Hear me at the Inkwell’s Leap Year Reading!

At the Inkwell WebsiteI am excited to announce that I’ll be participating in a literary reading in one week with At the Inkwell! Giving readings is one of my favorite parts of being a writer, though I also get just a little bit of stage fright before it’s my turn at the mike, so familiar faces in the crowd are always helpful. I am one of five authors reading on 2/29 at Alley Cat Books (3036 24th Street, San Francisco) from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

I’ll be sharing “No Crossing,” the prologue to what will eventually become my third book. The theme of the reading, appropriately, is Leap Year. I considered writing a personal essay for it, seeing where inspiration led. But then I remembered “No Crossing” patiently waiting in my virtual manuscript shelf for me to write the rest of the book. It’ll have to keep waiting for that narrative, but the prologue ties in wonderfully to the Leap Year theme, with a giant canyon to surmount and the shattered and re-building faith of a young girl learning that adults don’t always tell the full story. Regina takes a leap at the end into what will someday be her own story … when I write that part. 😉

Full information on the reading, along with my bio and those of the other authors, can be found here.  Let me know if you plan to come!

The One Word Story Project: Free Fiction!

As those of you who’ve read my short story, “The Cold, Hard Facts of Life,” already know, the One Word Story Project didn’t quite come together this year. But that doesn’t mean that its participants didn’t write great fiction! So here are links to two more of the short stories written for the project, hosted on their authors’ websites for free. Like I did, they wanted to release these one-word-inspired stories out into the world!

One Word Story Free Fiction

First, Anya Davis’s “the Kindness of Kingfishers” uses halcyon as the inspiration for a love story, one perhaps doomed from the start but blessed with a beautiful use of language to tell it.

Second, Darci Cole gives us “Boys, Baseball, and Biology,” all subjects that often appear obfuscated to me. There’s plenty of adolescent miscommunication in this one…and plenty of cute, adolescent hormones as well. Yes, I just called hormones cute.

Finally, you can read four stories published on Team Hellions for the project, all in one place! Of them, Eve Jacob’s “Akasha” stood out for her entertaining duo of space-faring sisters on the hunt for a book on an ancient Earth religion. Rob Kristoffersen’s “Home is Where the Haunting Is” also painted a haunting portrait of the lingering effects of divorce.

Enjoy!

Review of the Novel Fox’s Anthology I

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The Novel Fox is a small press, founded in 2014, that specializes in bridging the divide between talented authors and the new world of digital publishing. They have three branches, and Anthology I is the first collection released under their Shorts imprint.

The description in the press release sounded interesting to me, so I agreed to review the book (Obligatory disclaimer: It was provided for free). The release reads, “With stories ranging from ‘Paying Old Debts,’ about a thoughtful sex robot assassin, to ‘A Wand’s Tale,’ chronicling the short life of a sentient magic wand, to ‘Subsidence,’ which includes a horrific golf hazard, the stories of Anthology I are riveting from beginning to end.” Those concepts sounded entertaining enough for this speculative short fiction author! I’m an easy sell.

Although the Novel Fox has a digital focus, I was pleased to receive a print copy of the book. And I was even more pleased by its high production values!

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The cover artwork is smart graphic design. The size is squarer than a standard paperback, which felt easier to handle. The nicely spaced, easily readable font also pleased me, and I loved the simple artwork at the beginning of each story — it set the mood quite well. I did worry the cover’s thick, black ink would rub off on my fingers as it felt oversaturated, but I have no smudges to report on.

Aesthetics are important in publishing, but content even more so. The anthology contains eight short stories, equally divided between science fiction and the fantastic. Interestingly, the short stories mentioned in the press release aren’t the ones I enjoyed most, though they all have redeeming qualities. Of them, “Subsidence” by Peter White is the most intriguing, employing the Lilliputian concept in a more horrific manner than I’ve seen in a while. Neil Marshall is a typical, middle-aged, wealthy male whose friend goes missing on a golf course. Moral of the story? Don’t chase after that delicious barbecue smell!

