Tuesday, September 16, 2014


If you could read works by only one author for the rest of your life, what author would you choose and why?

One author? For the rest of my life? I think we need to talk fine print here. Are the selected author's works defined as existing works only? Are future works guaranteed? Is that guarantee null and void if said author is deceased/pre-deceases me? Or can I assume that the author will continue to generate new works as soon as I need another book to read? Are pseudonyms counted when determining canon? Is my panic at the thought of being restricted to one author showing?

Thing is, I only like an author as much as I liked their last story. I'll remember them fondly in a we'll-always-have-Paris sort of way, but I'm not going back to Paris. Sure, I might get nostalgic, pick up a new release down the line, but we both know the magic's gone and it's just a pity read. (Don't get me wrong, there are some great authors on my pity read list. I might even recommend them to you should we have similar tastes in fiction. But they've already written what I consider their best book and I know they can't match the experience of discovering that book. (We can debate merits of certain titles later.))

I'm not sure I could even restrict myself to one genre let alone one author. (Unless you'll accept fiction as a genre?) I read different authors for different reasons. Actually, it's all the same reason: I read authors who do great voice. Authors who if I found a page of a novel, I'd know it as theirs. Other than that, I'm eclectic. I just want to be entertained. Some authors I read because they make me laugh; some because they can suspend a moment taut like a tightrope; some because they keep me guessing; some because they amaze me; and some because they disturb me. I can't think of one author who can accomplish all that. Sorry.

If I'm going to be stuck with one author--oh, god, the horror! The horror!--then it would have to be someone prolific. And the problem with picking an author who has a nice canon going is that authors in this category have a shelf life. Some authors whose new releases I've scooped up for most of my adult life have already expired. So unless there is a guarantee that my choice--even if already dead--would release new work forever, I can't pick anyone I've already read.

I'm a binge reader. I devour books. And I'm not one to re-read. I don't pour over prose. I finish a book and pick up the next. There's a lot of fiction out there; I can't waste time reading words I've already digested. I'm trying to find my next favorite author. I have spots on my roster to fill. The deaths of Elmore Leonard and James Herbert left gaping holes in my rotation.

Choose one? Nope. Uh-uh. Not me. But I'm open to suggestions.

H.L. Fullerton writes speculative fiction, which is occasionally published in Penumbra eMag (June 2013, September 2013 & September 2014); reads popular fiction (unpopular, too); and routinely refuses to pick favorites.

To see a selection of H.L. Fullerton’s work please click here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sandra Odell is in the Spotlight

Sandra Odell is an energetic woman who allows her creativity to follow whatever path it chooses. We caught up with this little dynamo to learn a little more of how her career is shaping.

Can you tell us a bit about your publication experience with Penumbra?
"Good-bye Hello" was written shortly after my mother's death from inoperable, non-responsive kidney cancer, and was one of my first sales. Crippled by grief, sliding two steps back for every step forward,, writing was my only solace and outlet. The story was my way of expressing that confusion, as well as exploring the concept of a lost soul finding the parts of itself that mattered the most.

PENUMBRA gave Elspeth a good home. From Celina's appreciation of how the story "resonated" with her to the final contract and payment, I never once felt left out of the loop or overlooked. When writers and editors come together as a team, it can only make for a stronger story.

What have you been up to since then?
Wow. Well, I'm still writing. I've finished my first novel, and now have enough qualifying short story sales to finalize my application to join the SFWA. I helped with author spotlights for LIGHTSPEED's Women Destroy Science Fiction issue as well as the Women Destroy Fantasy issue.

Shortly after "Good-bye Hello" was published, my husband opened his own game store and I help behind the scenes. I suppose you could say we're married to one another and the business.

Oh, and my son's are now both taller than me.

Are you working on any big writing projects right now? If so, tell us a bit about them.
I'm currently shopping for representation for my first novel, a YA alt-Victoriana piece set in an alternate history 1852 Hawai'i with a native Hawaiian main character. I have four short stories in need of a bit of polish, then its on to laying the bones for my next novel (egads!) about murder, gender identity, and what it means to be human in the next century.

