Awards Eligibility Post, 2019

I only published one thing this year, 2019, but it was a big publication for me. “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” was a novelette (8000 words) published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the March/April 2019 issue and is eligible for Canadian and American writing awards. It is Fantasy. It’s about the power of music, music mentoring, about the courage to go on after loss, and features jazz-playing fauns. The character is queer and disabled. He stays queer and disabled and alive through the whole story.

Below you’ll find a link to the whole story here online, or you can read an excerpt from it.

*I am a Canadian and American writer, holding dual citizenship.

Thank you for visiting my 2019 year round up page, and I hope you enjoy my story.

Excerpt:

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Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Mr. Dance couldn’t keep his eyes off Eric’s clarinet. From the moment the young football player opened the black case and revealed the instrument, Mr. Dance knew that what he thought had been broken– as his legs were– or lost–as he felt–had instead been hidden for a hundred years.

He dropped his music.
“Where did you get that?” Mr. Dance asked from his motorized wheelchair.
The boy picked up the older man’s sheet music. “The clarinet? Oh, my aunt gave it to me.” He ordered the pages, and placed the music on the man’s lap. “It’s nothing special.”
Oh, but it was. Probably the most powerful magical instrument Mr. Dance had ever held.
“Who,” Mr. Dance asked carefully, “is your aunt?”

______________________

They met through the State of Missouri’s Masters/ Apprenticeship Program. Eric and Mr. Dance had been paired because Mr. Dance wanted to teach again, and Eric wanted to escape football in his junior year at college. Mr. Dance had no idea what Eric was bringing into his house where he’d been living for the past, well, maybe for a hundred years, hidden by a horde of vines that covered the front. He was an older man now, and his house was full of things that people had brought to cheer him a long time ago, and packages that still came in the mail that accumulated on the tables, unopened.
It was a storage facility, storing Mr. Dance, and the memories of his better days, and the friends who had finally let him be alone.

But after watching another documentary on famous musicians, a brochure for the Apprenticeship program had found its way from table to table to his chair, and made him remember what LeRoi had told him before he left for good, “You may not ever be able to do magic again, but you can teach someone else to do it.”
Now here sat the most unlikely “apprentice”, Eric Elkridge, a handsome football player who didn’t want to be a football player anymore. He’d said, when asked why he was there, “No one can see the possibilities in me outside of football. I want to make my life music.”


Mr. Dance repeated the question. “Your aunt?”
“Oh, my Aunt Helen from Indiana..” He started putting the clarinet together. “I played band 7th to 9th grade, but eventually, well, I just got into football. But I heard about this program. I wanted to try it again, work under a Master.”
A Master. Eric had no idea who Mr. Dance was. Why would he? The older musician had been out of the music scene since the Accident. But he had been the inspiration for Debussy, and had helped start the Jazz revolution in America.

The boy fit the parts of the clarinet back together. He fumbled with the bell, his big boy hands too rough with it. It made Mr. Dance catch his breath.
“Can I–” his hands reached out. If he could just touch it once, it would remember who its master had been, it would remember who he was, and maybe, he could become that person again. “—hold it?”
“Sure,” Eric passed the clarinet to him.
In his hands, the clarinet had a heaviness he could not account for. It did not glow for him. It felt like a piece of wood. Stiff but not alive. What was wrong? He was sure this was his clarinet.
“It’s a very old clarinet. I’m sorry about that,” Eric said, scratching his red hair. He had a farmer’s boy face, wide, round cheeks, but very kind eyes. “My aunt got it for fifty dollars back when I was in junior high school band. She didn’t have to replace anything though. I mean, if it’s twenty or thirty years old, it sure doesn’t show it.”
“Things can be older than they seem,” Mr. Dance said.
He checked it in the three places he knew it would reveal itself: the E flat key should have a mark, a depression in the metal, like a cut–from the incident at the railroad tracks where it fell from his hands; there would be a chip on the barrel just peeking outside the ligament where he and the men fought over it; and there would be a signature inside the bell. Not his signature. But the signature of the man who stole it from him.
He turned it over, peered into the darkness of the clarinet. There, scrawled a little too elegantly, branded, was the name Billy Sunday, wrapped in darkness. “I put my name on everything I own,” Sunday had said that day. “This isn’t yours anymore. I won it in a fight. A fair fight.” Three men held Mr. Dance down on the floor of the warehouse. “This country will not belong to your kind anymore. I’m going to save their souls–all of them–and there’s nothing you or your friends can ever do again to stop me.” And then they crushed his legs.
Billy Sunday. 1913.
Mr. Dance looked up from the clarinet. He turned it over, tried to smile. The clarinet lay dead in his hand. “It’s very beautiful. I think–” he handed it back to the boy. “I think you’ll get a good sound out of it. So let’s see what you can do, shall we.”
The boy played “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
“The Benny Goodman version,” the boy said before he started playing.
“The only version,” Mr. Dance said, closing his eyes.


The clarinet did not want him. The clarinet did not seem to want Eric either.

