books, fiction, horror, music, old work, poetry, professional life, short stories, Uncategorized, updates, writing

O Sweet Angels

I’ve been listening much more to Spotify lately. What’s most fun for me is making playlists, which reminds me of burning mix CDs when I was in college. Here’s one I made of songs that felt longing or wistful, including a lot of old favorites and others that just came up on shuffle.

I’ve been submitting a lot of stories lately, which slowed down progress on my novel but was a lot of fun. For some reason there’s a big market currently for short stories about evil mermaids, so I’ve written three in the last few months. One of them, “In the Nevergo,” was recently published in Dangerous Waters: Deadly Women of the Sea, an entire anthology of evil mermaid tales I was delighted to take part in. The others were a bit different in subject matter, and I hope to tell you more about them later.

I’ve also been dipping my toe back into poetry in the last year or so, with mixed results. I used to write poems quite a lot in high school, but they were very strange and I never shared them with anyone. Lately I wrote sets of poems for two different calls for submissions. None of them were accepted, but I’ll keep practicing.

Here are some very strange ones I’d forgotten I wrote last year. The project was called “The Unquiet Nursery,” with the idea being that each poem would be structurally based on a famous nursery rhyme but have much darker subject matter. About half of them were terrible, but I kind of liked these. I wonder if you can guess which nursery rhymes they’re based on.

1 I am not going to sleep.
The lines have gone too deep.
There’s whispering sin
Upon my skin
And something is starting to weep.

2 My little love
Is up above,
Pretending she is an angel.
But in her wings,
Unholy things
Are burning like a candle.

3 My little dumpling
Really is something,
Sunning herself to sleep.
She cannot be killed
She cannot be held
She only can rattle and weep.

4 Go to school,
Little fool.
See what they do
Before they come for you.
They’ll take your home and they’ll take your lands,
They’ll crush your heart and they’ll cut off your hands.
The strongest house is the one that stands,
So go to school.

5 Something in the atmosphere
Has made me very cold.
The sun is full of cinders
And the stars have all been sold.
I cannot look away from it.
I cannot break the spell
That echoes in the twilight
Like the tolling of a bell.

6 Into the dark!
Into the night!
Sing with the nightingales!
Drink delight!

Out of the dark.
Back from the night.
Gone are the nightingales.
All is quiet.

7 Mary Artless,
Vain and heartless,
How did you sink so low?
The sons you should have cared about
Are running like wolves in the snow.

8 First comes the matter of the monster,
Next comes the matter of the nun,
Then comes the matter of the long walk
Into the valley of the sun,
And last is the matter of the silver star
And how the world was won.

9 Pretty little Mabel,
Sitting at the table,
Softly tells me,
“Life is like a fable.
But I don’t know the lesson
I was meant to learn
When I left my homeland,
Never to return.”

I guess they’re basically doggerel. But so are the originals they’re based on. Anyway, it was fun writing them.

One more thing to tell you about: I have an upcoming publication in a friend’s anthology! My friend Sonya Lano has been working tirelessly on Slightly Sweetly, Slightly Creepy, an anthology of gothic romance, and the book will be out on April 29. My story, “The Wind Chimes,” is probably more “romantic gothic” than “gothic romance,” but I had a lot of fun writing it. The book is available for preorder here, and I’d love it if you checked it out.

Lots of love to all of you. I hope you’re doing well.


fantasy, fiction, professional life, Uncategorized, updates, writing

Writing updates

Stayed up late last night finishing edits on two stories, which I wanted to submit to two different anthologies both due the same day. Thanks to the feline ballet that started as soon as I got in bed, I got about four hours of sleep, but there was a very nice sense of accomplishment in getting those stories done and submitted. Of course, I received a very flippant rejection note only a few hours after sending one in, but at least it gave me the opportunity to slide the story under the wire for another submission call due today.

Back to work now on THE VOID AND THE RAVEN, my ongoing fantasy epic that was meant to be a single novel and is now looking at at least six parts. Two volumes are done. I could submit them for publication, but I’d rather get to the end and edit the whole series together for the sake of cohesion. I’ve been working on this story in different incarnations since about 2010, and I’m about three years into this particular try. I’m guessing at least another three to five years until the whole series is completed. (Of course, if someone wants to give me several hundred thousand dollars, I can stop doing other paid work and start writing full-time, which should speed up the process immensely.)

daily life, fairy tales, fantasy, fiction, short stories, Uncategorized, writing

Life update, March 2023

It snowed off and on all day today, which felt like a bit of a joke with all the flowers blooming. The Easter Market is set up in our square, and all the trees are covered in blossoms. I had a fairly busy day, but the kids weren’t too rambunctious, and Fran and Donut and I had a nice walk in the evening.

