pals, many of us separated by half the world, and yet brought together by common interests. We celebrate each other’s triumphs. We feel one another’s pain. And sometimes we push each other to levels of courage that would be impossible normally.

After all, hospitality is coffee. Sometimes you invite people into your home and share a cup together. But other times, you invite them in from afar. You – yes, you – have joined me in my living room on many an evening to swap stories and jokes over a beer. Other times, we’ve sat at the kitchen table while I poured out my frustrations, fears, and sadness. Right now, we’re sitting in the student lounge together at my college as I finally recognize what a good friend you’ve been to me all along.

I’ve been lucky enough to go for a run with those of you involved in the production of the podcasts I listen to. Together we braved the heat, rain, and cold, set records, jumped over snakes, waved to neighbors, high-fived children, and snarked at catcallers and other rude folks.

All of this was in my head when I listened to a recent metacast from the folks at Escape Artists (behind the podcast magazines Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod). The gist is that these podcasts are endangered species because of high readership but low support. You can read a partial transcript here and a summary here.

Coffee is hospitality. We mark our friendships through such rituals, through a mutual give-and-take where we loan support when the other needs it most. Sometimes this support is emotional. You’re both broke, and the best you can do is commiserate. Other times, you have the luxury of being able to extend a hand when needed.

I think the biggest difference between internet friends my face-to-face friends is that I’ve always found it easy and natural to practice hospitality towards people who are physically there. Online, there’s just enough distance that you forget to offer the coffee. You forget that you can. I mean, I can’t pour caffeine into my keyboard and expect it to come out on your end, but there are other ways of extending hospitality all the same.

Anyway, I’m changing that. Since I’m not completely broke, I’ve decided to repay both Escape Artists and the Drabblecast for their gift of friendship by becoming one of their paid subscribers. It’s the financial equivalent of getting together and buying them coffee once a month. I can most certainly do that.

If you’re also a fan of these shows, I’d encourage you to do the same if you’re able. If you’re not one of their fans, why not give them a listen? You might find something worthwhile, as I did.

How about you guys? How do you view your internet friends versus the ones you meet face-to-face? Who do you like to support around the blogosphere and interwebs?

Medical Microfiction: Diaphragmatic Aponeurosis

Making New Friends

Nolan had friends. Nolan had loads of friends. 1,224, to be exact.

Whenever he threw parties, he invited all 1,224 of them and received 1,224 RSVPs.

Of course, this always meant one hell of a grocery run. It took Nolan three trips to schlep all the 2-liters of Shasta, cocktail wieners, and pizza bites home in his hatchback.

8PM came and went, but nobody showed.

Later, Nolan brooded over his Facebook list of 1,224 disappointments.

Oh, well. Time to make new friends.

He clicked the “new account” button and got to work on Friend# 1,225. Maybe this one wouldn’t disappoint.

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I’m very excited about today’s medical term, because it’s an anatomical feature I learned about in my Anatomy of Speech class fairly recently. The diaphragmatic aponeurosis, also known as the central tendon, is a strong band of material located in the center of the diaphragm muscle. Together with the rest of the diaphragm, it forms a floor upon which your lungs and heart sit inside your rib cage, and plays a major role in pumping air into and out of your lungs.

The diaphragm. Under surface. Quadratus lumbor...
The diaphragm. The white part’s the aponeurosis. Not pictured: Nolan’s 1,224 friends. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While most other tendons in the body connect muscle to bone, the diaphragmatic is unique in that it connects a muscle (the diaphragm) to itself, allowing it to form a roundish shape while still allowing for several large passageways through the middle, so that you can both eat and breathe without the two interfering with one another.

Have you figured out how Nolan factors into this picture?

Much like the diaphragmatic aponeurosis: he only connects with himself.

*Rimshot*

Get it? Get it…? Hey, why aren’t you laughing?!

I hope this finds you better connected than the central tendon, and without a car filled with Shasta. Later this week I’m hoping to have another “Anatomy of a Sentence” feature out, so keep your eyes peeled!

Motley Microfiction: Truth in Avatar-zing

They met on the forum as Stasis17 and ScaryBearyGurl. In time, they found common ground: their corporate wage-slave jobs, their bad luck with relationships, an irrational proclivity for Nic Cage movies.

Let’s meet, ScaryBearyGurl wrote one day. I’m Kiley.

Name’s Bruce, he replied. I hope you’re not disappointed. I haven’t been completely honest with you. His tour in Iraq, he explained, had taken both legs.

The next day, she spotted his wheelchair in the coffee shop. He was handsome. “Bruce,” she called, but when he saw her, he screamed.

Kiley looked exactly like her avatar: a monstrous zombie Care Bear.

