Blarg!

Bill's blog. Writing, guitars, gratuitous Simpsons references, you'll find i​t all here. Almost certainly a waste of time for both you and the author. On the internet, that's actually a plus.

2017 Awards Eligibility Post

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This year, I only had one short story publication, but it's a really good one, and you wouldn't regret voting for it for a Hugo or Nebula. It's called "A Crawlspace Full of Prizes," and it appeared in the sixth volume of Unidentified Funny Objects.

Amazing Stories had this to say about it: 

“A Crawlspace Full of Prizes” by Bill Ferris – One of my favorites in the anthology, even though it is told in second person, which rarely works for me. You are surprised when a strand of tickets comes out of your faucet after you brush your teeth. More appear after doing the laundry and other chores. Then, when you try to put a box of Christmas ornaments in your crawlspace storage, you find a counter with prizes for redeeming your tickets. The sort of booth you might find at a carnival. This is one of those gems I mentioned at the beginning. Highly recommended.

And here's Tangent's review:

"A Crawlspace Full of Prizes" by Bill Ferris sets up a situation where you start to get tickets—like those you get from playing Skee-Ball at an arcade—from your various home appliances. You learn that these actually can be redeemed for various prizes, most of which are things from your past, like "perfect recall of your high school prom." This is magic realism that's more strange than funny, but I think overall the story works well, and gets extra points for succeeding while being written in the second person.

Again, "Crawlspace" is eligible for the Hugo and Nebula in the short story category. Whether you vote or not, however, I hope you enjoy(ed) the story, and I'm looking forward to writing more of them in 2018.

New short story: "A Crawlspace Full of Prizes" in UFO 6

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My latest short story, "A Crawlspace Full of Prizes," is available now in Unidentified Funny Objects, Volume 6. It's one of my favorites. It's a classic tale of an everyman who, while going into his crawlspace to put away the Christmas decorations, finds a fully-staffed prize counter to a Dave & Busters.  

Here's an excerpt:

Thursday, you walk around to the rear of your house to the crawlspace to put away a box of Christmas decorations for the year. You expect that behind the three-by-five crawlspace door will be the crawlspace, since it's right there in its name and everything. But instead of the musty smell of garden tools and old maple boards from that cutting board you tried to make but gave up on, you find a neon-lit room with day-glo carpet. Top-40 radio blares over loudspeakers that sound nicer than anything you've got in your den. At the center of the room is a glass display case filled with little plastic spider-rings and Pixy Stix, as well as other assorted knick-knacks, candies, baubles, and gee-gaws. You couldn't be more surprised if a bear had jumped out of the crawl space. A bear would've at least made a certain kind of sense. You mention this to Sean, the surly, skinny, pimply teen wearing a green polo shirt and nametag, standing behind the glass counter. You also ask him what the heck he's doing here, anyway?

"Because it's my shift," Sean tells you. 

How did he even get this job? This is your house, you protest. Surely there must be a mistake. Sean will have to leave this instant. And where are you supposed to put your Christmas decorations?

If there were competitions for such things, Sean's reply of, "I don't know what to tell you," would win gold for Least Helpful Phrase in the English Language.

You can buy your copy of UFO 6 at Amazon.

Award Eligibilty Post 2016

Hello! Here's my year-end post about my work that's eligible for awards. It's just one story this year, but it's a good one that I like very much: My Enemy, the Unicorn, published in Unidentified Funny Objects 5. Please enjoy this short excerpt:

Snowflake had been Jax Zoo's lone unicorn since his mate, Raindrop, broke her leg. Scuttlebutt was that the zookeepers had used their gun on her, then split the carcass between the griffins, tigers, and bears. This had come from Lily and her friends, though, and they were full of shit half the time, and at least half-full all of the time. They told Chad all sorts of things, like if he'd been taken to any other state, he'd have rights as a person, but like most creatures of arcane genetics and questionable legality, he'd ended up in Florida.

Award eligibility post about awards for which I'm eligible to be awarded awards

Photo credit:  akahawkeyefan

Photo credit: akahawkeyefan

Here's a rundown of what I've recently published, in the event you'd like to nominate my work for a major award

I'm eligible for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, based on the publication of "Athlete's Foot" in Crowded. 

