Have you read my short fiction collection, WOMEN AND OTHER CONSTRUCTS? It’s free!

Published in 2013, Women and Other Constructs includes six previously published tales, plus two new ones, and–just for fun–a sonnet about a murderous robot. The “Introduction” talks about the broader themes behind the book, and “About the Stories” gives a quick look at what inspired each of them. I assembled the books myself: print layout, ebook creation, and designing the cover. It’s not long, just over 20,000 words, but it best represents my work to that point, and though I’ve evolved a bit as a writer since, I still love these pieces.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • “Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance”
  • “Letter From A Murderous Construct and His Robot Fish”
  • “Annabelle Tree”
  • “A Cage, Her Arms”
  • “Call Center Blues”
  • “Mitch’s Girl”
  • “All The Right Words”
  • “Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere”
  • “About the Mirror and its Pieces”
  • About the Stories

You can see what other folks thought at the Goodreads page for the book. (Liked it? Please leave me a review.)

Download a bundle of all 3 ebook formats, here, or individually: ePubMobi, or PDF. You’ll have to “check out” but there’s no charge, and no financial information required.

What I’ve Been Reading: Lynda Barry’s CRUDDY

Some books about children are for children; Lynda Barry’s Cruddy is definitely not.

First, a warning: this book contains themes, sometimes graphic descriptions, of subjects and events which might be triggering to readers, including suicide, murder, child abuse, child sexual assault, racism, sexism, ableism, mistreatment of people with special needs, drug use, runaways, institutionalization, and animal abuse.

If you still want to give Cruddy a try after all of that… you should. It’s probably the best-written depiction of a troubled child’s life that I’ve ever read. It’s perfect in a lot of ways. It’s hard to read, because it unflinchingly flays open some of the worst things a child can go through, but it’s easy to read, too, because Barry writes clean. Her tone is even throughout; there are no missteps, no awkwardly written passages. You meet Roberta, the 16-year-old narrator, on the first page, and until the book closes, there’s nothing to kick you off the ride.

It’s a hell of a trip, though. Nothing about Roberta’s life is easy or comforting, and even what seems positive for a moment is only in comparison to how crushingly terrible everything else is. But that’s the thing about a life in desolation — little moments of joy that other people, happier people, with more good in their lives, that might never be noticed, instead take on a monumental property. A shared moment can be enough to pin a life on.

Barry makes sense of the little moments and the big ones, weaving them all together so well you barely notice which is which.

I wasn’t surprised by any of it, but I suspect that’s because my childhood was not very different from Roberta’s. Better in some ways, worse in others, with some parts in common, and other parts that didn’t have to be shared because the overall feeling of growing up unwanted, unliked, outside of everyone else: that, I recognize. For other readers, it might be too hard to keep turning the page. That’s okay. But if you can get through it, Cruddy is a masterclass in writing about survival, PTSD, self-harm, suicidal ideation, from the perspective of a child whose parents (and their lack of parenting) made her a perpetual victim.  The story, Robert’as voice, feels real. It’s possible, probable, and tangible, even though we wish it couldn’t be.

Read it because you want to know what life is like for people with worse luck than your own. Read it because you want to know how to write terrible, unimaginable, darkness without losing a grip on the light. Read it because it is beautifully written, in a way that makes it appear simpler than it is, to make even those dark parts easier to digest.

Read it because though almost everything Roberta tells you about her life is bad, Cruddy is perfectly, solidly, good.

Art History Resources For Writers: Vintage Sewing Patterns (20th century)

Standard 1108; ©1899; Men’s and Boys’ Military Shirt.

If you’re writing about at people who lived in America (or at least, a parallel version of the United States with a similar fashion sense), in a generation or region different from your own, you might not have a clear vision of how your characters dressed. Vintage sewing patterns can tell you what the average person was wearing at the time. Different eras relied more or less on home-sewn clothes, but every generation has worn the styles depicted in sewing patterns, whether they bought off the rack or not.

Peerless 9590W; ca. 1920; Ladies’ & Misses’ Drawers.

