Having been contacted by another publisher via a third party for one of my quirkier brand of short story, I’m having to rethink my communications strategy. This means getting out of some aspects of social media entirely and getting new, paid, email services that have nothing to do with Silicon Valley.
Now I’ve had one of my novels disallowed by one Silicon Valley owned platform for being ‘against community guidelines’ whatever that means. To me a story is a story, and whatever happens from premise to conclusion is narrative-necessary. No-one asked me if I wanted to be part of any ‘community’, in which others set the rules to which I have no real say, apart clicking ‘accept’ to the constantly changing ‘terms of service’ one has to accept when using any given online platform. I’m not part of any ‘community’. I’m an individual who can stand on his own two feet.
So I’m starting a new non-google, non-silicon valley affiliated email provider account and shifting this site to a fully paid WordPress plan, which should give me more overall control and no adverts for anything else but my work. If conditions change, I may even forgo the assistance of their ‘Happiness Engineers’. There’s a satirical title for a story right there. Can you ‘Engineer’ happiness and what form do the perpetrators of that blessed state of mind intend it takes? I was wondering about what to submit to the editor of that horror eZine. Now I think I know. Something unexpectedly nightmarish for preference.
On the topic of publishing Transgenre Dreams, the latest from Leg Iron books containing my short story “A Coelacanth in the Bathroom” is now available via Amazon. It’s also available from Smashwords and Kindle A linked picture should shortly be available on the sidebar.
Here are some opening paragraphs from ‘Coelacanth’
Finding a four foot long fish occupying the bath was a bit of a surprise. Especially at six fifteen on a Monday morning and particularly before breakfast. “I know it’s an old bathtub.” Perry muttered to himself, blinking wearily at the large, strange looking fish peering dopily back at him through vaguely green tinted water. At this time of day his sleep fogged mind was still running far too slowly to register any shock. “But this is ridiculous.”
Maybe if he left the bathroom and came back it would maybe disappear. Maybe he was still dreaming. He pinched himself and blinked hard, twice. No. The fish with skin like Van Gogh’s starry night turned in the confined space of their claw footed cast iron antique with a sluggish sploshing and waved an amiable tail back at him.
Who had filled the bathtub anyway? Wouldn’t they have heard their flats notoriously eccentric pipework in the middle of the night? And greenish water? Their venerable plumbing occasionally dispensed liquid with a brown tinge, but never green. Perry sniffed. Was that the taint of old seaweed? Sea water? This far inland?
Last night I got an email from Kevin Hillman over at Leg-Iron books who recently accepted my short story submission “A Coelacanth in the bathroom”. Apparently there’s a small eZine publisher based in California that is looking for original horror writers. They have expressed an interest in the kind of quirky, off the wall story I like to write and asked me, via Kevin, if I had anything. So, pleasantly surprised, I said yes. So I dashed off a brief email explaining who I was and what I did and the response was guardedly positive. They don’t pay, but they do have a fairly good distribution spread.
Now I’ve offered them a short story, currently a work in progress; target length about five thousand words that is kind of a spin off from “Coelacanth” in that it includes one of the characters from that tale. Without giving too much away, it’s mainly about an infestation of semi-mythical beasts who are a little, but not quite like they are portrayed in mainstream fantasy stories.
I did my research and looked at the crypto-biology behind these creatures before fleshing out the details and making them a little more believable. Nothing much, just playing around with the how, what, why, when and where of their mythology. I haven’t gone the full J K Rowling on them because I’ve always considered using the Harry Potter style of magic and wand waving as a bit of a cop out. Far more fun to take the impossible and set it off against the mundane. I mean, what would someone do if they found an endangered species in their bathroom or a plague of mythical beasts in their place of work? Whose job is it to deal with these things? How big a crimp would it put in their day?
It’s oddball questions like these that make my mouth twist into a villainous little smile and make me take to my office for so long that my wife greets me with “Oh, hello stranger” in the evenings when I finally surface.
… is the title of my latest short story with Leg-Iron books for their spring anthology. I’ve decided to err on the lighter side of things with a dark little comedy of errors which I hope readers will enjoy. Sort of a comic tale of the unexpected. Currently just under five thousand words and in the final editing stage before publication. Will post the links to Amazon etc when available.
Still working on the artwork for my reading of ‘Blink’. Stars trilogy is still being restructured. Not much more to say. Manuscript at 69,000 words, which is still only about half way.
What can I say. Fiction writing isn’t much of a spectator sport. On the technical side, have just adjusted the site to make Smartphone surfing possible.
Update: Contracts signed for the text. Not sure about the artwork.
