Publication: “Better Latte” in Dark Moments

I’ve been trying to figure out deadlines in and out of writing lately, which is difficult even when the deadline isn’t for how much time loved ones or I have left in life. Too often, I hobble around in an exhausted daze, wondering who I’ve disappointed and when I should next eat.

More uplifting news: “Better Latte Than Never’s” is scheduled to appear Tuesday, September 3, in Black Hare Press’s Dark Moments. This is my first sale of microfiction as A.L. Blacklyn.

Update: “Better Latte Than Never’s” has posted. You may read the story now!

The release date was corrected.

Mourns She

The girl clutched locks of long hair to the top seams of the moss green linen of her dress. Her free hair streamed sunset above a white fog cloak. She flew against blustering sighs of wind above the hills to her mortal clan.

I am Siren, she thought. The mortal folk will hear my song.

This time, she concentrated not on the music but her words. The mortals never understood her music.

They will hear my words. All my heart will go in them!

“There!” a voice called. A lad by a whitewashed cottage on the hill pointed up to her. “T’is a keening woman!”

“She mourns before the death. Pop’s end is near.”

Stinging tears slipped past Siren’s russet lashes. Hear my song of life, not death. Do you not hear my words?

Image of Jupiter from a moon's mountain range

Post-Convention Thoughts and Reimagining

quotes and lessons from MileHiCon 50, a literary speculative fiction convention

Image of Jupiter from a moon's mountain range
The gas giant Jupiter from a moon (artist’s rendering) © AlexAntropov86

Modeling the World in Fiction

There’s a quality of fiction that’s modeling–that’s showing a model of the world.

Author Paolo Bacigalupi said this last Friday during a panel discussion. His line is one of the best things I heard at the convention. That’s one of my favorite uses of fiction: the modeling.

The World of Horror

Bacigalupi shared a showcase slot with another author, Lawrence Watt-Evans, a former president of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). He explained that Horror has gone through cycles since the late 17th century. The “Horror” genre label developed in the 1970s.

Do you remember when I was trying to figure out if I write horror stories?

We’re calling it Dark Fantasy now. Because people don’t know they don’t like that.

I really should’ve asked Watt-Evans more questions about what counts as a dark fantasy while I had the chance. Since that opportunity has past–Do you agree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments about the Dark Fantasy and Horror connection.

Imagining Fiction for the World

There’s a question I repeatedly asked myself at last weekend’s convention: Why am I not sitting on panels?

I can often answer audience questions. I’ve been watching the publishing world that long. (I mainly attend panels anymore to see interesting authors talk, not as much to hear what they say.)

Of course knowing how to answer questions isn’t enough. My uninspiring author’s bio is a problem. (Uninspiring? It’s depressing.)

Where do I see myself…?

MileHiCon (ten years ago?) was the first big literary event I’d seen. One of my writing dreams since that first experience has been to sit on an authors’ discussion panel. I imagine sitting at the table with professionals, facing a room full of people willing to listen to our thoughts about storytelling. Someone else is the moderator in this dream, so I’m only responsible for playing the part of a new panelist.

With the type of luck woven into my life, I’m fairly certain that first time would have its nightmare moments. A fellow panelist might pick a fight, an audience member could interrupt every few minutes, an emergency can divert everyone into defensive mode, or anything of the kind would happen. I would gratefully accept the risks.

How does imagination become reality?

How? I’ve decided to try harder to sit on an author’s panel at an upcoming MileHiCon or another worthwhile event.

I need credentials in publishing or a related subject. Why should anyone care what I say? (Why do you?) For credentials, I need more experience.

Related to the need for more authorial experience, I have reconsidered setting aside a short story I love, one that’s been cycling through readers and rewrites for too long. I’m publishing that short story under my Blacklyn byline.

Upcoming eBook Release

“Grotesquery” is a melancholy fantasy about a wizard, a grotesque stone guardian, and their medieval-fort city. The story is also social commentary about today’s world, though that might only be my interpretation.

My goals in publishing this short ebook are (1) learn more about Amazon Kindle Direct to test out features I might need for longer works, if self-publishing, and (2) share this fantasy story with more people.

Please help spread the word to any readers who might like literary short fantasy.

Thank you for being a reader of Shadows in Mind.

