Dancing on the edge of oblivion: podcast and pubbed!

I got into a pod, and somebody cast it. Or something like that.

Hey cuties,

As I promised last week, Hulegaard Books’ interview with me is now live and awaiting your eager-to-listen ears! Again, I am indebted to David for the opportunity and for his mad interviewing skillz that kept me from feeling nervous and resulted in my sounding like I have an inkling of a conceptual hypothesis of what I’m doing. So listen, enjoy, give feedback, share the podcast with EVERY SINGLE PERSON YOU KNOW, and so forth. It’s there for your ravenous consumption.

Suddenly, I feel a quote from Arrow‘s “Felicity Smoak” coming on.

felicity-smoak-arrow

 

“It feels really good having you inside me. And by you I mean your voice. And by inside me I mean my ear. I’m going to stop talking right now.”

 

 

So there’s that. Go listen.

EDGE OF OBLIVION Anthology and Its Proceeds

Here’s a quick recap of the Writerly Goings-On that I’ve got my bangerang switch flipped and my verge swung over:

WHAT: EDGE OF OBLIVION, a brand-spankin’-new speculative fiction anthology
WHO: Editor Tony Healey and a kaboodle of fabulous independent authors
WHERE: on Amazon
WHEN: NOW
HOW: with a click of your mouse and a small amount of cold, hard cash, baby
WHY: because you’ll be getting some great quality reading EN-TER-TAIN-A-MENT and, even better, the money you spend on this book will be donated to the The Cystic Fibrosis Trust; READ: you’ll be helping sick kiddos.

EDGE OF OBLIVION cover art by Bruce Pennington and Keri Knutson.

EDGE OF OBLIVION cover art by Bruce Pennington and Keri Knutson.

Just for fun, here’s a list of the authors and their stories:

  • The House On Lantern Lane by Bernard Schaffer
  • Still by Simon John Cox
  • The Tunnel by David K. Hulegaard
  • Dinner by Jeff Provine
  • Jingle, Jingle by Keri Knutson
  • The F*cker Out Of Space by Tony Healey
  • The Torch Singer by Nathan Yocum
  • Box 2013 by Brendan Swogger
  • Remotely Viewed by David Cederbaum
  • A Taste For Eyes by Jay Wilburn
  • How We Left The Desert by RJ Astruc
  • Bloodline by Kevin Duncan
  • Higher Order by James Wymore
  • The Last American Mortal by Michael Shean
  • The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless by Courtney Cantrell
  • Angel Eyes by William Vitka

Read and hear more from the Edge of Oblivion authors:

BONUS:

Lots of excitement around this project, y’all. Jump in and join the fun! The water’s great!

#MANifeellikeawriter

So, I got interviewed: Of Podcasts and Podpeople.

UPDATE:
PEOPLE! Anthology editor Tony Healey has given the word, and the word is TODAY!!! Speculative fiction anthology EDGE OF OBLIVION is live at Amazon, which means you can buy it! And read it! And review it!

So go do that. NOW. Or I’ll send my Black-Ops-ian team of evil elves to tattoo “I’m a nerd” on your forehead.

BUY IT NOW.

*grins at you maniacally*

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this:

Hile, beloved inklings! I hope you’re all staying warm and cozy out there to whatever extent warmth and coziness are possible and comfortable for you. (I assume you’re all the out-there type of people, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this. And some of you likely prefer cold over warmth, which is just WEIRD. Buncha supermurgatroid alien podpeople. Sheesh.)

Anyway. If you’ve been paying attention — which I know you have, because that’s just the sort of dear, attentive lovelies you are — you know that what little writing time I’ve had lately, I’ve devoted mostly to writing and posting short stories. This means that there’s been a dearth of non-story posts around here. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unless you guys don’t WANT free short stories to read. Which would be REALLY WEIRD and also somewhat DISASTROUS in blog-traffic terms.

But then, since I still haven’t been able to get Google Analytics to work with my blog, I have no idea what sort of traffic I’m getting or not getting, so that point is pretty much moo*.

