2019 Artist’s Year in Review

Since I’m pretty sure last night’s show was last thing happening this year and nothing else will shake loose this late, I think it is okay to do my annual artist year in review post and close the books on 2019.

Of course, I once received 4 rejections on Christmas Eve while sitting in a shitty hotel room, so maybe I shouldn’t tempt the universe. But since I’m not traveling this year and it’s no fun for the universe to kick a guy if he can just go home, hug his cat and his wife, and pour himself a stiff drink, I think I’m pretty safe.

First, the basic stats –

Submissions: 36
Sales: 1 (a piece of flash fiction)
Rejections: 32
Publications: 0
Productions: 0
Performances: 8 (6 Literary readings and 2 spoken-word performances)
New Pieces Written: 12 (1 novel, 1 screenplay, 1 flash fiction piece, 2 spoken word pieces, 7 poems)

On the surface it isn’t one of my best years, but I did complete two large projects with that novel and screenplay, and most of my rejections are for the novel I have out on agent submission. I also did appearances at Twin Cities Book Festival, Midwest Comic Book Association Fall Comic Con 2019, The Loft Word Play Event, GPS Holiday Emporium, and 13 Gears Steampunk Expo, and book and reading events at Bingley’s Teas, Cream and Amber Books and Coffee, and DreamHaven Books and Comics, which were all fun events.

I think the two most important things this year brought were that I joined a new writers group with some really strong and talented writers who I feel I can trust, and for the first time since the car accident in 2017, I felt like I was getting back to normal/settling into the new normal. The writing seemed to going at a solid pace and my public appearances were progressively stronger as the year wore on, culminating with last night’s performance where I felt in command on stage again after over 2 years of feeling shaky at best and disappointed at worst with my readings and spoken-word performances.

So there’s the year in review.

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Tonight! Not-So-Silent Planet Open Mic

This is your reminder that I will be a special guest performer at the Not-So-Silent Planet SpecFic Open mic tonight. This also your reminder that, due to some heating issues at Red Stag, tonight’s Not-So-Silent Planet is moving out to:

Strike Theater
824 18th Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

I know it still says Red Stag on the graphics, but trust me, we will be at Strike Theater. FYI – I don’t know if there is food and drink available at the Theater (I think there are vending machines in the building), so plan accordingly.

The evening’s theme is “Celebration!” Open-mic sign-up starts at 7:20 pm. If selected, performers have up to 7 minutes of stage time. Anything goes as long as it’s speculative fiction. First-time performers are guaranteed stage time. For December’s Sentence Challenge, the performer who can most seamlessly or creatively fit the following line into their performance, as determined by the audience, will win a prize: “We couldn’t remember anything.” Or, alternatively: “They couldn’t remember anything.” Like the theme, this challenge is also optional.

I hope to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/events/454390995261545/

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Small Business Saturday!

Hey Everyone! It is Small Business Saturday. Because I hand-sell my small press and Indie book titles, as well as hand out promotional material for my two Harlequin/Carina Press titles at various bookfairs, conventions, readings, and other events (such as the upcoming GPS Holiday Emporium! Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/872963226437877/), that makes me a Small Business.

If you are interested in my books, stories, plays, poems, and other art career endeavors, you should head on over to my website at http://michaelmerriam.com/. My books for sale can be found in my bibliography (http://michaelmerriam.com/bibliography/) where they are listed by what setting. All full book titles are also available for Kindle and other e-readers. Physical and electronic books make great Christmas gifts!

If you are a producer or director looking for short one-act plays, they’re listed here (http://michaelmerriam.com/storytelling/playwright/) and I’d be happy to discuss sending you a copy of the script and my licensing fees.

If you’re not sure about any of this, you can get a taste at my Free Stuff page (http://michaelmerriam.com/free-media/) where you can find stories to read online, audio of select spoken-word performances, links to videos of readings at DreamHaven books, and stories that have appeared in podcasts or as radio dramas.

If you want to see me in person and buy a book directly from me, come out to the GPS holiday Emporium I mentioned above. I’d be happy to chat and sign your book.
Finally, like me, many of your favorite authors and storytellers also are small business, so if you have a favorite, I suggest you also stop by their websites and show a little love.

#SmallBusinessSaturday

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MCBA Fall Comic Con

This Saturday I will be appearing at MCBA Fall Comic Con at the same table as Catherine Lundoff and Queen of Swords Press. We will have books for sale, specials on said books, free chocolate, and good cheer! Come by and see us. $10 admission, $1 off with a donation of a non-perishable food item.

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Murder, Airships, and Tea!

This is a reminder that Catherine Lundoff of Queen of Swords Press and I will be reading steampunk fiction and selling books this Saturday at Bingley’s Teas. Which means there will also be tea! And there will be costumes!

