Please hug the robot

My latest publication, Free Hugs, is now available to read or listen to at Metaphorosis magazine. I wrote this story in early days of this never-ending pandemic and it began as a response to several of my elder family members lamenting not being able to hug their grandkids. It was such a small, human lament, that I wound up writing a draft about an engineering grandson who designed a special robot to go give his Gram a hug on her birthday. He padded the bot’s chest and neck so that if she closed her eyes, it would feel like a real hug. Then, the idea kind of took on a life of its own, caught up in capitalism, the hugbots got sensors to measure happiness hormones, and suddenly they were EVERYWHERE.

And, you know, that story just never quite grabbed me. It seemed like something everyone would be writing during lockdown, so I put it away and went back to my pandemic depression. It wasn’t until I started wondering what would happen to all of those robots after the pandemic was over that I found the story I wanted to write. Free Hugs is that story. I hope you like it, I hope you’re well, and I hope you stay that way.

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

I, Voiceless

Today is June 1st, a day I’ve dreaded and anticipated in equal amounts, because today marks the release of Luna Station Quarterly #046 and inside this issue is my story, The Voiceless of Shalott.

This is the first story I’ve ever written about myself. Obviously, it’s highly stylized and a retelling of Tennyson’s The Lady of the Shalott, but at it’s core, there’s me, waving hello. Or probably hiding her face, if I’m honest, because this is a little terrifying. There’s certain things that, if you tell people about yourself, can overwhelm everything they know about you. Things that change how they see you. I stopped telling people that I was raised in a cult pretty quick when I started seeing that change. People on the outside call this ‘reserved’ and people on this inside call this ‘survival.’ I needed this to stop being the defining element of my life so I could learn how to live my life.

Then the apocalypse of 2020 happened. The upheaval of the pandemic churned up a great deal of cult mentalities and signals. If you’ve been inside and get out, your survival instincts hone in on these elements and set off mental alarms to turn and walk in the opposite direction RIGHT NOW. Except this time… I stayed. Heck, it’s the end of the world, I decided I might as well as engage and try and use my experiences to see if they can help someone. So I picked up my pen, started writing, and after twenty years of keeping this stuff inside, the anger and frustration that poured onto the page startled me. Spun inside my creativity, my fears and anger turned into something else all it’s own. I know that some people are going to be angry with me for writing this story, and there were others who wanted me to force this story into a more acceptable narrative framework, but that’s the thing, I was voiceless then and I’m not voiceless anymore. This is my story.

I hope you like it.

I also hope there’s no pitchforks in my future. I have this vivid memory from grade 5 or so, going into someone else’s classroom and spying a verse of poetry on the blackboard. We weren’t learning poetry in my class, so I stood there as long as I could, memorizing this one line: “I spread my dreams under your feet, tread softy…” (Yeats).

You can read the issue 046 online at lunastationquarterly.com, get the full e-issue for your device, or even a paperback from Amazon.

Light, Darkness, and all the Realms

Today’s the big day, Worlds of Light and Darkness: the Best of DreamForge and Space & Time Volume 1 is released! Click here to check it out. This is the first time I’ve had a story included in a ‘best of’ collection and I’m so pleased. The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe seems to have struck a chord with its readers and I’m glad to see my workaholic witch, her trusty bike, and her missing kitty have made people smile.

In other projects, a wonderful writing group that I’m in, Genre Writers of Atlantic Canada, has put together a bundle of our previously published stories to send out into the world. I submitted my award-winning Gothic fantasy story, Dragon Crossing, into the bundle. I’ve written a few other blog posts about Dragon Crossing here and here if you’d like to know more. We’ve titled this collection Realms of Fantasy and there are fourteen stories all told in the collection.

Here are Realms of Fantasy‘s links if you’re interested:

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/realms-of-fantasy-4

Amazon . com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0937P9V4Z

Amazon . ca: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0937P9V4Z

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/…/realms-of…/1139339279

In a fun coincidence, these two particular stories, Feline and Dragon Crossing were originally published close together, just as their reprints are now. Coincidence or… magical linkage? Does my workaholic witch need to meet my Gothic dragon in the Underworld, uh… **jots down idea**

I hope all of you are doing well. Things seem to be winding down, pandemic-wise, but I know we’re all still dealing with the emotional scars. I lost my Gram a few months back and I’m still coming to terms with that, especially with what dying this year means and doesn’t mean. It’s been a hard year for all of us and I hope you, like me, are starting to let a little light in.