Have uploaded my reading of ‘Moonlit shadow’ to Bitchute as it was too long for the free version of Vimeo. Same format as the Youtube version. Like, don’t like, let me know why, although I’ve often drawn criticism for putting the whole narrative of this particular story in the present tense, which some people don’t care for. What can I say, it’s a stylistic choice on my part. Channel link here.
Most of these short stories are simply experiments while I keep trying to restructure the ‘Stars’ series of science fiction stories, which started off in 2004 as a planned trilogy, but seems to be spinning off the original narrative into multiple projects like ‘Miners’. Still very much in the same universe, but too far off the main thread to be part of ‘Darkness between the Stars’.
Current word count for ‘Darkness’ is just over 69,000 words and the separate parallel and convergent narratives make sense. The bad guys are clearly defined as corrupt politicians and the ‘good’ guys as a loose grab bag of deserters, reformed drug lords and other rebels. I’ve even got to the point where I can clearly visualise them all as visual novel style drawings. When I say visual novel, the artwork I can visualise is not so much Anime, more Marvel or DC style. This is good. I may even finish the first draft this year.
As far as the recordings and video’s are concerned, have invested in a lapel microphone which should improve the sound quality of future recordings. I’ve always hated that flat, echoing and nasal quality that a webcam or PC mike gives to my voice.
‘Blink’ will be the next offering, probably by the end of February. Or as soon as I have some visuals I’m happy with. I’ve given this particular 2500 word offering a significant editing so that the new version is better than the original. ‘Blink’ is also part of a much larger project. Another work in progress. However, the chief focus will be on ‘Stars’ from now on.
As someone who both writes and holds down a fairly mundane day job, I tend not to have very many adventures here in Victoria BC. Life is mostly routine with little real drama worth recounting. However, a few weeks ago I had a little medical discumbuggerance which threatened to upset a number of apple carts. My own especially. Let me expound.
My wife frequently complains about my snoring. It’s been costing both of us sleep. So, after considerable trial and error I worked out that the problem was catarrh based. During the hours of sleep, mucus was collecting at the back of my throat thus causing a partial blockage resulting in a sound like someone sawing a depressed camel in half. So just before Christmas I elected to try an extra strength sinus medicine to dry up the offending excess secretions and hopefully let the household get a good nights repose. The first night went reasonably well, I took the maximum dose and the morning consensus was that we’d all slept the better for it, so around eleven on the Wednesday evening before Christmas I popped another two of these over-the-counter nostrums and decided to stay up writing until two to let Angie take a run up at a decent nights repose.
At around two in the morning my heart began to pound uncontrollably. Just like a regular heartbeat but impossibly fast. Boom-boom-boom-boom. My body’s heretofore reliable muscle pump felt like it was trying to jackhammer out of my chest. Even at rest I couldn’t find a steady pulse, just my heartbeat thundering in my ears, my chest and fingers reverberating.
I went into the main bedroom. The light was on. Angie was awake and reading. So much for letting her get some sleep without me. “Hon. I’m not feeling so good.” I said. Truth be told I felt bloody awful. Light headed, unsteady and with an urgent need to call an ambulance. However, a quick run down a mental check list came up with no symptoms that might indicate a full-fledged heart attack. No pain, no clamminess or tightness in the chest. Just a super fast hammering inside my rib cage and the weird feeling that my head was going to float away.
Angie got up and joined me in the front room, checking my temperature and pulse as we sat on the couch. By now it was two thirty in the morning. “Emergency?” She queried.
“Please.” I said.
I managed to pull on some clothes and stagger into the garage and thus the car. Angie hopped into the drivers seat and we took off into the early hours of a damp December night, me failing to bite my tongue as she put her foot down, pushing hard through suburban bends, nipping artfully through several tail end amber lights. As if my heart wasn’t hammering hard enough beforehand it was pounding even harder when we reached Victoria Hospital emergency. Angie decanted me at the door and I wobbled through the doors to the front desk. I managed to hand over my BC care card and burble something about having a fast heartbeat before slumping into a chair at front desk. A ponytailed girl in dark blue scrubs checked my heart rate and blood pressure. “Can we get a wheelchair for this gentleman?” She asked a colleague. By this time my vision was greying around the edges and I was too tired to walk down to the treatment area. Fortunately I was the only sick person in the emergency waiting room that night, so the road to treatment was short and timely.
“Thanks. I’m not sure I can walk. I’m a bit lightheaded.”
“With a heart rate of over two hundred I’d be light headed.” Someone, I’m not sure who, commented as I was wheeled into the very beige treatment area. I recall my head wobbling a little on my shoulders and commenting that my spatial sense was very disturbed. The simple act of being pushed around a corner in a wheelchair made me feel very uncomfortable bordering on nauseous.
