Appearances and conventions

mdeLife can get very complicated, and when that happens, it’s easy to let other things slide. Things like readings, and conventions, and book bargains — oh, you know.

I was recently reminded that it’s a good idea to let folks know what I’m up to. So here are a few of the genre-related stuff that’s going on with me right now.

A Reading at the KGB Bar

I’m really excited to be reading at the Fantastic Fiction reading series this Wednesday, October 16th, at 7 p.m. It takes place at the historically decorated KGB Bar under the direction of Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel. I’ll be appearing with wonderful writer (and sister-in-Mythic-Delirium) Nicole Kornher-Stace.

The KGB Bar is located at:
85 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
(Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

Visiting Washington DC for Capclave

I’ll be appearing (along with partner Jim Freund) at the Capclave SF/F convention this coming weekend. Capclave is a small but worthy literary genre convention that is a great place for panels or just hanging out. Here’s my schedule:

Friday

8:00 pm: Real Religions in Fiction (Ends at: 8:55 pm) Monroe
Panelists:Sarah Avery (M), Tom Doyle, Bjorn Hasseler, Barbara Krasnoff, James Morrow
How are Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other religions treated in SF/Fantasy? Is sf/fantasy anti-religion (or neutral at best?). Do writers prefer to create their own gods and goddesses rather than use real religion/mythology? Do religious readers shy away from sf/fantasy? Why are rapture/religiously theme sf/fantasy considered to be separate from regular sf/fantasy?

10:00 pm: Books v Hollywood (Ends at: 10:55 pm) Eisenhower
Panelists:Keith DeCandido, Thomas Holtz (M), David Keener, Barbara Krasnoff, Will McIntosh
How can a book compete with a Hollywood blockbuster? Disney will spend millions on bigger than life special effects while a book just has text. Are movies/TV providing enough of what people used to get only through reading sf/fantasy?

Saturday

10:30 am: Reading: (Ends at: 10:55 am) Wilson
(I haven’t decided what I’m reading yet — suggestions are welcome!)

2:00 pm: Points of View (Ends at: 12:55 pm) Eisenhower
Panelists:Sarah Avery, Keith DeCandido, Barbara Krasnoff, Fran Wilde (M), Karlo Yeager Rodriguez
There are single and multiple point of view stories. The switch between characters can be jarring or smooth. How do authors use point of view in their writing? How can POV help the reader keep track of multiple characters? Which stories work best single versus multiple POVs?

10:00 pm: Some Books Age Like Wine, Others Cheese (Ends at: 10:55 pm) Washington Theater
Panelists:Leslie Burton-Lopez , Craig L. Gidney, Barbara Krasnoff (M), Darrell Schweitzer
Why do so books/authors age better than others? What are some classics that are unreadable today and why? What concepts in today’s books will future audiences find laughable? What books from your childhood have been hit by the ‘suck fairy’ and what still retain their sense of wonder?

A sale on The History of Soul 2065 ebook

Weightless Books is having a sale on The History of Soul 2065, charging only 99 cents for the ebook. The three-day sale started yesterday and, from what I understand, will go through tomorrow.

And that’s it for now!

 

Apologies and a promise

IMG_20190503_082134I just want to apologize to anyone who may be following this blog. I haven’t been updating it. Hardly at all. You would think, wouldn’t you, that anyone who had a book coming out within a couple of months would be doing everything she could to promote that book, wouldn’t you? Like, for example, keeping her blog updated? On at least a weekly, if not a daily, basis?

Well, I haven’t. And I need to. And I will. I promise.

Here are my excuses, as lame as they are. First, despite all the evidence — the rewrites and final edits, the pre-sales announcements, the lovely blurbs and comments by people who have already had access to the book, my own lame attempts at PR — despite all these, I am having trouble believing that I’m actually going to have a book out in a very short time.

Second (and slightly less lame): I’ve been busy dealing with a new job (which I’m doing my best to do my best at), keeping up with household and family issues, and trying to get some additional writing done. I’ve been extremely bad at this last bit, and am very embarrassed by that. And so I avoid talking out bit.

