Harlan Ellison, Alan Dean Foster…and Courtney Cantrell

YEAH BABY.

I’ve known for just over 48 hours, and I’m sure it hasn’t really sunk in yet. But, lack of sink-innage notwithstanding, I’m a-gonna blare it out to the world anyway:

Around Christmas of this year, I shall have a story in the SAME short story collection as HARLAN ELLISON and ALAN DEAN FOSTER.

As my friend Josh (who’s gonna have a story in the same collection) says,

“This is what we in the business call a pretty big deal.”

In case you’re unaware, dear inklings, Ellison and Foster both are so well-known in the sci-fi world, it would be downright silly for me to tell you about them here. Really that’s why God gave us Google and Wikipedia. Thus, if you go get Googwikified over these two gents, you’ll find out everything you need to know.

But. I’ll say this much: Ellison has been in the writing biz since the late 1950s, and Foster made me fall in love with him when I read his “Pip and Flinx” novels as a teen. If that gives you even a slight reference point for my excitement, we are good to go.

So! The short story collection in question is KINDLE ALL-STARS: RESISTANCE FRONT, the brainchile of one Bernard J. Schaffer.

Sometime around three months ago, Bernard put out an intarwebz call for short stories: He wanted to do a ground-breaking anthology to showcase independent authors in today’s e-media. The “resistance” aspect of the project refers to our collective determination no longer to let the traditional publishing model squelch our writerly voices. Bernard writes,

“Whole generations of authors have been lost to us because they could not penetrate the murky swamps of corporate publishing. I imagine all the works of art that we’ll never know of simply because the vicious cycle of query-letter, agent, synopsis, publisher, book-seller, and eventual consumer did not work out for that individual.

“When an industry coins a phrase like ‘Slush Pile’ to reflect their opinion of where your work belongs, you get a pretty clear idea of your place in their world.”

You might imagine, my darlings, that every word of this resonates with me. : ) Not only that, but the proceeds of the project all go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These people find kidnapped kids and fight child porn. No question that I can get on board with that!

So. Longish story shortened, I finished up the short story I’d been working on and sent it in to Bernard. He sent it back with edits, and I had a mild freak-out while my writer self dealt with the knowledge that I’d not only sent my work to a total stranger, but now he was asking me to change it. And I mean change it. The dude wanted me to clip an entire thread from the story. And it was a thread I happened to like. Zoinks.

In the meantime, I found out that Ellison and Foster both had donated stories to the project. So now, if I got in, I’d be getting in with Ellison and Foster.

Have I mentioned that this is kind of a big deal?

Here I am, trying to edit and re-write a story, and the deal just keeps getting bigger and bigger. No pressure, right? I had to get over myself — no, really, I had to get over my fear. Why does it always come back to that?

Fear holds me back again and again. This time, it was fear of rejection…and maybe even a little fear of success. I have no idea where all of this might lead. But some possible future paths aren’t necessarily grand.

But I sucked it up, did my re-write, sent it back to Bernard — and waited. Ten days, y’all. I kept telling people it wouldn’t ruin my day if my story got rejected in the end…but that was only a half-truth. I wanted this bad. And during those 10 days, the fear kicked in again.

I rode it out. Did other stuff. Painted a crimson dragon. Published a whole magazine. You know, the usual. ; )

Then, two nights ago, the final participant announcements rolled in over Twitter, and I was on the list. Even better, Josh was on the list, too. Spider Robinson Wisdom ruled my personal celebration:

“Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased -— thus do we refute entropy.”

I love it when entropy takes one in the kisser.

For the record, applying Bernard’s feedback to my story was fun, once I got over myself. (Strangely enough, I’m wanting to paraphrase Pumbaa from The Lion King: “once I put my behind in my past”; but I don’t think it really applies here.) As I trimmed and re-wrote and copypasted, I saw a startling new shape emerge from the story…and it was a shape I very much appreciated.

It was the shape of a story that was better for the changing. Having an editor’s feedback made me a better writer for the story. Who’d a-thunk? ; )

My horror short “If This Were a Stephen King Story” will appear in Kindle All-Stars: Resistance Front in December 2011.

“Few projects slung my way, these days of electronic idiocy and bad writing, can perk me up and get the fireworks. This is one of the best, sweetest ideas I’ve heard in years. Nothing but the smiles of Success are due the project, the people putting it together, and the good kids who will benefit from every penny garnered. I am 100% and a bag of marmosets behind it!”
— Harlan Ellison.

“Growing up, I had access to all the books I wanted to read, and they made my life. This is a project to benefit kids who have nothing. I can think of no better cause.”
— Alan Dean Foster

This really swings my verge, y’all. : )

The Vulgarians Evoke Something in My Breast

This is a rant.  You’ve been warned.

Never mind the goo. That's just my skin melting.

 So, here in Oklahoma, we just had the hottest July on record. As of today — on which the official high was 108º, although, as you can see, my iPhone insists it was 111 — there’s a statewide burn ban. I’m not too broken up about that, since I’m not currently in campfire mode and never in the habit of burning my trash.

