Back in the loop !


After (oops) a year and a half of not posting here, it’s probably time to reboot.

First, news: an updated list of published stories (see Stories, left sidebar), including an exciting acceptance by the beautiful Lackington’s Magazine (their Spring issue “Seas”). The story is called “Ambergris, or The Sea-Sacrifice” and it’s an attempt to tell a fairy tale with a father who fights for his child.

Looking back on winter/spring 2014/2015, a theme emerges (one I wasn’t conscious of and not sure I’m on friendly terms with yet), which is the fairy-tale princess grown old. Both “Sevenfold” and “The Men In The Wall” deal with this, as well as a third story I finished in the summer and which is still looking for a home. Three – count ’em! – three stories of what happens after the beauty, the romance, the bikini figure, and I didn’t notice the link between them til afterward. Something unconscious going on there or not?

What I’m looking forward to:  “The Case of the Passionless Bees” will be reprinted in the premiere issue of a new ezine entitled Mothership Zeta, edited by Mur Lafferty

This looks like a good one, folks  – I can’t wait to be part of it!

Also a story of mine will be out soon in the anthology “The Playground of Lost Toys” by the Canadian publisher Exile Editions, co-edited by Ursula Pflug. Steampunk chessboards! Aliens! Check it out…

Soon to come: I’m reading “Dramatica: A New Theory Of Story”. This is amazing stuff for a writer. Looks complicated, but isn’t, and I’m already thinking back to stories I abandoned, beginning to see why they didn’t work and how I might fix them. More on this when I’ve finished. Lots to think about.

Happy reading!


Quick post – Gearing up for my story in Lightspeed!


So proud to have my story “The Case Of The Passionless Bees” appearing in the Lightspeed special issue “Women Destroy Science Fiction” in June! The editor for the issue is Christie Yant and there’s now a blog and video online by Gabrielle de Cuir about the process of making the podcast for the story (with an off-screen cameo by Gearlock himself):

Gabrielle, who was in charge of the podcast, got Jonathan L. Howard (!) as the reading voice.

Artwork to accompany the story is by Christine Mitzuk and it’s just beautiful.

Everyone at Lightspeed has been wonderful and helpful. It’s been a great experience and I can’t wait for the issue – science fiction’s going to go out with a bang!

Blog-Hop: The Writing Life – Hop, Skip and a Jump



Instead of trudging along with this new blog, a slog as the Brits say (slog-blog?), I’m now hopping. In this blog-hop I get to talk about my writing process in four questions and then link to the next writer, who’ll do the same next Monday.


My invite to hop came from Rhonda Parrish, who is the editor of Fae, an anthology to be published by World Weaver Press, and a great and prolific writer (between lots of naps, or so she claims). She accepted my story “Possession” for Fae and helped it along with great editing tips. It was a pleasure to work with her and I can’t wait for Fae to come out.


On to…


The Hop:


  1. How does my writing process work?


I hop. No, really. This may be true of most writers, or those who focus on short stories, but at last count (which I stopped to make five minutes ago) I had nine stories in the works. Not just outlines. These are things that just need a little work to be finished. But I’ll open one up in the morning, leave it to go check Duotrope, and get a wonderful story idea for a themed issue of Zombies On The Moon that has a deadline at the end of the month, and I’ll start on that instead. And finish it, and often enough get accepted. It may be that this kind of “working under pressure” helps me focus. The idea that when the story’s finished there’s a specific market for it, that I’m going to send it there and it’s going to be exactly what they’re looking for (if all goes well, crossed fingers, etc). And after I’ve sent that story off, I go back to “my” stories, for which I have no particular market in mind, and…But wait, Steampunk Norse Gods is closing in a week. I could do something with that. Hop.


The writing process itself starts with notes. Lots of  ’em. I’m a ten-finger typist and I get everything that occurs to me into the computer first, a sort of stream-of-consciousness that might be general plot points or bits of dialogue, research, etc. – a grab-bag. I start writing the story on the same page at the top and “pull up” what I need from below (is there a metaphor in there?) as I go. Add lots of hot tea. If the idea was a tight one, there should ideally be nothing left at the bottom when the story’s finished. If there is, either I’ve got problems or those things weren’t going to fit in there anyway. I always try to let the story “sit” if there’s time. Don’t look at it or think about it for a week. When I go back to it, it’s fresh, meaning all the mistakes, bad writing and logic holes in the plot jump out at me.


