Monday, January 20, 2020

Third rule is: don’t talk to aliens

 When I told my mother that I had a story accepted in an anthology about punk rock, she said “ first the bicycle anthology, now punk rock. So you’re just writing about stuff you have absolutely Zero experience with?“

 She had a point. I know a little bit about punk rock, but it is not my music.  I didn’t grow up with it, I don’t have any particular interest in it, and I really didn’t  understand the entire subculture around it.  But  I had an idea for a story and once I began researching punk rock, I realize that, even if I did not grow up listening to the music, the whole idea of it is something that really speaks to me.

A Punk Rock Future is a science-fiction anthology with a punk rock aesthetic. My story, Third Rule  Is: Don't Talk To Aliens, is about a radio DJ faced with an alien invasion. She can't stop it (or can she?), but she can play one last song to comfort earth.

My story was inspired by a dream I had where that world was ending and the entire population of earth got together to sing Rainbow Connection. It's a very short story, but there are much longer stories in the anthology and I greatly enjoyed it.

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781733775007

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Oil & Ivory

In the grand tradition of Jennifer Lee Rossman, I have written a story based on a piece of media I have never actually consumed. Usually it's books. This time, it's the movie Ferngully: The last rain forest.

All right, technically I have seen Ferngully. Just… not since I was like seven. I did not remember the plot, the characters. Anything really except it was about the environment. So when the good folks at World Weaver Press, the closest thing I have to a publishing family, put out a submission call for Solarpunk Winters, a companion book to Solarpunk Summers, of course my first idea was "ferngully with narwhals."

You know narwhals. Like whales, but colder and with unicorn horns?

There's going to be a whole blog post on the WWP site about how I got from that note to my eventual story, so I will link to that when it goes live.

My story, Oil And Ivory, takes place during the annual narwhal migration. A polyamorous and your family in a futuristic Greenland is tasked with guiding the whales safely under the ice, which has been made thicker by climate change. If they don't help the whales find air holes, they will suffocate. But this year brings a new challenge: an oil spill threatening to poison the ocean.

Can they work together with the oil company to save both the whales and the ocean?

Solarpunk Winters is now available in paperback and e-book. https://www.worldweaverpress.com/store/p169/Glass_and_Gardens%3A_Solarpunk_Winters.html

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Space Opera Libretti is now available!

Well. I have had a long year. Totally uprooted my life, moved out of my mom‘s apartment, living in a group home… and all of that unfortunately delayed a lot of projects, but through it all, there was the anthology.

It was stressful because a lot of people were relying on me when I could hardly rely on myself. But I had someone I could rely on: my amazing coeditor Brian. It took longer than it should have, longer than we wanted, but we are proud to FINALLY announce that Space Opera Libretti is now available for purchase.


When you put a book on Amazon, it doesn't always put the e-book and the paperback version on the same page right away. So for the time being, I have two separate links for you. In a few days, either link should work for either version. 

In the coming weeks, I'm going to be hosting interviews with the authors and talking about their stories. For now, though, I will let Brian McNett, my fearless copilot and coeditor, give you a description of the book as a whole.

The problem with space opera is that there's not enough opera in it, and certainly a dearth of coloratura diva sopranos in the third act. This anthology sets out to fix that by placing the music front-and-center. We've created a glittery disco-ball of fun. 20 stories designed to amuse. Some actually take place in space. There's even an actual opera in here. We didn't hold back.Time-traveling cats that quote opera... Intergalactic singing competitions... An endless song that becomes the soundtrack to countless generations of rebellions... And, of course, invisible space bears made of black holes that may or may not be extinct.

That last one is my story. I'll be talking about that one, too, even though I would rather talk about all of our fabulous authors:

Ingrid Garcia
Lizz Donnelly
Harry Turtledove
Brian McNett
Jennifer Lee Rossman
Alex Kropf
KG Anderson
Spruce Wells
EDE Bell
James Dorr
Cait Gordon
Dean Brink
Dawn Vogel
Minerva Cerridwen
Bruce Taylor
Tom Barlow
Larry Hodges
Jean Graham
Julia Huni
Dave D'Alessio

I am absurdly proud of all of our writers, and all of the authors who we could not publish despite having amazing stories. Our authors get paid when we get paid; we are splitting everything evenly between the 20 of us.