So, here’s what I propose: The book coming out, The History of Soul 2065, is made up of interconnected short stories, many of which were based on family tales, personal history, etc. So when June (and the book) hits, I’m going to use this blog to make available a series of explanations, one for each story, of how it got written, why, and what got left out. (Sort of what I’m doing for the short stories that I’ve been posting at Curious Fictions.) That may be interesting for readers, and it will be an incentive for me to get something done.

How does that sound?

(The photo on this page, by the way, has nothing to do with the blog entry. It’s simply a nice photo I took recently. I thought you might like it.)

Short musings on community

Erewhon reading
Left to write (uh, right): Liz Gorinsky, Nicholas Kaufmann, Ilana C. Myer.

Last night, I attended a literary salon sponsored by Erewhon Books, a new independent specfic publishing house headed by Liz Gorinsky. The salon took place in their Manhattan offices, a nice open space that seems to be a combination office and living room. It featured writers Ilana C. Myer and Nicholas Kaufmann (both of whom turned in great readings, by the way; as a result, I have just started reading Last Song Before Night, the first book in Ilana’s trilogy).

About halfway through the reading, while I was listening, I let my eyes wander around the room. There were about 30 or 40 people present, sitting on chairs, couches, and the rug; listening, occasionally nodding, and sometimes laughing at inside jokes that we all got. Everyone seemed comfortable, easy, and happy to listen to some excellent prose by people whom they knew and liked.

cofAnd I realized that I was also enjoying the evening, relaxing despite all the various stresses that I (like so many of today’s adults) deal with. That even though I didn’t talk to many of the attendees on a day-to-day basis, this was my community, the people with whom I felt the most comfortable. And that it was nice to know they were around.

We all need communities, and most of us are lucky to have one — and often, several. It could be a community made up of our families, of neighbors, of college friends, of people at work, of people who share our interests, of the people who we meet every day walking their dogs in the park. These days, very often, these communities can be made up of people whom we never meet in person, but who we know from the back-and-forth of online social groups.

But whether online or in person, communities are important. And I am very grateful for mine.

 

Next week: The Heliosphere con

Heliosphere is a nice local con that Jim and I have gone to for the past couple of years and enjoyed — and we’re going again this year. If you’re in the NYC / Westchester area on the weekend of April 5-7 and would like to spend a weekend with some science fiction / fantasy fans in Tarrytown, NY, then come over and say hi.

The con starts Friday evening; we’ll be there Saturday and Sunday. Here’s my schedule:

Saturday, April 6th

11: 30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
The Anniversary Year Panel
Ballroom 1
W/Darrell Schweitzer, Barbara Krasnoff (M), Keith R.A. DeCandido, Ken Gale, Daniel Kimmel
Come and discuss all the movies, books, series, etc. which are enjoying a major (or minor) anniversary this year.

Readings
5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
Ballroom 4
W/Lorraine Schein, Alex Shvartsman, C.S.E. Cooney, Barbara Krasnoff

Sunday, April 7th

11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Can You Succeed As A Writer If You’re A Recluse?
Ballroom 1
W / April Grey, Barbara Krasnoff, Mike McPhail, Russ Colchamiro

Of stories, novels, birthdays, and the New Year

fireworks-3816694_1920Since this is the New Year and the time for looking ahead, I thought I’d write about a few thoughts about and upcoming events in 2019.

The first thing I’m looking forward to is the birthday celebration of Richard Bowes, one of my favorite writers, this coming Tuesday, January 8th, at the NYRSF Readings series (The Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, doors open at 6:30 pm). Rick is an elegant and fascinating writer whose stories look on reality with an urban fantasy twist, reflecting both his past in New York City’s underground cultures and more recent events. We’ll be looking back on his work, I’ll be interviewing Rick, and he’ll read a few short pieces. It should be a great deal of fun — please come.