________________________ end of excerpt__________________________

For the rest of the story, please click on this link to download a WORD (docx) file. Or you can go to the Nebula Reading List at the SFWA site.

All the Perks from my Patreon Page

As many of you know, I was an adjunct teacher (former lecturer, visiting professor, etc) for many (20+) years, and I’ve decided to go back to grad school to pick up more skills for commercial illustration. It’s a practical application of something I love anyway, but it allows me to illustrate my own works and the works of others.

While I’m in grad school, I have taken out some more loans to live on (and pay tuition and fees)—which add to my debt. It’s a gamble I’m taking on myself. I’m excited about winning this bet on me! I believe this is the right choice for me right now.

But I have no false ideas about how the next two years will go financially–they may be bumpy, but probably no worse than they’ve been. I have secured at least one teaching gig for the fall, and hopefully more will come if they like what I do. But money will probably still be tight, and after the two years is over, I lose all that funding.

I’ve decided to start up a Patreon page for those who want to get special perks and help out an artist/writer while they retrain/ expand their skills and as they make a transition into their industry.

On that page, I will be offering not only news and excerpts from writing and art, but at different levels you will be able to:

  • see all my art I produce at CCAD
  • read a serialized, illustrated space opera created just for Patrons.
  • watch writing videos that answer questions you have about writing
  • purchase critiques of your writing, up to 20 pages a month from me
  • get reading lists and recommendations of people to read and follow
  • signed copies of my books
  • have portraits painted of people you love (up to 4 a year)
  • I give 10% of what I earn back into the Patreon pages of other queer artists/writers. As I rise, they rise. And I will post blog posts here about those I support on Patreon.

If you are interested in joining my adventure, please click on the picture below and it will take you to my Patreon page where you can sign up!

You do NOT have to support my Patreon to be my friend. Following me on Facebook you’ll still be able to follow my life and work, but Patreon offers many specific, special perks for those who do want to help out. I will not be upset at all if you can’t afford to help, or don’t want to participate in a Patreon. No worries. I’m so happy to have supportive friends who give me cheer, love, companionship, and a good ear when I need them! That’s what’s most important to me.

If you would like the perks from this Patreon account, consider clicking on the image above and becoming part of this journey in Columbus with me!

Back to School–Art School that is.

The Columbus College of Art and Design have accepted me into their MFA program, and my curriculum is all about Illustration (digital and traditional). I start in the fall. They have also offered me a chance to teach the History of Comic Narrative as an adjunct course while I’m in grad school and I said yes! So I’m very happy to be moving to Columbus for a couple of years, exploring my painting, my drawing and illustration. I’m hoping to acquire more skills to use for jobs—in illustration or portraiture–but also to illustrate my own works.

The program is two years long, is project based: you propose three projects, one a semester, and then one that covers a whole year. They have strong ties to industries that support artists: Disney, Wizards of the Coast, Hallmark, etc. I’m very excited about the chance to improve my art skills over the next two years.

The hard part is that it will go SO FAST. I plan on learning all I can. I have five or six projects in mind–most of them connected to a writing project. I have to narrow them down! LOL.

I won’t stop writing and, hopefully, publishing, but instead of full time teaching, this allows me to survive for a couple more years, learning skills as I go, and allowing me to get more writing done. My goal is still to emerge in two years with more skills, more publications, ready to take on any jobs that I can get.

“Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” published in F&SF + Some featured Jazz

My story has been published in F&SF for the March/April 2019 issue. I’m so happy about that.

An old jazz-playing faun has the chance to get back everything that was taken from him a hundred years ago, if he can take it from his only student. The story has Jazz, Mentoring and Hope as themes. It also asks the question: how do you change your own life?

My two characters, a young college football player who wants to become a jazz musician, and an old faun who just wants to be a part of the world again, struggle and fail and attempt again this massive turn in their lives, together. At one point, one of the characters says, “I feel like I’m this tiny tugboat trying to turn this massive life around.” And that’s one of the questions I wanted to pose–how do you do that? I hope you find these characters as inspiring as I did.

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program

I mention an organization I used to work for in my twenties when I was at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program under the Missouri Folk Arts Program. An example of their work is here–pairing two musicians together, a master and an apprentice, much like Mr. Dance and Eric in the story.

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Defining What Netflix Will Be, or Eight Reasons to Give Sense8 a full 3rd Season

19477719_10155330533657095_1420082545618168163_oAs most people know, on June 1st, Netflix decided not to renew Sense8.  Fans of the Wachowski Sisters + J Michael Straczynski show, a show that weaves a global narrative to tell a very human story of eight people sharing their minds, knowledge, and empathy, were devastated that the story would not have a third season.  Many knew that it only had one more season of story, but Netflix decided not to renew.  Then the fanbase rallied and wrote and tweeted and called out! and helped show-writers garner a 2 hour special for Sense8!  Amazing!

I am so happy that we get 2 hours to wrap up Sense8, and don’t take this blogpost here as less than gratitude for that 2 hours.  But I’d like to make a bigger case for you–a case you haven’t heard–about giving Sense8 a whole season based on what might be good for Netflix, not just for fans.