And a very special thank you to Ivori Blake, who did our cover art!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Harvest--a free story

I love writing and publishing. Even the hard parts, where I'm struggling to get a story written or when it seems like no one wants to publish it. I love it. What I don't love, the only part I absolutely despise, is when I have to trust a publisher and they let me down.

Unless I know a publisher personally, or have read their other books, it's a leap of faith. Are they reliable? Do they know what they're doing? Are they committed to publishing things that don't perpetuate harmful stereotypes or tropes?

Sometimes the answer to that last one is no. I don't think anyone has bad intentions; however, sometimes harmful ideas are so deeply ingrained in our society that, unless you are directly affected by them, it's hard to realize that they hurt people. I am not angry at these publishers. Disappointed, maybe.

I am lucky that my first few publications were absolutely awesome. In fact, the large majority of publishers and editors have been amazing to work with. I am not famous, I am not rich. But I have done well enough in my publishing career that I don't feel the need to advertise books that are not in line with my values. I can advertise the rest of them, and publish my story as a free reprint when the exclusivity period runs out.

That is what I'm doing here. And when I say my values, what I mean is… I don't care what happens in the other stories I am published with. I don't care if there is more violence and swearing and sex than my stories usually have. I don't care if the characters are of a different faith or political affiliation than I am. But when the stories make fun of people for their size, when women characters only exist to be victims, when characters are ableist or homophobic or racist or misogynistic and this is treated like it's perfectly OK? I'm not good with that, And I won't advertise a book to my friends who will be harmed by those ideas.

So. Harvest. It's a story I described as a scary Groundhog Day, everything repeating over and over and over. I like my story. I did not like some of the other stories that were in the book it was published in. But the rights have reverted back to me, and rather than seek publication again, I am doing what I always do when a book disappoints me, and I am giving the story away.

I hope you enjoy it.




Harvest
by Jennifer Lee Rossman

The children run through the fields like wild horses that don't remember a life without fences but still have the innate urge to run. That's good. As long as we know, somewhere deep inside, that we're supposed to have an endless world to explore, then all is not lost.
I envy them sometimes. They don't know it wasn't always this way, that we were once free. That we had tomorrows.
But mostly I envy the way they don't try to change it. Trying and failing, day after endless day.

***

I tend the fields. Picking the ripe corn, propping up the bent stalks and telling the kids to stop trampling the crops. Looking like a bountiful harvest this year.
A bird flies overhead. Big one; a hawk or maybe an eagle. It's never come near enough for me to see.
I must have lost track of time again. I thought I'd budgeted it better today.
I look over my shoulder and see him amble into town the way he always does, that silly hat cocked to the side like he thinks he's some kind of movie star or something.
Not that he doesn't have the looks for it. I think. It's been so long since I've seen him up close, I can't really remember his face.
I drop my basket and run to him like I always do. It's too late; the bird has already flown past. But I have to try. If I don't at least try, then I might as well give up.
I shout his name, but he doesn't look up. He's petting that stray dog again. He loves animals. We were going to expand the farm, before it all happened. Get cows and sheep and maybe a couple goats.
He hears me the second time, but the sky explodes with light and it's all wiped from existence.