Edge of Oblivion cover art by Bruce Pennington and Keri Knutson

Edge of Oblivion cover art by Bruce Pennington and Keri Knutson

ANYWAY. One of the things that’s been going on outside of short-story-penmonkeying is that I’ve been getting ready for the upcoming publication of my short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless” in Tony Healey’s anthology EDGE OF OBLIVION (EoO). See the pretty, pretty cover art?!

“The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless” is, as I’ve mentioned before, a Grace & Jack story. If you follow that link, you’ll find a plethora of info on those two crazy lovebirds.

But there’s more info coming up! One of my fellow EoO authors, David Hulegaard, is doing a series of podcast interviews with the rest of us. David asked me to come on the show, and in spite of my nerves regarding public speaking, I said yes.

Of course, there was nothing for me to worry about. David put me completely at ease with his excellent writerly questions and his engaging interview style. We had a blast, and I’m hopeful that this won’t be my last Hulegaard Books Podcast. It was that much fun. : ) He sent me a preview — or is it a prelisten? — and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out. David made me sound like I know exactly what I’m doing. BANGERANG.

So far, besides me, David has interviewed anthology editor Tony Healey and authors Brendan Swogger and William Vitka. Those interviews are excellent, and I highly recommend you go check them out here (Tony) and here (Brendan and Vitka).

The anthology itself, EDGE OF OBLIVION, officially launches this coming Monday, February 3rd. (EGAD, it’s almost February. WHAT?!) I’ll be posting more then! In the meantime, get your appetites in gear for hearing me talk about: Grace & Jack, how one juggles motherhood and writing life, and how writing short stories is like foreplay.

(Yeah, I really said that. And I let someone record me saying it. Oy vey.)

If you don’t hear from me sooner, have a great weekend!

________________________

*”It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.” –Joey Tribbiani

________________________

Did you go buy the anthology?

EDGE OF OBLIVION in US Amazon store.
EDGE OF OBLIVION in UK Amazon store.

*continues grinning maniacally*

Works-in-Progress Update and Getting Naked

Sci-fi novel Elevator People

First draft still in-progress. Still one to two chapters away from completion. I spend more time thinking about why I can’t finish the story than I do trying to finish the story. Which is a stupid way to spend my time. But there you have it. My theories as to what my problem is:

(a) I don’t want to kill off the character who’s probably gonna die in the last chapter.
(b) I’ve been spending too much time on social media, and it’s rotted my brain.
(c) The antagonist kicks the bucket too soon, and that’s made me lose momentum.
(d) Part of me thinks I should slog through and finish the first draft as-is, then go back and fix the problems.
(e) Part of me thinks I should fix everything I can fix and then finish the story.
(f) I keep wanting to play with sparkly new story ideas for my Legends of the Light-Walkers universe.
(g) I have ennui.
(h) ALL OF THE FREAKING ABOVE.

Dash it all.

Sci-fi short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless”

Yes. That is the actual title.

My beta readers have finished the story, and their response has been overwhelmingly, blush-elicitingly positive. Which, of course, makes me panic that these two people, whose opinions and clear views of life I generally trust, are, just in the case of my story, wholly blind to reality and deceived as to the merits of my story. Which makes me an angsty, ego-driven writer, I suppose, but then, what else is new?

Tonight’s blog post is, apparently, brought to you by Courtney’s Penchant for Commas. You’re welcome.

Anyway, edits on TMatSotS are going well, and I plan to have it done and turned in to Tony by the end of the week. BANGERANG.

Advice

Especially in the shower.

Especially in the shower.

My latest Works-in-Progress Update (Sci-fi stuff!)

Hile, my lovelies!

It’s been a while, I think, since I’ve regaled you with anything seriously writing-related. At least, I think it’s been a while — and since I can’t remember for sure, that tells me I’m right. This might be circular logic, but I’m not sure about that either, so let’s just move on.