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Scary bear wear
And sometimes, you make friends with one very scary bear. (Photo credit: wili_hybrid)

I’m crawling out of study-hibernation this afternoon to bring you this little story, my own send-up to that wonderful and strange phenomenon I like to call “internet friendships”.

The first real friendships I formed with people on the ‘net came about during my MMO phase years and years ago. I remember fondly the novelty of talking with people from around the world and gradually to share in each other’s daily struggles and triumphs, all mediated through a common hobby. While internet friends will never replace face-to-face friendships, this special category of relationship made possible through technological advances is still worth celebrating.

The thing I love most about the friends I’ve made on the internet is how geographical location doesn’t matter. As a person who’s moved quite a bit in my short life, it’s amazing to live in an age where distance doesn’t have to be a factor anymore. If you move lots, you don’t have to say goodbye to everyone. When you arrive in a new town, your social circle may even precede you.

How about you? Do you enjoy friendships with people you meet online? Have any of ’em resembled their avatars in unfortunate ways?

Summer’s End

Summers end. (Photo credit: Rachael Jones)
Summers end. (Photo credit: Rachael Jones)

Today, friends, marks a transition point for me and this little blog: next week, I resume my schedule of full-time classes as a new semester begins. It’s one of those bad news/good news deals. The bad news: depending on my work load, I might not be able to keep up my current posting schedule of a story per day. The good news: my new science classes are sure to be a source of inspiration to draw upon as I craft new tales.

I’m amazed how far my blog has come since it began in May. In that time I’ve made 81 posts, most of them short stories. I’ve gained several hundred followers and had the pleasure of discovering many of your blogs in return. I’m humbled by the kindness, thoughtfulness, and care you have shown me by taking the time to stop by, read, and comment.

After he published his first book, my father mentioned that it’s important to celebrate the small victories. Time passes day by day, but rarely do we stop and recognize how far we’ve come. I realized this week that the last two months have been filled with such small victories. I hope you’ll indulge me as I take a moment to look back.

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Here’s to the small victories!

I wrote every single day. Sometimes it was pages. Sometimes 100 words. Sometimes only 10. But I produced something creative every day, proving to myself once and for all that creativity is like a river, and that the water will always be there if I reach for it.

I edited every day, both my own stories and the stories of my beta readers who also write. I identified some personal weaknesses in my own writing and have begun to push past them.

I got published on my favorite podcast, the critically-acclaimed Drabblecast, not once, but four times: Three pieces of twit-fic and a 100-word flash fiction story.

In my quest for paid publication, I racked up a small pile of rejection letters, a huge spreadsheet of market research, and a ton of good advice. I’ll be pressing onward with this goal in the fall, and will keep you posted!

I ran every other day throughout this Georgian summer, a goal I’ve never met in Georgia because of the heat. The unusually rainy weather helped enormously. Thanks to kicking off the summer with Creeper Guy’s pestering, I also discovered some great new running routes.

I made new friends, both offline and online. I also spent lots of wonderful time visiting with beloved old friends.

I volunteered several times!

I joined the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

Jam Session (Photo credit: Rachael Jones)
Jam Session (Photo credit: Rachael Jones)

Jason and I made several gallons of homemade jam in four flavors and gave most of it away. A new summer tradition.

I listened to a ton of podcasts. I read some good books. I lost count of how many a long time ago.

Jason and I put on a “Summer of Sci-Fi” movie lineup to watch all those movies we’ve been meaning to see for years. After seeing everything Stanley Kubrick ever made, I feel educated. And mildly disturbed.

We took a road trip to Mammoth Caves National Park. Note to self: take more road trips.

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A toast to the small victories, my friends, both mine and yours! Today I invite you to celebrate with me: share your small victories down in the comments, or if you blog, make up your own list.

Motley Microfiction: The Rescue Party

The Rescue Party

On the cancer ward, no one really sleeps at night. It’s the lights. It’s the click and whir of the machines interfacing with your heartbeat.

On the cancer ward, we’re staging a rescue. We’ve bagged some rats. We’ve named them, tamed them, and taught them to dance. We’ve got beer. We’ve got chocolate cookies with bacon. And we’re coming for you.

The elevator doors will open. The rats will roll out like a carpet. We’ll charge from the rear. There’ll be rioting. There’ll be property damage. We’ll probably wake up in jail.

It all goes down at midnight.

Get ready.

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North American cover art for PC
Imagine this movie, but with nurses instead of chefs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s link roundup is being postponed until tomorrow due to computer problems. Until then, enjoy today’s piece. It’s a fun  little bit written for my friend who just got her bone marrow transplant and her daughter TJ (one of my best friends) who is camped out at the hospital with her during the recovery process. Word on the street’s that the doctors are happy with the recovery process so far. Here’s hoping, my friend, that it’s better every day from here on out!

