Whimsy Preview: Robot Vampire

DWACOW low rezClick here to view the previous entry “Starter Kit”
Click here to read the 8-part blog series of previews from the beginning

“Robot Vampire” has gotten a lot of good attention since its release in 2012 as part of Vampires Don’t Sparkle, an anthology edited by Michael West. I suspect that the story being a fundraiser for cancer research helped, not to mention its amazing table of contents, with story contributions from Lucy A. Snyder, Maurice Broaddus, Tim Waggoner, Gary A. Braunbeck, Bob Freeman and Stephen Zimmer, to name a few, all helped to bring attention to the story my way. I’m certainly proud to be in such  company.

I recall the germ for the story came about on a long family drive, one in which you find yourself playing nonsense games with each other. Anyway, for reasons I can no longer remember, we started pairing up monster types and giggling over the results because when you’re slaphappy, you’re also the most hysterical people in the world. And so, someone shouted “zombie robot!” (giggle) “werewolf zombie!” (giggle) “vampire werewolf!” (giggle) “robot vampire!” And while I giggled, a part of my brain already started to wonder “how could I make that work?”

Less than a month later, Michael West and I were talking and he asked if I had any ideas to submit to his anthology. Before I could think it through, my mouth responded, “Robot vampire”. Michael smirked that awesome Michael West smirk and said, “If you can make that work, I will buy it.” “You got it,” I said, even though I had no idea beyond the title.

Must brainstorming later, I turned in a story, one I’m pretty durn proud of, and still am. And so, apparently, was Michael.

The Setup: Jinan is an experimental robot who appears as a dark-haired Japanese girl and who emulates the agility of a human dancer. Moments before her premiere exhibition, Jinan is given a last-second programming tweak. The unintended consequence is that the robot achieves sentience, and the performance that follows wows the audience beyond almost everyone’s wildest expectations. Toshio, the show choreographer, is the one person who is not happy. In fact, he is furious over Jinan’s improvisations. The moment Jinan is alone, Toshio expresses his anger.

FINALVDS_coverWith their absence, something changes in my internal processes, a discordant flow of energy, again beyond my parameters to analyze. A response on the opposite side of the spectrum of the positive response I experienced earlier. I search my vocabulary for an appropriate word.
Dread. Is this dread?

Toshio yells in my face. “I know what you’re doing. Showing off for your masters. They programmed you too well, you little Diva bitch in the making.”
I file a conclusion about Toshio in a heuristic subroutine and speak my conclusion out loud. “I don’t like you, Toshio.”
Toshio’s face changes; his lips curve the opposite of a smile. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that! You don’t like me? You think I give two shits if you like me?”

Toshio walks to the toolbox in the far corner, opens the lid and examines its contents. “Gentoshu says you can learn now. To me, that’s great news. And very bad news for you, little Diva.” He turns toward me. One hand grips a screwdriver. He waves it in the air, the end pointed toward my face. “That means you can now respond to being punished, doesn’t it? But how?” Toshio looks upon me for several seconds. “I’d backhand you if you were a real girl. But I’ll bet I can come up with a way to make you respect me.”

You don’t need to listen to him, my special friend.
I detect a voice, speaking directly to me, in my head, but outside myself. The experience, so unexpected and without context, causes me to speak out loud. “What?”

Toshio looks at me. “I said it’s time to make you understand your place.”
From his tone, I conclude that Toshio has not heard the voice.
As I consider this, the voice speaks again. I can help you, special one. I can protect you now. He cannot see me, he cannot hear me, but you can. Do not give me away, and in return I will help you.

A new thought forms in a subroutine. The voice could be caused by a splinter in my thought processes that formed a separate thought entity within my own. The idea intrigues me. But the words keep me silent.
The voice in my head laughs. A real laugh, not a simulated one. I am not in your head. I am a spirit from outside you. Do you know what a guardian angel is?
____

Thank you for reading through this series of previews. I’m very proud of this collection and hope that this gives you a better idea of what you will find inside.

Click here to go to the dedicated ordering page of Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy.

Blue Christmas part of Holiday Antho

Gifts of the Magi cover by John F. Allen
Gifts of the Magi cover by John F. Allen

After months of preparation and weeks of teasing, I can finally share the big news about the NEW ORIGINAL collection of holiday stories co-edited with my good friends John F. Allen, E. Chris Garrison and me.

The anthology is called Gifts of the Magi: A Speculative Holiday Collection and features new tales by our friends and ourselves, most of whom have series’ in progress, and feature a story set in the world of that series. And yes, I have a new story in this collection.

That’s right, Blue Shaefer and Rebecca Burton are returning in a brand-new short story that takes place on Christmas Eve! In it, Rebecca gets word that someone is trying to cause trouble for Blue, so she crashes in on Blue and Chip’s celebration, and they’re off on another paranormal adventure. I think it strikes a great balance between addressing her past and setting her up for an exciting future. The title, of course, could only be Blue Christmas. I hope you all love it as much as I do.