Here’s an update on my three latest/current writing projects:

1. I am still plugging away at my soft sci-fi novel Elevator People (working title). I am approaching what should be the final chapter BANGERANG ZOUNDS CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH?!? I love this story, I love the characters, I love it all, but I will be SO everlastingly glad to be done with this first draft. BRING ON THE EDITING, says I! But no, first they have to climb a staircase, then they have to cross into the Prime Dimension or whatever, then they have to talk to The DUDE Dude, and then they have to decide if their story ends here or not. All of that should take fewer than 10,000 more words. I’m excited.

2. Work continues on the Grace & Jack sci-fi short story for Tony Healey’s charity anthology. It’s surreal and poetic and I’m enjoying immensely. Getting into Grace’s head is always a weird experience, and I kinda like those. So.

3. In the space of a few days, I wrote another Grace & Jack story entitled “At the Funeral of a Marriage”. Josh read it and said those two confuse the heck out of him, which means I did my job. ; )

All of this proves that the BLURGLEMAMJUFLOOBELSCHNITZEN is receding, which pleases me no end and affords me copious peace of mind. So yay.

danceswithtesticles

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also put together a post full of fantasy/sci-fi inspirations, including ent larva, elves made of ice, and something I shall now call Dances With Testicles.

These come to you directly via the weirdness that is my brain. Click through if you dare. ; )

At the Funeral of a Marriage

Hile, beloved inklings!

I come to you today with entertainment. Skip the next four paragraphs if you want to bypass the preamble and just get straight to the opium.

Over at writer Chuck Wendig’s blog, you’ll find a flash fiction challenge containing ten random words as prompts. Mr. Wendig issues such challenges on a regular basis, and this is my first time to answer one.

My story is a bit longer than Chuck’s suggested wordcount (1700 vs. ~1000), but that’s just what the story wanted to do. If you follow my blog and/or my writings, you might remember my talking about “Grace and Jack stories,” my incomplete series of short stories about insanity, love, choice, and cross-dimensional time-travel. (Check here for more info.) Today’s story is one of those.

You might also remember that I’m writing a story for Tony Healey’s charity specfic anthology. That story is also a “Grace and Jack,” but that story is not this story. This story is a good way for me to get into the characters’ heads, and it fits in great with the “Grace & Jack” timeline. So, without further ado or adon’t, here’s the story:

Random words provided by Chuck Wendig:

Funeral, Captivate, Deceit, Brimstone, Canyon, Balloon, Clay, Disfigured, Willow, Atomic.

“At the Funeral of a Marriage”

a Grace and Jack story

by Courtney Cantrell

August 10, 2014

A month after the ballgame, I remember my sister’s words and consider divorcing my wife.

Beneath me, the bike’s engine roars its defiance and its despair as I race the setting sun to the horizon. It’s summer, late evening. Everybody’s either tucking their kids in or at the bar. The highway is mine. Out in the arroyos, the coyotes are my only witnesses, and they don’t give a damn about any challenge my bike and I might issue.

It would be like a funeral, our divorce. A solid, traditional funeral with lace veils and stopped clocks and mourners in black. I should list the clocks first, because they’re the most important. I would want to stop the clocks because right now, I don’t know when our marriage died, and I would want to know.

The bike and I approach a sharp curve and I lean into it, feeling my momentum in every atomic particle of my body and wishing I could just surrender to it. A different kind of funeral, then. But I don’t want to go there–that’s too much Grace.

In my mind, Grace and I stand at the open grave of our marriage and look down into it. The corpse doesn’t get a casket; it just lies there desiccated on the cold ground at the bottom of a hole. Grace and I excavated that hole together: she with her insanity and her refusal to accept my love for her, and I with my weariness. Exhaustion isn’t dull or blunt the way people think. Exhaustion is a sharp tool that digs hard and fast, more effective than madness ever could be. My wife and I might have conspired to murder our marriage, but it was my weariness that delivered the killing blow.

