Neil Gaiman is a finalist for The New Prize in Literature

Photography by Beowulf Sheehan

I have repeatedly stated what a huge Neil Gaiman fan I am, so when I got this news in my email I of course have to act, share and repeat. Neil Gaiman has been nominated for this year’s top international literary award, The New Academy’s New Prize in Literature. And this year, we get to help choose the recipient!

The New Academy created The New Prize in Literature as a substitute of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature, which was suspended this year by the Swedish Academy.

Neil is among 46 finalist selected by Sweden’s librarians, including Zadie Smith, J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, and many more internationally beloved authors. Learn more about the The New Academy here.

Voting is open to the public until August 14th. The three authors with the most votes will move on to the next round of final judging by an expert jury. The winner will be announced on October 14th.

Help choose the winner of this year’s top prize in literature! Vote for Neil!

Cast your vote here!


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My Favorite Brain Twinkies

Everyone has certain comfort songs and videos that never cease to cheer them up—like Twinkies for the mind. They are sweet, fluffy and make us feel better.

I’m no different… but apparently my favorite videos are. I recently shared a list of my favorites with friends and got mixed responses. Most of them were along the lines of WTH?

That makes me think I must enlighten and educate the masses. Be ready… these are some of the best brain Twinkies available on Youtube. I have to watch them 1-10, beginning with Birds, or I get stuck on just that video for hours.

I’m always looking for new, bizarre distractions. Share your favorite comfort watchlist in the comments.

1. Vitalic – Birds

My all time favorite video. Of the 3.3k views this video has, I could easily be 1,000 of those. This hypnotic instrumental (with an audio cameo from The Cure) sends me into a deep creative state every time.

2. I Love It (Cover by Steam Powered Giraffe)

Steam Powered Giraffe robots—The Spine, Hatchworth and Rabbit—do a cover version of Icona Pop’s song, “I Love It.” If I’m feeling angry about anything, this is my go to song.

3. Diamonds (Cover by Steam Powered Giraffe)

Why is Steam Powered Giraffe on here twice? Because they are awesome. A musical performance act located in San Diego California. You can find out more about them and their music at http://www.steampoweredgiraffe.com

4. He-Man Hey Yea Yea Yea Ye What Going On

This is such a sarcastic and yet happy video, I can never help singing it out loud. “Don’t cry out loud…Keep it inside. Learn how to hide your feelings.” 

5. Time Goes By Con Loli

“A Faaaaabulous Spanish drag clip of Madonna’s Hung Up” These guys look like they have so much fun making this, it’s infectious.

6. Vitas – La Donna E Mobile

So sexy… everything about this video is magic. Ever hear an angel sing? Watch this and all the hair will raise on your neck. I’ve never had a crush on a voice before…

8. Do You Want To Hide A Body (Frozen Parody)

A parody of the Frozen movie song “Do You Want to Build A Snowman.” Hilarious and irreverent.

9. Ylvis – The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)

Yes, I can’t help it. I love this video. This is probably as close as I will ever get to a furry party. I feel like this song is based on a real situation.

10. Vitas – Opera N2

I’m not into fishmen, fish or that much water… but Vitas pulls it off with much broken glass, chaos and explosions.


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Ladies of Horror Entertain Darkly

The Ladies of Horror have been at it again, and their flash fictions have been going up over at Nina D’Arcangela’s Spreading the Writer’s Word blog.

Prepare to be horrified and entertained—these shorts from some of the best female names in horror share their inspirations from photo prompts.

Here’s who has been posted so far in July…

I Never Learned to Swim
by Rie Sheridan Rose

Searching
by Ashley Davis

Shadows and Light
by A.F. Stewart

The Time Lord’s Error
by Marge Simon

Beneath…
by Julianne Snow

Midnight in the Oak Grove Cemetery
by C.A. Verstraete

The Gathering Gloom
by Suzanne Madron


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Writing Tips

I found these writing tips on Pinterest. They are common sense, but sometimes the most basic advice merits a repeat. What are your tips?


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New Definition of “Billionaire:” Gives Rather than Takes

A billionaire means you have a billion dollars? Right? According to Jason Silva, that definition is going the way of the dinosaur. What is his new definition of “billionaire?”

