On Turning 49.

Well, I made it. Woohoo. I turned 49 this past week and celebrated with friends and family. There were dragon masks and rings and my niece made a cake with the cover of my chapbook on it. It was beautiful.

So what’s the big deal about 49? Why I am writing now and not waiting for next year, the big 50? Well, it’s pretty simple. My father didn’t make it to 49. He died a week before his 49th birthday.

Dad had lymphoma and actually had it eight years before that but he had gone into remission. It came back in 1979. He died in 1980, a week shy of turning 49. I think this has been in the back of my mind as well as my siblings as we approached 49. None of had serious illnesses as we approached that birthday, but still, it was something to think about.

So now, I look forward to turning 50 and having an even bigger party than this year. I hope to celebrate in style for a at least a week. I also plan on living every year and every day trying to be the best person I can and to be happy. Dad always put things off, saying he would do that “x” when he retired and he never got to do that. So, I’m going to. For you dad.

World Fantasy Awards

Okay, so a friend of mine (Hi Steve!) did this so I don’t feel bad. 🙂

My short story collection IN LOVE, IN WATER and OTHER STORIES is eligible for the World Fantasy Award. Also, several short stories in the collection are as well. For those who attended the Washington WFC, my story “Postcards from Andros” is on the complimentary jump drive everyone received. It is eligible.

So, if you liked the collection or the story and are eligible to vote, please keep me in mind!


Here Today, Gone Tomorrowland

As a Disney stockholder, I’m glad the Avengers has already made a bundle of money this year, because I sincerely doubt Tomorrowland will. Despite George Clooney, this is not a movie that will be considered a classic nor all that popular and word of mouth will probably hurt more than help.

Some Spoilers to follow

The movie’s beginning is awkward. The main characters, Frank Walker and Casey Newton, take turns talking to the audience. It seems really gimmicky and once it finally gets explained at the end of the movie who they are really talking to, it makes no sense. (why do the recruiters need to know any of this?)

The movie has some beautiful scenes but the pacing is slow. It takes a long time to figure out what the plot really is. Then we get killer robot battle and chase scenes.

The movie’s ending is less than subtle. People are rushing towards the end of the world and not doing anything about it because it’s too hard. Casey is the special one who can help fix things. And what special solution does Casey come up with? Let’s blow something up. I don’t mind movies with a message, but it doesn’t have to be a preachy monologue given by the villain. Strong, smart female characters are great, but let her be strong and smart and not rely on a bomb to fix things.

Tomorrowland may win the Memorial Day weekend box office, but I doubt it will be around long.

Mad Max and the Furies of Fury Road

I went to see the new Mad Max movie the other day. (By the way, it was in one of those new theaters with the reclining seats. That is so nice!) Two hours of action sequences and 10 minutes of character development. Maybe.

Of course I realize some people don’t care if the characters get developed that much. Then this is the movie for them. Tom Hardy gets maybe 50 lines of dialogue. Plot is pretty simple: We need to get from point A to point B. Oh, we made a mistake, let’s go back to point A. We’ll have lots of explosions and chase scenes both ways. Characters that we are supposed to care about die and characters that we hate die. That’s pretty much it.

Looking back though, I will give the writer’s credit for the title. Whether they meant it or not, the female character of Furiosa and the Fury Road seems to have more meaning than just anger. This woman, and the women she is with, are the Furies. They may be seeking escape but they are strong and powerful and resourceful. I would have liked to have seen more on the women, and frankly, not have had any of them need to be saved by the male characters. Of course, the women do as much saving as the men and Mad Max has to do something since it is his movie (supposedly).

But if you like car chases, explosions, and little story or dialogue to mess it up, this movie is for you.

Writing Good Stories That Get Rejected

So, it happened again. Twice in one day. Again.

Let me back up a little.

Recently, I decided to write a story for a specific market. The procrastinator that I am, I did not realize the deadline was approaching until the week of the deadline. No problem. I had an idea for a story. I could sit down and write a 1500-2000 word story in a week.

I sat down to write the story. It turned out to be almost 4000 words when I finished, 1700 of them written the day of the deadline. I submitted with an hour to spare. Made it.

I liked writing the story. Even as I was writing, I told myself that if it didn’t sell, it was still a good experience to right this story I had been thinking of for years. If nothing else, it would make the start of a novel. But really, I wanted to see it accepted.

The editor has a reputation for fast rejections. I went beyond that period and heard nothing. I started to hope and daydream a little. It would be good to get published in this market again. (I had sold to them previously though it had been many years ago.) How much was I going to get paid again? It was nice to think about.

Then today, I got the rejection letter. It was a very nice rejection letter. The editor did in fact like the story a lot. However, the story wouldn’t fit in the current publication because of the project’s budget. I have gotten similar rejections before. I was mentally writing this post when a few hours later, I got another rejection. Once again, the editor really liked the story (in fact, one editor had sent me a compliment when I submitted it) but it didn’t fit in with the rest of the anthology. Double sigh.

So, yes, this is frustrating. You can write good stories that editors like and still not get an acceptance. I don’t blame the editors. The have limited budgets and need to think about the best thing for their publications. It simply is frustrating.

An editor once wrote that getting published is one of the few pleasures in life that is neither fattening nor immoral. I write to get published and to have that nice sense of accomplishment and pleasure. But sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. I hope that those people who did get acceptances are enjoying their turn at experiencing this pleasure.

I’ll get over this frustration. Later tonight, Hermes will jump into my arms and start purring and cuddle with me. The love of a pet is another one of those pleasures in life that is neither fattening nor immoral. Oh, and I bought a donut. Chocolate with chocolate icing. Because sometimes, you just don’t care if it’s fattening.

A Thank You to my Mentor: Mary Kupiec Cayton

I’ve been writing about my undergrad alma mater, Miami University, this week. I thought I would take this opportunity to send out a congratulations and thank you to Mary Kupiec Cayton as she finishes her last semester at Miami.

I had many classes with Mary when I was an undergrad. She was a lecturer in the Western College Program and a great teacher. She taught a course on American Protestantism (And I will always remember the question in seminar: “Did any of you wonder why the course on American Protestants is being taught be two Catholics and a Jew?”) She taught a course on creativity, where among the topics  we looked at was quilt making and we made a quilt. (It was because of that class that I have three short stories published about quilts.) And she led my senior project workshop.

During my junior year, Mary granted me an amazing opportunity. I was an undergraduate teaching assistant for one of her classes and I helped the students create a publication from the class. While at the time, I still wanted to write comic books, I had always had teaching in the back of my mind as something I would like to do. This opportunity made me realize that yes, I would like teaching.

If I look back on who has influenced my teaching style the most as a positive role model, it would have to be Mary. She engaged the class in the subject and often interspersed humor into the discussions. I knew the she cared about me as a student. Even though the creative writing classroom is much different than our Western seminars, I still know I have Mary to thank for my success in the classroom.

So here’s to you Mary! Enjoy your semi-retirement and thanks for all you have done through the years!

Follow Up Open Letter to Miami University President

Dear President Hodge,

I was happily surprised to see that the decision regarding the razing of Patterson Place has been changed. I will look forward to supporting the fund to help with its renovation. I sincerely hope that in future campus planning, you will keep the historical integrity of the Western College campus intact.


P. Andrew Miller

Professor of English

Northern Kentucky University.