Also, my short story, "Suicide Chef," appeared on the Tales to Terrify Podcast. It is eligible for the Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Story: Small Cast (Short Form).

FYI, if you'd like to read some of my work for free, I published two of my short stories on this here website:

Whether you nominate me for anything or not, you're still allowed to enjoy the stories. I don't mind, I promise.

"Suicide Chef" and "P is for PWNED" to appear on Tales to Terrify

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Tales to Terrify will publish audio versions of two of my short stories, "Suicide Chef" and "P is for PWNED." If you're not already a listener, Tales to Terrify is a sister podcast of the Hugo-award winning Starship Sofa.

"Suicide Chef" was originally published in issue 7 of Opium Magazine. A chef finds a way to save his struggling restaurant, but with deadly consequences. It was my first-ever fiction publication, so I'm really excited to reintroduce people to it. It'll be my first audio narration, too, so I hope you enjoy it.

"P is for PWNED" is a new one--it's a detective story about Charles Moncrief, a geriatric, hard-boiled private eye who's hired to crack the case of a kid who killed himself over losing a video game. To solve it, he'll have to overcome his estranged daughter, the ravages of old age, and his complete ignorance of computer technology.

They'll be on different episodes, and I'll let you know the release dates as soon as I have them.

"Athlete's Foot" is now available in Issue 1 of Crowded

A fine magazine with the good sense to publish one of my short stories

A fine magazine with the good sense to publish one of my short stories

New publication! But have you ever wanted to hear the thrilling saga of how a short story gets published? No? Well, here it is anyway, and you can skip it if you want:

In November of 2010, I submitted my favorite short story I'd written to a magazine that had just started paying professional rates. It was a funny piece about basketball and limb loss, and I thought it'd be a good fit at this magazine. Best of all, it would be my first pro-level short fiction sale.

Submitting stories for publication takes a long time. Editors have huge amounts of stories to sift through, and a lot of magazines expect you to submit exclusively--editors don't want to invest a lot of time and energy into a story only to have it snatched away by another magazine. If you get caught simultaneously submitting, that magazine will refuse to publish you until the sun rises in the west.

So, this magazine. It took them a while to get back to me. After six months, I sent a polite query to ask if they had had a chance to look at it. They replied that they'd been inundated with submissions after they'd raised their pay rate, so it might be a while. Fair enough, I thought.

I still thought it was fair after a year, when I sent this magazine another query (you'll notice I'm not mentioning them by name, so you can probably see where this is going). No decision yet, but they'd advanced me into the "maybe" pile, so I had that going for me, which was nice.

We went back-and-forth another six months until last April, when I informed them (politely) to remove my story from consideration so I could consider another market.

Their reply: "That's too bad especially since it was so very close to getting bought. Best of luck to you."

I've been submitting to magazines for several years, so I'm pretty good at dealing with rejection. But their little "So long, asshole" routine was definitely a beetle in my french fries (which really happened to me one time). It was the implicit, "If you'd only allowed us to dick you around for another six months, we'd have bought your story. Maybe." The thing that irritated me most, though, was that it took them a month-and-a-half to write it--they couldn't even tell me to go to Hell in a timely fashion.

On the Big List of Injustices in this world, this one ranks pretty low, but it annoyed me nonetheless. Did you notice I used past tense there? I am over it. At last, I have my sort-of revenge.

My short story "Athlete's Foot" is now available in the debut issue of Crowded. This magazine has some great stories in it, accompanied by some terrific looking artwork. (And yes, they pay professional rates, in case you were worried about my career or whatever.)

"Athlete's Foot" is a horror/urban fantasy story about Tyler, an American basketball player struggling to make it in the European minor leagues. A good season might get him back to the States and the NBA. Too bad for him, his team has also signed former NBA superstar (and current out-of-shape has-been) LaWilliam Morris, who treats Tyler like his personal slave. Tyler doesn't believe in karma, but he finds out that what goes around does come around once in a while, and that's not always a good thing.

