Tales by the Blue Light

My friend James Wylder and some of his people have started a podcast, so I’m handing the front page over to him for a minute.  Check it out!  

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Do you like stories? Miss having them read to you? I might be able to help.

Tales by the Blue Light is my new Podcast, a mix between “the Twilight Zone” and an old fasioned variety show, every episode brings you a brand new Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy short story, as well as skits, and some other fun stuff.

We’ve been performing and recording the show live for a year and a half at the Blue Box Cafe in Elgin Illinois (and at a special performance at Indy Pop Con) but we haven’t put the show out as a podcast yet…till now! Our first episode is up to listen to everywhere, with fresh ones coming out every Tuesday till we catch up to the live performances.

I can’t wait for you guys to hear some of the great stories we’ve featured. “McMansion Hell”, “The Legend of Miz”, and “Prescription” for instance were all audience hits I can’t wait to bring to even more people. Plus, you’ll get to see our other featured segments, like our Radio Play, Interview, and everyone’s favorite sketch: “Monster Hunter Monthly” where Magpie Jones gives advice on surviving encounters with things that go bump in the night.

And it’s all free (though we do have a Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/jameswylder if you feel like supporting us) so go take a listen! These episodes are only going to get better as you go through our year and a half of learning how to make this show, so hop on now, and tell your pals!

-James Wylder

iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tales-by-the-blue-light/id1403816049?mt=2

Stitcher:
https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/robert-southgate/tales-by-the-blue-light

GUEST POST: Disclosures, Prefaces and Caveats, by Queen Maisha the Good

This is a little different– my amazing friend Maisha posted this to her Facebook feed a week or so ago, and I begged her to let me repost it.  She’s actually the person who got me into blogging, way back in the Xanga days, so basically my entire writing career and everything you’ve seen here is her fault.  

The name’s an inside joke, by the way.  She doesn’t call herself that.


20641326_10212326173003014_1881637019_oI’ve been meaning to sit down and do some writing for a long time now. I needed to write being a teacher, being a mother, being a wife, being a person, and all my levels of self prescribed failures at those identities. I haven’t written anything about my daughter in years, but today I am forced to put some words down and start stringing a level of coherence to my thoughts.

I was leaving Target, headed to Del Taco, and I started to cry. I started crying because of a phone conversation twenty minutes prior. I was still feeling, still aching, still worrying. That’s when I knew I had to write something.

It was a call from the dentist’s office. I’m setting up Leia’s first appointment. The anxiety started to mix in my chest when I asked how they get the children to cooperate. I know they’re pediatric dentists, of course they know how to work with kids. She explained how there’s a playroom and a tv on the ceiling and how the dentists have their ways. And as I listened my heart started beating faster because I knew what I had to say.

“The reason I was asking…I feel I should disclose…my daughter is on the autism spectrum.”

And I don’t know why that was so hard to say out loud. It’s lived every day. And I didn’t realize how much fear, worry, uncertainty curls in wisps around my chest about it. I was scared. Not for Leia, not worried for her to go to the dentist; it’s something she has to do and needs to be consistent with. I was worried what the person on the phone was going to say. Maybe she was going to pause or stutter or take back the appointment slot. Maybe she was going to pour out some saccharin coated “We won’t be able to see a child with those needs.” Ridiculous fears and worries, I know, right?

I used the word “disclose.” Like, I feel I should tell you this, so you have all the information to make an informed decision. That’s what it is. And that’s what it feels like a lot. When I talk to people who haven’t spent much time around Leia, I find myself having to explain. And I don’t know if I over-explain, or under-explain, or just say enough not to having lingering dread.

“Why don’t you bring your daughter?”

“Do you think she would like…?”

“You should put her in…”

“What’s your name, little girl?”

