Now, here’s some of what I planned to tell you. The rest will apparently have to wait until next week (even though I have author’s copies).
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine has published my short story, “Crossing The River Styx.” It’s a mystery set in the Oregon Caves in the 1920s. You can read an excerpt here, but buy the whole issue. Hitchcock’s is always fun. You can get the magazine in print and digital formats, which I greatly appreciate. (Plus I love this cover.)
Next, WMG Publishing has released my acclaimed novelette, Uncertainty, in ebook format. Uncertainty was one of this year’s Sidewise Award finalists for Best Alternate History (Short Form). The Sidewise committee has honored my work before, and it means a lot to me because I love the stories they’ve chosen to highlight in the past. It’s always flattering to be on that list. If you love alternate history, you would do well to look at the short list every year. As a reader, I’ve enjoyed every story I’ve seen on the list. (This year, Vylar Kaftan won for “The Weight of Sunrise,” a wonderful story, as are the other nominees.) You can order on all e-commerce sites, including Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.
WMG has taken advantage of Amazon’s new preorder capability for ebooks to offer Discoverability as a preorder. You can also preorder the book on Kobo, and iTunes. The book will be released on October 14, 2014, in ebook and paper formats, but you can reserve your digital copy now.
WMG has done the same with Fiction River: Past Crimes, which will appear in November. I edited the volume, and will have a Kris Nelscott story in it. You can get the standard edition on Amazon and iTunes or the special Kobo edition with extra stories. Or…you can head over to the Fiction River Kickstarter, see the new rewards will be added later today (including a cool one from the kind folks at Kobo), and subscribe or get some bonus rewards for even less money. How great is that?
More updates next week. I think this is enough for now. And yes, yes. The Retrieval Artist update. I hope to do that before the week’s end.
“Heading West” by World Fantasy Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this site for one week only. The story’s also available as a standalone from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other ebook sites.
SHE DRIVES IN the cool Montana dusk, her car rattling around her. The sun is setting, filling her eyes with light almost too intense, pasting her contact lenses to her eyeballs. Behind her, the moon rises, a fiery circle in her rearview mirror. She thinks she sees smoke in the skies of Bozeman, smoke from the Yellowstone fires that have burned all summer, but the grayness could simply be incoming clouds. Her hands keep sliding on the wheel and she is afraid that she is nodding off.
She doesn’t completely understand her compulsion to head west. During most of her life, when things got bad, she would look in the direction of the setting sun. When she learned to drive, she would drive to the west side of town, stopping on the outskirts, thinking that if she could only go to the ocean, she would be safe.
Two mornings ago, after she and Peter had fought for the final time, she cashed her paycheck, grabbed extra checks for her own account, and got in the car. She had only meant to go to her sister’s, three hundred miles due west in Sioux Falls. But she didn’t stop in Sioux Falls. She drove until she reached some small roadside motel stop in the middle of the Dakotas, slept late and continued west the following morning.
She laughs. At the age of thirty, she is finally running away from home.
The old-timers in Tom’s Green Grill in Bozeman swear they have seen her before. The old-timers claim that, on nights that the full moon rises in the Montana skies, women like her appear on the horizon like an early dawn.
On this night, the six old-timers sit in their booth, the second one in from the door, behind the refurbished Wurlitzer jukebox. Tom’s is a fifties-style diner, with real movie posters on the wall, 45s hanging near the jukebox, a large silver cash register box hiding the computer and plush green décor. A drunk and two bums sit at the counter, nursing their coffee in an attempt to stay warm. The old-timers talk about everything and nothing, the same conversations they have held from those first days, back in the fifties when the old-timers were younger, when Tom’s was a real diner, not an updated eighties imitation.
The woman comes through the door at seven-forty-five. Her hair falls softly about her shoulders, making her seem younger than she probably is. She stands confidently, slinging her purse over her shoulder and clutching a romantic-suspense novel in her right hand. The old-timers stare at the cover. The bosomy blonde is enjoying the embrace of a tall, handsome, weathered man. All of the old-timers are weathered. But they were never handsome. In all the years of driving truck, they have only kissed a few women between them. Perhaps none at all, after subtracting wives and hookers.