And then there’s my book The History of Soul 2065, which is coming out from Mythic Delirium Press this coming summer. It will be my first full-length work after a rather slow several years of occasional short stories, and I’m very much looking forward to it. Anyone who has read other of my stories may recognize some of it; it’s what is called a “mosaic novel,” made up of a group of short stories that have been tweaked to form a (hopefully) unified whole. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

As far as short stories are concerned, I’ve produced my first work that takes place in another writer’s universe: “Blaming Caine,” which will appear in the anthology Lost Signals of the Terran Republic, part of Chuck Gannon’s Caine Riordan universe. It’s the first published story I’ve ever written in someone else’s playground (the Blake’s 7 fanfic that I wrote many years ago for my and my friend’s eyes only doesn’t count). It was both difficult and fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in print. I’ll keep you all posted.

I’m not a fast writer, and so I had only two stories published in 2018: “Hard Times, Cotton Mill Girl” in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #71 and “In the Background” in Resist Fascism  from Crossed Genres Publications. (Neither, unfortunately, is available online, but feel free to purchase either of those publications.) I don’t know how many stories I’ll be able to produce this coming year; most of my concentration right now is on a new job as Reviews Editor at The Verge, a publication which centers on how technology will change and is changing our lives. It’s an exciting — and slightly daunting — new venture for me, and the offices are filled with frighteningly talented people.

I am slowly republishing my older short stories — the ones that don’t appear in The History of Soul 2065 — on the site Curious Fictions, which is providing a central place for writers to recycle their published fiction. I just put up my third story, a science fiction tale about an older woman who is shipwrecked on an alien planet. You can find that, and another two stories, on my Curious Fictions page.

If a new idea should strike and demand to be written, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I’m still producing my Backstories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (although I may be running out of photos!), so that, at least, is something.

A very happy New Year to all, and I hope we all do well, and that things improve both in our personal lives and in the wider world.

My 2018 Awards-Eligible Stories

Yes, it’s that time of the year again: When all good little authors, poets and writers start looking toward the coming award nominations. I’ve got a few stories and novels from other writers I hope to mention after the New Year, but for now, here are the two stories I published in 2018.

Both are only available by purchase (unfortunately, Andromeda Spaceways is re-doing its site — when the publication has re-opened, I’ll put in a link). If you’re a SFWA member, I’ve included a link to a PDF version on the SFWA forums.

Thanks!

“Hard Times, Cotton Mill Girl”
Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #71, June 2018
The lives of two adolescent girls from very different backgrounds and times shift and merge within the confines of an old cotton mill.

SFWA PDF link: Here

“In the Background”
Resist Fascism from Crossed Genres Publications, November 2018
A rebellion is supported by many people whose names will never be known, but who are as important as those are lauded in history books.

SFWA PDF link: Here

Nostalgia — or, maybe not.

ptr
The former Fairfield Towers. We lived in the right corner apartment, second from the top.

This morning, I drove Jim to a site in East New York (that’s in Brooklyn, for those who don’t know), and found myself passing, for the first time in many years, through the area where I spent my adolescence. My family moved to that neighborhood when I was in sixth grade, and then moved from an apartment to a real, true house when I was in college. On the way back, I made a last-minute decision to drive past my old building, just to see it and see how I felt about it.

I was surprised at how little it affected me. I do have many memories associated with it:  The new smells of the building (it had just been built), and of the padding in the elevators. Doing picture puzzles while my pet parakeet picked up puzzle pieces and dropped them back into the box. Begging my mother to let me go to an outdoor concert in Woodstock, NY (she didn’t). Watching Star Trek with my father. Getting my first makeup kit from my Aunt Edna. Fetching the mail, and opening an envelope telling me that a poem I wrote was accepted for an anthology.

And yet, when I drove past the front of the building, parked, got out and looked at it, I didn’t feel much attachment to it at all.

Chana in later years
My grandmother, my uncle Rube, and an adolescent Barbara hang out on the terrace at Fairfield Towers. 

I drove around the corner, parked again, and got out again. Our apartment was located at the back of the building, on the corner of the seventh floor, overlooking the parking lot and, in the distance, Jamaica Bay. (Several years later, a new and large housing project was built on the landfill between us and the Bay, waking me every morning as girders were pounded in place and as the buildings rose to block our view of the Bay.) I could see our apartment and the houses across the street where several of my friends once lived. There was a sign with the name of the project on it: It was now called MeadowWood at Gateway rather than Fairfield Towers, and the apartments were now being sold as condominiums rather than rented out. But it was the place I remembered.

