Video for the Flash Fiction Class

I’ve been having enough fun with the free version of Powtoons that I’m thinking about upgrading. Here’s a video for the flash fiction that I’m 90% happy with. Please like it or share it if you enjoy it.

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Moving Your Story from Idea to Finished Draft Video

Video! Please like it or share it if you enjoy it.

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The Inevitable Awards Post, Best of 2014 Version

Graffiti reading "I am Batgirl"

Found this summer inside a restroom stall in Knoebel's Amusement Park.

Yep, it’s that time of year. Tell me what you thought the best fantasy and science fiction of 2014 was.

I’m happy to read people’s stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels with an eye towards finding the best fantasy and science fiction of 2014 and nominating for awards. I try to read/nominate/vote for the following: the Hugos, the Locus Awards, the Million Writers Award, the Nebulas, the Tiptree, and the World Fantasy Award. You can send things to me at catrambo AT; I prefer in the body of the email or as an .rtf. Please let me know what categories the piece is eligible for; also please don’t send more than one per category, although you’re welcome to send me a list of the overall year’s output, particularly if you’re Campbell eligible.

If you’re interested in what I produced this year, the stories I am pointing people at are short story, English Muffin, Devotion on the Side, and novelette Rappaccini’s Crow.

Here’s the complete list of everything published in 2014:
FICTION RIVER: PAST CRIMES, edited by Kristine Rusch, December, 2014. The Raiders.
SHATTERED SHIELDS, edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, November, 2014. Hoofsore and Weary.
UNIDENTIFIED FUNNY OBJECTS 3, edited by Alex Shvartsman, November, 2014. Elections at Villa Encantada.
DAILY SCIENCE FICTION, September, 2014. The Moon and the Mouse.
THREE-LOBED BURNING EYE, August, 2014. Eggs of Stone.
BY FAERIE LIGHT, July, 2014. A Brooch of Bone, A Hint of Tooth.
BENEATH CEASELESS SKIES, July, 2014. Rappacini’s Crow.
DAILY SCIENCE FICTION, June, 2014. English Muffin, Devotion on the Side.
SUPERFICIAL FLESH, Spring, 2014. Can You Hear the Moon?.
ASIMOV’S, March, 2014. All the Pretty Little Mermaids.
CLARKESWORLD MAGAZINE, February, 2014. Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable. Audio version.
STAMPS, VAMPS, AND TRAMPS, edited by Shannon Robinson, 2014. Summer Night in Durham.
Patreon stories included: Her Chambered Eyes, Her Windowed Heart; How Dogs Came to the New Continent; Jaco Tours; Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander?; Mirabai the Twice-lived; The Nondescript Bear; and Prairie Dog Town.

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Putting Stuff Up

Cover for Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart.

In this steampunk short story, Pinkerton agents Artemus West and Elspeth Sorehs have been chasing their prey across the country. When they finally catch up near the outskirts of the Cascades, though, they find he's gone to ground in a mysterious house that once belonged to his mother, a famous inventor. What secrets hidden in the house will they discover -- and how will the house protect its returned son?

I’ve been putting some stories up on Amazon and Smashwords – I’ve got close to 75 that could go up there, so it’s slow slogging but eventually everything will be up on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords. Here’s the categories they fit into:

Altered America series: These are steampunk stories, and include Rappaccini’s Crow, which originally appeared on Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Previously unpublished Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart is part of that series, and so are two stories that are yet to come: “Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander?” and “Snakes on a Train”. You can see some of the images inspiring the stories here on Pinterest. Currently in progress is “Blue Train,” which takes place in this world although over in a France beleaguered by fairies, vampires, and werewolves.

Tales of Tabat series: These fantasy stories are set in a world I often write in, and so I won’t list all of them. Most have been previously published. Right now the only ones up are “Narrative of a Beast’s Life” and “How Dogs Came to the New Continent.”

Women of Zalanthas: I’ve written a number of stories based on Zalanthas, the world of Armageddon MUD, so I’ve put them together. Right now, stories up include “Aquila’s Ring“, “Karaluvian Fale“, and “Mirabai the Twice-lived“. Others to come include “Besana Kurac” and the title story from Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight.

The Villa Encantada series: None of these urban fantasy stories are up yet, but there’s a slew of them, primarily horror. Slightly related to them is previously unpublished horror story, “Jaco Tours.”

SF Stories: I haven’t made the SF stories a series because there’s no real link between most of them. Up so far are “Grandmother“, “Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable“, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” “Bus Ride to Mars,” and “Elsewhere, Within, Elsewhen.”

Remember that if you want fresh stories from me each month in your mailbox, you can get them via my Patreon campaign.


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From Today’s Writing

Working on a dieselpunkish piece, tentatively entitled “The Blue Train.” People may notice I tend to skip around a bit on project. By my guess, I think I’ve got about a dozen pots boiling at any given time, and at least two of those, right now at least, are longer works. I think this one will end up a reasonable length of around 5k, though.