And then I have to explain how neither of us will enjoy xyz because I’d be chasing her around making sure she’s not climbing, jumping or stomping. I have to admit that I don’t know what she’d like because there’s a big chance she won’t sit still or attend to whatever is grabbing the attention of the other children. I have to talk about how I don’t know about her ability or willingness to follow directions or to do what other kids are doing because she’s pretty oblivious of other children. I’ll answer, “Her name is Leia, and she’s 3. We’re still working on saying (whatever it is they expected her to say).” Talking about it reminds me that she is different. But everybody is different. Every single f-c-k-i-n-g person on Earth is different. And I remember that and forget that within a matter of minutes.

Sometimes I can stay in the present, but most of the time I’m worried about the future–her future. I’m worried about the first time a teacher says she’s bad, or the first time she believes she’s not a good girl. I’m worried about something happening to her, and her inability to communicate what’s wrong. I’m worried about whether she’ll ever have friends, because I see other people’s kids and what seem like beginning friendships and I don’t see that anywhere in her life. Kids say hi to her, know her name, and play near her. She’s not necessarily responding back or interacting. I don’t know when she will–if she will. When we go to park and go down the slide together, she’ll say, “This is fun.” And it makes me so happy she’s saying a sentence in the right context, and then sad because I wonder if me and her dad are her only friends. And thinking about, talking about, worrying about the future makes me cry.

When my mind turns back to past, I feel like I can remember when she would say “Hi” to everyone she saw on the street. She would repeat some of the things you asked her to say. She would hand you books to read to her. She would point to things so you could name them. She was developing fine…or so we thought, just a little behind because of the prematurity. So we kept subtracting from that chronological age when she didn’t reach a milestone. Then at a point, the things she did before, the things that were developmentally on track, stopped. Some part of my mind thinks if I look at enough pictures and old videos I can see when she stopped and started taking steps back. Looking at the past, where she was, where I thought she was and where I thought she was going, makes me cry.

Sometimes I think it’s my fault. I think maybe I wasn’t supposed to have kids, that I was too old, too unhealthy, or just the wrong genes. Sometimes when I think back to the NICU days, maybe she didn’t get enough breastmilk. My milk never came in like that. We would nurse and I would pump, but it wasn’t enough. I think if I wasn’t her mom maybe she would have been okay; she would have been neurotypical. Thinking about what I wasn’t able to do, what I am not able to do, makes me cry.

So I have to find my way back to the present. When I am able to stay in those brief moments of the present, I marvel at her. She is fearless, creative, strong willed, musical, loving, and energetic. She is the girl who lived. He who shall not be named tried three miscarriages, preeclampsia, and three months early. But she is the girl who lived. Her life is a miracle. She is a miracle. She is amazing, and she has autism.

There’s so much I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know about early childhood and development. There’s so much I don’t know about the autism spectrum. There’s so much I don’t know about how to tell what she can and can’t do, will and won’t do, should and shouldn’t do. Everything is uncertain. I crave certainty because faith is fleeting. God doesn’t just show up and tell you what to do and promise that everything is going to be alright. That’s not how life works. That’s not how any of this works. So what do you do?

What would Tim Gunn tell you to do?

Make it work.

GUEST POST: Writing for Yourself vs Writing for an Editor, by Steven D’Adamo

At least one guest post today and tomorrow, as brain melt starts to set in.  Steve’s good people.  Be nice.  


Bio: Steven D’Adamo is a writer based outside of Baltimore, MD. He co-founded Red String PaperCuts with a friend and fellow writer to discuss books, music, and poetry, and argue about life from their armchairs. His fantasy adventure novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, will debut at the end of 2017. To catch a glimpse of his fantasy universe, check out the dark fantasy horror, “Wolf’s Moon Night,” published by Five on the Fifth. Aside from his website, you can find Steven on Facebook, Goodreads, and NaNoWriMo (dia820).

For Whom Do You Write? (Hint: it always changes!)

Most of us say that we only write for ourselves, that it doesn’t matter how the outside world perceives our stories because we poured our hearts and souls into creating them – that’s all that really counts!

Most of us are at least partially lying.

As I spent months upon months crafting the first draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, it really did feel as though I was writing it exclusively for myself. No one laid eyes on my “alpha” draft until it was finished. I wrote it the way I wanted to, and I was proud of what I had accomplished.