So Grace and I stand at the gaping hole, looking down at the shrunken corpse of our marriage, and I say to her, “You still captivate me,” because it’s the truth.

Grace turns her face toward me, but I can’t see beneath her veil of black lace. Her eyes might still be assessing our dead marriage. “You’re not usually into that kind of deceit, Jack.”

My bike takes me across a bridge spanning a deep canyon, and I wonder what lies at the bottom and if it’s cold. The conversation in my head is different from what I expected. Maybe the disinterest of the coyotes isn’t the only thing that can dry my tears.

“I’m not lying,” I tell the Grace in my mind. “You do still captivate me, and I am still deeply in love with you.” Since this is the Grace in my mind and not the real Grace back at our small house, I can be brutally honest. “I don’t care if you’re crazy. I love you. I don’t care if you do believe you’re responsible for someone’s death. I love you.”

My foot gets heavier and heavier on the accelerator.

“I don’t care if you do imagine you can hop dimensions and time-travel to try to fix that mistake. I love you.”

The wind makes me squint, and I find that the coyotes were not successful.

“I don’t care if you do drink yourself into oblivion so you can stop thinking. I love you.”

Maybe the high speed will tear the pain out of my chest and I can leave it behind on the pavement of the highway like roadkill.

“I don’t care if my sister is right and staying with you is stupid of me. I love you.”

The wind and the bike are a universal roar in my ears. But at the graveside of my marriage, all is silent. The stillness spreads, embiggens, balloons out into my hearing until even the sound of my own rushing blood disappears.

The first mourner steps up beside me. It’s Frannie, Grace’s medieval-fair-ing mother who has always liked me but has trouble loving anyone in jeans and a T-shirt. Frannie tosses a long-stemmed flower into the open grave. The purple petals smell like brimstone. Do bad marriages go to hell when they die?

“But this wasn’t a bad marriage,” Frannie says. In my mind, she turns and looks at me. “It wasn’t bad. It was just fragile.”

Grace lifts her face to the sky. “Fragile does not mean good.”

Frannie goes away, and my sister takes her place. In a black silk blouse, black skirt, and black cowboy boots, Reese looks like the country-Goth version of the Grim Reaper. Even her blond hair hides underneath a black bonnet with feathers. Reese drops a clod of dirt into the open grave and addresses Grace.

“Lunatic,” says my baby sister. “You should have died before you ever married him. At least then he could get on with his life.”

Grace lays a gentle hand on Reese’s arm. “Sometimes, death isn’t the end. Sometimes, death is just the clay and we use it to mold something worse.”

Reese goes away, and a man with hazel eyes takes her place. At first, I think a shadow lies over his face, although I can’t tell what might cast it. Then he reaches up to brush a strand of long, brown hair out of his eyes, and I realize it’s not a shadow. The right side of his face is disfigured with burn scars that turn his skin purple. None of this is real, it’s all in my mind, but my bike swerves out of control for a moment anyway. The scarred man is only in my head, but I know I should speak to him before he speaks to me. It’s the only sign of respect I can give him.

But as I fight to force the bike back into the right lane, he beats me to the punch. “Where is your honor?” he asks.

For once, Grace is silent.

My arms are trembling. I should pull over, let the adrenaline rush away to wherever adrenaline rushes go after they hit and pass. I should sit at the side of the road in adrenaline’s wake and then maybe push the bike the 40 or 50 miles back home instead of turning the engine back on.

Instead, I press the accelerator a little harder and face the scarred man at the graveside of my marriage. “I don’t know where my honor is,” I say.

He smiles a little, and the scars pull one side of his mouth into a grimace. It hurts my heart. If I were an asshole, I’d think the effect of the scars comic. Then again, I did marry this man’s wife, so I guess I’m an asshole anyway.

“She wasn’t my wife when you married her,” he says.

“I wanted her when she was still your wife.” I already know I can counter his every argument. “I loved her when she was still your wife.”

“But you did nothing until she wasn’t my wife anymore.”

