Friday, December 30, 2016

The Goblin of Wishes -- a flashfic

For my blog entry this time, I offer a poetic, weird little flashfic for fun. My gift to this month of December, 2016.

The Goblin of Wishes

Wendy Rathbone

On a moon called Firelight, in a sector of space more like black marble than hollow void, lived the goblin of wishes.
Where he walked, all energy bent and curved beneath him like candle flame. His hair leaked phosphorescence. He gave off a sugared scent.
At his core lay cold dark like longing, the taste of far voyages and dreamless nights.
No one who encountered him could capture and keep him, though many tried, hoping they could force him to make their wishes come true.
One day, in a starship shaped like a twist of ribbon, came three astronauts from three different sectors of space.
They kidnapped the goblin of wishes and put him in rooms of silk, behind bars of gold.
The goblin never defended himself. He was taken easily, with nets made of lilies and silver foam, and led to the cage where all of manner currency to buy his services awaited him. Poems. Rings. Roses. Pretty cards with funny bears on them. Promises. Violins. Wine. Rain sounds on a curtained window.
He was given furs and leather, shirts of taffeta. Boots of dragon scale. Kilts of alien light.
Songs carved from the tongues of extinct fairies filled the rooms.
The goblin sat among his beautiful gifts, in his prison, and said nothing.
He watched his captors with still eyes that rarely blinked, watched what they favored, how they moved and talked, what they ate, studied their language and what might be missing.
He knew what they wanted from him. It was why they treated him well.
One day, the astronaut called Million came to him and said, “If you can give me my heart’s desire, I will drug the others and set you free.”
The goblin produced, as if from the air, a small oval hand-mirror in a frame carved with images of snakes eating each other’s tails.
Million took the mirror and looked into it. He cried out, for within were the ghostly images of his wife and daughter, dead from an alien plague.
“This is a trick!” he said. “I will never set you free!” But he took the mirror anyway, and could not stop looking into it.
The edge of the goblin’s mouth lifted in a half-smile at the word “free”, for these astronauts were incapable of holding him forever, for they were mortal and he was not.
The second astronaut, Clea, came to see him later that evening when the ship was humming quietly and the goblin could hear the sad, grieving dreams of Million as he slept, and the erotic dreams of the third astronaut as he dozed in a fitful slumber.
Clea had blue hair and doll-like brown eyes, but those two traits were all that were physically beautiful about her. The rest of her—face, hands, body—was lumpy and scarred. Her mouth formed a hole beneath purple, misshapen cheeks.
“No one will love me because of how I look,” Clea told the goblin. “If you can help me, I will find a way to return you to your moon.”
As if from thin air, the goblin produced the loveliest mask in the galaxy, with filigreed edges and a feathered crown. Lunar lavender rhinestones outlined the holes for the eyes.
“You want me to wear that? Ridiculous! Offensive! Monstrous!”
But Clea took the mask from him anyway and left, her promise to let him go unfulfilled.
The goblin waited two days for the third astronaut, Gren, to visit.
The first thing Gren said to him was, “Clea and Million are not happy.”
The goblin watched Gren as he paced before the golden bars of the caged room. Gren had a kind face and smile, but he seemed shy. His black hair fell in a glossy braid down his back. He had a habit of chewing his lower lip. He would not allow his body to be still, to be himself.
“You fulfilled their wishes in ways they do not like. I’m not sure if I should ask you what you might have in store for my wish.”
The goblin did not need Gren to voice his wish. He’d felt it through the ship’s bulkheads for three days. He motioned Gren close. The young man hesitated, but finally moved forward until his chin nearly touched the bars.
The goblin came to him. Their faces were very close. Through the bars he leaned in and kissed Gren delicately on the lips.
Gren was the only one who hadn’t promised the goblin anything for his wish.
But it was Gren who stayed with the goblin after he took him home, where space is more like black marble than hollow void.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Good News Despite Set-Backs

Writing, whether it is part-time or full-time, is one of those occupations that is a continuous roller-coaster with ups and downs that never end. No matter how much experience or how many sales and publications you have under your belt, the let-downs happen, the set-backs occur. It requires a tough approach, a thick skin. Just when you think you're up, bad news floats in. Amidst the bad news, good news can pop in at any time. You never know. But you have to remember that the good does happen.