Tufted ducks lifting off from golden water

Tweeting Again -and- Oh, Horror!

Tweeting Again

I can give ❤️s again!

Twitter emailed me an apology for the inconvenience of locking me out of then restricting my account. The email confirmed that an automated system is charged with removing spam accounts. “[I]t looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake.”

I’m grateful to stop waiting for an answer.

Oh, Horror!

More than a week ago, I asked, “What is the story when frightening and disgusting the readers is the intention to create another mood?”

I don’t have an answer to that yet. The question arose from my curiosity about Horror. I’ve created an interview questionnaire for Horror writers. My intention was to better understand their perception of the genre. However, I don’t yet have the guts to approach potential interviewees.

Turns out, I’m kind of scared of people who openly admit to horrifying readers on purpose. I might be afraid to learn I’m one of them.

Website Updates

Visitors–Do you like the new background color? It’s more blue than the previous gray. I’ve also started changes to Shadows in Mind front page, which will continue through this week.

Thanks for keeping up with me.

2018 Winner of Camp NaNoWriMo header

Goodbye, Camp NaNoWriMo 2018

2018 Winner of Camp NaNoWriMo header

When I posted “NaNoWriMo 2018: Late to Camp“, we were already in the second week of July. I’d committed to a new project and no cabin for encouragement. Feeling alone and behind schedule makes for an intimidating start.

Fortunately, Camp is far more relaxed than the big NaNoWriMo challenge in November. A few people joined me in a new cabin. They helped me commit to my goal.

Woot! says the cabin’s mascot

Fifty (50) pages. Rewrite / Rework and polish several short stories to make them ready again for market submissions.

✅ Grot: 20 pages (Queer Historical Fantasy)
✅ OneL: 4 pages (L/L Sci-Fantasy)
✅ Bloo: 6 pages (Dark Contemporary)
✅ Fami: 4 pages (Science Fantasy)
✅ Conn: 8 pages (Urban Fantasy)
⭕ Vamp: 8 out ~10 pages (Dark Fantasy)

The checks are for finished stories. I also wrote at least one new story from scratch, with characters I hadn’t worked on before. The most recent newcomer to my story files is flash fantasy.

My virtual backpack is full of the thousands of new and polished sentences collected this month. I want to thank all the Scribes for Queer Stories members for helping me focus. You three gave me a reason to log on and encouragement in the story that’s the hardest for me to finish.

Horror Lesson during Camp

A setting #ThursdayAesthetic for one of my Camp stories

Genre labels are hard! When works fit into multiple sub-genres, choosing which one feels the most accurate can take a few tries. I changed the genres of several stories through the month.

One of the lessons I’ve learned this month is that recognizing a horror story is a unique challenge. In most literary categories, a general consensus determines the categories’ boundaries. As a genre of emotion, the responsibility for choosing the Horror label is placed on the author. What was the author’s intention?

I wrote in “Hands Writing Ire” that “I’m not sure I can understand the writer whose primary goal is to frighten or disgust readers.” Now I’m not sure that wanting to disturb readers “encourage new thoughts and feelings” is significantly different.

What is the story when frightening and disgusting the readers is the intention to create another mood?

Let’s talk about that next week. I’ll gather published opinions during the wait.

campfire in a woods

Pans in the Fire, Hands Writing Ire

campfire in a woods
© sagarkphotography

Where’s the line between Horror and Dark Fantasy?

The question bothered me earlier this week. Is my classification of darker works appropriate?

I’ve always heard the Horror genre defined by the author’s intentions, along the lines of “Horror is anything meant to scare the reader.” That makes sense, though it’s strange to acknowledge that I don’t ever write horror stories. No matter how dark or gruesome my fiction gets, my intention is to convey ideas and present character.

Turns out, I think like a speculative fiction writer, not a writer of horror. Disturbing readers is a way to encourage new thoughts and feelings.

I’m not sure I can understand the writer whose primary goal is to frighten or disgust readers. That’s even with maybe living with one.

Whine and Brag

I’m reworking five short stories for my Camp NaNoWriMo project. The longest is complete. My cabin is small, but guess who’s leading it? Yeah, I am.

The group is really relaxed. I’m a touch worried about disappearing on them at the end like what happened last year, but they can get on without me if that were to happen.