“The new definition of billionaire is he/she
who will positively affect the lives
of a billion people.”

He goes on to say this should be our goal, this should be our responsibility. In our world of “exponential, technological advancement” we are evolving into an interlinked entity. To be human today has radically different meaning than it has even just a century ago.

Today we cross the planet in a day, create water from barren rocks and walk on water. We explore every part of our world from the eye of the storm to the crevices beneath the sea. We have our mysteries, but we have the tools to unravel them.

With our new abilities comes new responsibilities. We can’t afford to feign ignorance. We can’t turn a blind eye to injustice. With the “technosocial wormholes” we have created, our vision becomes transcendent and boundary-less.

More of us have come to the inward realization that money only buys happiness when it fulfills basic needs—quality food, shelter and drink—and beyond that, money represents only theoretical wealth.

With our global dollars backed by nothing but a trembling faith, dependent on ignorance to persist, Jason Silva’s definition of a billionaire seems a worthy goal.

If I have a billion dollars in the bank, it means I will have more than I can use. The excess will be represented by scribbles in a ledger. If I become a billionaire by Jason Silva’s standard, I will have positively impacted a major portion of the world.

As of 2017, the United Nations estimates there are about 7.6 billion people living together on earth. That’s encouraging. That means out of all of us teeming masses, only 7 or 8 of us need to reach Silva’s billionaire status… or 14 of us get halfway there… or 28 of us make it a quarter of the way.

But forget numbers. If each of us just does our best to become rich, not in dollars but in positive impacts, the ledgers will crumble to dust as wealth begins to be measured by gives rather than takes. Each of us will become billionaires with expansive riches of heart.

Like so many spiritual leaders have said throughout time, love is the answer—the simple answer—that solves everything. But each of us must be the instigator. And the sooner, the better.

Here’s Jason Silva’s video on the new billionaire:


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Nano Experiments

I love to play with nano fiction. For a writer, it’s a quick fix of ink to keep us going until the next, long scribble session.

For readers it’s something quickly consumed with a long savor. Whether you call it nano, flash or drabble, short fiction has a place in writing.

Here’s how Wiki defines it:

Flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity that still offers character and plot development. Identified varieties, many of them defined by word count, include the six-word story, the 280-character story (also known as “twitterature”), the “dribble” (also known as the “minisaga”; 50 words), the “drabble” (also known as “microfiction”; 100 words), “sudden fiction” (750 words),  flash fiction (1,000 words), nanotale, and “micro-story.”  Some commentators have suggested that flash fiction possesses a unique literary quality, in its ability to hint at or imply a larger story.

I’m thinking it might be interesting to try the same story in each of these diminutive forms. Here’s the story I’m thinking of running through my experiment. At 96 words, I think this tiny tale counts as a drabble.

Right now The Ladies of Horror flash fictions have been going up over at Nina D’Arcangela’s Spreading the Writer’s Word blog again. Each month a group of us write something inspired by a photo Nina sends us. Those stories are 500-1,000 words. I’ll be sharing links to all those at the end of the month.


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The BS on Bitter Suites

Now that the book release dust has settled, it’s time for an update.

I have three copies of Bitter Suites left from the Crypticon weekend. That was the best author event I’ve had to date, I think. I hooked up with a traveling bookstore and they will start offering Bitter Suites and a few of my other titles at the conventions they visit.

During the weekend, Bitter Suites climbed the “post-apocalypse” and “genetic engineering” charts, pushing my author rank almost to 3,000 in the science fiction genre.

I am trying to push for reviews on Bitter Suites right now, and am willing to give a nice prize.  Find out how to win $25—100 in an Amazon gift card  by entering the Bitter Suite Reviews contest.

I’d like to get 50 reviews minimum, the number needed for Amazon algorithms to pick a book up and start promoting it. Only 45 reviews to go :) I’ll be hitting up Goodreads and making the promo circuit this week.

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“No Words Needed”

Ever want to know what it’s like to work at an Amazon factory? I can’t really say because I’ve “executed a Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Agreement with the Company.” Fortunately, there is always a way to tell the truth through fiction. This tale is written for so many others that remain silent.