I make a bitter noise that even I don’t recognize. “Only because you died first.”

“She wasn’t responsible for my death.”

“Tell her that.”

“You tell her enough for us both, Jack.”

“Why are you here?” I ask.

Finally, the scarred man looks down into the open grave. Before I can stop him, he leaps into the pit, right beside my dead marriage. “You pay homage to the dead,” he says. “Especially when the dead is someone you respected in life.”

I realize that he holds a shroud in his hands. He unfolds the shroud and drapes it over the dried-out husk. A knot forms in the pit of my stomach as the scarred man leans forward to pull the shroud over the sightless face.

“Don’t,” I whisper.

The scarred man stops mid-motion and stays that way, leaning over my dead marriage, prepared to lay it to its final rest. “Are you sure I shouldn’t?”

“I don’t know,” I whisper to the wind.

“Or would you rather I applied this?” He reaches into his pocket and pulls something out. It’s two wide twigs bound with a third thinner twig into the shape of a cross. He grips it in his right hand.

“Every grave must have its marker,” he says. “But this is a marker of resurrection. The wood of the willow infuses the essence of love. So what shall it be, Jack? The comforting death shroud, or the cross of love and life?”

My gaze drifts from the grave up to my wife’s face behind her veil. “Tell me what to do, Grace. Tell me if it’s worth it. What do you want?”

For a moment during which my entire universe trembles on the brink of oblivion, Grace remains silent and still. My lungs shudder and my heart skitters. But then Grace lifts the veil from her face and her eyes to my gaze. Her eyes are so dark, they infuse me with light. Her smile makes me want to touch her, but there’s a canyon between us and I fear that something worse than coyotes inhabits it.

But Grace smiles.

Grace smiles at me.

“I want the truth, Jack. The truth is all I’ve ever wanted. I know there’s nothing in you that would deny me the truth.”

Though I don’t want to, I look away from her and down into the grave where the specter of her first husband awaits my answer. The scarred man raises his eyebrows–again, a caricature of deformity, but I do not want to laugh. My mouth won’t work, but apparently my glance at his right hand is enough. He nods, then turns to lay the willow-twig cross upon the forehead of the dry corpse.

In that moment, the scarred man disappears. At the bottom of the cold grave, my dead marriage open its eyes and stares into my soul and says, “Remember me.”

I slam on the brakes so hard, I think I might go over the handlebars and catalyze a funeral after all. The screech of my tires is loud enough to trigger an answering, indignant chorus of coyote wails. But the beasts no longer matter. I slide to a stop, almost laying the bike down. But even if I broke an ankle or road-rashed my leg, that wouldn’t matter either.

Grinning like a loon, I turn the bike around and ride home to Grace.

Free Sci-Fi Romance Short Story Excerpt!

Hile, inklings! Today I’m providing you with what I hope will be a treat. As you might recall, I recently had a short story published in the latest installment of the e-mag A Consortium of Worlds, #3.

“The One Where Jack Loses” is not-so-happy romantic sci-fi with themes like the nature of Reality, the nature of Time, and the nature of Individual Choice.

The treat is that I’m publishing an excerpt from said story below, just for your reading pleasure. I hope you enjoy. : )

“The One Where Jack Loses”

A Grace and Jack Story

by Courtney Cantrell

Untitled

The woman I love is eating herself into nothingness from the inside out, and there’s nothing I can do.

How do I love her? Like one whose fingernails are ripped to shreds as he claws at the unforgiving cliff, trying to hold onto life over the maw of a gaping abyss.

I love this woman so much that the atoms of my teeth are fused together. Speech just isn’t going to happen at this point.

~

Déjà Vu

When I open the door, the first thing is the smell of her. Jasmine that blooms at night. The overwhelmation of Bulgari Blue. I think she’s overdosed on it.

“No matter what I do,” she says, “he still stays dead.”

The second thing is the half-empty bottle of Captain Morgan on the wooden trunk before her. The third is the woman herself, who contains the Captain’s other half. She toasts me with the tears pouring down her face.

