Saturday, February 5, 2011

What I'm working on

It's a snowy, icy morning in Central Indiana...the perfect time to park myself in front of my keyboard and work on some writing projects. My plans for the day are pretty well set. Before I get knee-deep in the creative impulse, I thought I'd take a moment to share what I've been working on lately.

Later this month, my short story "Absolution" will appear on the Wily Writers of Speculative Fiction website. The story won't be everyone's cup of's a little darker in tone than many of my other stories. Still, it'll be nice to have it published. It's one of those things that just kind of fell into place. Wily Writers uses themes for its reading periods...and the theme for February happened to be "Vigilantes." I took one of my non-superhero stories and sent it in. The neat thing about the website is that it does both a text-based and audio version of each story. So not only will readers get to read "Absolution," they'll also get to hear it if they so choose.

I have several short stories out on submission right now. It will likely be a little while before I hear about an acceptance or rejection because most of the deadlines actually fall in March. It varies by editor, but unless the reader absolutely hates your story from the get-go, you usually won't know until after the submission deadline if your story makes it.

Here's a look at the stories currently in Submission Purgatory:

Sparky Save the World (5,700 words). This is my first attempt at a zombie story. I'm not a very good horror writer (explanation here), but I thought I'd give it a whirl. It's not really a horror story anyway. The tale revolves around a border protection agent whose bomb-sniffing "dog" is actually his former partner James Sparkowich, a man who was turned into an UNDEAD (UNnaturally DE-evolved Anthropological Degenerate) and then trained to seek out explosive materials and biological agents at our nation's ports. When confronted with a massive, potentially catastrophic shipment of weapons, the UNDEAD nicknamed "Sparky" proves his ultimate worth. This story was submitted to an anthology called "Live and Let Undead," which is supposed to be about how to integrate zombies into daily life.

Last Stand on Cyclonus Seven (7,200 words). I submitted this story for an anthology called "Gods of Justice." It's a superhero-themed story collection, which is right in my wheelhouse. The summary: Cyclonus Seven was just an orange blot on the star chart; an easily-skipped stopover on the way to Earth. But when an overwhelming army storms the planet, a single guardian knows the truth: if Cyclonus Seven falls, Earth follows suit. Fifty-two heroes arrive to answer the distress call. They are greatly outnumbered, hopelessly fractured, and desperately low on time. But wave after wave, fallen comrade after fallen comrade, they fight knowing that victory means sacrifice and death. Everyone would remember Cyclonus Seven. And no one would forget the last stand.

Baz Ramen and His Great Intergalactic Band (5,800 words). This is an odd story told in a "Behind the Music" fashion. It details the rise and fall of the galaxy's most popular band. I honestly have no idea where the inspiration for this story came from and it's nearly impossible to fit it into a specific genre. I'm fond of the tale...I just don't know where it fits. That's why I submitted it to an anthology called "Liminality," which is looking for short fiction that's science fiction/fantasy but crosses into other genres and doesn't fit neatly into a specific niche. If a story about an intergalactic band that falls from grace after being unwittingly used as hitmen for a nefarious crime figure doesn't meet that description, I don't know what does!

Gus and Mariel (4,900 words). The idea for this one started off as "I'm going to write a Godzilla story from the perspective of Godzilla!" I came up with a giant, building-size puffin named Gus who just wanted to be left alone. The original title, in fact, was "Leave Gus Alone." But as I wrote the story, it turned into this cute little tale about a puffin who falls in love with another bird and then goes on a cross-country quest to find her after her sudden, unexpected departure. Of course, Gus steps into radioactive goo and grows to epic proportions, leaving an accidental trail of destruction across the country as he tries to find his lady love. I submitted this one to an anthology called "Attack of the 50FT Creature," which is a collection of stories about large creatures who wreak havoc on the world. When I saw the antho was accepting submissions, I thought, "Gee, I just happen to have a giant creature story sitting on my hard drive."

Grisham's Council (6,200 words). I submitted this story for an anthology called "Beta City." It's a collection of superhero stories set in an already-defined universe. This presented a few unique challenges because there was quite a bit of background info to play with...the book is actually a sequel to another anthology. It wasn't restrictive in the least, but I needed to do a little homework to make sure my story fit into the universe. The gist of the anthology is that an alien force is invading earth. The bad guys specifically target Beta City, which is a haven for superpowered beings. I came up with an antihero named Grisham. He's a "good guy" who's rough around the edges. Upset with the heroes' lack of urgency against the alien threat, he strikes it out on his own and fights the bad guys on his own terms until he comes to realize that he really can't do it by himself.

Family Tradition (3,000 words). A young man recounts his family's futile superhero legacy during a battle with the villain responsible for his father's death. Dressed as the armored hero "CLANK," he tries to save the city of Cincinnati while coming to terms with his embarrassing family tradition.

To the Infinity Room! (5,700 words) I'm proud of this story, which is about a man named Mervin Garth who collects items from alternate universes using a device called The Infinity Room. He cares so much about this collection that he sometimes neglects his dim-witted assistant Nathaniel. But when the boy goes missing, Mervin realizes that the priceless items in his collection have little true value and begins a desperate search through the infinite cosmos to find the boy. I submitted this one to an anthology called "Through the Wormhole," which is described as "whacked out tales" from the edge of science fiction and fantasy.

So I'm waiting for a response on those stories. Certainly, not every one will make it, but I'm hopeful one or two will be accepted. That would put me right on my average acceptance rate, which is currently 28.5%.

In the last couple of weeks, I've also been working on some new projects. I've mentioned most of them during my frequent Reggie Miller Writing Continuum updates. But here's a quick roundup of my latest and greatest projects:

SimCo Technical Support (4,700 words). A bored, beleaguered tech support worker named Carl discovers a dangerous flaw in his company's new flagship series of robotic servants. As customers flood the call center with problems, Carl tries to get the attention of corporate leaders. But no one is willing to listen to his concerns until an apparent robot revolt begins to take hold in a large city.

The Memory Pools (3,000 words). On the planet Garland IV, every native must travel to the Memory Pools; it is a planetary birthright. But when Garland leaders discover the pools have unique regenerative powers that other cultures will pay any amount to possess, the world's most precious resource goes up for sale. And the cost of greed couldn't rise any higher.

And a God Could Finally Cry (1,500 words). File this one under the "Most Melodramatic Title Ever" category. One of my shorter works, this is a powerful story about an invincible superman who leaves earth after his beloved dies at the hands of his arch-nemesis. Lost and broken, he journeys toward the far reaches of the universe and ends up on a planetary paradise. There, he loses himself and starts anew...until remnants of his former life return and force him to remember his long-forgotten pain.

And the World Stopped (work in progress, word count undetermined). In a single, unexplained cataclysmic event, all superpowered heroes and villains suddenly lose their special abilities. As heroes fall from the sky and helpless villains turn themselves in to authorities, a single-minded mystery man named Night Wasp stalks the truth.