This is another of my assignments for the Horror Writer Association’s online writing workshop. The workshop has been an excellent experience to expand my portfolio as I try new things.

This assignment was inspired by my recent factory experiences.

No Words Needed

   No one knew the Asian girl’s name when she came to the factory, but that wasn’t unusual.

   The work walls were populated by non-English speakers from around the world. It was the United Nations of unskilled labor. Droves of workers in every shade of skin and culture crowded together to pack boxes for shipping. For many of them, the products they wrapped in bubble wrap and encased in cardboard were unheard of luxury back in their home lands.

   The nameless Asian girl was one of many that were hired. Teaching how to pack a box didn’t require any linguistic mastery. She was shown where to get the items, where to get the boxes and where to put them after they were packed. Her paycheck came on a pre-loaded debit card with the name Noi Vatsana in raised letters. No one ever read the name, including her.. She was happy and always made her rate quota. Her manager was happy with her. No words were needed to pack plates into boxes.

   The factory wasn’t the worst of its kind, but the focus was on numbers and productivity over people. The Human Resources department was there to keep humans as resources, not resolve complaints or convey information. Since such a minority of the workers could voice a complaint to the English speaking HR staff, everyone just focussed on clocking in, staying on their feet throughout the night, and clocking out to sleep—until the night the tornado came.

   Noi was in her pack wall when sirens started blaring throughout the building. The factory was always noisy, but these metallic shrieks deafened any of the usual industrial din. Sensing danger, the workers panicked and started pushing in the narrow aisles. Managers showed up on the catwalk, gesturing for the churning masses to follow them. Most did, charging up the stairs and surging across the metal walkway suspended on wires.

   The lights flashed off, and dim back up generators struggled to work. The ever present whirring of the conveyor belts ceased along with the screaming sirens. The generators pushed, managed to return the light for a few seconds and then failed again. The factory floor was shrouded in silent darkness.

   The workers froze, crowded on the swaying platform and clutched the rails with whitened knuckles. Those that had managed to make it over the catwalk squatted in the hallways, feeling safer with their feet on concrete and metal against their back.

There was no silence in the factory, despite the powerless equipment that now lay still in the black shadows. Above the whispered prayers and quiet sobs, the sound of a colossal train filled the factory.

   Noi didn’t make it out of the pack wall. As the noise eclipsed everything, she groped in the dark for shelter. The metal roof overhead groaned as vicious winds struggled to peel it back. The sound filled her with dread. Just such a sound had overwhelmed her small town and taken most of it away into a typhoon when she was a teenager. It had taken everything, including her family.

   She crawled along the floor, scattered with dropped boxes and broken dishes that hadn’t been bubble wrapped before the stampede and found a safe spot under a conveyor belt. She curled up as tight as she could, heart beating loud enough in her ears to almost drive out the roar of doom that engulfed the building.

   Her long hair came untied, the only thing she had been able to keep after the typhoon struck her home. Her mother had loved to stroke it, braiding it into complicated crowns woven with flowers. Noi kept her long hair hair since, a mute wish that her mother would return to braid it again. Unrestrained, now it was just a nuisance as it stuck to her sweaty skin.

   Above her, the prayers had grown louder, competing with the storm outside to catch a god’s attention. Many gods were called that night from all faiths. As the building twisted in its foundations, their voices rose together in a cacophony of tongues that bounced against each other. The rhythms and inflection were as varied as the products they packed every night but they all understood each other perfectly. No words were needed for them to call on the divine.

   As soon as it started, the noise ceased. At first, the silence was as terrifying as the tornado’s passing, but the realization that they had made it through the storm soon took hold. The backup generators suddenly kicked on, flooding the factory with light again. The usual noise, now comforting, filled the building as the belts and chutes kicked back into movement. The workers cheered, hugging each other and crying. They had survived.

   Noi was relieved to see the lights and hear the cheers. She crouched to all fours, crawling from her hiding place. The static electricity made her hair float around her face in a dark, shimmering halo. She emerged onto the lighted floor, and paused to examine the chaos of broken crockery littering her path.