Tom comes out from behind the grill and grabs a menu. “Smoking or non-smoking?” he asks, and the old-timers think, not for the first time, that such a question would never have been asked in a real fifties diner.
“Non,” she says.
Tom smiles. “Don’t like smoking, huh?”
The old-timers all glance at the full ashtrays, the cigarettes in their hands. Perhaps the cigarettes are the reason for the loneliness, the reason that the old-timers have kissed so few women. Perhaps, if the smoking stopped, women would flock to the booth, baring their breasts like the blonde on the book cover.
“It’s not that,” the woman says. “I’m allergic.”
She seems grateful to make conversation. The old-timers recognize that feeling from their long years alone on the road. As she passes the table, they notice that her eyes have that glazed look from staring at endless stretches of pavement too long. There is a story among truckers that some roads capture a driver: land, concrete and sky going on forever. One of the old-timers whispers that she looks as if she has escaped that road and the others nod. They have all been thinking the same thing.
They watch her order, they watch her read and they watch her eat, knowing what she will encounter under the cool Montana sky.
She thinks, as she walks from the restaurant, that she is too tired to drive any farther. The food, the smoky scent in the air, the darkness, are all conspiring to stop her western movement, at least for the night. She gets into her little car and drives off in search of a motel.
The chains are all full, except Super 8 which does not take a check. She glances at the cash in her wallet. Two hundred dollars is not enough to travel with. She doesn’t know what she was thinking when she left. She contemplates paying cash, but something stops her. Her money must last until she gets wherever it is that she is going. She decides to try the Best Western again. They may have had a late cancellation.
As she drives, she passes a roadside motel across from Tom’s Green Grill, the motel’s blue neon sign baldly glaring. “The Rainbow Inn” has stood in the same spot since 1954, she is sure of it. She finds herself swinging into the parking lot, stopping before the window with the ancient fading sign that reads, “Office.”
The man behind the fake wood counter seems startled to see her. Perhaps the place doesn’t get many single women guests.
“We don’t have any vacancies,” he says.
She looks at the blue neon sign. There, beneath the motel’s name, the little red vacancy sign glows. “Better turn on the ‘no,’ then,” she says.
The man shrugs. “Sorry. I’m sure the chains’ll take you.”
She makes sure her smile is friendly, so that he knows there are no hard feelings. “They’re all full. Know any place that I might try?”
He bites his lower lip, gazes up at the sky, at the smoke half-clouding the moon. “You’re from out of town, aren’t you?”
She nods, thinking his question odd. Of course she is from out of town. If she is from town, she would not need a room.
He turns, grabs a key from the rack behind the desk. The key clangs as it hits the fake wood. “Here,” he says.
The tiredness hits her again. A place to stay, finally. “How much?” she asks.
Even the price is good. The chains were going to charge her at least double that. “I don’t suppose you would take a check.”
“We don’t normally.” He glances around, seems to see no one. “But tonight, what the hell. Sometimes you have to take a chance, you know.”
She knows. She pulls out her checkbook and begins to write.
The desk clerk takes her check and places it in the money drawer. He hates it when strange women arrive on moon-filled nights. Some of the women scream and carry on as if something awful is happening to them. Others stay in town long after they should have left, watching doors with a wistful expression. The women are safe at the chains, nothing happens there, only at the locally owned hotels and motels. He has heard the story from all the other clerks, has seen it a few times with his own eyes.
If she stays here, he assures himself, he can make sure she will be all right.
The old-timers watch through the window of Tom’s Green Grill. They see her get into her car and drive it around to the other side of the motel. She opens the car door and pulls out a small duffel bag, and her book. After closing the door with her hip, she lugs everything up the twisting metal stairway. She stops in front of B-17, sets her duffel down, opens the door and lets herself in.
The old-timers know the room is B-17 because they know the old hotel. They have watched people go in and out for thirty, almost forty years. Tom refills the coffee pot on the table. They say little, these old friends. They know that it will be a long night.