I have faced a lot of rejection this year, probably because I marketed my work more heavily this year than in the past. But I have also had some great acceptances. After all my years of playing off and on in various writing genres, I still find rejection hard. It's stupid, really, because editor tastes are individual and not for all, and because the competition is fierce and good things get rejected simply because editors can't fit all the good stuff they get into their projects. But still, rejection in general makes me second-guess myself, question myself. And these are dangerous waters to tread.

So I like to focus on the good, and on accomplishment. And this year I have had a lot. Here's the list:

I sold a novel to a real publisher. "The Android and the Thief" will be out from Dreamspinner Press April 2017.

I sold a novella. "Eve of the Great Frost" will be out in the holiday anthology "This Wish Tonight" from Mischief Corner Books December 14, 2016.

I published "The Coming of the Light," a sequel to my novel "The Moonling Prince."

I published a book of poetry, "Dead Starships."

I had a long poem nominated for the Rhysling Award.

I had a poem win third place in a long poem category of a poetry contest. It won a $25 award. You can read it here: We Shall Meet in the Star-Spackled Ruins.

I had poems published in Asimov's, Eye to the Telescope #21 and #22, Love is Love, and Lupine Lunes.

I focus on all these positive things on this list to keep myself going into the next year. It is about pushing forward, always striving to do better. I have a lot of writing experience, but the more I do, sometimes it feels like the less I know. Writing is about trusting. Running blind. Stepping off a ledge into the unknown. You just have to do it and hope. And then repeat and repeat and repeat.

I have more projects for the coming year, 2017. I am working on a new queer scifi romance called "Lake in the Stars". I am working on a new poetry collection called "Superheroes Take Over the World". I am working on a collection of the best of my best queer vampire stories, "Bitters," which will be out very soon (since all of it is already written).

I will not lie that disappointments for me in being a writer, and doing my very best, run vast and deep, but I keep looking at my list of accomplishments from just this year and I know I can go on. I'm not griping, I'm just saying that it's a very hard road. I always wanted to do this full-time, and I can't.
The enthusiasm and excitement with which I approach it comes with a lot of hair-pulling, anxiety and even resentment. Every writer overcomes these things in their own ways, but the battles are real. This has been both a good year for me, and a hard year. But I am off and running into new projects, new hopes, new dreams.

I look forward to 2017 and all it will bring.

Winter Fantasy

the utterances of
the winter dragon
his breaths of ice
snow over the tiny

sleepy town

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Writing Sales News and other Tidbits

As autumn arrives, I can feel my muse wake up. It's been a long, hard summer of travel for work, work and more work. No time for writing.

But I did manage to edit and submit a new novella to a Christmas anthology called "This Wish Tonight" from Mischief Corner Books. The novella entitled "Eve of the Great Frost" was accepted! It will be out probably at the end of November and you can bet I will post links and info. on it as soon as I have it. This novella is a gay, erotic romance set on the alien world of Niobe in a far distant future where much of the galaxy is colonized.

I also managed two in-depth edits on my novel for Dreamspinner Press, "The Android and the Thief." Originally, that novel had been accepted by their genre imprint DSP Publications. But over the summer some romance reviewers gave me information that they DO NOT review that imprint. I also heard complaints from some authors from DSP that apparently romance readers were a) avoiding that imprint because they did not think it was "romance", or b) did not even know it existed. I panicked, envisioning my novel languishing on unseen websites, shoved to backs of dusty digital shelves because the title is not "fluffy" enough and because it would be labeled that dreaded word "genre". I politely asked that my novel be moved to the regular romance line-up of Dreamspinner Press since it is, really, a romance despite the futuristic, scifi setting. The wonderful people at Dreamspinner agreed to my request. While there are some GREAT titles/authors in the DSP Publications line-up, and I recommend people check them out for some great reads, I am happy to be moved into the main line-up of gay romances.