But what does burn me up — har de har har — are the pristine, emerald green lawns I viewed when I made a trip to Vulgaria this afternoon.

What, you might be asking yourself, is Vulgaria?

Well, I’ll tell you, darling reader. Vulgaria is my term for human dwellings so ridiculously, wastefully ostentatious that they’re just vulgar.

I mean, come on — you gotta have turrets on your mansion? Really?

Actually, I’m a total hypocrite here. I love the turrets. If I had money for a mansion, you better believe I’d want it to have turrets. Two, as a matter of fact. Maybe even three. And a bastion here and there. If you don’t know what that is, I’m just gonna to let you keep thinking it’s something obscene, because I feel snarky and you have Wikipedia.

😉

Anyway, I toured a little slice of Vulgaria in North OKC this evening. The husband, who works for a hardwood flooring wholesaler, had made a delivery there and knew I’d appreciate the architecture. Because he knows I’m a sucker for a good turret. We drove in through the exit because the entrance gate was closed. What can I say — we’re rebels.

The husband was right: I loved the architecture. It evoked all the classic beauty of Italy, the slight mystery of the English countryside, and the hominess of colonial American hearths. The masonry was perfect with its intentional haphazard look, and the turrets rose quite majestically, indeed. Each house evoked in my breast* a deeper, more fond sentiment than the last.

But I wasn’t so fond of their lawns.

You see, all of their lawns looked to have grown in lush, green Ireland — not blistering hot Oklahoma. And several home owners had decided to run their sprinklers.

After it rained this afternoon.

Granted, it wasn’t much rain. From what I’ve researched, it was officially 0.33 inches. That’s not a lot. Especially when you’re in a drought.

But still.

The Vulgarians decided to ignore the fact that there was water falling from the sky and, instead, get water from a hose and put it on their yards. Why, you ask, is this a big deal?

Actually, I suppose some of you are asking yourselves why I’m making a big deal out of any of this at all.

Well, lemme tell ya.

This came off the intarwebz somewhere. I hope that's okay. If not, let me know. ; )

There’s this thing called Lake Hefner. It’s a body of water smack dab in the middle of OKC. The lake is where the Vulgarians are getting the water for their emerald lawns.

That lake is also the place where my drinking water comes from.

When I was at the lake two days ago, the water line was about 150 feet from shore.

So.

Maybe I don’t understand how utilities work. Maybe the City of Oklahoma City has done all that’s necessary by leaving messages on everyone’s voicemail only to water lawns on odd-numbered days if your address is odd-numbered, even days if your address is even. Maybe I’m begrudging the Vulgarians their prize-winning grass for no other reason than that I can’t afford to water the lawn of my rent house.

Maybe I’m just being snarky for no reason at all.

But I keep thinking about that distant water line at Lake Hefner. I’m remembering the Wishing Well Water Walk I participated in a couple of years ago. I’m thinking about how money for turrets and pretty lawns could be going to help people. I’m pondering the fact that, considering the national debt, every U.S. citizen carries an average debt of $46,712.00 — and people still care to spend money on what their grass looks like.

I’m shutting off the water while I soap up in the shower. It’s not much, but it makes me feel better.

*No. You may not evoke anything. So stop thinking that. ; )

Crippled, Demented, Or Crushed: Still, I Will Create

In a recent perusal of old journal entries, I once again ran across a poetic gem entitled Air and Light and Time and Space by Charles Bukowski (who was born in Germany, I learned via Wikipedia article). The poem describes the mindset of so many people who want to be creative — but then never “get around to” doing anything about it. Bukowski gives a definitive answer to what I’m calling “that self-delusional procrastination.”

You can Google the poem in its entirety elsewhere…but what I’m interested in right now is this part of Bukowski’s answer:

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
…in a small room with 3 children
…you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented…

…baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it…

I feel as though I’ve spent most of my life in a desperate search for air and light and time and space. Most of the time, I haven’t even been aware of what I was seeking…but now, I look back at certain hard times in my life, and I find myself nodding in wry understanding. “Oh. I see now. That’s what that was.”

Those were the times I was most depressed. Those were the times I questioned my inherent worth the most. Those were the times nothing I attempted in life seemed to work out. Those were the times my relationships suffered the most. It all happened during those periods in my life when, for whatever reason, I suppressed my creativity because I felt as though I didn’t have the time, air, space, right to be creative.

I’ll talk more about this in future posts (and get deeper into the gritty tale of how I once believed and felt I had no right to be creative), but for now, I’m learning a new conviction: that Bukowski is oh so very right. It’s a lie that my situation has to change before I can be creative. I will make stuff. I will put stuff into this world that didn’t exist in that form before I made it. It’s what I’m created to do: to create. Even at my worst moments, when the will isn’t there, the compulsion is too strong to ignore.

I’ll create if I’m crippled. I’ll create if I’m demented. (This might already have happened.) I’ll create in the tiniest, most cramped space. I’ll create when it’s too dark to see. I can’t help it. I don’t want to help it.

Because the price for ignoring my creative impulse is far too high to pay.