   Behind her, the empty conveyor belt searched for purpose. A few strands of her hair floated towards the rubber, drawn by the vacuum of air it created. The belt eagerly seized upon the new task and pulled the strands in closer. Noi’s head jerked back and she yelped.

Closer, more of her long hair joined in the game, allowing themselves to fall into the conveyor’s spell. Her head was pulled toward the belt, her silky locks taking the shortest route to join their neighbors. Some of the hair covered her face and neck, pulling her back under the belt with ruthless efficiency.

   Her screams were drowned out by the cheering workers and blended in with the mechanical drone of the equipment. Upstairs, the managers said their own prayers of thanks and ushered the workers back down the stairs and into their pack walls. Nothing was damaged, nothing was necessary except to clean up and get back to business as usual.

   Noi’s stall remained empty. When her manager noticed, he only frowned and made a note of the time so her pay would be docked. He assumed she had left in fear after the storm and went on with his checklists. The foreigners don’t have the same work ethic as Americans and are always sneaking off, he thought to himself.

   To the contrary, Noi’s dedication to the factory had become commendable. She lay under the conveyor belt for six hours before she was found by the mechanics doing equipment checks. They found her there, dangling beneath the belt like spider food, strangled in her own hair.

No one knew who her next of kin was, and her hiring papers were found to have missing information. Her pay to date was donated to a charity for Lao orphans and the matter was forgotten. The factory took no liability for the incident because each worker was required to keep their hair tied back for their own safety.

   The years passed but the worker mix remained the same, linguistic melting pot it always had been. Very little communication passed between the people that populated the pack walls, but some things were understood regardless.  Don’t let the managers catch you napping. Don’t drop the glassware… and don’t go alone near the conveyor belt on wall 16.

   Sometimes, when passing, silken filaments of black hair would float on the mechanical breezes to stick on sweaty skin. The temperature was always cold there, but no one took advantage to escape the factory’s heat. In the constant whine of the machine, sometimes a young girl’s voice could be heard crying and calling out in strange words.

In the late, late hours when the drone of the machines became white noise the workers could drift off to, the entire wall would jerk to alertness from the sound of a colossal train filling their ears. They all understood there was something very wrong with the equipment behind them. The information was shared in subtle looks and furtive hand signs of protection.

   No words were needed.


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Exquisite Corpse for July: ‘Toxicated

The third Exquisite Corpse is ready to be exhumed and put on display. This one had no rules so contributors just gave me a random line. I love how they turned out when put together. I feel like there is a bigger story here… waiting for ink. Congratulations to Chelsea Hunter for winning the poster!

Thank you to everyone who sent lines. I will definitely be doing this again for August. Watch for the open call on Aug. 1.

‘Toxicated

Look for me in a crowded bar,
where drink has muddled minds
and all the people are made of cartoon.

She ignored the warning—
“Beware my angel wings are black as Lucifer’s
and thou shall not bind me to the light.”

Depth-less blue eyes turn white with age…
and then my world melted around me,
revealing the true reality.

—Marge Simon, Angela Yuriko Smith,
Laura Duerrwaechter, R. A. Smith
and Chelsea Hunter


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But 1 Bitter Suites, Get 1 Half Off

Newsflash! Amazon Prime Day has arrived and here’s a chance to save big on Bitter SuitesBuy one Bitter Suites book, get one half off with discount code PRIMEBOOKS18 on Amazon for Prime Day. Expires midnight July 17.

Book a stay at the Bitter Suites, a hotel that specializes in renewable death experiences.

Whether you schedule your demise as therapy, to bond with a loved one or for pure recreation, your death is sure to give you a new lease on life.

Renewable death is always beneficial… at least to someone.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting our exquisite corpse poem and don’t forget the reviews contest.

Leave a simple, honest review about Bitter Suites on Amazon. Copy and paste the review in the comments section HERE. One winner will be picked at random on August 1, 2018.

I’ll bump up the prize value based on how many reviews are posted. For 5-25 reviews, the prize will be a $25 Amazon gift card. For 26-50 reviews, the prize will be a $50 Amazon gift card. For 51 to 100+ reviews the prize will be a $100 Amazon gift card.

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