That said, I often lately find myself confused as to how to label and market my books. I enjoy writing gay characters, erotica, AND science fiction. To wit, I often include all three in my books. I bust out of the formulas for all of those genres and just write the story that falls naturally onto the page. I don't follow the entire romance formula, yet my books include romantic themes, beautiful erotic scenes, and characters undergoing transformative experiences, including the transformation of falling in love. I love erotica, but my books are not comprised entirely of boinking, so they are not technically porn. I love to world-build and describe beautiful alien vistas, but I am not writing hard scifi with info-dumps and techno explanations that delight much of that crowd. I am writing about the people, period. So where do I belong in that tangled web? If I label a book "gay romance" I alienate the scifi readers. If I label it scifi, I alienate the gay romance fans. As usual, I fall between the cracks. No one knows what to make of me. I need to create my own label: gay starshiptopias where people find love amongst the stars and the shadows but you will also get those Bradbury moments of lyrical wonder, nostalgia, poetry. (But no techno-dumps explaining how the dome on the asteroid works.)

Okay, so I fall through the cracks. I always have been an outsider, even in "outsider" groups. And here's more: I am a poet, gods help me. That right there puts the kabash on most writing conversations. Forget about the readers!

Updates on the poetry front:

I had a poem, "Marco Polo 3879," published in July's issue #21 of "Eye to the Telescope". The theme is "male perspectives" edited by Marge Simon. There was some rancor politically over that issue's theme despite the editor being female and accepting submissions from any-gendered poets. You can see the issue (and my poem) here. The rancor died down. The predicted public drama (the opinion that men already have had their say in this patriarchal society, so the theme might be anti-female) never happened.

Much to my utter shock (and joy), I also had a long poem, "We Shall Meet in the Star-Spackled Ruins," win 3rd place in the "long poem" category of the Science Fiction Poetry Association's poetry contest. My prize: $25. The link to the winning poems, including mine, is here.

I also sold a poem to issue #22 of "Eye to the Telescope." The theme is "ghosts" and it will go live Oct. 15. I will share the link when I have it.

On the fanfiction front, yes, I do still write the occasional fics. My current love is "Captive Prince" fandom based on the "Captive Prince" trilogy by C.S. Pacat. You can check out my newest fanfic, all written during April/May 2016, under the name Natasha Solten here. Simply, Damen and Laurent are irresistible.

I thank you for reading to the end of this blog.

And may you have a happy autumn!


Friday, June 24, 2016

"The Android and the Thief" Sold to DSP Publications

I have some good news to share. My novel, "The Android and the Thief," sold to DSP Publications, a genre imprint of Dreamspinner Press. The contract is sound with good royalty percentages and an advance. I just signed it and emailed it today!

This is the novel I was working on during the last part of Jan. 2016 until the end of Feb. 2016. It came out to approx. 95,000 words. I wrote diligently on it every day, never missing a day. Some days I got 1000 words done. Other days I did 4000 words. As with every novel for me, I tend to write quicker when I near the ending. The beginning is always a lot of fits and starts. But the whole is a lot of work, like sculpting details from a giant blankness in the sky while feeling totally lost and alone.

Most of the time when I write I am "pantser." That means I dive into my imagination and begin sculpting my sand castles with no heed of the outside world. I am like a kid again.

But for this novel, which was going to involve more action than I usually write, including a space prison escape, I decided to do some notes, character outlines and a general, very short plot outline. (That is called being a "plotter.") It did not deter my "pantser" fun and inspiration at all, and it really helped to guide me if I ever felt I floundered. What I liked about working with just a rough list of novel events and character notes is that I think it helped me with pacing. This novel reads fluidly, I think, like a page-turner, but I did not skimp on the characterization and deeper thoughts. Here you will find it all, a plot that moves, my brand of lyrical prose, world-building details, and character introspection and growth, along with a budding romance.

The novel takes place about 4000 years in the future when vast parts of the galaxy are explored and colonized by humans of every conceivable culture. I call this universe of mine my "starshiptopia" milieu, because like automobiles of current times, in my future there is a starship around every corner. Other novels of mine that take place in this universe (with completely different casts, planets and stories) are: Scoundrel, The Moonling Prince, and Letters to an Android. I write a lot of poems from this universe-mindset as well.

The story of "The Android and the Thief" is about two young men, one caught under the inescapable power of his father, the other a cloned, indentured human (derogatorily referred to as an android), and how they attempt to escape a system that seeks to cage them at every turn. It is both dark and sweet. It is both an adventure and a love story with many downfalls and hardships along the way. But who could fail to love a story that references Ray Bradbury, Anne Rice and Lao Tsu all at once?

Other things that have been going on for me: I've been working hard at Renaissance Faires and Scottish Highland games where I have a booth. I do about 20 of these types of events each year.