I’ve had the very pleasant problem of a thousand different projects to work on. I’ve been hard at work hammering out two different stories, both of which are due for submission on Thursday. These are open calls, so it’s a wait-and-see game once they’re turned in, but I’m pretty happy with both of them. The one I’m still drafting is a nautical fairy tale based on a sea shanty, and the other deals with ominous snowflakes.

Meanwhile, I’m still plotting the next scene of VOID, which has been startlingly complicated to manage: it’s essentially a long complication between two characters, but it’s unfolded some questions about the magical system that I never took the time to answer before, and I’ve spend weeks already just mulling them over in my head. I think I’ve got the answers more or less settled now, but chapter is still in the planning stage, and every turn of the planned conversation is surprising me. I’ve been working with these characters for more than three years (or thirteen, depending on how you count), and it’s lovely to settle into the world again after spending lots of time on other projects.

Fran and I have been watching Parks and Rec, and I’m trying to channel April and Andy just a bit more in my approach to life. It’s great to be a Leslie if you’re passionate about something, but devoting 100% of your energy to everything you do (and losing sleep in the process) is a quick way to make yourself sick. Taking more time for fun, couple time, and sleep is making me feel a lot better, and after I spent a few days trying to complete a “must-do checklist” of writing projects, I realized that if I tried to maintain a full-time writing schedule on top of all the other work I do I would never have time for anything else. And when you’re well rested, it’s much easier to work quickly and with full energy, so it’s a win-win situation in the end.

For a sample of what I’ve been working on, here’s a short clip from the sea-ballad story I’m writing:

“Have you ever thought of going to sea?” I said. “I’m first mate on the Golden Vanity—that lovely galleon there—and we’re leaving for Constantinople in the morning. We need a cabin boy, and you look like a likely fellow. What do you think of signing on with us?”

He tipped his head again, and for a moment there was no sound but the grind and squeak of his auger and the patter of shavings to the ground. I could see him measuring the Vanity with his gleaming gray eyes, judging and weighing it somehow, and in a way he looked much older than a child. Then, finally, he nodded.

It took me aback how easily he’d accepted, and I wasn’t sure he’d understood. “Better think carefully,” I said, “for it’ll be a long time before you see your home again. It’s possible you won’t come back at all. But there’s good pay, and plenty of room for advancement  if you do your work well.”

He nodded again, almost impatiently, and beckoned, as if I were the servant and he the master. Well, I thought, I’ll teach him more deference than that if he signs articles. But I was curious, and I had a bit of time before I needed to see about the cargo, so I followed.

Hope you’re all well! Let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments. ❤

books, daily life, horror, professional life, reading, updates, writing

Updates January 2023

I’m working on a short story for an anthology my friend Sonya is putting together. It involves murder, ghosts and other spirits, romance, wind chimes, and a dark forest. I hope you’ll enjoy it when it comes out.

Anthologies are difficult in general. Some other friends and I were trying to put one together, but more than a year on it’s still in limbo because it was so difficult to allocate responsibility. I’m really proud of two stories of mine that were published in recent anthologies, but I’m not sure how they were received because neither book has gotten very many reviews. It can be a little discouraging. But then I realize that I myself haven’t read that many anthologies recently–I haven’t even finished reading the ones I was published in. So maybe everyone’s just busy.

Anyway, anthologies are an incredible way to discover new authors, and I haven’t been doing enough reading lately. Are there any collections you’d recommend?

On a completely different subject, I realized last night that the publication of “In the Nevergo” qualified me for an “Affiliate Writer” membership in the Horror Writers’ Association. I applied and was accepted today. I have a few more dark fantasy pieces in the works, so I’m hopeful that I might be able to upgrade to an “Active Writer” (i.e. full) membership before too long. I’ll see if there’s a badge or something I can put on my website. There aren’t a lot of concrete benefits to joining writers’ associations at this point in my career, but it’s a nice boost in a field where it’s hard to feel like a working professional.