***

He's gone when I wake up. I have the note on his pillow memorized.
"Wanted to get an early start on the day. Have some errands to do before going to the bank. Wish me luck. Can't wait to see you."
Turns out he can wait. I tried keeping track at first, but lost count after a few hundred days. I figure it's been at least a century, all the years made up of the same Wednesday, August third.
Maybe this time I'll just stay in bed. I don't think I've tried that before. Stay in bed, refuse all visitors, and someone will worry about me and go to find him. And he'll come home.
The knocking starts a few minutes later. My sisters, wanting to drag me off to shop for a new dress for Uncle Eddie's wedding. I'll tell them the dress I wore to his last four weddings will do just fine, but they'll refuse and I'll spend most of the day in a hellish landscape of pastel taffeta.
When I don't answer the door, they open it. Okay, so tomorrow I'll remember to lock the door before going back to bed.
Of course, my doing that will inevitably cause some unforeseeable crisis. Maybe I'll go to get a drink and the faucet will flood the kitchen, maybe knock over a candle and set the curtains on fire, and my plans will be ruined.
It has a way of resetting itself; I think they depend on the routine, on every day beginning and ending the same way. I can get in a car and drive for hours, and some magical force will bring me back here by evening, tending that field when the bird flies over. I know it will; I've tried.
Oh, how I've tried.
I plaster a smile on my face as my sisters burst into the bedroom, all red hair and opinions. There's no use fighting this part once it's started; some things, like the bird and the dog and apparently my sisters, can't be changed. I've tried finding a home for the stray dog, but it always finds a way to be there, waiting to be pet when he comes through.
So I nod and smile and say my lines until we're at the dress shop. I can sway this part a bit, pick the one with long sleeves or ask if I can see it in a different color. It's a weak point.
I hold a pink A-line up to myself. "What do you think?"
My oldest sister, Viola, clasps her hands over her heart like she does no matter which one I choose, but Belle falters. She hates pink, and can't bring herself to follow the script, to say "That color looks ravishing on you," like she did the first thousand times, before I realized I didn't have to pick the pale green one again.
"Isn't it the prettiest color?" I prompt, the thrill of rebellion dancing in my chest.
"No," she whispers.
I get it. It hurts at first, going against the pattern, but that fades.
Viola shuffles clothes on the rack with increased vigor, trying to get us back on track. "What if we wore matching dresses? Imagine the three of us, all in green chiffon. Wouldn't it be splendid?"
"Why don't you like it?" I press Belle. "Because you hate the color, or because they need you to hate it so I'll pick the one I picked on the day they came?"
"What are you talking about?" she asks, but she knows. Everyone does, or they'd have stopped me from setting the town on fire that one time I tried it. But they didn't. The witches want a repeat of the day, so they all walked through the flames and talked about work as they were consumed. Like wind-up toys that can't stop from falling off a table.
I take Belle's trembling hand. "We can leave. Come on, I need your help. Leave the shop with me, sis."
Viola and the shopkeeper unconsciously say their lines more loudly and move with exaggerated motion. They don't want to remember why; they only want to recite their inane comments about dresses. Drowning us out.
"Lavender with a ruffled collar!
"Belle," I plead. 
"But blue would go so well with her blonde curls!"
I take her hand. "Does any of this feel normal?"
"WHAT ABOUT A HAT?"
"Trust me."
"A HAT WOULD LOOK DIVINE!"
Something clicks, a light flicking on in her eyes. She takes one last look at Viola, twirling like a cyclone with a monstrosity of taffeta, and we run. Out the door and down an alley, toward the bank.
I take comfort in the fact that no one can actively stop us without breaking the routine, but that doesn't mean fate can't step in our way.
