Author Archives: brennancm

About brennancm

I used to write fiction a long time ago and even published a couple of things, but then life intruded. I'm back. I write fiction. I submit fiction for publication or put it up in this space. Sometimes I blog about what I've been up to.

Neko and Kiy

I’ve met several talented people through my local writing group, The Writing Journey. We’ve enjoyed putting story anthologies together, doing informal readers’ theater versions of Shakespeare plays, and going to see some of our members perform.

Neko Zujihan is someone I know from the group (mostly online) and he’s created something remarkable that I wanted to share:

His book is now available on severable platforms, and I hope you get a chance to experience the rich world he’s given us. Look for Kiy: Jumoku No Musuko (Son of the Forest) on his publisher’s web site, or on Amazon.

(Some of ) What I Did this Summer

MtnsAngelFire2017
Purple Mountain Majesties

I recently spent two weeks in a beautiful place, both mentally and physically. I was accepted (huzzah!) into Taos Toolbox, which was held in Angel Fire, New Mexico.

Walter Jon Williams organized the workshop. Nancy Kress co-taught brilliantly. We were treated to guest lectures and schmoozing with Steven Gould,  E.M. Tippetts, and (damn, I buried the lede):
George R.R. Martin!

It was intense. Eighteen budding science fiction and fantasy authors from four countries wrote, read, attended classes, and/or critiqued each other’s work almost every hour we were awake.

I did sneak in some early morning walks and one hike. The above photo is your evidence.

I’ll share more about the workshop and some of the writers I met there in upcoming posts.

Happy Independence Day!

Bike MS Tour de Farms 2017

FakeTeamPIcture_Web
Power Pedallers Randy, me, Tiger, Cookie, and Tyler – can you spot who was photoshopped in later?

Sigh. The most wonderful time of the year has once again come and gone.

Tour de Farms 2017 was a real challenge. In addition to how little training time we seemed to have, we have never ridden anywhere near this long with winds of 20 mph, gusting sometimes to near 30. I used to think headwinds were the worst, but that was before I learned what a 30 mph crosswind can do to you… or more properly speaking, your partners in crime.

EileenBethFarm_web
Cookie and Tiger meet some sheep at Rest Stop #1

Cookie and Tiger had a tough go of it. I think they still are glad they came, but it’s harder to have fun while being blown off one’s bike, or onto a gravel shoulder you had no desire to end up in. When you’re a dainty, delicate flower like Cookie or Tiger, you are far more likely to be blown sideways by a good crosswind.

I, however, am quite heavy and was thus able to keep my seat. Don’t let anyone tell you there is nothing good about being fat. It was easier to stay on my bike. Oh, and my bone density is also swell.

Our team, the Power Pedallers, raised nearly $7,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Cookie, Tiger, Randy, and Tyler will have their own folks to thank, but here’s my list:

Thanks to BK for tons of support of every imaginable kind leading up to the ride and over the weekend.

Thanks to Sis and Al for generous donations and moral support. It was wonderful to have them with us during the weekend.

Thanks also to donors Lorie & Steve, Cecelia & Brian & Emily (oh my!), Danielle, Cookie, Kishin & Rita, Elizabeth & Jay, Tim, Katherine L.,  Ann, Lori, Rocky, Quentin, and Kevin. You are all my heroes!

CB_Beth_Eileen_Cutout
Two holes, three riders: me, Tiger and Cookie

 

Nebula Reading Time!

Nebula2015
What the Nebula Award looked like in 2015

It’s that time of year. The Oscars are over, and weren’t they interesting this year!?!

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have announced the finalists for the 51st Annual Nebula, the Ray Bradbury Award for an Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.

You can see the whole list here.

Possibly for the first time ever, I’m slightly ahead of the game, having acquired Borderline by Mishell Baker and Everfair by Nisi Shawl the minute(s) they were available. They were both incredible!

I’m now listening to the Audible release of All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, and enjoying the hell out of it.