The One Word Story Project

In November, I stumbled across Rob Kristoffersen’s (@kristoffrable) One Word Story Project while browsing my Twitter feed. A group of authors writing stories each inspired by one word? Sounded like a lot of fun!

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I’d been looking for ways to share my fiction more often, as I had limited myself to publishing stories only with professionally rated Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America outlets, and I wasn’t feeling satisfied by the awesome, yet limited, opportunities they provide. So Rob’s project seemed perfect! As he’s a contributor at Team Hellions, a geek website covering a wide range of fandoms (even wrestling!), the stories will be hosted there.

And the first one is up today! Fittingly, the series begins with Rob’s story, “The Home is Where the Haunting Is,” which is inspired by the word epicedium: a funeral dirge. Click on over to read this tale, which, like my own, is a haunting story with marriage at its forefront. Rob’s tale is an affecting look into the aftermath of divorce, and it ends especially strong.

There will be a new One Word Story up at Team Hellions every weekday for a month, through 2/11/2016. My own is inspired by misogamy: a hatred of marriage, and I’ll tell you when it’s up, of course!  But I’ll also point you over to the site whenever I especially enjoy the other writers’ stories.

Need Gift Ideas? Give the gift of (my) fiction!

Hey, it’s not a holiday season without an obligatory “Buy My Work!” post from an author. I swear it’s in the contracts we sign in blood with our publishers…somewhere…I seem to have misplaced them.

Oh, I think I remember how...

Oh, I think I remember where…

In 2015, I added two new opportunities to purchase my work, which is one way of saying some very lovely people agreed to include me in their collections — some even paid me for it! One is a short story in a magazine and one is a contribution to a cookbook…a cookbook with quite illustrious co-contributors from the Speculative Fiction galaxy. Being a member of a professional organization comes with some perks, just sayin’.

Consider this my purchasable compendium, reverse chronological order! Collect all five! And come this time next year, there will be a novel to add to this list, one way or another…

1. Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook

Fran Wilde and Cat Rambo edited this collection of 150+ recipes from speculative fiction authors of the past, present, and maybe even future. In it, you can find my Seared Peaches with Prosciutto and Basil; it comes with high acclaim from the NC Research Triangle area spec fic community. Purchase the cookbook from the SFWA website here or from Amazon.

2. “Thlush-A-Lum” in PULP Literature Issue #5

“Thlush-A-Lum” is pure horror that would qualify as flash fiction in most markets. The story came about when I challenged myself to write something more focused on the sense of sound than the other four I more commonly use in my writing. Many of those sounds are inspired by what I could hear from my own Southern bedroom window…and a few sounds that I swear I’ve been able to hear no matter where I’ve lived.

Purchase Issue #5 from the PULP Literature website or from Amazon.

3. “Blow ‘Em Down” from Beneath Ceaseless Skies Double Anniversary Issue #131

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“Blow ‘Em Down” is the story I describe as a steampunk retelling of the Battle of Jericho with a jazzy feel circa Harlem Renaissance. It’s been taught in a college class and brought me some of my highest compliments, so I certainly think it’s worth the read. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is not available in print, but the e-magazine can be purchased through Weightless Books or on Amazon.

4. “Bother” in Bull Spec #5

“Bother” was the cover story for Bull Spec #5, and I’m honored to this day that the highly regarded Richard Case chose to illustrate it. It’s urban fantasy about how a couple survives, or doesn’t, when a dragon comes to roost on their city block. Luckily, there appears to still be back issues of Bull Spec available, although the magazine has shifted to a web-only presence. Order Issue #5 here or an e-version from Weightless Books here.