Writing is still hard, but I’m working harder. I have a deeply personal story coming out in Luna Station Quarterly this coming June and it marks the first story where I’ve written about my personal experiences of escaping a cult. I’m more than a little nervous of it’s reception for multiple reasons. It’s fierce and angry and… a retelling of the Lady of Shalott? It’s titled the Voiceless of Shalott and I will most certainly be sharing links here when it comes out.

After that, I’ve got another story coming out, my second story to appear in Metaphorosis, this one called Free Hugs. It also has a character who escaped a cult because I opened some sort of floodgate with Voiceless and now it’s all rushing out.

Do you have any good news or stories to share? I’d love to hear about them and I’d love to read your stories, so drop me some links in the comments.

moths & mythology

I’m pleased to announced that my short story, The Moths of Luness, will be appearing in the Mythology from the Rock anthology coming out from Engen Books on April 30th, 2020.

In The Moths of Luness, a witch bespells a moth to tell her the story of its species; an original myth that stretches across the galaxy in the arms of a goddess named Luness. As some of you may know, I spend my summers in awe of the lovely moths that surround my forest home. Daydreaming a mythology for these fairy-like creatures was a wonderful escape from the reality of the pandemic, and I hope reading the story gives you as much of an escape as you might need, too.

Pre-orders for Mythology from the Rock are open today, with ebooks available for $2.99 and paperbacks at $24.99 (CDN). You can find it in Canada at: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0911RWFZ6 and in the United States at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0911RWFZ6

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In other news, I recently received an acceptance for a deeply personal retelling of Tennyson’s the Lady of Shalott, titled The Voiceless of Shalott, from Luna Station Quarterly. Voiceless will be coming out in their June issue and to say I’m on tenterhooks would be an understatement. I’ll reveal more about what this story means to me as we get closer to the publication date (I need to stock up on courage for this one, hoo boy).

hellions and robot rhinos

My flash story, Hellion Babysitting Services, is now available to read in Speculative North Issue #4. You can snag a free e-copy of this one until Friday, February 26, 2021 so run don’t walk to this handy link right here.

Hellion Babysitting Services was born of my parental desperation for any possible babysitting service during the first lockdown. I mean, have you tried demon possession? Warning: tongue firmly in cheek.

And if that doesn’t pique your interest, look at this amazing cover. It has a ROBOT RHINO.

Stories!

Okay, so 2021 hasn’t really lived up to our expectations just yet but it’s just a baby year and it had a terrible role model, let’s not lose hope. I can’t save the world but I can offer you a small respite in the form of not one, but two fresh stories.

The first story is The Mermaid’s Tale which just came out in Kaleidotrope, which you can read for free by clicking here. This story is about a biomedical engineer (prosthetics) and a strange sailor with a tall tale to tell.

Side note: Kaleidotrope is also opening to submissions this February for the first time since 2019 (hint, hint).

Might I steal a fangirl moment? Short story writer John Wiswell, author of Open House on Haunted Hill (link), gave The Mermaid’s Tale a shout-out on twitter. Established writers who give new writers a leg up are the best kind. Please read everything he writes.

The second story is Broke Down & Starside, my epistolary sci-fi story about a viral missed connection, from Issue 7 of DreamForge magazine. DreamForge has temporarily made Broke Down & Starside available to read on their website! Click here to go read now, but please be warned I don’t know how long this story will remain up.

Broke Down & Starside follows a broke down spaceship pilot (and their fish!) who posts in a Missed Connection feed to find the Starside Assistance Operator who saved their life and stumbles into something much bigger than romance. This is a good story to read if you’re feeling low. It is sweet and hopeful and I hope it will leave you cheering.

Don’t Miss This Story: Makeisha in Time by Rachael K. Jones

I came across Makeisha in Time by Rachael K. Jones as it was published as a reprint in the sample issue of Constelación Magazine. It pulled me with Makeisha’s “matryoshka life” – one that pulls her from the present to live lifetimes scattered through the past before running her to the age and moment she first left. Her exploits in the past thrilled me and her frustrations with the present felt real. It’s a fantastic story about erasure and triumph and it’s one I’ll be thinking about for a long while to come. You can read the story by clicking here and following the link.