Details Here: https://www.facebook.com/events/933478440337467/

From the event –
Join authors Catherine Lundoff and Michael Merriam for an afternoon of steampunk readings from their own works and those of author Alex Acks at Bingley’s Tea Salon, Saturday, September 28th, 2-4.

Tasty teas and books will be available for purchase. There will also be light munchies. Free admission and steampunk costumes encouraged!

118 East 26th Street, Minneapolis (2nd floor – accessible only by stairs). For more information, call 612-822-7321.

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A Bunch of New Appearances on the Schedule!

Hello Friends and Readers

I have a number of new appearance and events I will be at this fall and one extra special event next August!

First up: Murder, Airships, and Tea! A steampunk literature reading with Catherine Lundoff of Queen of Swords Press – September 28th – 2pm to 4pm at Bingley’s Teas, 118 East 26th Street Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404. It is on the 2nd Floor and accessible by stairs only. We will have steampunk novels and story collections, tea, and chocolate! There might be costumes!

MBCA Fall ComicCon 2019. October 5th – 10am to 6pm – MN State Fairgrounds Education Building. I will have all my books for sale at this event and free chocolate to keep your spirits and energy up!

Twin Cities Book Festival With Queen of Swords Press. October 12th – 10am to 5 pm – MN State Fairgrounds – Progress Center. For the third year in a row I will be sharing table space with Queen of Swords Press. This year I plan to focus on selling my short fiction and poetry collections.

The big news is I will be Guest of Honor at Diversicon 28 – August 7th through the 9th, 2020 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. I am super-excited about being the GoH at this convention focused on diversity and disability in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature and fandom. More details to follow!

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Worldcon and the Hugo Awards

Now that Worldcon and the Hugo Awards are over, I’d like to talk to you, the Science Fiction and Fantasy author/writers who: 1: Couldn’t go to Worldcon in Ireland this year, watched from afar (or at least on the screen of your electronic device) and felt left out/sad/driven to the margins as the rest of SFF fandom/pro-dom celebrated and B: Watched the Hugo Awards with the sure knowledge that your work will never ever ever never be even remotely considered worthy of even any consideration for this award and you know in your darkest heart of hearts you will never stand on that podium, rocket ship in hand.

Wouldn’t it have been great to go to Ireland for WorldCon? Yes, it would have been great. But for most of us, that was simply not a viable option, whether for financial, personal, or life reason. And remember this: some of those folks who attended started saving money to attend by eating ramen and Kraft Mac & Cheese 15 meals a week the moment this Worldcon was announced. Some of those folks made a decision that this would be their one big trip/vacation for the year, maybe the next couple of years. Some of those folks took on unsecured credit card debt to pay for the privilege of attending Worldcon. We all make decision, and while it is perfectly normal to be a little sad and yes, even jealous YOU couldn’t attend, remember that we all had perfectly good reasons (even if those reasons were sadly beyond our control) for going or not going.

The Hugo Awards. Here is the thing. Maybe you read a bunch of the nominated stories and novels and such and here you are saying to yourself, “Self, I’ll never be as good/as talented/in the same class of these luminous supernatural beings of the written word and I should just quiet.” Maybe you are saying to yourself, “Self, I can out-write these hacks with one hand, what the hell even?” Probably you are somewhere between these extremes of hyperbole.

My dear writer friends, please remember this. The only thing you control is the writing. That’s it. No matter where you fall in the above spectrum, remember that the only thing you control is the writing. Also remember that editorial and reader tastes change over time. Editors, agents, and other “gatekeepers” change with time. Maybe what you write right now isn’t to their taste. Maybe it will be to the next editor/agent/reader. Okay, I will allow that networking and making connections can help, but in the end what matters is the story. Awards and novel contracts and bestseller lists and meager fame and fortune all come out of the one thing you control. The story.

In the end, what matters is the story.

So, congrats to all the Hugo Winners. And all the Hugo losers. And all the Not Appearing on Any Hugo List Ever authors. Congrats to you mid-listers out there grinding it out. Congrats to you on your 100th sale or your 1st. Congrats to you who just finished the thing, be it a novel, screenplay, short story, poem, article, or whatever because you, my friend have done the thing so so many cannot: you finished creating a piece of art. Congrats on your publication with the Big 5 or the Not-So Big 5 or a small press or the indie published thing you are willing to fling out into the big cold world. Congrats to all of us who keep working away with words, keep hoping, keep dreaming, keep entertaining.

Cool? Okay. Let’s get back to writing.