Mass market clothing has always been inspired by the high fashion of a couple years prior, and that filters down into the everyday looks worn “today”. It used to be that finding old patterns meant scouring garage sales, or — if you’re lucky — diving deep into your local library’s collection of ephemera. Thanks to the internet, you can now find a lot of these rare pieces on the Vintage Sewing Pattern Wikia.

Hollywood 1090; ca. 1932; One-piece evening frock and short fitted jacket.

Like any other public wiki, this one is updated and maintained by a group of people who may or may not be historians, so double check whatever you glean from their archives, but with sewing patterns, it’s pretty easy to get information about the date and region right there on the package.

Butterick 4133; late 1940s; Misses’ Hostess Gown: Scalloped Midriff.

This site includes both patterns uploaded individually by folks who owned a copy, and some  Vintage Pattern Vendors who allowed their patterns to be used; the site’s About section warns against uploading copyright images.

McCall’s 3616; ©1956; Misses’ Bathing Suit and Beach Robe with or without Sleeves

Vogue 7497; ca. 1968/69; Misses Caftan.

Click on any of the images to see a larger version. All are currently available on the Vintage Sewing Pattern Wikia.

 

Out Now: Redshift’s radio drama adaptation of my story “That Lucky Old Sun”

Earlier this year, Redshift contacted me about my Apex Magazine story, “That Lucky Old Sun“. They’re a monthly science fiction audio drama anthology series produced by Fancy Pants Gangsters, in their third season. Redshift bought the audio rights to my story, and their cast recorded it like a old-school radio show!

Their current season includes work by  and , so I’m in great company. (All of their recordings are free to listen to — check them out!) Though I didn’t write “That Lucky Old Sun” specifically to be performed in this way, I always think about the audio quality of my work as I write, so I’m grateful other readers were able to “hear” it in the same way.

You can find Redshift’s performance of my story here.

An Obituary For @talkwordy

Correction: Brian J. White, known on Twitter as the estimable @talkwordy, is not dead in the literal sense. I mean, he’d want want you to know this fact. But a hilarious series of events caused @wa7trel to request this “obituary”, and I turn in my assignments as ordered.

Latest Obituaries: Local Spotlight

BRIAN J. JONAH JAMESON WHITE, of Boston, MA and Elsewhere. Beloved husband, newspaper editor, publisher, miscreant, and hedgehog fetishist, Mr. White died suddenly last week while announcing that he was stepping down from Fireside Magazine, which he had founded. White, who had quietly suffered for years from an embarrassing illness which caused uncontrollable shouting on the internet and an inability to use simple punctuation, passed away surround by his wife, cats, and a pile of improperly nibbled KitKat bars.

White’s death was announced online by his dear friend, , who immediately began gathering messages of grief and support from the community, under the hastag #RIPwordy. Hundreds of tweeters shared their favorite memories of the cantankerous clown-fondler, from the way he mangled candy with his face, to his innocent love of hedgehogs, and of course, his many cat pictures, which will be missed.

The family has been alerted to ongoing activity on White’s Twitter account, which seems to have been hacked after his death; though it’s unclear whether the faux-Wordy tweeting from this account now is a fan or a Markov bot, the cats have decided to hold off deleting @talkwordy for now, as a sign of respect for the community’s need to grieve. (The harsh language directed at @KitKat_US, the social media intern behind the official US account for Hershey Kit Kat, has caused some confusion, as it is especially on message for White’s brand.) Please bear in mind that any responses White’s Twitter bot provides should be consider parody, for entertainment purposes only.

White’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, you consider supporting Fireside Magazine on Patreon, so the publication White began may continue to publish great stories, and pay writers well.

Those interested in reading a collection of newsletters, created by White and found in a desk drawer after his death, may subscribe to “his” Patreon here. (Though these newsletters will be checked for content and clarity before being sent to subscribers, White’s cats have stated for the record that as cats, they cannot read, so it’s possible a few clown references will sneak in.)

An “unofficial” public wake will be held at this year’s Readercon, in the bar.


I’ve been taking prompts from friends and fans who contribute to my rent and expenses, and writing them into flash length fiction stories. So far in this round, I’ve posted six other tales:

If you want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE. (Seriously, any amount. I appreciate the help.) You don’t need a PayPal account to use that link.