By six PM, his lordship was up and ready to be shaved and dressed. I had sandwiches sent up, something to tide him over till he went out. His haggard eyes were pouched and heavy as though he hadn’t slept.

“Where to tonight?” I asked as I stirred the lather, smelling of bay rum, and spread it over the black shadows on his jawline.

“Jenkins,” he said. “He’s set up some sort of game in his car on the train. Says it will be novel.”

“Novel” is not a word one likes to hear from an older vampire. So often their ideas of novelty involve pain.

“Have the front desk call me a taxi.” He studied his lapels, fingering the wide black expanse, before he held out an arm and I placed his watch, freshly wound, on his wrist. Gold, not silver. A showy piece, but one vampires would appreciate. They like gaudy on other people.

He looked at me. “Do you want to come?”

He hadn’t asked me that before. It wouldn’t be anything new to have me there waiting on him while he gambled, but previously I’d avoided the vampires. They like nonhuman blood more than human and they’re not hesitant about feeding on servants. Would his presence keep me safe?

But there were tired blue shadows under his eyes. He needed backup. He needed a friend there.

His servant would have to do.

It’s been fun, but lots of research in an era I haven’t done much with. Otoh, the point of divergence from our own is almost a century earlier so lots of leeway.

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Why SFWA Should (IMO) Admit Self-Published Writers, and Some Thoughts about the Process

Photo of Cat Rambo with Dark Vader and stormtrooper

Preparing to take on the challenges ahead.

SFWA, at its usual slow lumbering pace, is heading towards answering the question of whether or not the organization should allow self-publishing as a way to qualify for membership. For those unfamiliar with the current requirements, it involves sales to traditional publishing markets: three stories or a single novel advance at a specified rate (current 6 cents per word for stories and a $2000 advance for a novel, from a market listed as a SFWA qualifying market).

Do I believe results with self-publishing should qualify someone for SFWA? Yes, absolutely. To me the only question is how to define those results in a way that makes them comparable with the existing criteria.
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Coming to the End of Costa Rica

Image of a baby two-toed sloth, taken at the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.

This is a baby two-toed sloth. I can't decide whether or not they're cuter than baby three-toed sloths. It's a toss up, really.

Down to our last week here! We leave next Thursday and head to Miami where we’ll spend a day and then (yay!) hop on a cruise ship to take advantage of a last-minute opportunity. I’ve never been on one, so I’ve been reading up on the experience and am looking forward to it. We’ll be spending seven days on the boat and seeing a little of the Caribbean (which I cannot envision without thinking of the Sid Meier Pirates! game, which consumed a great deal of my time at one point. After that we’re headed up to the NYC/PA area for early October, where I think I’ll be around the time of the SFWA reception there, but I’m still figuring that out.

I’ve not gotten much writing this week, but for good reasons. First we visited the Sloth Sanctuary here and spent the night in the Buttercup Room of their B&B. We got to go for an early morning canoe ride along a placid salt-water river, seeing bats, birds, and beautiful vegetation, then spent a couple of hours touring and seeing sloths, including the babies, which are the essence of cuteness. Here’s a video from the baby sloth nursery.
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What I’m Working On

Manipulated picture of linoleum print by Cat RamboReally pleased with the current project, a continuation and expansion of A Seed on the Wind:

He took a landing towards Neryon neighborhood, a narrow outjut of stone augmented with board and rope buildings dragging at the stone, which was carved with a sinewy overlay of snakes and bees. In midday, it seemed to be drowsing. In a few hours it would begin to stretch and yawn itself awake. The caffeine vendors, selling chai and kaf and a dozen teas would range about filling cups and mugs or doling out thick cups that could later be chewed to mushy fiber for a quick thirdmeal as the evening began in earnest.

He made his way to a sleepy tavern, and slouched in a rear table, nursing leedink, mind thumbing through the possibilities as he fingered the wicker and wood puzzle centered on the table.

He could always go back to Poit. Or Ellsfall. Either of those choices itched him wrong, though.

A being sliding onto the bench across him in the wall niche. The stone shelf under its elbow as it leaned forward. “Pleasance, chum.”

Expensive clothes. Rasp-skinned, narrow-headed, not-human. Flat dark eyes, cold as shadowed caverns. Smile tied on with insincerity.

“Fuck off,” Bill said.

The smile widened, deepened, showed pointed teeth, filed sharper. Gold inlay in the closest one, a design of fish and flowers, a spray of rubies in a line down the front. “An asking for you, Mr. Bill.”

Panicked question stabbed through his stomach. Why did this stranger know his name? He sat back. “What’s that?”

“You know a guy, cook at Fleur, name’s John.”

Chef John. One of the possibilities that had been flickering through his minds. He shrugged. “Don’t ring no chime.”

“All I want is you to takespeak a word or two.”