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35 DEAD IN…

BANG
A gunman opened fire today…
BANG
Information is sketchy…
BANG
Armed with an AR-15…
BANG
Mass confusion, police on the scene…
BANG
Our thoughts and…
BANG
Let’s not politicize this tragedy…
BANG
Guns don’t kill people…
BANG
The problem is violent video games…
BANG
The problem is mental health…
BANG
He was such a kind and quite…
BANG
We stand in solidarity…
BANG
It’s time to hold our representatives accountable…
BANG
An NRA spokesman today said…
BANG
If you outlaw guns…
BANG
Among the victims…
BANG
Candlelight vigil…
BANG
Our God-given rights under the 2nd…
BANG
It’s the gays…
BANG
But is it really an assault rifle…
BANG
White male lone wolf killer who…
BANG
So senseless…
BANG
But actually, what about black on black…
BANG
Well, what about Chicago…
BANG
The mother…
BANG
The father…
BANG
The brother…
BANG
The sister of the victim…
BANG
Never another shooting…
BANG
I heard it was a bunch crisis actors…
BANG
Investigators found disturbing materials…
BANG
I guess we’ll never know why…
BANG
On this solemn occasion…
BANG
We’ve turned away for God…
BANG
Nothing we can do…
BANG
A gunman opened fire today…
BANG

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KO-FI GOAL REWARD STORY: A HOT CUP AT THE LAST STATION

Wow. Yesterday I posted to my Ko-Fi that I needed a little help with some unexpected financial issues that hit us this month. I set a modest goal of $50 and promised I’d post an out-of-print piece of fiction at my Ko-Fi account and on my webpages as a reward if we hit the goal.

Well, we reached the goal in about an hour. I thank all of you who contributed to my Ko-Fi and helped me reach this goal. I deeply appreciated you. As promised, here is your reward!

A Hot Cup at the Last Station first appeared in the online magazine Bards and Sages Quarterly, Volume #2 – Issue #3 on July 2010. I thought it appropriate, since I raised this money on my Ko-Fi account, to give you a story set in a coffee shop. This story is part of my Mythic Twin Cities setting.

Enjoy.

A HOT CUP AT THE LAST STATION

“Why doesn’t he go home?”

I shrugged and continued to wipe the coffee mug with a towel.

“I’m asking you. Why can’t he drink his coffee and go home like a normal customer?”

I looked up at Vanessa Holcomb. I had hired her three months ago. She was the closest thing I had to a friend. “He’s waiting for someone, that’s all.”

“Well I don’t think they’re coming, and I need to sweep and put up the chairs before I can leave.” She reached behind her head and reassembled her dark brown hair into a short ponytail.

“Why don’t you go home? I’ll clean up in the morning.”

Vanessa gave the old man a distrustful glare through her glasses. “You shouldn’t have to; you’re supposed to be off tonight.” She turned her fierce gaze on me. “What are you doing down here, anyway?”

I remembered at the last minute it was the third Wednesday of the month and came downstairs, knowing the old man would be sitting here keeping his lonely vigil. But I just shrugged in answer to her question. “I just can’t seem to stay away.”

“Kenny–”

I held up a hand to forestall the coming rant. “I know. I spend too much time working, I should get out more.” Vanessa’s nagging should have angered me, but somehow it just made me smile. I suspected it was because she was not one of the college kids I usually hired. Vanessa and I were contemporaries: both of us well on the dark side of thirty.

“Well, you should,” she said, wiping down the steamer. “You shouldn’t spend all your time-off lurking upstairs.”

“I live upstairs.” The coffee shop was housed in an old two-story train depot. I had converted the upstairs into an apartment for myself after I bought the building.

“Well, you shouldn’t live down here too.”

“What would I do if I went out?”

“Go have a beer. Hit a show. Something besides stay home. Get out and meet some people.” She finished polishing the steamer to within an inch of its life, and started stacking the clean cups behind the counter.

“I don’t drink, and I don’t care to sit around watching a bunch of lonely people staring at a mediocre band. Besides, I can meet people right here.”

She nodded toward the old man, sipping his cold black coffee and idly fingering a rose. “You want to end up like him?”

“What about you?” I countered. It was unfair and I knew it. She was a single mother, working two part-time jobs to make ends meet. All of her spare time was spent with her kids.

“That’s different.”

“I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”

She scowled as she finished the cups. When she put the last one on the shelf, she turned to me again. “You’re a nice guy, Ken. You shouldn’t become grandpa over there.”

I looked up and caught her eyes. There was something in them I could not identify. It made me uncomfortable. “I thought I told you to go home.”

“You did.”

“So why are you still here? Go be with your kids.”

Vanessa untied her apron. “I think I will.” She tossed the apron into the laundry hamper and retrieved her purse from the office. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“If you want, you can come in a little late. I’m going to clean up in the morning, so I’ll open.”

She laughed softly. “I’ll be here at five-thirty. Make sure the place is clean and set up.”

“Who’s the owner here?”