While there has been speculation as to why the show was not renewed, that’s speculation.  Netflix spends a lot of money trying to find hit series, and sometimes a good series doesn’t find the right market.  When the cancellation happened, there was plenty of anger towards Netflix, and, in the moment, I even threatened to dump Netflix.  But I love Stranger Things, and I watch Star Trek, Daredevil, Luke Cage, etc.  It would be hard for me to dump Netflix for good.  I know, they’re counting on that–they’ve made us LOVE this service. Okay.

Instead of eight negative reasons to renew Sense8, I want to give 8 positive reasons to renew Sense8 for a whole last season.  I want to give them something they can go to the marketing table with and say—“Let’s do one more season.” (Please especially consider #7)

Ultimately, right decisions aren’t made because of negative consequences but because the positive consequences are stronger.  We aren’t charitable because of Fear of Hell or Fear of Bad Publicity.  We are charitable because we want to help.

Why Netflix Would Want to Complete a Third Season of Sense8

1. NETFLIX IS COMMITTED TO COMPLETION: Sense8 has exactly ONE more season.  It’s a three season arc.  You renew that last season, you are a hero, and the story is complete, and people bingewatch the three seasons for years afterwards on Netflix.  They will come to Netflix for those three seasons.  You’re not having to commit to an unknown number of seasons, or risking anything AFTER this season.  You already committed two seasons and they were amazing, and fans loved them, and they are almost home-free.  You create NEW fans by following through on your series.  But MORE people will become afraid to watch or commit to a new series if the series could be cancelled before it’s finished.  The more unfinished series, the more Netflix becomes untrustworthy for a new viewer.  The positive spin: you complete series, and they can be assured that when they watch a series on Netflix, especially with the millions of fans this series has created, that it will have closure–that series runners will know ahead of time that their series must establish closure.  This one is close to being finished.

2.  NETFLIX EDUCATES ITS VIEWERSHIP ABOUT VIEWERSHIP.  You teach Netflix viewers about Viewership using Sense8.  Part of the shock of this announcement was that viewers thought that their fan base was enough.  We don’t get to watch the Viewership numbers like you do, so we can’t tell when to rally, or how we’re doing, or if we’re about to fall.  It’s a bit unfair to a very large group of fans to say that their numbers are not enough.  What kinds of viewership help make your decisions?  Do you need a certain number every week?  And how do you calculate when you drop 10 episodes over a weekend?  How many times should we view it?  How many tweets do you need?  How many blogposts analyzing the show?  If you give us those numbers, WE CAN HELP SAVE THE SHOWS WE LOVE.  I guarantee that the fanbase for Sense8 is the most dedicated fan base you’ve ever had (more on that below).  But telling us to love a show and then, when it’s not good enough, taking it from us without telling us how to celebrate and support it correctly can be very bad in the long run–it leaves a bad taste in fans’ mouths.  Netflix needs to teach its viewers what matters to save a show–how can we love a show enough to keep it if we don’t know what you need?  If not, fans won’t try a show till a second season is guaranteed…or may just not try it unless you do what you did with The Crown, and guarantee 6 seasons to tell that arc.

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Better Beasts makes the Sunburst Award Longlist

sunburst_logo_wideI’m late to announce this, but no less thrilled.  On May 29, 2017, the Sunburst Award Society revealed their longlist for novels/short stories in the running for the Sunburst Award.  The Angels of Our Better Beasts was on it.  Well, I was completely taken by surprise, and deeply honored at the same time.  A friend told me “Congratulations!” and I had to ask why.  I quickly went to the website to see.  The list is full of amazing works by writers in Canada–and there I was among them.  The Sunburst Award is given for “excellence in Canadian literature of the Fantastic.”  Five judges read all the submissions and make their longlist.  Later they will make a short-list of about five works per category, and in September, they will announce winners.  I’m so stoked even to make the longlist with my debut book, that I’m going to revel in this for a long time!  I want to buy all the other books in the Adult Fiction section and read them!  And put them on a little shelf in this order, because I’m cheesy that way.  And because, if you like great lit of the fantastic, you’ll love what’s on this list Sunburst has made for us.  Thank you, Sunburst Award Society, for making lists like this, for loving literature of the fantastic, and especially, right now, for choosing my book for your longlist.  It means a lot to me as both a writer and a Canadian.

The List:

 

 

 

The Book of Birmingham: Adding Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the Bible

Minister Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching at an eventI would like to see Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) added to all new Bibles.

I don’t propose this lightly.  Three times in the Bible, in three different places, listeners (and they wouldn’t have been readers) are exhorted not to add to, or take away, from specific books.  One is about Revelation, one is specifically to the Israelites in Deuteronomy to listen to the law, and the other is in Proverbs: “Every word of God is true….do not add to his words, lest you be proved a liar.”  I think it’s safe to say that I won’t propose adding any new words of God to the Bible.  I’m advocating something less radical.  If we can have letters from Paul, we can have letters from Martin.

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