Bill waited. In the room, the clackclask of pool balls, two youths playing, dressed in leather and thorns. The electric light flickflickered on arcs of white and jasper plastic, stacattoing light.

“Tell him the big companies don’t mind freelancers trading bittybit on the side. But he’s getting bittybig. Needs to step back.”

He hunched his shoulders in a shrug. “Happen to run into him, may say. What’s the what if I do?”

The stranger’s fingerscales were pointed, each tipped with a flower of gold, a stinger of steel, as it spread them as though to smooth the shrug away from the air.

“Bittybit money for you, friend. Just come here an asking.”

(If you want to make sure you get to read the finished version, sign up for my Patreon campaign and get two stories a month for as little as $1 each!)

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You Should Read This: Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy

Cover of Acceptance

The publisher’s taken the unusual (increasingly less so, though) step of releasing all three books in one year — particularly awesome for those of us who hate waiting for the next installment to come out.

I’m timing this post to come out before I’ve finished the last book of the Southern Reach trilogy, ACCEPTANCE, so I haven’t read the entire trilogy yet. But I recommend the overall trilogy based on my utter enthusiasm for the first two books, ANNIHILATION and AUTHORITY.

VanderMeer is one of the finest writers alive*, in my opinion, able to craft worlds that are eerie and beautiful and intriguing and, above all, unlike anything you’ve read before. Both ANNIHILATION and AUTHORITY are full of moments that smacked me in the face with their perception and beauty in a way that still leaves me thinking about them.

The books have that sense of the weird that haunts other works, like House of Leaves or The Crying of Lot 49. As though one were viewing the everyday world with a new lens, one that slants them, puts them askew, renders them mysterious. And they do it beautifully.

The publisher’s taken the unusual (increasingly less so, though) step of releasing all three books in one year — particularly awesome for those of us who hate waiting for the next installment to come out.

*Full disclosure: Not only do I know Jeff, but we’ve co-written a novelette, The Surgeon’s Tale, together. But part of my pleasure in that friendship/co-authorship is a deep awareness of how very very good his writing is.

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WIP: A Cavern Ripe With Dreams

Cover for A Seed on the Wind, painting by Mats Minnhagen

Tiny things floated through the air all around him. He stretched out his palm and kept it motionless long enough that one drifted to be trapped in his palm. A seed, a brown seed. Attached to one end a tuft of hairs, fine and feathery, to carry it along. Carefully he raised his hand, examined it more closely. So small. As it neared his eye, it became no longer brown, ridges and swirls marked its surface in grays and greens and reds that somehow blended together to create the impression of brown from just a few inches farther away.

I’m finishing up A Cavern Ripe with Dreams, the sequel to A Seed On the Wind. A version will undoubtedly go out to Patreon patrons before I start shopping the combined novellas around as a single entity.

This story owes a great deal to both William S. Burroughs’ Junky (indeed, the protagonist is named Bill in his honor) and Joe R. Lansdale’s Drive-In, a book I found immensely freeing and exhilarating in its sheer WTFery and bravura. If you’ve read A Querulous Flute of Bone, it’s the same world, that of the co-writing project The Fathomless Abyss.

From part of today’s writing:

Bill felt a rush of fear, but a kind that he had never experienced before, something like the fear you feel when someone tells you a frightening story that they believe is true. A terror that was convincing yet somehow dilute. A terror that was not his, somehow.

A fear that was enjoyable.

He realized that it was the creature. That he was feeling its emotions. That if he closed his eyes, he could still see the room like a ghostly overlay across the darkness behind his lids.

He wondered if it experienced the same phenomenon, this double life. He put his hand up and touched it with a fingertip, stroking along the coarse fur that was still damp with eggy fluid. It smelled like newly-split wood, rare and sharp. As he touched it, it shuddered but stayed still, like a woman whose innermost core had been touched, who feared and craved more. At the thought, he grew hard, and he felt it shudder again before it curled tighter around his neck.

He lay there with it around his neck, savoring the mental taste of it, dipping in and out of its perceptions. After a while, his bladder drove him into standing and using the chamber pot beneath his bed. As he pissed, he could feel the creature tasting his sensations in turn.

It made him curious. Settling back onto the bed, he took a syrette from the bedside table, already loaded with honeypain. He injected it in his wrist and lay back to feel the twofold sensation.

First it felt as though the back of his eyes had dissolved, only to be filled with a subtle warmth that flowed out from them, flowing through him until he was only a zone of temperature and sensation, as though he was warm water in a bath, only an outline. But always with that lurking presence perceiving him, keeping him whole. He had loved honeypain for its ability to take him outside himself, but now he realized that it was nothing compared to the creature.

He tried to think at it, to see if it would answer him, but all his thoughts were blurred by the honeypain. He could hear only his blood drumming in his veins, a hard and insistent beat that told him he was alive, as it had before, for sometimes when he was dipped deep in these reveries, he thought himself dead. Now he had that beat but more – the creature curled on his chest. Part of him but not part.

After a while he slept.

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