It’s worth noting for the writers out there that Constelación is opening from December 15th to January 1st for stories on the theme of “Myth and Monsters.” Constelación is a new market that pays pro writes and publishes stories in both English and Spanish. I’m excited to read their first issue.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

2020 Awards Eligibility post

Since it is that time of year again, here is what I published in the year that has been 2020

-Just Enough for Jenny (Short Édition) https://short-edition.com/en/story/short-fiction/just-enough-for-jenny

-Zsezzyn, Who is Not a God (Metaphorosis) https://magazine.metaphorosis.com/story/2020/zsezzyn-who-is-not-a-god-jennifer-shelby/ Zsezzyn also made it onto Alex Brown’s Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction for June 2020

-Broke Down & Starside (DreamForge Issue 7 December 2020 coming soon!) https://dreamforgemagazine.com/issue-7-release/

– A Disease of Time and Temporal Distortion (Recognize Fascism anthology) https://worldweaverpress.com/store/p171/Recognize_Fascism.html

-Meriden’s Moonlet (Hybrid Fiction) https://hybridfiction.net/online-content

-Parachutes and Grappling Hooks (Pulp Sci-Fi From the Rock anthology) https://amazon.com/Pulp-Sci-Fi-Rock-Ellen-Curtis-ebook/dp/B086HDRL4F/ref=sr_1_1

– My first-ever novella in the multi-author Slipstreamers series: Plague of the Dreamless (Engen Books) https://amazon.com/dp/B08LSS25X7

Release day!

Today’s the day! Book #5 of the multi-author Slipstreamers series, The Plague of the Dreamless, written by me, Jennifer Shelby, is officially released into the wild. If your book kingdom could use a little Indiana Jones meets Doctor Who adventure, a splash of otherworldly cephalopods, and a brand new world to explore, hold onto your imaginations because have I got a book for you!

My novella can be read as a stand-alone adventure though I do recommend the entire Slipstreamers series. With a new novella coming out every three weeks, you won’t have to wait long before Cassidy’s next adventure. Engen Books has curated an epic crew of authors to create a fun and engaging multiverse that is content-safe for all ages, though I do classify Plague of the Dreamless as YA dystopian SF.

Click here to check out my novella Plague of the Dreamless, and click here to check out the whole Slipstreamers series!

Book Review: Slipstreamers 4, The Lotus Fountain by Nicole Little

The Lotus Fountain, by Nicole Little and JD Ryot, is the 4th book in Engen’s Slipstreamers series about an anthropologist named Cassidy Cane who is hired to explore a series of portals into other worlds. In The Lotus Fountain, Cassidy investigates a mysterious adoption agency and tumbles through a portal into a seemingly idyllic matriarchal society.

At the centre of this society lies a beautiful fountain which heals broken bones, wounds, and so much more. But something doesn’t feel right, hidden in the library’s forbidden books, discipline huts, lack of men, and disappearing babes. Still, this world calls to Cassidy, tempting her with a softer existence than the ones she’s known.

The book’s strengths lie in Little’s use of character, the way she draws out the confusion in Cassidy’s mind as her chaotic, adventurous nature smashes into her nurturing side.

Cassidy was accustomed to climbing mountains, tumbling out of cars, and breaking through windows; dodging bullets and belligerent aliens; exploring new worlds. Yet here, in this supply closet with this heartbroken girl-it was one of the scariest moments of Cassidy’s life.

– Slipstreamers: The Lotus Fountain by Nicole Little and JD Ryot

Cassidy is surprised at the comfort she finds in this gentle world, the easy sense of belonging, but the fault lines are always there, nagging at her, promising that everything may not be as it seems. And Cassidy can’t ignore those fault lines forever.

I highly recommend this book to writers making a study of a character at odds with theirself, to lovers of the original Star Trek series which this adventure brought to mind, and to all fans of Cassidy Cane. I give The Lotus Fountain 4.5/5 stars overall and a solid 5/5 for Little’s excellent writing.

Bonus submission opportunities:

World Weaver Press is calling for submissions to their anthology Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls: Cyberpunk Fairy Tales ($0.01 per word) click here to visit that call.

East of the Web is looking for science fiction up to 7 000 words, original and reprint ($0.05 per word OR…. check their site) click here to visit that one.

Also, the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is on temporary hiatus until January 2021 as C. C. Finlay steps down on as editor and Sheree Renee Thomas takes up the task. More here.