5. Maya’s Vacation

The contemporary romance novella I never expected write, Maya’s Vacation came to be in a dream about frying chicken, and I fleshed that dream out into the story of a woman in her fifties rediscovering herself after a divorce and relearning what she used to love through food, paint, and an old flame returned. Maya’s Vacation, published by Clean Reads, is available on Amazon. Warning: No sex scenes in this romance! Just unrequited longing. Or is it requited? I’ll never tell.

I may also mention that anything you buy that features my work is a gift to me as well — word of tongue can only spread after eyes on the page have done their business. Of course, I also have plenty of fiction free to read online as well — just click over to the Creative section to find it. Thank you for your support, and I hope to keep entertaining you in the future. I’m pretty sure I’ll have some snippets to share by the end of next week as well…

Happy holidays, from me and Ben!

Happy holidays, from me and Ben!

Review of Amélie: A New Musical

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Friday night, I attended a performance of Amélie: A New Musical at the Berkeley Rep. This was my first time attending a show at that theater—I’ve only lived in Oakland 6 months, y’all. And my biggest takeaway from the performance is that I will absolutely never buy an obstructed-view seat at the Roda stage again. Honestly, I could only see two-thirds of the stage at any given time from the loge. Don’t do it. Pay full price.

Especially pay full price for a show as charming as this one. Before I go on, you need to know that I’ve never seen the Amélie movie, and my knowledge of it was limited to knowing it’s a quirky indie flick starring Audrey Tautou. You should also know this review contains plenty of spoilers—I want to talk about what worked and what didn’t, and it’s hard to do that without specifics. Lastly, I have only one song title, unfortunately, because the program did not include a scene list, which makes absolutely no sense to me unless they still wanted the freedom to change things up during this first run.

So What Worked?

The Whimsy. From the off-kilter set design to the choreography, props, and performances, Amélie’s (modern-day, Samantha Barks; young, Savvy Crawford) imagination comes through without it being an over-the-top hammer hit of “LOVE ME AND MY QUIRKS!” It’s subdued whimsy, if you will. One of my favorite scenes was the simple staging of Amélie skipping stones: quickly raised pom-poms streaming with blue were all that was needed for the image to come across. Special kudos go to the hearts that magically appear during the scenes when Amélie and her love interest, Nino (Adam Chanler-Berat), spy on each other in the subway station. The show would undoubtedly be a lesser being without the travelling gnome number as well. The postcard puns were a sheer delight on their own, and David Andino’s enthusiastic performance made it a highlight of the show.

The Songs. A good 90% of this show is songs rather than dialogue, with music by Daniel Messé and lyrics by Messé and Nathan Tysen. The performances and the score had airy, breezy qualities that made the songs easy to understand and able to show off the tonality of the singers’ voices well. Nino’s solo, “Thin Air,” and Nino and Amélie’s shared song around the doorframe at the climax of the romantic plot were plusses for me. To be fair, I’m a sucker for the tried and true romance device of lovers separated by a door. I must say, however, that my favorite musical moments were when the company rises up in harmony, which occurs in several numbers. These songs won’t wear you out, they’ll just guide you effortlessly through the plot. And frankly, an easy-to-follow plot is a win for a musical.

Attractive Unattractive Americans: How the World Sees America

I was contacted to do a review for Attractive Unattractive Americans: How the World Sees America, a book written by René Zografos, an award-winning Norwegian-Greek journalist. It is published under his own imprint, Renessanse Publishing.

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I don’t do many book reviews, but this one’s subject matter caught my eye. “Almost every human being on the planet today knows something – and feels something – about America…But what does a world that contains seven billion people really think about the most talked about – and controversial – nation on earth?” reads the press materials, and frankly, I’m a sucker for every article I come across that tries to answer that question. Even in our modern connected world, we live such a myopic experience in the USA, tangled up in our own affairs in part because of how large of a country we are geographically and in part because rugged individualism is in the American DNA. We think we know how foreigners see America—the use of ‘Murrica! is now common parlance as is the notion we’re supposed to be world saviors yet are viewed as world manipulators. But are these conundrums what most people outside the USA ponder about us on the whole?