Not to say I don’t have handwritten notes. These accumulate anytime I’m not in front of the PC and something occurs to me. Any paper will do. I’ve made notes on gum wrappers. I keep a notebook by the bed and I’ve been known to make a note in the middle of the night without turning on the light, so that I have something that looks like the Voynich manuscript the next day.


 The Skip:


  1. Why do I write what I do?


There are certain parts of life (cleaning out the dishwasher comes to mind) that you just want to skip. Anyone writing genre fiction (and reading it too) is an escapist, or so those others who don’t read it will tell you. I like the idea (and am sometimes disconcerted by it) that my daughter can come home from school and have no idea that I was in 1898 Alaska the entire morning or that Thor tore our street up in a modern-day Ragnarok. Maybe it’s not good – we’re supposed to live in the moment, or at least be aware of every moment, mindfulness and all that – but from every story I write I learn something a) about the world and b) about myself. And I always come back to the world. Richer (not necessarily in actual money – OK, almost never in actual money), and maybe somewhere down the line a story of mine will make someone else’s life richer (not in money).


But mainstream writing can do that too. So why robots and ghosts and fairies? Because they can creep in the back door. Rather than in-your-face reality, the world you know, you’re confronted with something impossible – maybe not robots or fairies, but something weirder  – but because they’re impossible they can somehow be the carriers of disease, they infect you with a kind of uncertainty about the world and get you thinking. At least they do me – I love reading this stuff, the weirder the better. I’m actually trying to get away from purely genre in my own writing. I’d love to be able to shake people up the way my favorite writers do, but I’m not there yet. So on to…


 The Jump:


  1. How does my writing differ from others of its genre?


So far, not much. Most of what I write comes down pretty well in one area of genre or another, but I’ve been trying more of the uncategorizable lately. There are lots of online places for these, but they’re the ones that would never dream of calling themselves genre. They talk about magic realism, fabulism and the quirky. Some I’ve published in: Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birkensnake, Defenestrationism. These are my breakouts from the normal genre writing I started with, but I would like to get to a place where I don’t have to jump between what is considered genre and mainstream/literary, but rather where I’ve created something all my own that people can’t pigeonhole. I’m not there at all yet.


Examples of what I’d like to emulate would be Jeff VanderMeer, also the doorstop anthology The Weird edited by him and his wife (the stories are chronological, so if you want to jump into what the most up-to-date Weird looks like, read it backwards, like I did), the anthology Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy edited by Kevin Brockmeier (where a lot of the stories come from “literary” sources that would probably never admit to publishing fantasy, like The Kenyon Review). Also anything by Jeffrey Ford.


No, I’m really not there yet.



Last But Not Least:


  1. What am I working on now?


Wait, let me check Duotrope. Oh, yeah, a fairy-tale retelling using quiltbag characters. I also just finished the rewrite on a story that will be appearing in the Journal of Unlikely Cartography, one of the themed issues put out by Unlikely Story. I’m looking forward to that, and to a story of mine that will help annihilate SF in an upcoming special issue of Lightspeed called Women Destroy Science Fiction. Friends tell me I need to get out more, but there’s just so many ideas and so little time.


 Now, follow the hop to:


Tahlia Merrill Kirk


Tahlia is a writer and the editor of Timeless Tales, an online magazine featuring retellings of myths and fairy-tales, with a special emphasis on mash-ups that make it fun and different. And she just moved to Texas! (Send me some sun, please.) On to you, Tahlia…


My living room. Not really, but I’m trying. Whoever dies with the most books wins (photo credit: Phobos Magazine)


A house near where I live – the fantastic just around the corner




The Rewrite From Hell, and One from The Other Place


 Recently I received two tentative acceptances from different editors asking me if I could rewrite the respective story submitted to them and giving me a lot of commentary to go on. Since the two stories were very different and I’d mostly only been subjected to line edits before that, it was a real learning experience.

