“No Mercy to the Rest”

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No Mercy to the Rest” went live on PodCastle today, so please go check it out! I really love this story and I think Cherae Clark’s narration is fabulous. It’s about a necromancer going for a job interview at a supervillain’s castle, and it deals with grief, sacrifice, and killer robots.

Sadie parked in the lee of Castle Inferno, where she would be spared from the wind, and sat while the engine ticked, trying to convince herself to let go of the steering wheel.

The castle stood stark against the sky, dark stone walls leaching the saturation from the blue. One tower was burned out and soot-streaked. No sign of repair. Was Dr. Inferno hard up for cash or did fresh tarmac interfere with the mad scientist aesthetic?

Award eligibility 2019

It’s award season again! Everyone’s eligibility posts have been making the rounds so I thought I’d throw together my own extremely short post.

“Glory Night” came out in the Welcome to Miskatonic University anthology by Broken Eye Books in July 2019. It qualifies in the short story category of the Hugos, Nebulas, and any other award for short stories published in 2019.

I don’t know the timing yet but it’s possible I may have one more story coming out this year. If it squeaks in before New Year’s Day, I’ll edit this post to add it in. Otherwise, look for it in early 2020.

Laser art part 2: Mars

[Part 1 here]

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Let me tell you, friends, this project was a big one, and I made it bigger by making more dumb mistakes. First, I found a topographical map of Mars that was made in 1993. It was only after tracing the entire thing that I learned the first of two important facts: we didn’t know much at all about Mars until 1997 when the Mars Global Surveyor arrived; every map made before that point was based on data gathered in the Mariner missions in the 1960s.

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The newer maps of Mars measured elevation in a color gradient rather than in convenient lines at each kilometer mark. Rather than start from scratch, I layered this map over the one I had made and started nudging my lines around. Eventually I got it looking pretty accurate, except there was one weird thing about the two maps. The elevations didn’t line up.

Here I learned the second important fact about Mars: since Mars doesn’t have a sea, scientists had to choose an elevation to use as “sea level,” which is where you would define 0 on a topographical map. Up until 2001, they measured sea level by atmospheric pressure.

But then in 2001 the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter arrived and gave them more specific data, and they decided instead to base sea level on the equipotential surface. So in other words, not only was the map I made only vaguely accurate in terms of landmarks, it also started counting up from 0 at a different height.

Mars vector

I don’t know how many hours I put into just making the file. Dozens, anyway. Then I had to split the whole map into three sections so it would fit in the laser cutter. I used twelve sheets of 12″ square birch plywood. You can buy this in bulk from Michael’s, so the whole thing ended up costing me only about $22.

I paid attention to the grain of the wood this time and I masked everything first so I wouldn’t get smoke stains on everything. I even lightly scored lines on each layer to show where the next layer was supposed to go, so I could align things exactly and so I wouldn’t end up with a bunch of random bits and no idea where they were supposed to go. I still ended up with a bunch of random bits, but fewer than I would have.

M4

It was in assembling the thing that I learned a final important fact, not about Mars but about topography in general: when you’re making a topographic map on birch plywood that is 1/8″ thick, and each level of elevation on the map is 1 kilometer of height, that means 1/8″ up and down = 1 kilometer. But if the map is 27″ wide and the planet has a circumference of 21,343 km, then 1/8″ left and right = 98.8 kilometers. Because of this discrepancy, everything gets stretched out to look much taller than it is.

If I were making the map completely accurate, then each layer of this 27″ wide map should have been .001″ tall (or about the width of a human hair). The entire 25 kilometer height of Olympus Mons would end up being 1/32″ tall (or about the thickness of the lead in a mechanical pencil). But that makes for a very boring topographical map, so I didn’t do it that way.

The end result is that Olympus Mons ended up looking VERY TALL.

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I took out every other layer of all of the mountains to get them down to a more reasonable looking height, since I didn’t want any of them sticking up three inches over the rest of the map. I think the end result looks quite nice.

Mars last

All I have left to do is mount the three parts on a single sheet of plywood and then maybe frame it or something. Maybe I’ll hang it on my wall, if it’s not too heavy. I’m already thinking of what to make next. What’s bigger than a planet?