The room is larger than any hotel room she has ever seen, except perhaps her honeymoon suite. And she didn’t enjoy that room, not with Peter’s hands pawing her, pulling the pins from her hair, forcing her to join him in the heart-shaped bathtub when she wanted to remain beautiful for at least another hour. She had worked so hard on her looks, only to have him spoil them within fifteen minutes.
Funny old memory. Strange she thinks of it now.
She closes the door, turns the deadbolt and puts on the chain. The room seems almost homey. An old leather hide-a-bed sits against the wall, two arm chairs grouped around it in a living-room arrangement. The king-sized bed seems dwarfed by the room. The red bedspread doesn’t seem garish, more the touch of a maiden aunt indulging her one and only pleasure. The television is new. She turns it on, and the familiar voices from an old sitcom soothe her.
She sets her bags on the dresser and explores the bathroom. It is clean, with new fixtures. Everything is much better than she expected it would be.
She comes back out and sits on the bed, suddenly bored. She is alone in Bozeman, Montana, where she knows no one. It is nine o’clock at night, too early for bed, too late to walk or test the pool. Her book has lost its appeal. The man on the cover looks too much like Peter and, she decides, a woman traveling alone should never read about women in jeopardy.
She flicks the channels, finds nothing, sighs, and returns to the old sitcom. The television will stay on, as company only. She gets up and goes into the bathroom. A long, hot bath will do her good. It will wipe off the road grime, clear the smoke from her lungs, and help her concentrate on the little voice in the back of her head, urging her to go west.
The old-timers glance at the clock on the wall behind the counter. Nine-thirty is almost too early, but she seems to be exhausted. They think of her soft brown hair, her tired eyes, the bosomy blonde on the cover of her book. They glance at each other and nod, happy that she appeared on the night of a full moon.
With a single movement, they all turn and watch out the window. In the parking lot across the street, the moonbeams coalesce and rearrange themselves into the shape of a man. He stands for a moment, glowing slightly, and then clothes appear on his naked frame: jeans, boots and a workshirt, just like the old-timers wear. He walks across the parking lot, his glow diminishing a little as a cloud races across the moon.
The desk clerk is checking in another guest. This man is tall, demanding with a nasal voice. The desk clerk is glad that he will not work in the morning. This guest will complain as he checks out, about the carpet, the television, the free continental breakfast.
The desk clerk hands the man his key, and files the guest registration form. The screen door bangs as the guest leaves. The desk clerk looks up. The quality of moonlight is different tonight, glowing a bit. And then he remembers when he has seen such light before.
He scans the iron stairway. Up along the hallway, a man with a moonlight sheen stands in front of B-17. The desk clerk runs for the door just as the moonlit man slips away into nothingness.
The man materializes in front of the door as she comes out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her damp skin. She doesn’t scream because she can see the door chain through him, and realizes that she hasn’t heard the door open. He smiles at her. She stands completely still, the warmth she received in the bath slipping out in the room’s chill. “What do you want?” she asks.
But she knows the answer. She has seen it in a dozen eyes over the years, felt it in the brush of twenty outstretched hands. He takes a step toward her and she begins to tremble. Either he is real or he is a hallucination. She must deal with him. She must not let him know that she is scared.
With a single, swift movement, she grabs her clothes from the bed. “I am going to get dressed,” she says.
“No, please.” He holds out his hand, and it is weathered and rough, like his face. His features are as rugged as the man on her book cover, but his eyes are filled with hesitation.
He takes a step forward. His lips are kissable, his hair baby fine, and he has a glow about him that she has never seen before. She can get lost in a man like him.
“Let me stay,” he whispers.
She considers for a moment, thinking how nice it would feel to have someone caress her again, touch her as if she is loved. She takes a step toward him before remembering Peter, remembering the free, heady feeling of going west.
“No,” she says.
The desk clerk pounds on the door, his fear a lump in his throat. The thin wood rattles beneath his fist and he knows that, if he has to, he can break into that room.
“Miss? You okay? Miss?”
He thinks he hears voices, faint inside. Perhaps he is not saving her. Perhaps, in his own way, he is making matters worse.
The door opens. The woman stands there, wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. Her feet are bare and the edges of her hair are slightly damp.