What I mainly learned is that rewriting is hell. Or maybe more like the limbo from the movie Inception. You’ve already gone through the hell of writing your story, digging it all up inside yourself, getting it out there, creating those – hopefully – amazing structures that tie it all in together. And now you’re condemned to wander through this city of yours, pulling down a building here and there at random in order to make the skyline more appealing to someone else, viz. that *~!% editor. There may be aesthetic considerations, word choices that are questioned, but it may just as likely be that the editor is questioning where you were going with the story in the first place. You’ve got to pull down what might – for you – be landmarks in the story’s creation and what it means to you. All part of the job and the joy of writing, right?

In my case, I had a 2k story that was fairly straightforward and a 5k story that was a more sprawling affair, with lots of narrative threads that had had to be brought together and which I’d spent a lot more time on down there in limbo, building the structures to support it. The editor on the 2k didn’t question the story’s general direction, but had a line edit in almost every paragraph, with her own proposals for improvement. The editors (there were two of them) on the 5k liked the story, but rejected the ending out of hand. I would not only have to rewrite at least 500 words of ending – I’d have to rethink the whole story, unravel threads of reference, etc. Tear down those buildings.

Which one was the rewrite from hell? The 2k.

After thinking about it, I realized this had to do with the respect an editor shows the writer. The editors in the second case trusted that I had just gotten lost (as writers often do) on the way to the end of the story, but they trusted that I could tell that story with enough work, and they would let me use my own words to do it. The first editor seemed bogged down in having me say it her way, and whenever I sat down to it the work was teeth-grinding because I felt I had to defend my way of expressing myself.

The 5K revision was a lot more work, but it was joyous work, because the editors were on my side, working with me, helping me out of the woods. It made the story stronger, but most of all – the story stayed mine.

I can only hope I run into more of the latter kind of editor in the future.

The Prompt That Ate My Brain


I love themes, I hate deadlines. Put them together, though, and you come up with the perfect butt-in-chair motivation to finish a story. The theme acts as a prompt, unless it’s too broad or too detailed – more on that below – and there’s a built-in expiration date on your writing efforts. If you don’t get that music-themed off-Earth steampunk-robot story featuring a strong female lead character and an alien dog finished in time – well, you have to worry there may not be another market for it.


Duotrope (of thee I sing) has a calendar function that lists upcoming themed deadlines and I love these. Some of the themes I wrote toward and had the story accepted afterwards this past year included: strange words and sounds, Norse mythology in a modern urban setting, cartography, a prompt based on a painting by Zdzislaw Beksinski, and – yes – steampunk robots. This kind of thing just gets my juices going. Other times, the prompters just seem to be throwing broad, meaningless words out there or else the theme is so circumscribed it takes them more words to set out the theme than they’re allowing for the story length. Themes I’ve seen have included:


– Conversations


– Time


– Green pond    (what!?)


– Flourish


– Awaken


– Snow


– Character must be a biblioclast, setting is not Earth, plot must include an embarrassing nickname, a family curse, a flashlight and a broken bone (all in 1k words)


Did I feel prompted to write something after seeing those? Only after that last one. It ate my brain for a week. But the story was accepted and published afterwards, so it was worth it. Most of all though – it was fun.


If you’re all idea’ed out, here are some sites that work with prompts or offer story generators:


The Steampunk Story Generator at the back of the chapbook Homeless Moon 3,



I expect to be finished with my story about a green pond any day now.



How do you feel about prompts and themes? Like ’em, hate ’em?

Coming home to the present…


Rhonda Eikamp bio pic

Hi, I’m Rhonda Eikamp. I’m a writer of short stories in the genres of SF, fantasy and horror, with the occasional sally into the weird and indefinable. Having traveled in time for more years than I want to count, I find I’m a little behind the rest of the world (the one most of us prefer to live in anyway), and so it’s time to play catch-up. This past year I’ve had a lot of success in publishing (with help from Duotrope, the praises of which I will sing in another post), and I hope to use this blog to share some of what I’ve learned and encountered  about the writing life, deadlines, misplaced ideas and – of course – getting the laundry done.

Coming up: The Prompt That Ate My Brain / Rewrite Hell and Selfie Heaven / Help, I Speak German!


(Art credit for header – that horse head – goes to Marc Burckhardt, a Texas artist)