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2021 Self-Published Science Fiction Competition

Writing is a very solitary activity. You sit alone for hours, lost in your own thoughts, hopefully putting some words down on a page. And at some point, if you are lucky, you will finish a story you set out to write or, more accurately, you will finish a story that came out as a surprise and not at all what you expected. So far, I have managed to do this repeatedly. And some of my stories went on to win competitions. So today I will write about one such competition — the very first Self-Published Fiction Competition! 300 books. 10 blogs (judges). It will take a full year to determine one supreme winner, but a few quarter-finalists have already been selected. Yours truly has made the list of quarter-finalists with Harvest. You can read more about books from my block of Book Blog of Judges at Tar Vol on. The SPSFC trophy is pretty cool, too… This is not the first time I have participated in such competitions. I entered God of Small Affairs into a similar competition but for fantasy, SPFBO. It earned a semi-finalist status: So here’s hoping for another success! In the meantime, writers that are…

The Dance

The Russian Bride’s Attire by Konstantin Makovsky

From Russia With Love This month, I’ve teamed up with a few other indie writers who wrote stories set in Russia. There are just the seven of us, and I hope you check out our stories. I, of course, have a novel Twin Time that is set in Old Pre-Revolutionary Russia. If you click the link here, you will get to my blog that has the first few chapters free. Or you can see the whole Russian collection here: October seems like a good month to spend between the pages of stories that drop you in the middle of the cold, exotic, and thrilling faraway places. I hope you will find something good to pick up in this collection. Here’s a link to a little book trailer I’ve created for my book: The Dance I’ve published over a million words in the 14 years I’ve been writing novels. For each word I’ve written, I’ve consumed thousands. And the more I write, the more treasures I find in other people’s writing. It’s like being a botanist and visiting a forest. Everyone enjoys the beauty of walking nature trails, but a botanist spots things that remain hidden from most eyes. I am…

Stories, Books, and How and Where We Get Them

The Shifting Sands Sands of Mars Cover for Kindle Novella

The world has accepted independent filmmakers. These auteurs — def: “auteur is a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie” — are strongly preferred over the “boring” regular movie directors and producers. Auteurs are special. They create true films. They are the “real” storytellers of our modern age. Moviegoers (their audience) either strongly in favor of seeing movies made by independent filmmakers (they certainly allow for more interesting dinner conversations) or they love to hate them. Hate or adoration makes for more intense discussions with friends and family. So if there is such acceptance of indie movie-makers and indie films, why is there a strange sense of negative judgment when it comes to indie writers and indie-published books? I ran into this all the time. Bookstores are uninterested in carrying books by self-published authors, libraries bulk at stocking these books, and the general reaction is that if it is self-made it must be of poor quality. Funny how the label “self-made” can be both a negative AND a positive: “He is a self-made man.” or “He wears self-made clothing.” or “He makes his…

The Wrong Person, at the Wrong Time, Doing the Wrong Thing

Calvin Klein Ad in Times Square

It happens to everyone from time to time — you are just not the ONE. Let me tell you a little story from way back in my high school. I skipped the eighth grade and most of the seventh during my family’s relocation from USSR to New York City. I went directly into high school — the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. It was really an amazing school — tons of art instruction and a good academic program. The problem is that I’m horrible at languages and really couldn’t put two English words together, much less spell my name. This was the start of very confusing times. I’ve managed to talk my way into 10th-grade art curriculum. No idea how other than I didn’t like my classes, but I didn’t figure out that I was a grade ahead for almost a year. I struggled to answer questions in science and math — I knew the material but had no words to demonstrate what I knew. I had no words to speak my mind. I had to learn a whole new notation for showing geometric proofs. I was finally put into an ESL class — English as a…

New Book: Mirror Shards

Mirror Shards Cover

I found the pandemic not very conducing to marketing or facing the world in more public ways. I did write a lot and have several books in various stages of readiness. But there was one story I wanted to enter into a competition (the books I’ve entered last year, God of Small Affairs, placed as a semi-finalist). So after sitting on Mirror Shards for almost a year, I’m finally releasing this book into the world. Here’s a description and if you click on the title above, you will get to the first few chapters hoasted on my site. Trapped Between Infinite Possible Realities Hig is a disabled kid with a loving mom, a baby sister, a distant father, and a doting uncle, Charlie. On a trip to a county fair, the family encounters a mysterious “Mirror of Wishes” booth that leads to radical, unexplained life changes, including Hig’s uncle’s abrupt disappearance and his mother’s untimely death. One of the changes is Hig’s miraculous cure—his congenital spina bifida is gone and he no longer needs a wheelchair. As Hig grows up, he continuously frets about what really happened but is too scared to actually look for answers to the mystery. Years…

Of Marshmallows and Masks

Marshmallow Test

Most everyone in my family, most of our friends, and a lot of our neighbors have received at least one COVID vaccination shot! It is starting to feel like this year-long nightmare is winding down. And we are lucky to live in the right country and in the right state and in the right city where things are likely to get back to normal sooner rather than later. No one can deny that this had been a very difficult year. But part of the difficulty had been our own behavior. It is quite possible that if we heeded the science and recommendations from the doctors (not the politicians), we would have been here sooner with fewer lives lost and less devastation to our economy. So why didn’t we do all we could to arrest the progress of this devastating disease? Why did we take stupid risks? Why did some people refuse to wear masks and self-isolate? Well, consider the Marshmallow Test. In brief, a Marshmallow Test is an experiment that tries to measure the delayed gratification quotient. A child is given a marshmallow (or any other small but highly desired reward) and asked to wait alone in the room with…

Spring Back, an American Gothic

Spring in Goscieradz by Leon Wyczółkowski 1933

It’s spring. It’s the anniversary of our collective isolation. And for the first time, it feels like things might be looking better, like we might be able to put this whole year behind us…spring back to normal. We are reaching towards a resolution point of this gothic horror narrative. Gothic Fiction To survive, I’ve read and written a lot this year (I haven’t published much, but that takes a different sort of energy of which I apparently don’t have any). The subject matter of my readings has varied widely — science fiction, science, horror, collected stories, Japanese literature, old fiction and contemporary writings (I will make a few recommendations below). My writing has been quite different too. I wrote a bunch of short stories that were more horror than sci-fi. I wrote a middle-grade novel about demon godparents (and Christopher, my life and writing partner, is in the process of rewriting it — our stories are better when we write together). I’ve written a novel about alternate histories (many different possible timelines that allow the main character to escape one fate in preference for another). I’m about two-thirds into writing the origin story of Baba Yaga — a one-legged daughter…