Zografos tackled that question through seven years of collecting anecdotes from and interviewing travelers and locals throughout the world, from Malaysia to the United Arab Emirates to Costa Rica. He has a direct, honest, and contemplative writing style.

René Zografos, photo provided by Smith Publicity.

René Zografos, photo provided by Smith Publicity.

The book is organized as a series of essays, some by Zografos and others by invited writers, on different topics related to the American identity. Interspersed with the essays are short quotes from interviewees in different geographical locales. Through this structural backbone, common themes arise that sometimes seem in direct conflict with each other. For instance, an admiration for American manners and our optimistic, you-can-do-it! attitudes comes through just as strongly as a disdain for American superficiality and lack of authenticity in our friendships. I found the comments about superficiality especially intriguing being as I come from the region of the USA that Americans themselves have deemed the most superficial: Southern California. So it was especially interesting to see so many travelers say Americans in general don’t have genuine friendships or make real connections with other people. I’m still chewing the cud on that one. Do people in other countries use that expression?

Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook for Sale!

What’s that? I share a contributor credit with such famous speculative fiction writers as Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, Mary Robinette Kowal, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Jim C. Hines?

Ad Astra Cover

You bet I do! The Ad Astra 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook came to be when a few fellow illustrious Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America members decided it was high past time for another cookbook to come forth from our midst. Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde volunteered for editing duties and managed to gather up 150+ recipes along with some bonus specialties with ingredients that may be hard to find…

I’ll let the Foreword speak for itself to give you a better idea of what this cookbook entails:

Within the science fiction and fantasy community, writers work wherever they can find a table, often among friends, virtual and face to face. It’s a blend of friendship and business, of celebration and craft. It’s messy sometimes. It’s beautiful.

In celebration of fifty years of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook has collected recipes old and new from writers across the span of its membership. But this is more than just a cookbook. What you hold in your hands is a historical document. You’ll find a history of SF/F entertaining that goes back more than fifty years. Some of it is funny; some (like the bash cake/Mars colony cake), is itself a historical document; some of it is conversations between multiple writers. Some of it is written in fanciful, or … colorful language.

Here be Dragons.

Not everyone we wished to include are within these pages. But many are. We hope many more are to come in the future cookbooks.

The introduction to my Seared Peaches with Prosciutto and Basil definitely qualifies as one of those fanciful entries. It is a tribute to the speculative fiction writers and fans of the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, which is where I began my fiction-writing career and where I developed wonderful friends and support from among many talented fellow key-pounders.

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You can get your hands on this very unique, and very fun collector’s item of a cookbook straight from the SFWA website here. Click to order through Paypal. Spiral-bound print is $19.95 and e-book is $9.99. I’d recommend the print myself.

Ad Astra is available for the same prices from Amazon as well.

All proceeds from the book are going directly to the SFWA Legal Fund, which is used to help SFWA members with court costs when the need for writing-related legal action is necessary–most of us don’t make much in this gig, so the legal fund can be a career saver when our work needs to be protected.

Enjoy this fun collaboration, and I’ll enjoy my moment of glory being among this fantastic group of recipe contributors.

Nonfiction Bragging: Guest Blogging for Localwise!

About two weeks ago, my first guest blog for Localwise went up! Localwise, you say? What’s that?

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Well, my friends, it’s a Berkeley-based start-up that’s essentially a classifieds board for local jobs. They began with listings in Berkeley and Oakland only, but after six months of operation, they’ve expanded to Alameda, Emeryville, and San Francisco with more Bay Area locations in the works.  The site is easy to navigate and a much preferred alternative for local businesses and applicants over that other free classifieds site. You know the one.

That’s great, Becca! But what does that have to do with you? You write about food, drink, and travel, not job hunting!