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Laser art part 1: Cape Cod Bay

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Last year I got my hands on a Glowforge Pro laser cutter. It’s not mine (it may be cheap for a laser cutter but it’s not actually CHEAP) but I needed to learn how to use it, and what better way to do that than try my hand at making some art.

Glowforge has a whole catalog of projects you can make, as well as forums full of people showing off their own projects, but I actually got my inspiration from seeing this gorgeous thing and deciding I could make one just like it. Because, you know, I wanted to start simple.

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You can find topographical maps of just about anywhere online. The US Geological Survey has a ton of maps, both current and historical, and you can download all of them for free. You can also find bathymetric maps (that’s underwater topography) of just about any significant body of water. Yes, all of those links are US-centric, but I’m sure you can find similar repositories for elsewhere in the world. I haven’t done anything outside of the US yet. …Well, actually I have, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

CCB2

Actually cutting out the image and assembling it is the easy part. It’s making the file to cut out that takes a billion hours of tedious work. If you’re extremely lucky, you’ll find a PDF of a map that’s already mostly in vector format, although even those take many hours of cleanup before they’re usable. Mostly you just find a flat image and you have to trace it. For hours. And hours.

Eventually you start to fudge things because seriously, no one is going to look that closely and no one really knows where Dead Neck is or how many shipwrecks there really are off Provincetown. But it’s really cool to know that every single sandbar and pile of rocks off the coast has a name.

CCB4

I made SO MANY MISTAKES on this project. For one thing, the size of my project was too large to do in one go on the laser, so I had to split each layer into two halves, and I didn’t figure out a good way of doing that until after I’d finished the whole project, so there are a lot of uneven gaps and things not lining up correctly.

I didn’t notice that the grain of the wood was going in different directions until it was far too late, although in my defense there wasn’t much I could have done about that even if I had noticed ahead of time, since the wood was pre-cut into 16×20″ rectangles so I couldn’t rotate them.

Also, I hadn’t done any tests ahead of time to see what settings I would need to cut through the wood, so some places got scorched and other places didn’t cut all the way through and I had to hack at them with a knife.

CCB5

When the whole thing comes together, though, it looks amazing. You can make anything look good when lasers are involved. I like the effect of the smoke marks, although you can avoid that with masking tape.

CCB6

I did this entire project last May. Around December I decided to try my hand at it again using the stuff I’d learned, so I made two small town maps for family members. And then I thought… well, what next? What can I make for myself that will look just as cool as Cape Cod Bay?

The answer, it turns out, was Mars.

[Part 2 coming soon!]

New year, same me

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Happy New Year! Let’s make this year a good one.

To start: if you happen to be nominating for awards right now, my short story, “All Profound and Logical Minds,” is eligible as a short story published in 2018.

Last year was a particularly long one, and not just because it was the hell year that was 2018. No, last year was 15 months long because I started it in October of 2017, since 2017 had been such a hell year itself that I wanted to cut that one short.

On a personal front, the extra-long 2018 was marginally better than 2017. I bought a house, which I’m still happy about despite the traditional breaking-of-all-the-things that happens when you become a homeowner. In fact as we speak I’m waiting on some plumbers to come and fix my steam heat, which another plumber broke a year ago and which has been banging and howling ever since. Yes, it’s been a literal year of banging and howling pipes (save the months when it was warm enough not to turn on the heat), but the plumber who broke it insisted that “that’s just what steam heat sounds like” and that I was overreacting. Folks, if you can’t sleep on the second floor because it sounds like someone is standing in the basement banging on pipes with a wrench and blowing a whistle, that means there’s something wrong. But other than that, the house is wonderful and I’ve enjoyed every second of my time here.

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A beautiful June day in P-town

In October, I was diagnosed with ADHD and started taking Adderall, which had the immediate and unexpected side effect of causing me to start reading books again. Up through high school, I read nonstop, but that changed in college and my reading has been slow and sporadic since then. I read, but mostly I would abandon books partway through. Most of my fiction consumption came through podcasts like Escape Pod and Pseudopod, which I could listen to on my commute.

I started Adderall on October 10th. Starting that day and going through December 31, I read 22 books. That works out to a book roughly every three and a half days, but actually I know that I took a week or two off of reading in November while I was doing Nanowrimo. This has been so refreshing. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to read again.