(***I just checked and saw that under the updated membership requirements I also qualify for an Associate Membership in SFWA. I’m not quite ready to pay two sets of dues, though, so I’ll keep working towards a full membership there for now.)

books, fiction, writing

Bonsai Writing

My fiancee and I went to a bonsai festival this weekend. Naturally, since then I’ve been watching a lot of videos and reading a lot of articles about bonsai, reassuring myself that yes, I should not become a bonsai hobbyist. For me, the most interesting theme in all these videos is how slow and gradual the work is: artists work every day on their living sculptures, pruning and refining, transplanting and fertilizing, and day by day the average person wouldn’t see any change at all. Only after decades does the mature plant show the vision the artist had in their head all along. If you went to a bonsai nursery, everything under the age of two would look like an unremarkable seedling, and it would be hard to imagine how those twiggy little things could transform into sculpture worth handing down for generations.

So I was thinking about writing, and how it’s slow, incremental work, and how little progress the average author seems to make from day to day (even a prolific day’s writing is only a few minutes’ reading for most people). And so I though I might like to put a little sapling on display, so that no matter how long it takes me to finish a piece of my regular work, there’s always a little window open for anyone who’s interested to see what I’m doing. So I created a document today, and planted a seed, and here it is:

This is the beginning of what I hope will turn out to be a novel. It’s an actual working document, with notes and scribbles and half-finished sentences and all, and so far only a few words of prose. If you’re ever curious about what I’m doing, you can go and have a look, and leave a comment if you’d like. I’ll try to spend at least a minute on it whenever I tend to my other seedlings.

Image by Ilona Ilyés
books, daily life, Uncategorized, updates, writing

Friday Update/School Prep

It’s back-to-school-time! I teach part-time at a local elementary school, and today I went in to set up my desk and attend a safety seminar online (all in Czech, so perhaps I didn’t absorb as much as others…). Next week I’ll go around to locate the classrooms of the classes that I haven’t taught before, as well as meeting with Czech colleagues to discuss how the year’s lessons will run. We’re using a new structure this year, with lots of co-teaching, so I’m guessing lots of coordination will be required. Everyone seems very gung-ho, though, so I hope things will go off well.

The one unfortunate problem with returning to school is returning to an early-morning schedule. I asked not to be given any classes that started before nine, but unfortunately that request wasn’t granted, so I’ll be waking up around six for the next year. (I used to wake up later than that, but I’m trying to reduce excess stress in my life, and cramming myself into my clothes five minutes before the tram comes doesn’t make for a healthy or productive workday.) As I’m also trying once again to fight back against my lifelong foe, Chronic Sleep Deprivation, I’m trying to make myself turn all screens off at nine so as to be in bed by ten. We’ll see how that plays out in reality.

Looking forward to seeing Fran tonight. It’s a chilly, rainy Friday, and I’m guessing we’ll have a quiet weekend. We want to go to an ice cream festival this Sunday, and I think we’ve got about a fifty percent chance of beautiful weather; the other fifty percent will be comically inappropriate. But I’m guessing the ice cream will be worth the visit.

Dal (my smaller cat) is running around the house like a handful of bouncy balls. He knocked over a flowerpot that used to contain a basil plant but (post feline depredations) now contains dirt. Contained, rather; he decided to flip it over and gleefully play with the dirt, leaving a big sweeping spiral on the floor. My fault for not throwing out the remnants of my poor plant before the dirt dried out. Sadly, he isn’t very good at sweeping. Yggi (my big cat) has sensibly decided to hang out under my chair and doze.

Reading: Still The Haunting of Hill House, Edith Wharton’s ghost stories, and A Suitable Boy. Writing: VOID is at 160k, I think. Have not finished any shorts yet, but have a long list to work on.

Have a good weekend–

adhd, books, daily life, movies, updates, writing

Friday Update

It’s Friday, my dudes.

I’ve been very into containers this week. It seems to help a bit with executive dysfunction as regards cleaning up, as a lot of my brain paralysis re: putting things away seems to derive from having nowhere to put them. So I’ve been collecting little baskets, bowls, and boxes for all my little things (hairpins, perfume, erasers, etc.) and joyfully putting them away. I still have a long way to go before I’d call myself “tidy,” but it’s nice to have things displayed where I can enjoy looking at them. What’s annoying me is that the only top drawer in my kitchen is too narrow for a silverware divider, but too shallow for a basket, so I’m still looking for a way to organize the silverware. A serious and concerning problem, obviously.