I sent the draft to my alpha readers to have a look, knowing that they would critique my story and send me feedback. But my four alpha readers were close friends and/or family; people I trust with my life who I knew would accept my story as a labor of love whether or not it was any good.

Why the Second Draft was not for Me

The good news is that most of them liked it even it needed a whole lot of work. (And boy did it!)

But then I started writing the beta draft, and suddenly I felt the weight of my readers over my shoulders. I wanted them to see my story as fully fleshed out as it appeared in my head, without all of the plot holes and shoe-horned character development.

I accepted this change in mindset as an evolution; I hand-picked these four readers to open my story up to, and they deserved to read the best version of it I could create. I owed it to them to make WoEM the best damn story I could. Their opinions were all that mattered to me.

Critical Consumption

Four weeks ago I began working with a proofreader to review and revise my beta draft. She is also a friend, but as a high school English teacher, she actually has a ton of expertise in critically reviewing literature, the nuances of grammar, and stringing together beautifully constructed sentences.

We agreed to have a “test run” for her editing services to figure out what kind of project she was getting herself into. I scrolled all the way up to the top of my beta manuscript to read through the first few chapters before sending them to her.

I was immediately more concerned than ever about the little things that I knew would need to be reviewed or corrected eventually, but which I had passed over in my attempts to just write the damn story:

  1. Minor in/consistencies such as the precise ages of my characters, their years of birth in relation to important events in their lives or the story at-large, and even obvious things like how a made-up fantasy word was pluralized
  2. Use of adverbs and gerunds. Every writer’s blog ever harps on cutting down on this type of language. I took these suggestions with a grain of salt, because many sentences just sound unnatural without the occasional ly or ing. But knowing that I was sending this thing to an English teacher, I became hyper-sensitive to these words.
  3. Use of inner character monologue versus normal narrative to convey a character’s feelings/thoughts. Okay, so my editor actually brought up this distinction after reading my few batch of chapters. We had a long discussion about via email trying to agree when inner character monologues were appropriate. We came to an agreement, but it was such an Aha! moment for me that it changed the way I wrote my narrative in the final chapters of my beta (which are still in the works).

I am sure there will be many other instances of this as I review my beta to send to my editor. These are changes I would have had to make anyway to make my book appropriate for public consumption. But in my head, these were eventualities.

Hiring a proofreader has expanded both the real and potential audiences for my story from people who love me enough to tolerate my fantastical nonsense to people who will analyze and dissect every piece of my writing ability.

Fortunately for me, my editor is doing this in an effort to improve the beta manuscript.

Once the final version is published, no one else will do this for me. The stakes have been raised.

Okay so maybe I had nothing all week long too

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The story of the last two days has been racing my wife to see which of us can fall asleep quicker after putting the boy to bed when I get home from work.  There has been no time for bloggery.  There has barely been time for conversation.  It’s 7:36 as I write these words; I got home with the boy at around 4:30, she was home minutes afterwards, and I think I’ve been asleep in my recliner for the entire intervening period of time.

This weekend, I shall finish the final story in Tales from the Benevolence Archives, which is still Coming Very Soon.  Then I shall work for Saturday and Sunday, as is my recent tradition, and then– wait for it– I’m on vacation for a week, marking the first time in my adult life where I’ve chosen when a vacation was going to take place, which is kind of fascinating.  We’re visiting friends in Louisville and Kansas City and are probably swinging by my brother’s place in Chicago on the way back home.  There will be a lot of driving, but I’m excited about it, although I’m sure I’ll get cold feet and try to cancel the whole thing at least once between now and then.

I am seeking guest bloggers for that week, by the way, so if you have had a piece in mind that you’d like to share, feel free to hit me up in comments and let me know about it.  There are at least five days available– Monday to Friday of next week– and in the unlikely event that I get more people interested than that, I’ll either double some days up or fill a weekend day or two.

GUEST POST: On “Getting Criminals Off the Streets,” by Keith Ammann

My friend Keith posted this on Facebook the other day, and he gave me permission to use it as a guest post when I asked.  