“You are, Kenny, you are,” she said as she walked out the door. The lock clicked into place behind her, and she disappeared into the night.

I stacked the chairs and turned off all the lights, except the one over the old man’s table. I knew he wouldn’t mind; we had engaged in this routine every third Wednesday since I bought the coffee shop from him five years ago. I swept the floor and stocked the small refrigerator under the counter. When I checked the clock it was just after eleven.

I poured the last of the plain coffee into a cup, walked over to the old man’s table, set the cup in front of him, and turned away.

The old man’s raspy voice broke the silence. “She’s right. You shouldn’t end up like me.”

I turned back toward him. “I like my life well enough.”

“You have even less a life than I.”

“This from a man who’s spent the last sixty years waiting for a woman on a train that will never come.”

He picked up the rose and rolled the stem between his fingers. He brought a rose with him every third Wednesday. I knew in the morning I would find it left behind on the table, just like all the others.

“She’ll be here,” he whispered.

“Sure.”

“Vanessa likes you. You should ask her out.”

“I don’t date my employees.”

“Coward.”

“Make sure the lock is set when you go.”

“Don’t I always?” he said as I climbed the stairs to my apartment.

Once in my rooms, I felt restless. I pulled down the shoebox full of rosebuds from the closet shelf. I’d saved the bud off every rose the old man had left. I’m not sure why I saved them, but I had sixty of them now. I picked one up and felt the crisp, delicate, dead thing under my fingers.

Perhaps I was a coward.

But cowards don’t end up sitting alone in an empty coffee shop waiting for a woman who vanished six decades ago.

No, a little voice in the back of my mind whispered, cowards end up living out their days hiding in their apartment, mourning a woman who died eight winters past.

I settled down in my chair and closed my eyes, still clutching the shoebox of dead roses. That was the fundamental difference between myself and the old man downstairs. He clung to his irrational belief that a lost love might somehow come back to him. I knew that the love stolen from me by a drunk driver never would. The old man lived for a dream. I knew the truth: Six feet of dark earth held my heart down.

The low rumble was my first intimation something was wrong. My apartment started to tremble, its windows rattling ominously. I grabbed the arms of my chair, spilling the box of rosebuds over my lap and onto the floor.

Earthquake, I thought in a panic as the rumble grew in volume. The more sensible part of my mind reminded me that I’m not on the west coast anymore. I’m living in the Midwest, where earthquakes are rare. The room lit-up from the outside, as if someone were holding a spotlight pointed through my window. The building gave another shudder as a terrible roaring and hissing filled my ears. There was a final rattling of the windows, and everything settled.

In the silence that followed, I made my way cautiously downstairs, certain there would be broken coffee cups littering the floor and other, more severe, damage.

There was nothing different, except the old man sitting in his chair. His eyes were closed; a small smile stretched across his face. The rose rested on the floor under his limp hand.

The ambulance and police arrived ten minutes after I called 911.

#

A month later, on the third Wednesday, I found myself standing over a grave with a simple temporary marker. Clarence Sorenson, I read, kneeling down. I reached into the small insulated bag I had brought and pulled out two cups and a thermos. I poured for both of us, setting his cup against the marker.

“Congratulations,” I whispered, raising my cup in a toast. “I hope you’re both happy, wherever you are.”

I placed sixty rosebuds on the mound of dirt that covered him. I had to believe that because he never stopped loving her, even after all those long, lonely years, she finally came for him. If I can believe that, maybe I can believe I’m not such a coward after all.

I spent the day walking the streets of my town, coming at last to the depot-turned-coffeehouse I called home. I saw the place was empty, except for Vanessa, who stood behind the counter, cleaning it with a dishrag.

I refused to wait sixty years.

“Hey,” I said, walking inside and turning the sign from “Open” to “Closed.” “You want to knock off early and go get a beer or something?”

Vanessa gave me a sharp, curious look. “I thought you didn’t drink.”

“I don’t. But I wasn’t sure how you would feel about a cup of coffee, everything considered.”

She waved her hand dismissively. “Coffee’s okay, but you’re going to have to clean this place up in the morning.”

“That’s fine.”

I turned off all the lights, except the one over the old man’s table, while she retrieved her purse from the office.

“Where to?” Vanessa asked as I locked the door behind us.

I smiled what might have been my first genuine smile in eight years. “It doesn’t matter.”

Her arm slipped into mine as we walked to her car.

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Buy Me A (Bunch of) Coffee

Life has thrown some unfortunate twists at me and my family, so I’ve decided to set up a goal on my Ko-Fi. Any help is appreciated and if we hit the $50 goal, I will post an out-of-print piece of fiction at my website and on my Ko-Fi for everyone’s enjoyment. Push the button on the right of the page with a coffee cup on it.

https://ko-fi.com/mmerriam

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