Am I being petty about this whole thing? Yeah, probably. But like I said, "Athlete's Foot" is one of my favorites, and finally seeing it published feels really good. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Crowded, Issue 1

Read my story, "The Consolidated Brotherhood of Truly Bearded Santas" for free in The Again

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I got your Christmas story right here, pal: A reprint of "The Consolidated Brotherhood of Truly Bearded Santas" is now available for free in The Again, an online magazine of odd fiction from the U.K. If "odd fiction" is too nebulous a term for you, here's a handy chart depicting the kind of things they like to publish. Their fiction is free, but you can show them some support by purchasing one of their stylish and functional coffee mugs.

TCBoTBS was originally published last December in Stupefying Stories, so if you've read it before, you'll have to pretend to be surprised. Visually, though, it's much different--this version has several brand-new illustrations from artist Jennifer Hung. My favorite is this image (see below) of the beloved Germanic Christmas character Krampus tearing open a package of ground beef. I'm confident we'll be seeing this soon-to-be classic holiday tableau next to the Nativity scene for generations to come.

Aw, I was saving that beef for taco night!

Aw, I was saving that beef for taco night!

I hope you enjoy the story. Merry Christmas!

The Again No. 6: Dec. 2012

Read my story "Lucky" in issue 2.1 of Stupefying Stories

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Stupefying Stories issue 2.1, which includes my short story "Lucky," is available starting today through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I'm fortunate enough to know a few of the talented scribes published in this issue, including, in no particular order, Samuel M. Johnston, Ada Milenkovic Brown, Courtney Valdes, and Elizabeth Berger. Be sure to check out their work, too.

Here's a quick excerpt of "Lucky":

Dr. Gustaw stopped walking, turning to face Alan. “Here’s the Wikipedia version. Think of luck as a form of magnetism. It pulls you toward a certain outcome based on the positive or negative charge of certain particles.”

“Luck particles? There are luck particles?” Alan said
“Until they’re officially named Gustaw particles, yes. The guy at MIT wants to call them Ludtener particles even though I discovered them first. But that’s neither here nor there. An instance of good luck causes a buildup of positive luck particles. Bad luck, negative charge. With me?”
“I guess.” Alan wondered if he could find his way out of the building from here.
“Unlike magnetism, opposites don’t attract. Good luck attracts more good luck, and vice versa. The bigger the charge you’ve accumulated, the more good or bad luck you get. That’s happenstantial attraction. Ludtener uses a snowball/avalanche analogy, but I think it’s more cyclonic. Tornado.”
“So why am I supposed to lose an eye? Too many black cats crossing my path?”
Dr. Gustaw glared at Alan. “You don’t believe in that hokum, do you? I’m a scientist, sir, not some witch-doctor.”
“No offense.”
“You are what I call a class-four attractor,” Dr. Gustaw said. “If your test results are accurate, your luck center is a hundred times more attractive than class ones—average people.
“How many classes are there?”
“Theoretically infinite, but practically speaking, seven is as high as you could go. If you could attract more good or bad luck than that, you’d either be a god or suddenly burst into flames. I’ve met one class six, and she won two lotteries before dying in a bowling accident."

Where to buy

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Pro sale! "Athlete's Foot" to appear in Crowded Magazine

Transient

I've achieved a writerly milestone: my first pro-level fiction sale! My short story "Athlete's Foot" will appear in the first issue of Crowded Magazine. Crowded is a new speculative fiction publication based in Australia, which means I've now sold my work on three different continents.

My non-writer friends have asked me, "So what's a pro sale? Does this mean you're going to quit your job and wear a beret and move to a fancy chalet in the Alps like some pretentious artistic jerk?" Sadly, no. In writer's parlance, a pro sale is any magazine for which you're paid a minimum of five cents per word. It may not sound like a huge amount compared to one's day job--as Merlin Mann might say, writing to make money is like learning ventriloquism to meet girls--but it's not too bad for something I created out of nothing. I'll still act like a pretentious jerk, mind you, just without the beret (and with the day job, in case my boss is reading this).

I'll post publication dates and other details as they arrive. Crowded seems like a cool magazine, and I hope you'll consider supporting them.

Crowded Magazine