I still didn’t feel very nostalgic.

I’m curious why. I feel much more connected to Bayview Houses in Canarsie, where I spent my childhood, even though that was also a housing project. I even feel more connected to the house my parents moved to in Long Island, even though I only lived there one year (and never felt comfortable with the culture of Long Island) — perhaps because it was a lovely little house, and perhaps because my parents, for whom the house was the culmination of a dream, loved it so much. The apartment in Fairfield Towers was just the place I spent while I passed through an uncomfortable adolescence (what adolescence isn’t?) into adulthood.

And yet. And yet. As I think about my life in that apartment, and some of the events of my life there, I do feel a sense of sadness about some of the things I thought I’d do in my life and didn’t, and some of the opportunities missed, and the people whom I loved and who are no longer with us.

It’s a conundrum.

Some quick notes

Hi, folks —

lear_woman_writing
Illustration: Edward Lear

Sorry that it took me so long to cap the end of my last blog post — I’m sure you were all on pins and needles waiting to find out what happened. (Well, probably not, but still…)

Anyway, the Resist Fascism Kickstarter did make its goal, with enough over to buy another story, which I’m very pleased about. According to Bart & Kay, they are now working to get the anthology out before the mid-terms, which will be great.

The publication of my mosaic novel/collection The History of Soul 2065 is proceeding. I’ve seen first drafts of the cover illustration, which is being done by the very talented Paula Arwen. Stay tuned for more on that.

I’ve got two of my older stories now available to read at the anthology site Curious Fictions, and plan to put up more over the next few weeks, in case you’re looking for something to read.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be at the Capclave SF con in Rockville, MD in a couple of weeks, September 17-30th. I’ll post my schedule in a few days; meanwhile, I look forward to seeing my friends in the Washington D.C. area.

That’s all for now!

Fixing the faucet and other thoughts

I have three faucet controls above my bathtub. One is for hot, one is for cold, and one is to turn the shower on and off. The fixtures are made of metal holders in which faux-marble handles are inserted. Like everything else in the house, it was designed to look good while being extremely cheap.

mde

Several years ago, the faux-marble handle in the center control, which turns the shower on and off, fell — slipped out of its fixture and landed on the floor of the tub. I tried to tape it back and glue it back, but was defeated by the smoothness of the handle and the dampness of the bathroom.

So for years now, I’ve stored the handle on the side of the bathtub. Every morning, when I wanted to shower, I’d slip it into its fixture, turn it, put it back on the side of the tub, and then do the same when I was done. It became part of my morning ritual.

Then, about two weeks ago, the hot water faux-metal handle slipped out of its fixture.

That was something that was harder to get used to. Not only did I have to place and replace the handle that would turn the shower on and off, but also the one that would adjust the hot water. It was both inconvenient and irritating.

Motivated by my inability to change the hot water when needed (and nervous about getting burned), I actually, finally, came up with a solution — using this fabulous stuff that I had once seen an article about called Sugru Mouldable Glue. (I’ve included the link just in case somebody out there could also use it.)  It comes in little packets. You open the packet, take off as much of the clay-like substance as you like, mold it, stick it to whatever you want, give it 24 hours, and it semi-hardens to a rubbery substance. I put the faux-marble handles into the fixtures, stuck the Sugru on either side of the fixture as barriers, and waited.

And it worked! The handles are now staying where they belong, inside the fixtures.

But that’s not what this essay is about.

What it’s about is the fact that I’m still reaching for the central faux-marble handle after every shower — even though I’m reasonably awake and intellectually aware that I used the handle to start the shower. I finish washing, and go to the side of the tub, reach around, and for a split second I wonder what happened to the damned handle — and then think: Oh, yeah — it’s fixed. All I have to do is actually put my hand on it and turn it.

So now I’m wondering: Will I ever forgive the center handle for being fixed after not being fixed for such a long time?

The problem is that it feels so good — so righteous — to blame the fixture for my having to get up, shower, make coffee, and prepare for work in the morning. I’d rather lie in bed until 11 a.m. or so and read, but instead I have to get moving.