I also advocate for needs and ability diversity in fiction, and am exploring the possibility of a website to support both writers and readers. If you're on Twitter, check out #WeNeedDiverseBooks for more information.

Sandra Odell is an avid reader, compulsive writer, and rabid chocoholic. Her work has appeared in, or is forthoming from, Jim Baen's UNIVERSE, Crossed Genres, Galaxy's Edge, and Daily Science Fiction. She is a Clarion West 2010 graduate.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Clear Up That Confusion

That and Which
Take a Tip from Helen #10

by Helen Hardt

Editors are often encouraged to get rid of "that" when it's not necessary. In these cases, the "that" is an extra word that's unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence. You're not replacing "that" with another word.

For example:
He knew that the day was ending.

The "that" here is an unnecessary word. You can just as easily say:
He knew the day was ending.

However, when "that" is used as a relative pronoun, it has has a purpose in the sentence. Sometimes editors and authors confuse the relative pronoun "that" with the relative pronoun "which."

Use "that" with restrictive clauses and "which" with non-restrictive clauses. Non-restrictive clauses are usually set off by commas. A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. A non-restrictive clause can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Let's take a look at the sentence in my second paragraph above:

In these cases, the "that" is an extra word that's unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence.

This is a restrictive clause. We're talking specifically about "that." Let's look at the same sentence using which:

In these cases, the "that" is an extra word, which is unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence.

The clause is now non-restrictive, which means it can be deleted and the sentence has the same meaning. (Incidentally, the previous sentence also contains a non-restrictive clause.) This sentence says simply that "that" is an extra word, and implies that all extra words are unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence. Obviously that's not what we want to say here.

Any questions, just ask!


To read excerpts from Helen Hardt's books please click a vendor's name.
Musa Publishing - Amazon

Helen Hardt is the Head Line Editor for Musa Publishing and a freelance editor. She is also an award-winning author. Helen writes contemporary, historical, paranormal, and erotic romance for several publishers. Her non-writing interests include Harley rides with her husband, attending her sons’ sports and music performances, traveling, and Taekwondo (she’s a blackbelt.)

Learn more about Helen Hardt and her editing service on her website.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Daniel Ausema is in the Spotlight

Today's author has appeared in Penumbra more than once. He's not just a master of short fiction, either. He's also a master of serial fiction, as you're about to find out.

Please give Daniel Ausema a warm welcome.

Can you tell us a bit about your publication experience with Penumbra?
My first story with Penumbra appeared in the inaugural issue (and also in the Penumbra's Best of Year One anthology). That was “The Square That Hides a Thousand Stories,” and the theme for that issue had been Storytelling. For a long time I'd been fascinated with tangrams, the square puzzle made up of seven shapes that can be arranged in different ways to make different outlines. How cool would it be if you got so proficient with making the shapes that you could use them sort of how shadow puppeteers use their puppets to tell stories? The story took something of a tangent from that concept, but it still lies at the heart of the story, as Tsantau seeks out the relic that is the puzzle and then tries to grasp and master its use.

The experience of publishing with Penumbra was great, as was the experience the next two times. “A Dream of the City's Future” was in the Dream issue. A reviewer called it more of an atmosphere and aftertaste than a story, which I think was intended as a criticism, but to me is wonderful. I love reading a good story that leaves you with a strange and uncertain sense that lingers, even if you feel you don't fully grasp everything at first. So I'll take it as praise. And “Skin Stealer” appeared in the A Night at the Villa Diodati issue this year. This is the only one I've written specifically to a Penumbra theme, but once again the experience was very good (and a reviewer called it “a pretty darned good monster story,” which I'll take :) ).

What have you been up to since then?
Well, I had so much fun working with the Musa staff on the Penumbra stories that I submitted a novella for the shared world, steampunk setting, The Darkside Codex. Which led to “The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame” being published last December. And as we were discussing that story, I mentioned to Celina Summers that I had a steampunk serial fiction project all written and ready to go. Which led to Spire City also being published by Musa. Season One: Infected just wrapped up the first book of what is now a three book (or three season, if you prefer) series, each one with thirteen chapters (err, episodes). Season Two: Pursued will begin serialization this coming November.