"Miss Bishop," says Mrs. Ashbury, her wheelchair taking up the entire alleyway as she takes out her trash. She smiles kindly, and I know what's coming. It usually comes later in the day, but they'll change things around sometimes, anything to keep me in line.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I understand your entire family just showed up on your doorstep from Missouri and you haven't gone shopping."
Belle furrows her brow.
"But I'm afraid I don't have time to go pick corn for your dinner, no matter how much pie you promise to bake me." Just on the offchance I succeed and there is a tomorrow, I smile and add, "But tomorrow night, I'll make it up to you and cook a full dinner for you all. Ham sound good?"
I sneak past without waiting for an answer. As we emerge onto the main thoroughfare in town, countless people, who up until that point were going about their day as usual, suddenly find reasons to speak to me. I quicken my pace and give my excuses without stopping to hear their questions. I've heard them all a hundred times. Maybe more.
"No, I can't donate any more corn for your food drive. No, if your kids' ball went in my fields, you can go looking for it. I'm sorry, no, I don't want to look at a dinosaur fossil you think you found, Mr. H., especially if it's near my cornfield."
Belle follows in a silent, terrified bewilderment until she can't stand it anymore. "Why is everyone bothering you?" she demands, dragging me to a stop just a block from the bank. "Why do they suddenly care so much about your cornfield?"
"Because that's where the cycle ends." I try to move on but her fingers curl around my sleeve and root me to the stop. The bank is so close, the sun so low in the sky. He'll be coming out any minute.
I rush through the explanation.
"On August third, 1948, the witches came to town, and it's been August third ever since. They're parasites. They feed on time. Our time. They make us relive the same day over and over again in a loop, so they can use the time that should be passing, the moment right after five in the evening that never comes. They're immortal because of towns like us, Belle. I need to be in my field because that's where I was the first time, and the day has to end the same way every time. But we can fight it. We can stop them."
She doesn't deny it. She remembers the day they came, too. Apologizing for what they were about to do, like that made it okay.
"How?" she asks.
"By rebelling. The flash in the sky gets dimmer the more I change things. Weakens their hold on us, I think. I got it so I could barely see it once, but I think I need more people."
She nods like I'm making sense, though I must be blathering like a fool. "How long has it been?"
"Lost count."
"So why now?"
"Because I can't remember what Ben looks like." I point to the bank. "He's coming out of there in a few minutes, and I need to be with him when the bird flies over my field."
She nods, but I can tell she doesn't completely understand. I get it. Took me a few months from first becoming aware to actually being able to rebel, and years to make the connection between my changes and the brightness of the flash. Even now, most of what I told her is based on speculation, and I've had a lot of time to sit around and speculate.
If I have to, I'll tell her everything again tomorrow, and all the tomorrows until it sticks, but I hope it doesn't come to that.
"Just don't let me do anything except go to Ben and stay with him," I tell her, dragging her down the street. "Three people not being where they should be. Might be enough."
If not, I'll spend the next ten thousand years recruiting every person in town if that's what it takes.
We disrupt as much as possible as we run down the block. Stopping cars in the street, ignoring everyone... I even pick up the stray dog and carry it with me. If he wants to pet the little mutt so much, I'll bring it to him.
A small crowd assembles at the bank entrance, all shouting incomprehensibly. Belle declines all offers to go with them, following me up the steps.
The door opens as I reach for the handle, and I see his face.
Handsome, with a bit of beard and that damn hat all askew.
My heart soars. I know this is it. This is how we stop the repetition. We have to end the day together.
But he frowns, backing away like I'm a venomous snake. I don't understand. Shouldn't he be happy to see me?
The crowd disperses, back to wherever they're supposed to be when the day ends, and Ben runs for the back exit.
I'm not in my field to see him coming and he doesn't stop to pet the dog, but the sky still flashes and it all starts again.