“Everything okay?” he asks. “I thought —”
“I’m fine.” Her smile is knowing. She understands why he is here. She pulls the door back and he glances inside. The room is empty, except for her things scattered about the furniture.
“Sorry,” he says, a little sheepishly. “I just had this feeling . . .”
“It’s okay,” she says, closing the door ever so slowly. “Sometimes I get strange feelings too.”
The glowing man has stepped out of the wall beside the desk clerk, just outside of the clerk’s range of vision. For a brief second, the glowing man looks at the old-timers. They stare back, feeling his wistfulness echo their own. Then the moonbeams disperse, float away, leaving nothing on the balcony except one confused desk clerk staring at a gently closed door.
The old-timers lean back in their booth. It is just as well, one says, and they all agree. After this kind of night, they usually argue. Does she count among the women kissed? Or is she simply a shared fantasy, untouchable and uncountable?
A cloud covers the moon. The old-timers sigh and turn away from the window, resuming conversations started thirty, maybe forty years ago.
She rolls over in the king-sized bed, and reaches up to shut out the light. Her gaze falls on the book she has placed on her end table. The man’s body is perfect, the lamplight leaving a slight sheen on his reproduced skin. Dream lovers. She smiles. She will have time for them later. Right now, she is heading west.
Copyright © 2014 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
First published in Tales of Magic Realism, Crossing Press, 1991
Published by WMG Publishing
Cover and Layout copyright © 2014 by WMG Publishing
Cover design by Allyson Longueira/WMG Publishing
Cover art copyright © Nexusplexus/Dreamstime
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
I greatly appreciate everyone who has supported us with subscriptions or mentions in social media. Thank you!
Instead, I leave you a gift. I love this video. Jane Kennedy of WMG Publishing did it for the Kickstarter campaign, but I put it up as a standalone because I think it’s kinda accurate.
It’s called “How To Create An Anthology.”
Click here to view the embedded video.
It went live immediately! We’re so thrilled. But we’re scrambling too. Because we need to let all of you know before the one-of-a-kind cool stuff is gone.
Let me give you some background here. We started Fiction River two years ago with a Kickstarter campaign. Since then, we’ve published 75 authors and had the help of two other editors. In the next year, we’ll have volumes edited by Lee Allred, Kerrie L. Hughes, John Helfers, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta–and me & Dean, of course. As with the previous volumes, the upcoming year of Fiction River will trample the genres and provide great fiction. Dean and I act as series editors to make sure that we have some consistency in the volumes, but not too much. If we wanted Fiction River to just be our voices, we would have been the only editors. We want you to have as varied a reading experience as possible. And this is how we provide it.
I actually wanted our catch phrase to be “Fiction River! For the adventurous reader!” But I was outvoted, since everyone thought I meant adventure fiction, not adventurous (outside of your comfort zone) reading.
Anyway, Fiction River is past its first year, and that’s when most magazines do a subscription drive. Most subscription drives involve snail mail, and little paper cards that drop out of magazines. Or what I’ve experienced lately–a rather grumpy letter from some subscription department wondering why I’m not renewing. (Maybe because I’m getting grumpy letters?)
We decided to do something fun. We loved doing the Kickstarter last time, and I have to be honest here: this year is going to be even more fun. We have some great stuff in the campaign, wonderful rewards, and lots of marvelous help.
However–and this is why I’m scrambling today—many of the rewards for this Kickstarter are one and done. Get a subscription, and get some e-copies of authors in one of the volume. Or signed books from our wonderful writers. The problem for those of you who find out later–we only have two signed books from the writers who were participating. Already, an hour in, some of the one-of-a-kind ebook rewards are gone.
Many of the rewards are unlimited. Everyone can have a digital subscription or a paper subscription or a digital and paper subscription. There are other wonderful things as well. And a silly video of me and Dean that I can’t seem to embed here. I’ll try again later or maybe I’ll just post it for you separate from the Kickstarter. I’ll see what I can do.
Mostly, however, I wanted to let you know that the Kickstarter is here, so that you can get those one-of-a-kind rewards. If those don’t interest you, you have until October 2 to decide if you want to subscribe to Fiction River. I hope you do. Here’s the link. Head on over to Kickstarter, watch our goofy video, and have some fun.