I've also had a number of short stories and poems published in other venues during that time span. I hesitate to pick out highlights of that...but earning a Lois Tilton “Recommended” for the story “Scolyard's 'The Constructs Foresee Their Doom'” (which takes place in the same surreal setting as “A Dream of the City's Future”) is up there. And certainly having a story in the final issue of Electric Velocipede, of which I'd long been a fan and subscriber, was great (if somewhat bittersweet, for being the last).

Are you working on any big writing projects right now? If so, tell us a bit about them.
The Spire City serialization is the big one. Targeted by a mad scientist's serum that turns people slowly into animals, a group of outcasts band together to fight back. Serialization, of course, goes back at least to the Victorian era, which makes the steampunk setting a logical touch. It's been fun to play with Dickens-style orphans and dirty factories, pair it with TV terminology and a more contemporary writing style, and add in stuff from my own, New-Weird influenced imagination. I'm really looking forward to the reactions to the coming episodes.

Besides that, I have a couple of novels I'm sending around to different agents. I'm taking a few-month break of any new projects so I can focus on short fiction, revising things (short and long) I've already written, and letting new ideas bounce around at the back of my mind until they feel ready to be written.

Here's a brief intro to the series we mentioned earlier. Let me know what you think.

What can you do when a steampunk mad genius targets you with a deadly serum? Fight back.

Spire City is home to mighty machines of steam power and clockwork, and giant beetles pull picturesque carriages over cobbled streets, but there is a darker secret behind these wonders. A deadly infection, created by a mad scientist, is spreading through the city, targeting the poor and powerless, turning them slowly into animals. A group of those infected by the serum join together to survive, to trick the wealthy out of their money, and to fight back.

Despite all their caution, Mint has tracked down the residents of the Weave to their neighborhood. Mingling threats with subtle promises to anyone who will betray the infecteds, he is coming closer and closer to discovering where they live. And now he may have kidnapped an innocent, uninfected child. The time has come for a real confrontation, but who will prevail? Find out in the climactic finale of Season One: Infected.

To read excerpts from the episodes of Spire City or Daniel's other work, please click a vendor's name. Musa Publishing - Amazon

Daniel Ausema is the creator of the Spire City serial fiction project. His short stories and poems have appeared in Penumbra, Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Unlikely Stories, and many other places. He has worked as a journalist and educator and is currently a stay-at-home dad. He lives in Colorado, where May blizzards, September floods, and summer wildfires engage in a never-ending war.

Learn more about Dan on his website Twigs and Brambles.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tough Choices for DeAnna Knippling

If you could read works by only one author for the rest of your life, what author would you choose and why?

The answer has changed over the years.

The first author I can remember thinking, "If I could only read one writer's books forever," for Carolyn Keene. Nancy Drew! I read about every Nancy Drew that I could get my hands on. Which is not to say that I solved any of them ahead of time. I love reading mysteries--but I'm usually disappointed in them if I can work out the whodunnit ahead of time. I like writing them, but personally I'd rather be mystified until the very end.

The next was Piers Anthony. I started in fifth grade and read everything I could get a hold of at the public library. I waited on tenterhooks for each volume of the Incarnations of Immortality series to come out. I read every update at the back of his books and kept up with his wordcount. Even now, I still have a personal goal of hitting a million words a year. Because Piers Anthony.

And then, in college, I was introduced, really introduced, to Shakespeare by a theater teacher who loved him. His anniversary was April 23, you know? And he put on the best production of Midsummer Night's Dream that I've ever seen, before or since. And so I set out to read all of Shakespeare's plays. I failed. I hit the histories and went under into apathy. And Titus Andronicus. It wasn't the brutality. It was the way the plot dragged on and on. Also, I never bought that cutting out someone's tongue and cutting off their hands could keep them from answering yes/no questions. I still reread Midsummer's and the other comedies from time to time, except Perikles and Two Noble Kinsmen, because who has that much time?