Rainy and cool in the Czech Republic. Still enjoying the last bit of quiet, since messages are starting to come in from my public-school job and I’m guessing we’ll be in meetings next week. I’ve been working on a lot of different anthology submissions, hoping I can get at least most of them done before they’re due. Still reading A Suitable Boy and rereading The Haunting of Hill House, but have also started reading a collection of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories. Yesterday I rewatched about half of Father of the Bride (skipping over the cringe parts), which I watched again and again when I was a kid because we didn’t have many VHS tapes. I was surprised by how well parts of it held up, as it’s kind of a dumb movie; the emotional scenes are really well. Was also kind of horrified by the protagonist’s behavior, though. It’s hard to imagine someone being so ugly about their daughter’s wedding. I’m not sure how much of that is from the original (made in 1950) and how much was just considered funny in the 90s.

Not much to report on, really. Looking forward to seeing Fran this weekend and going to writers’ group tomorrow. Hope all of you are doing well.


books, daily life, fiction, movies, short stories, updates

Friday Update

Another quiet week. More people are coming back from vacation, but I only had to teach a few lessons this week, and really enjoyed the free time. I finished my submission for writers’ group early, which was a nice treat; usually I’m up late Friday night to get it done.

Re: computer: We looked at parts to build one, and it made my brain ache, so for peace of mind I went with a laptop. Hello, new Acer. May you prosper.

Fran’s mom is visiting. Met her for the first time yesterday and it was lovely. We don’t really have a common language (even if I spoke more Italian, I wouldn’t understand Sicilian), but I’m picking up bits as fast as I can and making Fran translate the rest. Got to taste proper Italian sausage yesterday (of course her mom brought a lot of food in her luggage ^_^). Did you know they sometimes put vegetables into the sausage casing? I did not, but I support it.

Went to a giant craft store the other day. Bought way too many craft supplies and had a great time.

Cold Comfort Farm was funny but had a lot of flaws: the parody was clunky, and I don’t think the author quite managed what she was going for. But I started watching the movie just now, and it seems to do the job much better. Quite funny; will see if it holds up.

Besides the new section of VOID, I started two new projects: a short story for submission, and another one for Halloween. “But Katherine,” you say, sounding rather exasperated, “every week you tell us about a new project you’ve started. Very rarely do you mention a project that’s finished.” Well, I’ll tell you that that’s an entirely valid point. Wish me luck.

Love all. Miss most of you.


daily life, updates

Friday (Saturday) Update

Not a lot of news this week. Still enjoying a light work schedule because of clients’ vacations, so have had a lot of time to write. Was finally able to complete a new chapter for a piece of fanfic last updated ten months ago, and have been enjoying the influx of happy reader comments ever since. It’s really a nice psychological boost to get that much immediate feedback on a piece of writing, especially when my main project won’t see the light of day for years.

Inconveniently, the new “short story” I started last week is on track to become another monster. For some reason all my “short” pieces keep ending up snugly in the 10-12k range. I’ve got a whole list of them (“Wake Your Ghost,” “We Go Hiking,” “Coven”) waiting to be edited, and two more (“Summerweek,” “Spirits in the Dark“) that were published by JMS Books. But it’s a hard length to market. I don’t think it’s that readers don’t want them, but that most magazines can barely afford to pay for short stories that are actually short. I’ve thought of putting mine up for sale myself, but I’m not sure how to cut through the massive crowd of self-pubbed ebooks long enough to get anyone to look at them. If you’d like to read them, let me know.

Still reading A Suitable Boy. Also reading Cold Comfort Farm (because A Suitable Boy is too large for me to leave the house with). No one told me Cold Comfort Farm was a parody of a gothic novel! It’s kind of funny, though a little clunky at times. I always used to confuse the title with Cold Sassy Tree, which I suspect is a very different kind of book.

Here’s something that happened today: during my online Czech lesson I spilled water all over my laptop. It shut right down, and I’m not sure yet how it’s doing. My girlfriend Fran, though she had her second COVID jab yesterday and was feeling crummy, went out with me and bought a tool kit to open the case for more efficient drying, so fingers crossed. (Fran also let me borrow her laptop, and thus am I now writing to you. Fran’s the best. ♡)

Progress this week: About 3,000 more words on VOID. The new story, “Dreams Errant,” is also at about 3k, but who knows how long it will be.

Happy weekend!