“Living the Legend” by World Fantasy Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this site for one week only. The story’s also available as a standalone from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other ebook sites.
The free story will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, click on the links above. There’s another free story lurking somewhere around the site. Track the story down, read, and enjoy!
On Fiction River, I act as series editor with Dean, making sure the content of the stories fits with what we’re doing with the anthology series. I also am the line editor. For some volumes, I don’t have to do much because the guest editors are great at line editing. For others (including the ones I edit), I do quite a bit. I was pretty hands-on with the volume I worked on in July.
The nice thing about series and line editing, though. I get to read all of the stories closely. And they’re worth reading closely. If you want to see what I was line editing last year, check out Fiction River: Universe Between, which just appeared. Dean’s a surprising editor, in that you might think you know what the anthology will give you from the title, but you’ll be wrong.
When I say I don’t have reading time, I often mean reading time outside of my assigned tasks.
The pieces listed below are the things I loved that were outside of anything I’m working on. There’s not a lot here, but what I’ve listed is truly wonderful stuff. Enjoy!
Brenner, Marie, “Robert Capa’s Longest Day,” Vanity Fair, June, 2014. I’ve long admired the work of photographer Robert Capa. Best known for a breathtaking and devastating photograph he took during the Spanish Civil War, Capa went on to serve in several of the 20th century’s ugly war zones, finally dying in the First Indochina War in 1954—at the beginning of a war that became synonymous with the nation where it occurred: Vietnam.
Brenner’s article depicts Capa’s experience at D-Day. He went in with the troops and somehow managed not to die. He took rolls and rolls of film, managed to get them back to England through a courier, only to have the film developer overheat the negatives and ruin all but a few of the shots. Still, some of the iconic photos of D-Day came from Capa’s lens.
This article reads like a thriller short story. And I firmly believe Capa was one of the most interesting men of his time. Read this one. It’s fascinating.
Edsel, Robert M. with Brett Witter, The Monuments Men, Little, Brown, 2009. I’ve been reading about the work of the Monuments Men and Rose Valland in particular long before the Clooney movie came out. In particular, Lynn Nichols’ The Rape of Europa which I recommended in the June 2008 list. Somehow I missed Edsel’s work. It covers some of the same ground, but in a much different way.
The more I read about World War II, the more impressed I become with what happened in those years and how people responded to all the tragedy. This book deals with art, but also with devastation. It’s easy to read and compelling, and much more coherent than the film. Really worth your time.
Greenburg, Zack O’Malley, Michael Jackson, Inc: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Billion-Dollar Empire, Atria, 2014. This book is not a biography of Michael Jackson. It’s a biography of the business that Michael Jackson Performer became—and still is. There are charts in the back about how much money the corporation earned, both in Jackson’s lifetime and afterwards and, as with Elvis, once the overspending star in the center was gone, the revenue went up.
This book is utterly fascinating. Jackson did have a business mind, and took a lot of creative artistic risks that ended up paying great financial benefits. He lost his way by 1988, mostly by firing advisers who actually argued with him and replaced them with yes-men. And then, of course, there were court cases and scandals.
The court cases continue—his family is still suing to be included in the will, which Jackson (in repeated versions of his will) always said should not include anyone but his children and his mother. Still, the suits continue. (This is why I advise you to make sure you have a will and an estate in order—particularly if you expect to have some money and copyrights in that estate when you die.) Those expenses do have an impact on the business, but they’re less important than they were when Jackson was alive.
The shrewd business moves are fascinating, but even more fascinating is Jackson’s understanding of the importance of copyright and trademark. He often took less money on a deal so that he could own his own copyrights—and the copyrights of other musicians. Sometimes he outspent musicians to get the copyrights to those musicians music. (The most famous case of this involves Paul McCartney.) I am not going to go into too much detail here, but if you’re running a creative business—writing, music, comics—it would behoove you to read this book. Start thinking like a business person. Jackson did and, as long as he also had advisors who weren’t afraid of him, made excellent choices. So excellent that even firing those advisors and replacing them with idiots had less of an impact on his bottom line than I would have expected.