That leaves only two novels still to read: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. I’m looking forward to them!

I’ve also seen all the Bradbury nominees except the Westworld episode. I don’t do HBO. I may have to see if Cookie will let me come over and watch.

I’ve probably read some of the shorter fiction, but  I usually have to refresh my memory before voting; l usually can’t match a title to a story until I’ve read a paragraph or so. And this year I haven’t read any of the nominated YA titles, so I’d better get on that.

SFWA members have from March 1 – March 30 to vote, so I’d better read (or listen) fast!

Which of the nominated works have you read? What would you vote for?

 

A Writer’s Christmas Wish List

Anna_Brassey_woman-writing_web

Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve shared what I’m up to. Am I claiming that I was too busy to blog? Bad CB! No cookie!

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been doing, at least in the writing department:

  • I did NaNoWriMo again this year, and got my 50,000 words. I’m not done yet; still working on the exciting climax. You know how it is with ballerinas who are suddenly infected with lycanthropy; they have some serious issues.
  • I finally have my previous novel—a historical fantasy set in 1870s Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska—more or less ready for alpha readers. I hope to have a beta version by spring.
  • I’ve continued submitting short stories to magazines. No acceptances yet, but I made at least editor’s one short list. Still waiting to see how that turns out.
  • And…I’ve decided to apply to some workshops. I’m talking the serious sci-fi/ fantasy workshops where you have to send a writing sample, spend a chunk of money and 1-6 weeks of your life learning whether or not you have what it takes to get your short stories and novels traditionally published. Think workshops like Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, and Viable Paradise.

So here’s what I want for Christmas. (You don’t really have to get me anything…)

Help I need in December/January:

  • Read what I what I think are my best short stories (about 20K words total), and vote for your favorite 2 or 3; if you’ve successfully applied to one of the workshops mentioned above tell me which of those stories you think might get me into a competitive workshop
  • Tell me how you got into Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, Viable Paradise. Gory details? Trials and tribulations? I’m all over whatever you want to share. If you’re willing to point me to anything you’ve written on the subject of applying to or attending a competitive workshop—or if you’re willing to exchange emails/chat about the experience— I can’t tell you how much I’d love to hear from you.
  • Give me tips on writing an essay about myself that would persuade anyone to give me a shot at one of these workshops. Or read mine (once I’ve written it) and tell me how to make it more convincing.
  • Alpha read my western fantasy novel (about 100K words). This means reading the story and just giving me general impressions, but no need to heavily edit.

Help I may need in March/April

  • Alpha read my novel about the werewolf ballerina (not finished yet, but I think it will be about 100K words)

Help I may need in May/June

  • Beta read my western fantasy. This would happen after alpha readers have checked it out. Most of the major flaws should already be dealt with. You’d be spotting continuity  and other errors, helping me make it read better, stuff like that.

If you’re able to help with any of my above wishes, please comment below or message me via Facebook/ Twitter/Google. And let me know if you need a similar Christmas present…

108 Years in the Making

First, a bit of historical context:

November 4, 2016

As I write this, TV coverage of the Cubs victory parade and rally for their 2016 World Series win plays in the background. WGN-TV reports that six million humans are packed around the 6.7 miles of parade route from Wrigley Field all the way down to Grant Park.

If you don’t live in Chicago, you may not understand the fuss. Then again, you might. If you have Cubs fans in the family, or if you follow baseball, you will be at least a bit familiar with how loyal the north side club’s fan base is, despite 108 years that ensued between the last World Series win before 2016. You may have heard about the people who have bought Cubs’ wear to put on the graves of loved ones who lived and died without seeing their beloved baseball team win a World Series.

If you don’t live in Chicago, you also likely have never heard (arguably) the best radio DJ ever: Lin Brehmer at 93.1 WXRT-FM.