A male nurse named Fraser, or was it Frasier? My normally accurate memory skips a groove every time I try and recall certain details. All I remember of him is an image of a jocund, portly young man with black frame glasses, short dark hair and jawline beard. He handed me one of those draughty hospital gowns and allowed me the dignity of changing behind curtains. Jeans and jacket draped over a cabinet I slumped onto one of those all singing, all dancing hospital beds that act as support, occasional operating table and sometime hearse.
One thing I noticed was a distinct distortion of my colour perception. Everything but the nurses and doctors scrubs seemed beige. Curtains, walls everything. Even if they were pastel shades of light blue or green. Which left me with an overwhelming impression of Victoria General Hospital’s curtain draped ER as an overall beigeness. I might have been mistaken but even the defibrillator-laden bright red crash cart parked at my beds foot appeared somehow pastel and muted. All I could do was lie back and let the medical staff get on with their jobs. Plugging leads into a heart monitor, taking various samples for testing. Ripping off bits of my chest hair when they had to move the electrodes for a better signal.
When properly wired up to a monitor I recall someone trying to find a vein in my left arm to stick in a needle and failing. Which in my semi-stupor struck me as odd as I used to be a blood donor and never had a problem with hidden veins before. A week later there was still a three inch long oval bruise on my left forearm punctuated with at least half a dozen bright red needle marks.
Then there was the annoying bleeping of the heart monitor alarm. My natural breathing rate is about five or six breaths a minute when the monitor alarm default was nine. Sometimes if I’m concentrating hard I’ll stop breathing for at least half a minute at a time. Some people stick their tongues out, others frown, I hold my breath. It’s an old habit from when I used to meditate a lot. Which of course set off the alarm every time I tried to focus on what people were saying.
Angie arrived, I’m not sure exactly when, after parking the car and chatted to the male nurse, filling in medical history details I’d omitted in my foggy mental state. She was briefly quizzed on why we hadn’t called 911, but that’s one of those questions you never have a decent answer for because you’re too caught up in the moment. Our attitude was, why call an ambulance when you can still walk?
At some stage the collector of blood samples switched to my right arm where they actually struck oil. I was also told to try various things like holding my breath and clenching my belly, which seemed to help. I believe it’s called the Varsalva manoeuvre or some such. After five minutes of this the pounding eased and I felt my booming heart gradually slow to a more leisurely eighty beats per minute and my hands stopped vibrating. To the point where I could actually use one of those cardboard urine collection bottles without spilling any. For some reason I really needed to relieve myself and couldn’t have hung on to it much longer.
What I do remember precisely is offhandedly wondering whether I was going to die that night. For some reason the thought did not worry me overmuch. At least I don’t remember feeling frightened. My heart hadn’t failed at the peak of the attack when I’d almost gone into full defibrillation, so now things were calming down I felt able to relax. I reasoned that the worst hadn’t happened by now, so it probably wasn’t going to. Panic over.
After my heartbeat steadied I dozed until four thirty despite the comings and goings of staff and one loudly complaining woman with a sand-rasp voice. At which point a slight bespectacled man with short sandy hair appeared at my bedside and introduced himself as a heart surgeon. He told me my bloods were all within normal range and we could go home. I was also quizzed about medication and confessed to maxing two doses of extra strength sinus medicine. With this revelation it was generally agreed a lack of decent regular sleep plus the medication had unbalanced my electrolytes, to the point where my cardiac electrical system literally shorted out, which was the cause of my ultra fast heartbeat. The medical name for my condition was Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia. Which is usually first noticed in much younger people. Highly unpleasant and not to be recommended, but watch the meds and get more sleep in future. At least that was what I remember being told.
After that advice I dressed, still a little unsteadily, and we walked out into the damp darkness of the early morning, arriving home just after five. Angie and I went to bed but all we could do was doze fitfully for another three hours, our little bit of hospital drama at an end.
As anyone with the slightest imagination might attest, the whole experience made for a rather thoughtful, sober and reflective festive season.
It’s a curious thing, this not-dying. Very curious indeed.
After much prevarication, I have deleted my presence on LinkedIn and Facebook. Their facility has proven very limited because the people who inhabit those platforms do not share the same interests as myself. Patreon has proven too vulnerable to political meddling, so all my links from my few Internet presences will disappear to that platform. Once I get my payment out of their clutches, that account too will disappear into the great nothingness of the Internet’s archives.
Which leaves me with the old model of publishing eBooks and hardbacks via various publishing platforms. Where possible doing readings for YouTube and Vimeo. This will continue. Next offering will be a shortened version of ‘Blink’.