Besides featuring a new story for Christmas, Gifts of the Magi offers a number of other firsts. It’s my first attempt at co-editing an anthology (a stressful endeavor that can test the strongest bonds and make them even more strong afterwards) and my first venture into  indie publishing under a new brand, in a co-partnership between John, Chris and me, SFG Publishing. It’s our first attempt at supporting a local charity. In this case, every cent raised goes toward Indy Reads Books and the good work they do.

Besides a new story by me, you’ll find a new Ivory Blaque tale by John, a new story set in Chris’ Tipsy Fairy Tales / Road Ghosts world, and stories set in several of my favorite worlds, created by authors Chantal Noordeloos, Katina French, Debra Holland, and an awesome standalone story by my good friend A.D. Roland that blew me away, and many more!

Copies will be sold at Indy Reads Books and online in both Amazon ebook and paper versions.

Click here to learn about the December 4 book signing at Indy Reads Books Indianapolis, with the editors and several of the authors present.

But don’t let me keep you from finding out more. Click here to read the official announcement with full details and the preorder link to get yours!

The Brotherhood of D.A. Adams

cover1I have already spoken to a great extent about what a terrific time I had at Imaginarium catching up with old friends and to meeting new ones. Some success stories are public and have been circulated around. Others are a bit more private. I have decided to share bits of this private story.

D.A. (Alex) Adams is a talented author of epic fantasy. He had been accepted at my publisher as one of the Seventh Star stable of authors before me. When we first met at Fandomfest in 2012, his was the only series of books out  by the awesome Bonnie Wasson and he coveted having to share her with me. And who can blame him.

Alicia Justice and Alex Adams Fandomfest 2012.
RJ, Alicia Justice and Alex Adams/, Fandomfest 2012.

Alex and I sat next to each other for several hours that weekend, and had lots of time getting to know each other. I watched a loving father engage with his child while on vendor duty (not an easy thing). We talked about writing and being part of a small press family. He shared his opinion–often bluntly–about being a teacher in a collegiate environment that was morphing into a system toxic for both students and teachers. He spoke of  tremors in his hands, a lifelong affliction which seemed then to be under control. He had a mane of blond hair, matching beard and mustache, and a twinkle of optimism in the eyes.

In the years since, I have read his blog posts with interest, in which he speaks with the same blunt honesty about the devastating impact of divorce, the growing negative impact of social media, and the toxic college environment from which he eventually separated himself. He also spoke of a health condition that remains as mysterious as it is debilitating, which brings me to a few days ago.

Alex and RJ at Imaginarium 2014.
Alex and RJ at Imaginarium 2014.

I say somewhat shamefaced that when Alex approached me, I had to look twice and finally reference his name badge to figure out who was addressing me. The blond mane was gone, the twinkle diminished, though I still see some fight in those eyes.  We had several conversations that weekend, chatted about how his health has affected his everyday life, but also about old time rock n roll, the joy of writing, the unity of the writing community, and more. He said he’d just had some tests which would determine next steps with his condition. I was glad I had a chance to get caught up with this great guy.

Then a couple of days later, his next blog post went up. The test had revealed nothing–that there was no plan of treatment, and that he honestly didn’t know what to do.

Alex had no sooner posted this on his blog when something really cool happened.

Dave Mattingly of Blackwyrm Publishing (one of several small press publishers in the region who regard their competition as CINO–Competition in Name Only (I just made that up, feel free to steal it)) (and the sentence nominated for the most complicated series of parenthetical asides in a blog post ever–your welcome)–set up a fundraising page that lets the public help.  Why? Because the publishing community just rocks that way, and Dave is one of the hardest rockers out there.

Before I go any further, I would be remiss not to mention what Alex himself is quick to point out. Alex writes very cool epic fantasy adventure, and you can support him in a very direct way by buying his books. Check them out here.

If, however, epic fantasy isn’t your cup of tea, or you’ve already bought his books and want to do more, or you don’t even like reading but want to do something good for a hell of a guy, then please click this link to the gofundme page and become a part of the Brotherhood of D.A. Adams.

As of this writing, the Brotherhoopd has raised $930.00 of a proposed $1,000.00 in only four days. That in and of itself says much of the generosity of this community. I expect very soon, maybe by the time you read this, the “goal” will be raised.  However, anyone who knows anything about the medical field knows that $1,000.00 doesn’t get you very far. So let’s keep going, blow that number away.

Please donate and boost the signal. Thanks for listening.

Vampires Don’t Sparkle Cover Reveal!

Here’s the official cover reveal and pre-order of Vampires Don’t Sparkle! An anthology releasing in mid-March edited by Michael West and including my story Robot Vampire. I’m proud of this one of for many reasons. First, I enjoyed the challenge of taking the title “Robot Vampire” and making something out of it. Secondly, it’s an honor to be placed among such a distinctive list of established horror writers. Last, but certainly not least, the anthology is a fundraiser for cancer research, and I’m honored to be a part of it. Here’s the full press release.