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So without further ado, let’s look at last year’s goals and see how we did:

  • Write a novel during at least one of the two Nanowrimos that 2018 is projected to have, assuming 2018 doesn’t go poorly and there’s another schedule change—Sort of! I wrote the first half of a novel this past Nanowrimo. It’s a good start and I’m excited about it, so I’ll count this as a win.
  • Finish 5 short stories—Not quite. I finished three short stories and got halfway through two more. Close but no cigar. Though I’m happy with the three I finished.
  • Compose more music. Say 5 more songs, just to quantify it.—I started to say that I hadn’t composed anything in the last 15 months, but actually it looks like I uploaded 2 songs to my Soundcloud back in February.
  • Get a Y membership and start taking classes again—I did get a Y membership and I even took a 5am spin class for a while. Then I stopped. But that still counts.
  • Start rock climbing again, once I start getting active.—I did for a few weeks. Then I stopped. But that also counts.
  • Start jogging again.—Nope.
  • A SINGLE PULL UP.—Nope.
  • Make sure to have at least one story out on submission at all times—I believe I did accomplish this.  I don’t think there was any length of time in 2018 that I didn’t have at least one story out on sub. I did sell a reprint to Glittership in February.

I’m pretty happy with what I achieved. Sure, I didn’t get all of them, and some of them only passed on a technicality, but I did make an effort towards most of them, so I’ll take it.

This year’s goals:

  • Read 50 books. I just set this as my Goodreads goal. I’ve already read two books this year. (Technically I started one of them on Dec 31 but I finished it Jan 1 so that counts).
  • Finish 5 short stories. This can include the two that I started in 2018.
  • At least one short story on submission at all times. Might as well keep up with this.
  • Finish a novel. Whether this means the one I started in 2018 or a new one, I want a finished first draft.
  • Start one regular physical activity (such as jogging, rock climbing, an exercise class, or something new) that I stick with at least once per week for at least six months. No more winning on a technicality for this one.
  • A SINGLE PULL UP. Maybe this year is the year.

Podcasts of two of my stories

Two of my stories have come out in podcast form in the last couple weeks, and I’m extremely excited about both of them. Having your work read aloud by someone else is such a weird and delightful experience.

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The first is a reprint of my first short story, “Smooth Stones and Empty Bones,” about a girl who decides it’s time to show her girlfriend how to raise the dead. It was released on Glittership on Feb 24th. You can also read the text of the story at that link.

There’s a skeleton in the chicken coop. It’s some bare collection of abandoned bones, maybe a former fox, and it’s slishing through the pine needles and bumping liplessly against the gate. The chickens, for their part, don’t look concerned.


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The second is a new story, “All Profound and Logical Minds,” about a woman who exorcises space stations, which was released today on Escape Pod for Artemis Rising month. The full text is also there at the link.

The space station was silent in the way that a black hole is black; it was more than just an absence of noise. There was something physical to the silence, a force pulling in all sound and eating it. Hannah anchored her boots to the floor of the atrium, feeling the reassuring click as the magnets engaged. Emergency lights washed the atrium floor with a watery red light.

Go forth and listen!

Let me tell you a funny story

Disclaimer: This is not a funny story. In fact, many people find it disturbing. I’m going to put in a content warning here for voyeurism and maybe stalking. Also, if you’re prone to paranoia about cameras, I’d give this post a miss.

Given that Time’s Person of the Year is the silence breakers, I thought I’d tell you about something that happened to me that I haven’t talked about much online. In fact, this post has been kind of loitering in my drafts for about a year. I’m not even sure I’m going to post it, but if you’re reading this, I guess I did.

Continue reading “Let me tell you a funny story”

Award Eligibility 2017

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I did band camp for a weekend in November. This is not my band.

Greetings from the future! Assuming you are still in the year 2017, you are probably approaching the end of your year. Myself, I began 2018 back on October 1st in an effort to curtail the absolute shitshow that 2017 was turning out to be. I’m a mere month and a half into my new year.

So far the plan has worked pretty well. I sold two short stories, and my weird West story “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” was published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies on October 26th. I purchased a home. I joined a band and am re-learning how to play the keyboard. I finished writing a handful of new short stories. I inherited a bunch of furniture, which I am spending all my free time refinishing.