His Lin’s Bins segments, wherein he answers questioned emailed by listeners are things of beauty—often classic bits of poetry or philosophy I hold to my heart long after the segments have aired. My main issue with them is that they’re no longer available via podcast. If they were, you know I’d share a link to one of his Cubs related episodes here…maybe more than one.

Well, I can’t. I can only mention that the Thursday morning broadcast on November 3, despite Lin’s fatigue after what had to be the shortest night’s sleep ever before his usual 5:30 a.m. start, brought a tear to my eye. Multiple times. He and news director Mary L. Dixon (who shares that morning slot) are huge Cubs fans. Exhausted but thrilled, there was no way they’d miss their first chance to celebrate with their listeners.

In addition to the Steve Goodman classic above, they also played J.D. McPherson’s North Side Gal  and Eddie Vedder’s “All the Way,” which you can hear on the WGN site.

Loved those songs, and of course many others Lin played, all full of the excitement of this long-delayed victory. But my favorite part of the broadcast was the way he closed it. Lin and Mary have hosted a special Cub’s opening day broadcast for as long as I can remember. As they ended their shift, Lin paid tribute to the many fans he’d met in the stands over the years, naming them, and telling stories of how long and thoroughly they’d supported the team. And as Lin likes to do, there was a tiny thread of music under the narrative. As it swelled, it sounded like this. If you choose to click on this link, as you listen, imagine people you live among and love, and some who you have loved, but who have since passed away, and how it would feel to share a moment of happiness with them and say, six million other people who are feeling the same thing.

That is all.

 

The Black Archives of Mid-America

The main reason I wanted to attend Mid-Americon/WorldCon is this: the novel I’m working on is set mostly in eastern Kansas. With my characters traveling the area in 1872, I needed to know what their experiences might be like. So I traveled to Kansas early, and did some area research.

black_archives

I loved my Kansas/Missouri experience (of which more news will follow) but let’s start with the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City.

My novel contains one small but pivotal section set in Kansas City. I needed to know how this mixed-race group was going to navigate the city, and what it would be like when they got there. So I contacted the archive, as you need to let them know you’re coming. Emiel Cleaver forwarded my questions to Glenn North, who put me in touch with archivist Geri Sanders.

Geri was incredibly helpful. As I feared, there wasn’t as much about the era I was interested in as there was for later times. However Geri was generous with her time and resources, tirelessly scouring the archives for books containing valuable information about the geography of the city at the time, the history of local slavery and reconstruction, and some wonderful people who lived during the period.

In historical fiction, I always enjoy references to actual historical figures. I’m now hoping  to have my characters talk about (and possibly even meet) impressive local inhabitants of the period like:

William D. Matthews (c.1827- 1906) moved to Leavenworth, Kansas in 1856, had a station on the local Underground Railroad, and recruited ex slaves to fight for the Union during the Civil War.

James Milton Turner (1840-1915) was born a slave in St. Louis, but his father was able to purchase his freedom. He attended Oberlin College until he had to return to care for his family after his father’s death. While in St. Louis, he attended John Berry Meachum’s floating Freedom School on a steamboat on the Mississippi River. The Freedom School was established to evade Missouri laws against education for blacks. Turner served in the Union Army. After the war, he was Missouri assistant superintendent of schools, helping establish Lincoln Institute (later Lincoln University), the first institution of higher education for African-Americans in Missouri. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him ambassador to Liberia, making him the first African-American to serve in the U.S. diplomatic corps.

Mrs. Alpha Minor Smith sold notions door-to-door until 1870, when she was able to open a dressmaking shop and notions store in the West Bottoms neighborhood. Her shop was the first in Kansas City to carry ready-to-wear clothing for ladies.

church-hill-_kc_web
Historic Church Hill neighborhood east of Troost, view to the west

In addition to the biographical information, I also have possible scene locations (early churches) and local legends (like Hiram Young) to add verisimilitude.

I can’t thank Geri Sanders (and all the people at the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City) enough for their help with my research!

For more information about the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, you can visit their website, Facebook, or Twitter.