Kinsley, Michael, “Have You Lost Your Mind?” The New Yorker, April 28, 2014. Sometime in the 1980s, Michael Kinsley became the infant terrible of magazine publishing. Nine years older than me, he was getting press about being the young turk when I was holding similar jobs in the sf publishing world. I was happy to stay out of the big public eye, considering the press he got for his youth.
Imagine my surprise when I came across this article. Fast-forward about two-plus decades, and we’re both establishment. Kinsley, whom I had stopped paying attention to maybe 15 years ago, received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s when he was in his forties. I had no idea. He’s soldiered on, and continues to write. If this essay is any indication, the disease isn’t slowing him down.
But it worries him. There are similarities to dementia and Alzheimer’s with Parkinson’s. So he took several tests for all of those diseases, and reports the results and his reactions to them here. The essay brims with honesty and fear and braggadocio. Memorable and a bit frightening.
Kleypas, Lisa, Blue-Eyed Devil, St. Martins Paperbacks, 2008. I put off reading this bookbecause the description didn’t sound like anything I’d be remotely interested in, even though I love Kleypas’s work. But I’ve been waiting months and months for her next novel release, and I finally gave in. I decided to read the books I hadn’t been interested in.
I’m glad I read this. There’s a bump at the beginning. The novel’s in first person, and I don’t think I’ve read a first person romance in decades, if at all. I hadn’t realized how used I’d become to the third-person romance.
Once I was past that, I read this book incredibly fast. Haven Travis marries the wrong man against her family’s wishes, and suffers for it—not because of her family’s cruelty, but because of her husband’s. She has to put herself back together and find the courage to love again.
I’m a sucker for a good redemption story and this is one, oddly enough. Some of the reviews called it a game-changing romance. I think had the industry been different in 2008, it would have been a game-changer. As it is, Blue-Eyed Devil is a highly original romance that tugs at the emotions in all the right ways.
Lewinsky, Monica, “Shame and Survival,” Vanity Fair, June, 2014. I almost didn’t read this article, for obvious reasons. Plus the PR machine hyped it to death, and then there was a backlash (how dare she complain about her treatment when she poses in a sexy fashion for the article—and frankly, that pose is more comfortable [and metaphorical] than sexy). I figured it was all hype.
Instead, Lewinsky has composed a thoughtful critique of the culture that nearly ate her alive—maybe did eat her alive, since she is still associated with something she did in her twenties.
She examines how the 24/7 media has nurtured a culture of shame and humiliation. And just before I read the article, I had been thinking the same thing—how Americans seemed addicted to dissecting the mistakes of others, and then replaying those mistakes over and over and over again.
I’m not sure if the article is worth reading, since we’re all going to read it through the prism of our politics and our relationship to that rather insane year in the late 1990s, so I almost didn’t recommend the piece either.
But Lewinsky’s points have haunted me for nearly a month now. She got me thinking, and I always value that. The article’s short; see if you find her points as thought-provoking as I did.
“Trains” by World Fantasy Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this site for one week only. The story’s also available as a standalone from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other ebook sites. If you like “Trains,” you might like “Substitutions” as well.
The free story will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, click on the links above. There’s another free story lurking somewhere around the site. Track the story down, read, and enjoy!
What got me out of my head-down-full-speed-ahead mode is the release of a new Fiction River volume. Dean edited it, and as usual, he surprised me with his choices. He’s an amazing editor. Read the stories in order when you get the volume. You’ll see the incredible flow.
I have a story in the volume–“The Space Between Hope and Dreams”–which surprised even me in the writing of it. I join twelve other writers whose work I just love. I’ve been reading some of their stories for years. In the volume, you’ll find stories from Lee Allred, David H. Hendrickson, Richard Alan Dickson, Darcy Pattison, Phaedra Weldon, Rebecca SW Bates, Jamie McNabb, Steven Mohan, Jr., Kellan Knolan, Karen L. Abrahamson, Dean, and Rob Vagle. I’m putting up the Amazon link to the trade paper because I’m lazy, but if you want to order from another site, go to this post on WMG Publishing’s website. You don’t have to follow links either. You can find trade paper and ebook versions of the book at all your favorite retailers. Or you can subscribe here.