“Jack, I can imagine a thousand scenarios,” says the woman draped in Bulgari Blue. “Did you see that movie, the really bad remake of The Time Machine? They changed the story so much, Wells himself wouldn’t recognize it. They have the guy be engaged. Can you believe that? Engaged, like his kind of scientist is ever gonna find time for a girl, even a neglected one. They have her die, and they have him go back again and again to try to save her. Back in time in his time machine. And he says that no matter how many times he goes back, he can’t save her. No matter what he does, she still dies every single time.”

I can’t get any closer to her than the arm of the couch. The force of this sorrow won’t let me. I can’t tell her I want to hold her hand. I can’t tell her I want to hold her body in my arms and let her sobs wring me limp. If I could finger one strand of her hair, that would be enough.

She tells me she doesn’t need a time machine. How could a machine ever take you back? The machine is physical, and time is everything but. Time is God, and how can a physical machine take you into God?

“I can imagine a thousand scenarios. I do something different every time. In some of them, I’m not even born. That’s how vast my imagination is. I’ve thought of a hundred thousand million different ways our lives could have played out, intertwined like snakes having sex, in some places they touch and in some they don’t. Even when they don’t and I’m not even born, he still dies. No machine could do what I’ve done to the inside of my heart, Jack. Every time I couldn’t save him, that’s a scar. For every life possibility, that’s a scar. Forget about some kind of metaphysical tree with pretty branches. That’s not how it works. Every life path is a scar, and I’ve got a hundred thousand million of them to prove it.”

I let myself rest my fingers on top of hers, as though they belong there. I wonder if atoms of our skin could ever fuse together like my teeth. I can’t tell her how badly I want to know what the inside of her mouth tastes like.

Grace says, “Bulgari Blue was his favorite.”

~

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways…

My eyes are tracing the sensual curves of her elegant profile. Her lower lip trembles, but she doesn’t even turn toward me. How can I but admire her courage?

“What if there’s more than one of me?” she whispers.

______

Click here to get the rest of the story. Happy reading!

Your Perusing Pleasure: #BEDAug the 1st!

So. My body is putting together a baby inside my abdomen; my brain is generating multiple things of the writing and the artsy-crafty persuasions, as well as coaching writers and acquiring fabulous stories for Consortium Books; and my spirit is continually occupied with ponderings of various natures ranging from the simplistic to the paradigm-shifting. The last thing I need is yet another project, right?

Right.

With that out of the way, I hereby announce the beginning of BEDAug: Blog-Every-Day August. On Twitter, I’ll be using the hashtag #BEDAug. I told you last week that it was coming; now, it is here. And that’s why this post exists for your perusing pleasure.

BANGERANG.

Me, I take this Addition of New Project as a sign that I am slightly unbalanced. Another such sign is my penning of short stories and editing of short story magazines, the latest of both-which (this is terrible grammar, you must know) you may find here.

This edition of A Consortium of Worlds contains my short story “The One Where Jack Loses.” When we meet Jack, he is a hapless sort of fellow completely and utterly in love with a young woman named Grace. Grace, as we quickly learn, is mentally unstable (hmmm…I’m seeing a disturbing theme here…), as evinced by her belief that she regularly crosses from one dimension into another.

It’s a love story, yes, and it’s kind of heart-breaking. But mostly, it’s a sci-fi story about Choice, about our concept of reality, and about the malleability of what we perceive as “linear” time.

This is also my first in a series of short stories I call my “Grace and Jack stories.” Several others are already written, so you can expect more of Grace’s sci-fi madness and Jack’s despair in the future. (Insert Fight Club reference here.)

You can get your greedy little Kindle-reading fingers on “The One Where Jack Loses” here. And as an editor of this e-mag, I also heartily endorse the other stories therein. The genres range from sci-fi to fantasy to superheroes to alternate history — so there’s something in here for everyone. Enjoy! : )