I don’t really want to be in a bad mood because I have to work, or because I’m behind on various personal tasks. That means I’m a lazy person, right? But when I had to go fishing for the separate handle every morning, I could pull myself up and say, “Obviously, it’s the handle’s fault that I’m feeling like this” — a very satisfactory strategy.

Not realistic, you say? Well, perhaps not. But sometimes, when we’re angry at a bad situation in our lives or in our world (and lord knows there are enough of those situations these days), it helps to focus that anger on something easy and within reach. Something you can blame. Like a broken shower handle.

But now it’s fixed. Of course, I can, for now, be angry because I find myself searching for it unnecessarily each morning. After that? I guess I’ll have to find something else.

Revisiting one’s past in fiction

A little while ago, I was looking at a story that was published recently in Mystic Delirium called “The Ladder-Back Chair.” It describes the experiences of a woman who tries to come to terms with her husband’s death by imagining the presence of a chair she associates with their life together. And then I checked my list of published fiction, and realized that a great deal of my fiction written over the past 15 or so years — more than I thought — has been heavily influenced by a single event in my life: The death of my father in the spring of 2001.

First, a short and very incomplete bio of Bernard Krasnoff — Bernie to his friends. He was born in 1923 to immigrant parents, and grew up in Brooklyn. His college education was interrupted by World War II; he served in the Army in Europe and helped to liberate at least one of the lesser known concentration camps (and kept in touch with two young women who, much later in life, met with him and my mother when they visited the U.S. from Israel). After the war, he studied history at Brooklyn College, where he met and eventually married my mother.

Bernie & Einstein, 1976
Bernie & Einstein (my cat) in 1976.

His life was, by all external measures, not extraordinary. He started as a salesman in the “rag trade,” dealing in wholesale women’s clothing. One of my early memories is of visiting his workplace, playing hide and seek among racks and racks of clothes and watching as tailors with pins in their mouths cut out garments amid the smells of machine oil, dust and glue.

Later, after a brief period of unemployment, he managed a mail-order concern for a high-end men’s clothing company. After he retired, he tried out a variety of trades just for the fun of it: He freelanced as a business consultant; worked as a salesman in the men’s department of a clothing store; and became a “meter maid” for the local traffic department (he most enjoyed giving out parking tickets to Cadillacs and other high-priced cars). And perhaps more that I don’t immediately remember.

Other random things I remember: He played the guitar (until my toddler brother sat on it); listened to Woody Guthrie, Alan Sherman, and Beverly Sills; edited a newsletter for the housing project we lived in; supported the Civil Rights movement, opposed the Vietnam War, and was active in local politics; and followed baseball (the Mets), along with other sports (he even watched golf, which for me was about as exciting as watching paint dry). When my family moved from an apartment to a small house in Long Island, he took a huge amount of pleasure in maintaining the house and the garden, and raised an American flag on a flagpole whenever the weather allowed. He supported, defended and loved his family.

I still miss him terribly.

The first story I published after 2001 was called “Lost Connections” (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, 2002) and was a time-travel story in which a woman visits both sets of grandparents in a useless effort to warn the children who would become her parents against their own futures. The next, “In the Loop” (Descant, 2003), was about a man who becomes lost in the nightmarish unreality of dealing with his father’s illness and death.

Interestingly, the one that I wrote just after my father’s death, “Cancer God” (Space and Time, 2009), wasn’t sold until eight years later. It’s about a smart-ass, aging salesman who is in the hospital and tries to fast-talk his way out of dying. “Waiting for Jakie” (Apex, 2009), was written later but sold the same year and is about the inner life of a Holocaust survivor obsessed with a young soldier she met briefly after liberation.

There are others that I never finished, or never sold (including a very angry revenge story about one of his doctors that I will probably never publish). But now, after “The Ladder-Back Chair,” and as fond as I am of the stories I’ve written over the last 15 years, perhaps I should experiment a bit — try to see if I still have the imagination and skill to work in a wider arena.

I’ll let you know if I succeed. Or, perhaps, you’ll let me know.