I have been writing scads of poetry. I have a new poetry book I am trying to market (but most of the markets I am looking into are closed at the moment) called "Dead Starships." Beyond that, my newest new poems are piling up. I need to market them individually more often. I know this. But you can also find some of my stuff on Facebook where I often post new stuff as a freebie to my readers and friends.

I also contributed a love poem to the anthology, "Love is Love," which is being done as a charity anthology, and tribute to the victims of the Orlando massacre. More details on that when it becomes available.

Fanfiction: I still write it sometimes when I feel so inclined. If only I wrote fanfic for things that are in public domain, such as the Greek myths (hmm, an idea...), then I would have even more material to sell, publish, distribute. I like fanfic because it has given me safe space to experiment and explore under a pen name. It keeps me typing, keeps me learning.

So there you have it. I have been busy. As usual for me.

Oh, one more thing. Thank you to everyone on Facebook who supported me when I made my novel sale announcement there. You are all wonderful! The irony is that so many people congratulated me on this one sale, more than have ever acknowledged me in any one post before. I realized something. I am not operating in a vacuum.

I must confess: Deciding to become an indie published author has made me very lonely. I think people still see a great chasm between publisher-published authors, and indie-published authors. I understand this because a lot of indie published books are not good. But the fact is, all my indie published novels are books I wrote, had edited and proofed and worked very hard on. I never tried to sell them to traditional publishers until now. I perhaps erroneously thought I would put them on Kindle and people would come to buy them if they wanted them, trusting me to give them a good read. But aside from a few sales and reviews, I remain dead in the water. This means to me that the outside vetting process is important. (Not to mention promotion.) And even though I try to humbly make it known that I am vetted, I am published in magazines, anthologies and websites and have been paid, that I have worked my ass off for 30 years honing my craft, putting my stuff up myself holds a tiny bit of a stigma, I think. I hate to say that because it's not fair to indie authors who are excellent, and not fair to hold publishers to a standard of godhood. But there it is.

And now I am happy to say that I am a hybrid, someone who does both indie and publisher-published books. I have been a hybrid for awhile now. This is not my first book sale. I have sold eight poetry books in my lifetime, a short story collection, and a messily edited horror of a Trek Encyclopedia that was published by Harcourt Brace in the 1990s (that story is one best left forgotten, although I was paid and it was a real job and a real book).

I will probably still put up work on Kindle, but I will also slowly begin to offer some of my novels, old and new, to publishers.

This has been a very very good experience for me.

To all my friends and loyal readers, keep the good things in this world highest in your hearts!

My writing desk. Yes, that is a Daryl doll from The Walking Dead standing in front of the candle and holding a severed head.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Moonling Prince is Finally Here!

My new novel, The Moonling Prince, is finally out. I'm so happy with it. You can get it in paper or ebook form. (The paper book will be out a few days after the date of this posting.)

The Moonling Prince in one sentence: An empath-healer journeys to a realm on the other side of the galaxy to heal an ailing prince.

This science fiction world-building novel does contain a male/male romance because, well, I always write gay, bi and poly characters, but no warning labels apply.

This novel is the one I worked on every day in November, 2015, during the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I had started writing the book in July, but the end of Nov. was the completion date. I spent December, 2015 doing first edits, then having it beta-read, then did a final edit in the first week of Jan. 2016. Wow, what a whirlwind.

And in all that mess, I also spent every day during the month of December writing the novel's sequel, Shadow on the Moon, which was completed January 10. I just finished the first edit of that one and it's off to beta-readers. I hope to have it out in February so readers won't have to wait long to get the sequel. The first book, however, stands alone. Check it out on Amazon here.

For all of December, my poem "Build a Rocketship Contest" was featured on the Asimov's SF magazine website. It was in the January 2016 issue, but alas the new Feb. issue has come out and the poem is now nowhere to be found on that site, not even in the archives.

But never fear! That poem will be reprinted in my new, upcoming collection Dead Starships which will be out some time in the next couple of months. Stay tuned for that one. My collection Turn Left at November collected much of my newest seasonal related, and fantasy-esque poems. This new collection will bring together my futuristic and science fiction themed poetry, some new, and some previously published this past year in places like Asimov's, Dreams and Nightmares, Star*Line and others.

Anyway, I have lots of fun things in the works for 2016. So stay tuned!