In the meantime, I’ve cooked up this little rescue plan in case there’s a need for emergency chocolate in the future. It’s rats carrying bacon-chocolate cookies! What else do you need?

Hope you guys are having a good weekend. What are you looking forward to in the upcoming week?

Fireflies, Lightning Storms, and Taking Shelter

The requisite "look at me in the cave" photo.
The requisite “look at me in the cave” photo.

I’m back from Mammoth Caves, and what a great trip it was. I spent 3 days in the woods and came out with zero bug bites. The park has a huge bat population which acts as the best anti-mosquito control you could ask for.

Some strange events this week have got me thinking about shelter, and what it means to live in civilization.

“Getting away from it all” is quite the First-World romantic ideal. We leave our safe, comfortable homes and go out into nature to live without amenities, and we call it recreation. It’s a luxury we’re lucky to indulge in. For me, the magic of camping’s those small, haunting moments where you see something so unlike anything in your day-to-day experience that it seems to have fallen out of your imagination.

Like this: while hiking through the woods a couple days ago, in the fading light of dusk, I came across an old graveyard filled with fireflies. Y’know, just like in this story I wrote a few weeks ago. We get fireflies around our home in Athens, but not in such huge numbers. It’s the chaos of nature, its unpredictability, that makes it so stark and lovely to encounter this way.

Seriously, there are fireflies here, but they're impossible to photograph!
Seriously, there are fireflies here, but they’re impossible to photograph!

Of course, nature’s chaos has its downsides too.

Yesterday, we made the long 7-hour drive back home and settled in to enjoy having internet and A/C again. I didn’t think I’d miss much while cut off from the Web, but I found my inbox overflowing with awesomeness. A couple of critiques returned by the wonderful folks in my writer’s group on one of my bigger projects. Tons of comments and likes from you, my dear readers.

And the one that really floored me: an email from the chief editor of the Drabblecast asking for my author bio and permission to run my story “In the Shelter of Each Other” in this week’s episode.

I was surprised because “Shelter” is such a quiet little story (take a look – it’s just 100 words). When I was a child, my dad would often say that he didn’t mind spiders around the house or outside because they were such beneficial creatures. Like the bats at Mammoth Cave, they keep down the population of less beneficial bugs. But most of us don’t really like encountering spiders. “Shelter” was a thought experiment in how a woman might coexist and even befriend a creature that would normally be squashed out of hand. Nature intruding in one’s home, and then that same piece of nature working to weatherproof the roof. “In the shelter of each other, the people live.”

So I was feeling pretty warm and dandy as I relaxed at home yesterday. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude toward the experiences Jason and I had in nature, and touched to be remembered by my friends, family, and internet communities while I was gone. Outside our windows, a rainstorm had started up, and I felt snug as Wanda and her spider friend listening to the rain drumming against the roof as we sat snug inside.

And then lightning hit our house.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

This is hard to describe. It happened so fast, and it’s like nothing I’ve experienced in my life. It sounded like a sudden explosion all around us, followed by a high-pitched ringing that first I thought was my ears, then thought was the fire alarm, and then later discovered it was the sound of certain important electronics giving their last death rattle.

Jason and I just stared at each other for a long moment, completely unsure of what to do. Then we ran around to all the windows to make sure nothing was on fire. The storm was right on top of us, so we were too scared to set foot outside unless we had to. Oddly enough, the power stayed on and none of the circuit breakers tripped.

Finally we sat back down in the living room and decided everything was okay. I’d been in the middle of answering an email, so I was the first to notice that the internet was down. Okay, no biggie. It took us another 10 minutes of troubleshooting to realize the modem was fried.

Sigh.

One quick Walmart trip later (quick but grueling; remember we’d already driven 7 hours that day), we got the internet working. It was only later in the evening that we realized the A/C had gone out too.

At that point we had a good laugh. How ironic is it that, wanting to “get away from it all”, we gave up internet and A/C, only to come home and realize we were still camping?

Can you ever really escape the cave? What would Plato think?
Can you ever really escape the cave? What would Plato think?

We went into the woods, but we didn’t come back out.

At the time of this writing, we’ve had the repair guy out and are in the nebulous “waiting for parts” stage. And it could be a few days before we’re back to pre-lightning status at the Jones house.

You know what? That’s fine with me. I still feel so grateful. Grateful that thanks to the ridiculous amounts of rain this summer, Georgia’s not as scorching as it usually is right about now. Grateful again for the warmth and support of my family and friends — and you, dear readers, spread across the globe, who remind me that the shelter we live in is larger than this old townhouse.

Let’s live in the shelter of each other.