It’s impossible to separate racism from the long train of abuses and usurpations that police departments in this country have perpetrated, but even if racism could be made to go away overnight, that by itself would not be enough to solve the problem with policing. There’s another dimension that needs urgently to be addressed.

If you ask a police officer to tell you what his job is — or, for that matter, ask the average person what the job of a police officer is — he will most likely say something like, “To get criminals off the streets.”

This is a serious problem.

“Criminals” is a category of beings. Suppose a police officer has a certain idea in his head of what a “criminal” looks like. That idea may be influenced by either conscious or unconscious bias. The officer has to make dozens of snap judgments a day, under stressful conditions, of whether the person he’s dealing with is a “criminal” or not. And if he decides that person is a “criminal,” he understands that it’s his job to “get the criminal off the streets,” by whatever means necessary.

A “criminal” is a bad person. A “criminal” is dangerous. A “criminal” doesn’t deserve respect. A “criminal” has no rights. A “criminal” abuses the public, so abusing a “criminal” is righteous vengeance. It’s justice.

There are many things wrong with this mentality, but one salient flaw in it is that deciding who is and is not guilty of crime is the exclusive domain of the judicial system — the courts. Jurors are supposed to decide guilt, not the police. Sentences are supposed to be handed down by judges, not by an officer’s service weapon.

Moreover, “criminals” DO have rights. These rights are spelled out explicitly in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and, indirectly, in the Fourth. “Due process of law” means that criminal defendants have the right to be judged guilty or innocent not on impulse or emotion but by standards of evidence, honestly obtained and fairly presented in court. And once they’ve served out their sentences, they’re not supposed to be considered “criminals” anymore.

But this is hard to remember and harder to honor, because we’re so accustomed to thinking of “criminals” as the enemy, the destroyers of peace and order. And if it’s difficult for us regular folks, it’s even more difficult for police, who fight an unending battle against “criminals” every day of their lives.

This is why the thinking — and, crucially, training — of police needs to undergo a fundamental shift.

We, and they, need to stop thinking of the job of police departments and police officers as “getting criminals off the streets.”

We, and they, need to start thinking of it as restoring citizens who are committing crimes to the status of citizens who are not committing crimes.

There are two elements to this change in framing.

One is the recognition that all the people whom a police officer interacts with are citizens with rights that he must respect. (Of course, not all of them are U.S. citizens — and it’s not only U.S. citizens who have rights. But this is a matter to confront another day. For now, let’s settle for defining “citizen” loosely, as a human being with social and political rights and responsibilities.)

The second is the emphasis on criminal activity rather than criminal identity. There are not “criminals” and “civilians.” There are citizens who are committing crimes and citizens who are not committing crimes. Citizens who are not committing crimes must be treated with respect, dignity and full recognition of their legal rights. Citizens who are committing crimes ALSO must be treated with respect, dignity and full recognition of their legal rights even as they must also be made to cease their criminal activity and to submit to the process of law for what they’ve done.

A person who is not committing a crime should not — must not — be treated like a “criminal.” An African-American man driving a nice car, a teenager hanging out on a streetcorner, a protester in the street: none of these people is committing a crime. There is nothing that they need to be made to submit to. Their compliance is not an end in itself. They are free people, citizens with rights. Unless and until they commit an actual crime, there is no reason and no justification for the police to make them do anything.

As for people who have committed or are in the process of committing crimes, the domain of the police is to investigate and apprehend, to stop the crime in progress and to hand the perpetrator over to the court system for judgment. That’s it. Because the perpetrator is still a citizen, just one who at the moment is not abiding by the law and needs to be restored to the status of one who is. It is not the domain of the police to administer punishment.

Refocusing the mission of the police from what people “are” to what they are doing or have done will make it more difficult to justify police brutality and detention without charge. It will dismantle the logic underlying racial profiling. It will lay a foundation on which police and communities can build mutual respect and trust. It will bolster people’s freedom to exercise their rights of conscience. It will make evident the moral necessity of restoring people’s right to vote and right to free choice of employment after they’ve paid their debts to society.

It’s something we need to do right now.