So true. But one of the most appealing aspects of Localwise is their commitment to building community in the Bay Area, because knowing your neighbor and neighborhood business owner generally tends to improve everyone’s quality of life. As part of that goal, Localwise runs a blog that highlights local businesses, job profiles, and the food & drink scene. Why that last item? Because food industry positions make up around 2/3 of Localwise’s job listings at any given time. That’s right–2/3! We like to eat here, folks. We like to eat a lot.

And drink. Definitely drinking too.

And drink. Definitely drink too.

Perhaps you can see where I come in now? Along with a few other Bay Area food & drink bloggers, I’ll be contributing short articles to the blog on at least a monthly basis. My first one touched on three of the newest food joints in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood.

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The chicken-cherry sausage at Rosamunde Sausage Grill.

It started like this….

Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood has no shortage of restaurant options, and in the last six months, it’s added three more to its roster. Two of them are brand-new locations, and one is reimagined, but all three are worthy of your gastral attention. Ranked from fastest out the door to least likely to kick you there, here are Temescal’s newest eateries:

And you can read the rest of that article over at Localwise. I’ll let you know at the Gourmez when the next one goes up!

Still Seeking Validity, or, Self-Worth Struggles for Bread-Eaters

“I’m a writer,” I say proudly, adding on the descriptor of fiction, entertainment, or food and drink depending on the company. “But I don’t support myself or anything.”

Ah, there it is. My caveat. Why am I compelled to add it in? Something within me thinks it’s important for people to know, although it isn’t. It’s none of their business how much money I make in my career, but somehow, after six years at this gig, I still view my financial contributions to the household as an essential part of my identity. Other bread-eaters I know have had to deal with judgments as to how they spend their days from other people, and I wouldn’t hesitate to rise to their defense, raise my voice and yell, “How dare you try to devalue this person’s work?!” whether that work be a career, raising children, keeping up a household, or a combination of all of the above. Yet I do it to myself all the time.

I’m ridiculous. You’d think I’d know better by now. Way back when I left my last day job to pursue fiction writing fulltime, I wrote a post on how I was struggling with financial dependency—nay, not just being financially dependent on someone else, but choosing it. That was before I could call myself a professional writer or a published author. I now have a nice long list of accomplishments, and I know I spend the same amount of time on my career as most people do in their workplaces. But my primary emotional battle remains the same: accepting, again and again, that my self-worth does not need to be connected to my financial contribution. You’d think I’d have an easier time with that seeing as our income has risen every year since. But I still get hung up on it.

I’m proud, you see. Proud that I put myself through college. Proud that I could fully support myself until the age of 29. Taking pride in my financial acumen, in the independence that it provided, was a key aspect of my identity until I took that jump into writing fulltime. It provided me with validation that I now have to find elsewhere. And inevitably, that elsewhere starts as a side writing project that eventually overpowers my passion project—writing fiction—because fiction brings in nominal income even when I do sell a story or get royalties. So I devalue it and slowly but surely reprioritize the projects that bring in significant funds. My first few years, that was copy editing dissertations and manuscripts until I realized I was no longer working on my fiction. In the last two years, that’s been writing for an entertainment website until I had the wake-up call that maybe, maybe, the reason I couldn’t get the motivation to work on my second novel was because of the 5K of polished words I’d churned out on articles over 2 days.

How do I realize I’ve done it again? A growing sense of dissatisfaction with my work develops, and I eventually have that aha! moment of realizing it’s because I’m not engaging my creative side. Which isn’t to say nonfiction isn’t creative, of course, but it doesn’t feed my soul in the same way. After I make that realization? The downward spiral commences: I must convince myself, yet again, that it’s okay if I don’t contribute funds to our income, and that I, Becca Gomez Farrell, somehow deserve this amazing opportunity to pursue my dreams when so many other people can’t. What right do I have to live this privileged life? And yes, I mean “privileged” with all its social justice connotations. Why is it okay for me to take advantage of this opportunity; what did I do to deserve it other than picking a great husband?  It feels selfish of me to even consider spending my days spinning yarns in light of what other people face.