Roger Zelazny. I read all the Roger Zelazny. And reread most of it. Heinlein was about the same period.

After that came Neil Gaiman. This was during the Sandman run, which I picked up from DreamHaven in Minneapolis whenever I was up there. This was before B&N spread to South Dakota. I lived in a college town and we had one used bookstore, run off-and-on by the head of my writer group. There was a Waldenbooks and a B. Dalton's about an hour away, and I don't remember that they ever held graphic novels. Not then. That meant that I was reading the Sandman collections in slow drips: I could only afford one at a time, except for one glorious trip when I picked up two, one of which was Doll's House. I think. For a long time I read everything of his that came out. I was greatly annoyed when he switched mainly to writing fiction. I drifted away for a long time out of annoyance that people were all fanboying American Gods, when to me it was a waste of time that was taking him away from writing more comics. I remember someone at my job, a non-geek, referring to him as Neil Guy-man, which cracked me up. Look, you get popular, this is the kind of thing that happens: your name gets widely mispronounced. But it's probably the first time a name's been regularly mispronounced to contain less sexual innuendo. I like his fiction much better now (especially his short fiction) and have almost become resigned to the "not going to write all the comics" thing.

From time to time I've been known to obsess about Gene Wolfe. And if Lewis Carroll had written more books of the same quality as the Alice books, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Lately it's been Donald Westlake, striving off against Agatha Christie, with a soupcon of Hard Case Crimes thrown in.

But you know what? I'm going to end up with the cheesy answer here: in the end, the one person whose books I'm going to be reading for the rest of my life are my own. I started out this gig powered by my own inspiration, and I haven't gotten sick of it yet. If I have to pick someone, I'm just going to pick myself.

Although if Carol Berg or Stephen Brust were to write faster...

DeAnna Knippling reads a lot of books. Not world record levels of books. But still, a lot of books. So many books that she hasn't finished the latest season of Sherlock yet. And she's way behind on Doctor Who. She has or is reading slush for Apex Magazine and Lightspeed Magazine.

Learn more about DeAnna Knippling on her website and follow her on Goodreads.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Penumbra eMag's entire first year,
all twelve issues,
chock full of the best speculative fiction short stories 
and authors

No strings. No gimmicks. 
Just great science fiction, fantasy, horror, 
and paranormal short stories, 
columns, editorials, and feature articles
for FREE!

Click here to claim your FREE issues of Penumbra eMag.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Calling All Punctuation Abusers

The Semicolon
Take a Tip from Helen #9

by Helen Hardt

This little punctuation mark is probably the most misused on the planet. The semicolon is a divider. It is used ONLY (okay, there's one exception, but you won't come across it in fiction) to mark off the boundary between grammatically parallel elements. It is most often used to separate independent clauses in compound and compound-complex sentences and to separate items in a series when one or more of the items include interior punctuation.


His heart told him to move to New York; his head told him to stay.

(Two independent clauses joined)

He pleaded with her to stay; however, she left on the train at noon.

(Two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction, when the second independent clause contains a comma.

My favorite movies are Titanic; Yours, Mine, and Ours; and Avatar.

(A series of three items, one of which includes interior punctuation)


We're looking at the city's liability; a problem that could be addressed by raising taxes.

She'd need a few months to learn to walk again; to adjust to living again.

She quickened her footsteps; stopped; turned around.

If you choose to use the semicolon, please use it correctly :).

To read excerpts from Helen Hardt's books please click a vendor's name.
Musa Publishing - Amazon

Helen Hardt is the Head Line Editor for Musa Publishing and a freelance editor. She is also an award-winning author. Helen writes contemporary, historical, paranormal, and erotic romance for several publishers. Her non-writing interests include Harley rides with her husband, attending her sons’ sports and music performances, traveling, and Taekwondo (she’s a blackbelt.)

Learn more about Helen Hardt and her editing service on her website.