***

I hate my ceiling.
I hate every morning that I wake up alone, staring up at it, and I hate that I never get home at night to see it.
When my sisters knock, I don't waste time getting to the door. It almost worked yesterday. I just have to try harder.
Belle looks at me differently today. She doesn't exactly remember, but it doesn't take as long to convince her. After a few more cycles, we get Viola and a few of the neighbors on board.
Now they don't bother coming to my house in the morning. Their new routine takes them to the bank, the grocer's, and the shoe repair shop—everywhere Ben will go today—and convincing the owners that time is frozen and they need to close shop.
It doesn't work. He always finds a reason, an excuse to avoid me, no matter where or when we meet. Like he doesn't want to be with me.
After a while—I've lost track of how long—everyone seems trapped in the new routine we've created. Go to town, close up the shops, try to get me to Ben. It's almost impossible to make them do anything differently, and now my day ends not watching him walking toward me but watching him run away.
And here I thought it couldn't hurt more than when I couldn't remember what he looked like.

***

I manage to get to him early in the day. Earlier than I ever have. It took some serious planning and running, and I had to punch one of my neighbors who tried to block my doorway, but I did it.
"Talk to me," I beg, following him down the street and dodging those who would keep us apart. "We can fix this. We just need to get everyone to realize—"
He stops, spins around to face me. I want to wrap my arms around him but the hatred in his eyes stops me cold.
"Realize what?" he seeths in a low voice. "That witches are stealing time from us? Making us repeat the day? And if we can all just rebel, find our true loves and stop replaying our actions, it will weaken them somehow?"
I nod.
"And how does that make any sense? Seriously." He moves closer, our faces nearly touching. "If they're stealing our time, why does it matter what we do with our day?"
"So maybe it doesn't," I say after a moment's thought. "But they're witches, aren't they? Since when do they have to make sense?"
He doesn't answer, just stares at me. Panic rises in my chest as the entire town surrounds us.
It really doesn't make any sense. And yet I never doubted my theory because I didn't have another.
It had to work, had to be true, or I'd be trapped here.
Without him.
But now, with him growling in my face, the entire town closing in on us, maybe I don't want to be with him.
He must have been aware of the cycle, too. So why didn't he fight? Try to change things and find me? Maybe he couldn't, and the frustration's finally gotten to him. Driven him over the edge.
I want to say something, but the words die in my mouth. I don't know this man.
don't know him, I realize suddenly. Up close, I don't actually recognize him. He's a stranger.
I try to picture our wedding, our first date. Yesterday. But it isn't him—just someone who looks like someone I should know. A dead-eyed imposter. They all are.
Looking out beyond their crowded heads, I see the cracks in the town. The buildings that are just wooden facades, the painted sky and its mechanical birds. I look back at him. A smile creeps across his lips.
"Have you figured it out, yet?" he asks.
"It isn't real," I whisper, starting to feel lightheaded. "None of it. The invasion, the—"
"That's where you're wrong. It is real."
His voice is joined by the dozens around us and they speak as one echoing entity.
"We came to your town. Enslaved you. Not the town. You."
My heart races, my limbs tingle. I have to get out of here.
"We don't feed on time. That is an interesting theory, though." They all cock their heads to the side in unison. "No, we feed on your fear. And it's time to bring in the harvest."

***

They run through the fields. Wild horses that know nothing of fences except the invisible ones built around me. The instinct to run is buried deep inside them. They know there's nothing more terrifying than a coven of witches crashing through acres of corn, hands reaching out but never quite catching me.
And still I envy them. The chasers, not the chased, who haven't spent hundreds of years trapped inside their own mind. They may feed off my fear, and the fear of god knows how many others like me, but they don't have to live with it.
The sky is darkening. I don't know how much longer I can run.
The bird flies overhead.
And here I am in my field, Ben coming in from town. He doesn't stop to pet the dog.
I stop running, welcoming the flash and the opportunity to do it differently tomorrow.
But the sky doesn't flash.
There is no tomorrow.
They descend upon me, my heart pumping liquid terror through my body.
I am a bountiful harvest.

END

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Gay Apparel Anthology

Don we now our gay apparel!

It’s the most fabulous time of the year!

Make the Yuletide gay!

It’s Christmas, and I wrote a gay story, Is my point here. I specifically wrote it for Rachel Sharp‘s “Gay apparel“, an anthology of very short, very gay holiday stories.

My story is “another unnecessary reimagining of a Christmas Carol (except this one’s queer),“ Which is… Basically what it sounds like.

This anthology was conceived love, written for, and edited in about two weeks. Rachel deserves so much credit for being amazing.

Now here’s the thing. You can’t buy this anthology. It’s not in print, it’s not on a website. Rather, you get a digital copy when you donate to one of the authors’ chosen charities or Patreons or whatever. It’s sort of a stealth anthology. Find one of us, donate to our charity, send us proof of the donation, and you get yourself a book.

My charity of choice is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. A lot of autistic organizations are actually run by neurotypical people who do not understand, or sometimes even listen to, autistic people. The ASAN is run by autistic people, giving us the supports we need and educating the public without trying to cure us. They do a lot of great work, and are a wonderful alternative to Autism Speaks, which many autistic people consider a hate group.

https://autisticadvocacy.org/

So email me at jenniferleerossman@gmail.com, contact me on Twitter @JenLRossman, leave me a comment… Just contact me somehow and show me that you have made a donation of any size to the ASAN, And I will send you a Digital copy of the book!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Giftmas 2019

It’s that time of year again… GIFTMAS! This yearly fundraiser put together by Rhonda Parrish (Editor extraordinaire and generally awesome lady) is a blog tour that raises money for the Edmonton Food Bank in Edmonton, Alberta. There is also a raffle, but more on that in a sec.
Thanks to the wonders of buying in bulk, every dollar raised in this fundraiser will provide three meals to hungry people. And since the money they are raising is in Canadian dollars, we Americans get more bang for our buck, to quote Rhonda.
This year, there is also a snowman drawing contest! More details on that here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/snowman-drawing-31876321