However you measure time, it’s award nomination season. If you’re able to vote in the Nebulas or Hugos, you may be interested to know that I am available to be nominated. Here is the grand total of my work that is eligible in the Short Story category:

“Forgive Us Our Trespasses,” Beneath Ceaseless Skies #237, October 26, 2017.

This is also my second (and therefore final) year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Boy would I love a nomination, but let’s be real here: my buddy Aimee Ogden deserves it more because she’s a fabulous writer and I’m not just saying that because she let me stay in her house and pet her dog. Go check out her list of eligible works here.

That’s all for now! I must head out to the garage and sand more furniture.

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This was a couch and armchair once, and maybe it will be again.

Happy New Year 2018

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What’s that, you say? It’s not even October yet? No, you must be mistaken. 2017 was a terrible year and, on my friend Aimee‘s advice, I’ve decided it’s over. Let 2018 be marginally better.

2017 was a bad year for many, many, many, MANY reasons, both local and global. In my personal sphere, my cat, who had lived with me for 19 years, was given two months to live in March. She died in May. In July, my childhood best friend, who was three months younger than me and whose triumph over leukemia was short-lived, died suddenly just a day before starting her next round of chemo. In early August, my uncle who I love very much and who I’ve been closest to of all my aunts and uncles, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is in hospice and has perhaps a few days left. I said goodbye to him today.

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I concur.

So yeah, I’m done with 2017, and given everything, I’m sure you’re done with it too.

Let’s see. What are my new year’s resolutions? I had a shorter time this year to achieve my goals than in previous years, but that’s okay. Let’s be real, I wasn’t going to reach my goals anyway. Here were last year’s goals:

  • Write an average of 500 words a day (for real this time)—Haha no, I didn’t achieve this. This is hard to judge, since I’ve stopped keeping track of my daily word count, but looking at what short stories I’ve finished, I’ve written a total of roughly… 34,200 words? I’m pretty sure I’ve written more than that, but not a lot more, so let’s round it up to 35,000. Divided by the 260 days of 2017, that makes about 135 words per day. That’s miserable, but a lot of my annual word count comes during Nanowrimo and oddly 2017 didn’t seem to have one of those, so I’ll cut myself some slack.
  • Finish and polish all 37 short stories that I started this year—Noooope.  I finished two of the 37 short stories. However, one of those turned into a novella, and I’ve picked away at a number of them, and I started a couple fresh new short stories. AND I sold two short stories, so that’s pretty decent.
  • If I don’t blog more often than 2016, at least don’t blog less—I wrote 19 blog posts in 2016. This posts makes an even 10 in 2017. So, goal failed.
  • Average of 7,500 steps per day—I stopped wearing my fitbit at some point because the band is uncomfortable, but I can tell you I did not walk nearly enough to reach this. I am a sedentary person.
  • ONE PULL UP. JUST ONE.—No.
  • Draw more often. At least once a month?—I did not draw once a month, but I did a little bit of drawing, and I also started a new hobby of composing music, so I’ll count that as a win.
  • Finish that cross stitch project from last year—Ok, technically I did achieve this one. I just need to fix one thing on it though, so that’ll probably take me another year. And I started a new cross stitch project that I have not yet finished.
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The MBMBAM show was one of the highlights of the short-lived 2017.

GOALS FOR 2018:

  • Write a novel during at least one of the two Nanowrimos that 2018 is projected to have, assuming 2018 doesn’t go poorly and there’s another schedule change.
  • Finish 5 short stories. Ideally more, but at least 5.
  • Compose more music. Say 5 more songs, just to quantify it.
  • Get a Y membership and start taking classes again. There’s no joiner’s fee this month, and I’ve been holding off because I’m morally opposed to the joiner’s fee and also I’m very lazy, but now I have no excuse.
  • Start rock climbing again, once I start getting active.
  • Start jogging again.
  • A SINGLE PULL UP.
  • Ideally I would say “sell at least one short story” but that’s not within my power, so instead I’ll say my goal is to make sure to have at least one story out on submission at all times. Don’t let that ball drop.

There. My goals are in place. Happy New Year, everyone!