Another temporary lead I’ve taken is for a short story contest in the SFFWorld Writing forums. That’s low-maintenance, too. Writers responded to my prompt! The best time to push for enthusiasm might be in the middle of August.

Images: Vampire, city street, a bloodshot eye, and a campfire. Text:
Today’s #ThursdayAesthetic for the theme of “Antagonist”

The work-in-progress at this time for Camp NaNoWriMo is also my entry to the contest.

What Else is Cooking

I’m waiting to hear back on six story submissions. One of them is to the final issue of the speculative fiction magazine Shimmer. By the way, that Shimmer issue will be out November 2018, with an anthology to be released in late 2018.

In the moments when reading is easier, I’m making my way through Stephen King’s revision of Gunslinger.


What is Contemporary Fantasy?

fantasy girls among modern books

Readers use genre to narrow down their interests. Librarians and reviewers want to know how to tag or shelf books. Authors need to reach a suitable audience to sell a story, whether it’s an agent or editor who asked for work in a specific genre or ebook buyers searching on categories.

At least among authors and us nerds who catalogue our books, one question that repeatedly comes up in publishing is What is Contemporary Fantasy?

Note: One of many ongoing debates among fiction authors is when to capitalize genre names. My preference is to differentiate between a type of story (fantasy) and the genre (Fantasy, capitalized as a proper noun). That’s what you will see here.

Most people figure out what Fantasy is without much effort. There’s magic or fantastical creatures. Contemporary Fantasy is harder to define. Let’s try!

A Slice of the Fantasy Timeline

Fantasy is divided up in several ways, each way working for distinct purposes. To pick out Contemporary Fantasy, we can divide the genre on a loose timeline that relates to our world.

  • Historical Fantasy is fantastical fiction based on research of history. It appears to be set in our past, no sooner than 50 years ago.
  • Science Fantasy overlaps the Historical Fantasy up through the far future, but does not look like the world we live in today. (Star Wars is a popular example.)
  • Contemporary Fantasy is set in our present time and in a world that mostly looks like ours.

This breakdown doesn’t include all of Fantasy; however, it makes the point for the one sub-genre we’re discussing.

Contemporary Fantasy is set in our present time and in a world that mostly looks like ours.

An easy way to remember this is to remember the definition of contemporary. It’s from a Medieval Latin word, contemporarius, which means con- (with, together) plus temporarius (of time), coming from tempus (time). “Contemporary” is another way of saying “present-time” or “modern”.

Alternative Definition

An uncommon use of Contemporary Fantasy is for a category of fantasy fiction that is written in modern times but is not necessarily set in the present. That would mean my folktale-inspired fiction set in an alternate twelfth-century Germany would be contemporary fantasy. This definition appears to be used only in literature studies.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

Here’s an intermediate-level breakdown on genres for the curious.

Contemporary Fantasy is sometimes an umbrella category for Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Mythic Fiction, Noir Fantasy, or Dark Fantasy.

Contemporary Fantasy is sometimes an umbrella category

Exhibit A: Paranormal anthology, ©St. Martin’s Griffin

Urban Fantasy is set in a current city or densely populated area that would be recognizable to the area’s real-life residents except for the fiction’s addition of magic or fantastical creatures (e.g., vampires, werewolves, and ghosts).

When Urban Fantasy is action chick lit involving sexy, magical creatures and a Happily Ever After (or For Now) ending, it’s Paranormal Romance. In bookstores, PR covers are identifiable by a lean-proportioned, scantily-dressed, but introspective model or two. PR is often seen as another sub-genre within UF.

Mythic Romance draws from myths and more Literary techniques than the Action-inspired Paranormal Romance.

Noir Fantasy is a type of noir-style crime story with strong fantasy elements. Dark Fantasy contains elements of horror.

A book belonging to any of these sub-genres can be Contemporary Fantasy. Remember,

Contemporary Fantasy is set in our present time and in a world that mostly looks like ours.

Historical, post-apocalyptic future, and alien other-world fantasy stories belong to other categories. They aren’t considered contemporary.

Popular Examples

Everyone likes examples, yeah? Here a few of contemporary fantasy.

See more at the collections at book cataloging sites.

Contemporary Fantasy on Library Thing — tagged books

Goodreads Shelf of “Popular Contemporary Fantasy Books — a list

What do you think? Was this helpful in understanding the genre?