Now, onto business. Here is the main link to the fundraiser. We are trying to raise $1000 this year, I know we can do it with your help. http://bit.ly/Giftmas2019

Want to enter the raffle and win fabulous prizes? My contribution this year is 100 tiny glow in the dark alien figurines. http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bc98f9ba16/


I have no personal stake in this. I have never gone hungry, I have never been to Edmonton. I volunteered to help a few years ago because Rhonda was one of the first editors I worked with and I wanted to help her out. But it is really important to me because I know I am helping feed people even if I have never met them, even if I never will meet them, I am helping them. So I’m going to ask you to donate if you can, and if you can’t, please share these links with others. We are doing good and having fun doing it.

So now that the important stuff is out of the way, I guess it is time for my blog post.

 I’ll be honest, I was not sure what to write for this blog post. I’ve been part of Giftmas for… What, three years now? And I always struggle to write a good blog post for things like this. I always think I should be funnier, more heartfelt, less serious, more serious…
So I’ve decided to just talk about Christmas.
This Christmas is going to be different than any Christmas I’ve ever experienced. In February of this year, I moved out of my mom‘s apartment. Our relationship was not good, even though it was really good sometimes, And even though I still really miss the good times, because she was abusive. It is still hard for me to write those words, because I know there are people reading this who wish I would not put family business on the Internet. But this is my life.
When I was young, Christmas was magical. Trees and decorations and presents and chocolates. Believing in Santa and going to my friend‘s to celebrate with her big family, watching Rankin Bass specials.
That slowly stopped. There was no one year where we stopped doing that, we just… Tapered off. And this year, I was told that when I was young, my parents didn’t think I was going to live to be an adult. Every few years, they were told I might live a little bit longer than they expected.
Those years roughly corresponds to when we started tapering off. It might be a coincidence, but I don’t think so. I think they were trying to fit in as much Christmas as they could while I was still alive. It’s sad. It almost ruins the memories of those piles of presents. Almost.
Around the time I became a teenager, Around the time they were told I might Have a normal life expectancy, and around the time my parents got divorced, Christmas just stopped.
I still wanted Christmas. Maybe I didn’t believe in Santa anymore, but I believed that we could still have Christmas. I kept trying. Except… We weren’t friends with my friend and her big family anymore, we didn’t buy presents, putting up the tree became such a hassle that my mom didn’t do it anymore.
For over half my life, I didn’t celebrate Christmas. We didn’t listen to Christmas music. Even if it came on the radio, it would be turned off immediately. It felt like a holiday version of that town in footloose that banned dancing.
My last Christmas at home, I don’t think we did anything. I don’t think we even acknowledge the day. I don’t think I even bought a present for my cat. We just did not do Christmas.
Then I moved out. It was planned and unplanned, a long time coming and spontaneous, something I had prepared for and total chaos.
I live in a group home. I am slowly, at the age of 29, figuring out how to be an adult. I decided I should buy presents for all of my family who was so awesome while I was moving out, but I wasn’t really doing Christmas.
And then I thought about buying presents for my housemates. Maybe a card for one or two people, if I found a really awesome card for them. But still. I wasn’t doing Christmas.
Then suddenly, I’m humming along to Christmas music. Not necessarily because I wanted to, or because I felt like I finally could, it just. It just happened, and it felt good, And no one thought I was weird or wrong for doing it, So I sat in the main room of my group home with housemates and staff and we belted out Christmas songs.
I’ve been watching Christmas specials, I helped decorate the house, I’m buying a Christmas shirt. Sooner or later, I’m going to have to accept The fact that I am doing Christmas this year.
I don’t know what it’s going to look like, I don’t know what it’s going to feel like. I don’t have any cherished traditions anymore, but I think I want to make some.


Not sure what happened to the font there. Anyway.

If you want to follow the rest of the blog Tour, Here Is a helpful Little schedule

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Dragon bikes Kickstarter!

Hey, real quick post.

I have a story in a book about dragons and bicycles and feminism… In… SPAAAACE! We are currently kickstarting it, and have a week to go. If you want to help out an amazing publisher, Pay some authors, and get a super cool book in return, please consider contributing to our Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ellyblue/dragon-bike-fantastical-feminist-bicycle-stories?ref=dw01dv&token=3e277b14