Author Spotlight: Mari Ness

Author spotlights are occasional Q&As with contributors. Mari Ness loves chocolate, words and music, in no particular order. Her other work has appeared in Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Apex, Strange Horizons, Fireside, and many other publications. For more, follow her on Twitter at @mari_ness, or check out her webpage at marikness.wordpress.com. She lives in central Florida.

Mari Ness

Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror story.

Mari Ness: As someone who was fairly housebound even before Covid-19, I wondered what might be happening to others who had also — for whatever reasons — been largely stuck at home prior to the pandemic. Which led me to thinking about enchanted creatures living deep in the forest. How would the pandemic hit them? And so this story shaped itself. 

DM: How did you become a writer?

MN: When I was about four or five, my aunt shared with me a piece of magic: the books I devoured were created by real, actual people.

And that maybe someday I could do that.

Years later, here we are.

DM: What else are you passionate about?  Tell us about it.

MN: Chocolate, fairy tales, wetlands, beaches, heavy rains and thunderstorms.

DM: We’re also passionate about chocolate here. Last question: Do you have anything you’d like to promote?

MN: I have a small essay collection, Resistance and Transformation: On Fairy Tales, about how the 17th and 18th century authors of the French salons used fairy tales to comment — discreetly — on aristocratic society, recently published by Aqueduct Press.

Thank you, Mari! “A Preliminary Study of Humans Under Beastly Enchantments and COVID-19” can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the story as much as we do, please tell your friends!

Author Spotlight: Christopher Blake

Author spotlights are occasional Q&As with contributors. Christopher Blake is a writer from Ontario, Canada who spends his free time mostly reading, writing, and playing with his kitten, Phoebe.  Aside from science fiction and fantasy, Christopher also writes stories and essays in the medical humanities. 

Christopher Blake

Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror story.

Christopher Blake: I originally wrote this story for a flash fiction contest run by Clarion which had a 500-word limit.  I figured that it couldn’t be too many sentences and, always loving a pun, I realized that it might be fun to write a whole story chronicling the life of a couple of rogues and their various criminal sentences, told sentence by sentence.  A lot of my output is darker or more philosophical and it was a joyful experience to write something short, snappy, and fun.

DM: How did you become a writer?

CB: In short, perseverance. I’ve wanted to be a writer for more or less as long as I can remember.  When I was a kid I wrote mostly poetry but in high school I started writing short fiction with more regularity.  I read mostly science fiction and fantasy in my teens and early twenties but through reading the blogs of authors I respected, was introduced to a variety of other authors working in different genres whose work I learned from.  I’ve been a member of the Critters.org online critiquing community for most of the last decade and have learned just as much from having my writing critiqued as I have from critiquing the writing of others. 

DM: What else are you passionate about?  Tell us about it.

CB: My day job is in Palliative Care and I’m passionate about supporting patients and their families to live well as they face life limiting illness.  In particular, I’m passionate about broadening the awareness of my field through public education so that people understand my job isn’t just about death and dying but about living and living well.

Thank you, Christopher! “Eleven Sentences” can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the story as much as we do, please tell your friends!

Author Spotlight: Tara Campbell

Author spotlights are occasional Q&As with contributors. Tara Campbell is the author of “Shielded” in issue 2.

Velociraptor by Tara Campbell with a toy brachiosaur.

Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror story.

Tara Campbell: “Shielded” was 100% born of my feelings of in-betweenness as a mixed-race person, especially in this age where we’re talking more about police violence against black and brown people. Like the protagonist of the story, I’m light-skinned and blue-eyed, and until I started letting my hair go natural, people often didn’t realize I’m half Black. Because I grew up with the protection of my skin and eye color, but other people in my family didn’t, I often struggle to figure out where I sit in discussions about race and privilege. There are times when I don’t even know which pronoun I should be using in a given conversation — am I “us” or “them”?

DM: How did you become a writer?

TC: I’ve always loved writing, and have had a soft spot for speculative fiction since junior high. I let it go for many years, though, thinking I had to be more practical in my career goals and more literary in my reading and writing aspirations. After many years of work in international education and university admissions, I started taking classes at a community writing center on the side, and instantly gravitated back toward my first love: science fiction. Now I’m able to write and teach full time. I’m glad for the perspective I gained in my previous professions, and I’ve always valued my expansive literary diet — that was all good for me as a human and a writer. But speculative is still where I have the most fun.

Cthulhu knitted lips

DM: What else are you passionate about?  Tell us about it.

TC: Funny you ask, because I’m teaching a class on Writing Your Obsessions, so I had to provide some examples of my own obsessions:

a) Dinosaurs, of course, because who isn’t obsessed with dinos?

b) Plants! My first book was a novel about sentient trees taking over the world, and I’ve since written a few stories in which plants play a major role. 

Here’s a story about plants and mothers: https://lost-balloon.com/2020/06/17/my-mother-is-a-plant-tara-campbell/

And here’s a flash CNF I wrote about why they’ve always been important to me: https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2020/09/26/loss-loop-by-tara-campbell/

c) Knitting Lips: https://www.barrelhousemag.com/onlinelit/2020/06/quarantinecampbell

d) Skiing

DM: Do you have anything you’d like to promote?

TC: I’m thrilled to have my fifth book coming out from Aqueduct Press in 2021! Working title: Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection, which kind of says it all. They published my third book, Midnight at the Organporium, so I’m excited to work with them again!

Thank you, Tara! “Shielded” can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the story as much as we do, please tell your friends!

Author Spotlight: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

Author spotlights are occasional Q&As with contributors. Nicole J. LeBoeuf is the author of the poem “Reasonable Accommodations” in issue 2.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf

Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror poem.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf: “Reasonable Accommodations” began during one of my Tuesday “poetry playtime” sessions. (I try to spend a little time freewriting every day, and Tuesdays are specifically for poetry.) Inspired by an upcoming submission theme, I was focusing on shapeshifters. But not werewolves. I love me some werewolves — I adore Carrie Vaughn’s series about Kitty Norville, DJ for the Midnight Hour — but I wanted to explore other weres, especially prey species. Imagine the plight of a were-deer, trapped in the nine-to-five work-a-day world without benefit of an understanding boss. Deer are mainly nocturnal, but humans aren’t, and the moon doesn’t just start being full when we can see it. Poor thing’s gotta have a terrible time when career fairs fall at exactly the wrong time of the month.

DM: How did you become a writer?

NJL: I’ve never not been a writer. From as early as first grade, when our teacher gave us spiral notebooks and told us to write at least one page a day, I’ve been writing stories and poems. I dictated them to patient babysitters with typewriters until I learned to type them up myself. I ran my Brother Type-A-Graph (does anyone else remember those?) out of its little ballpoint pens more frequently than my parents could keep up. And, critically, I got the sort of adult feedback that confirmed “Yes, you can do this. Keep doing this.” I may have been embarrassed within an inch of my life to walk in the door and hear my Mom reading one of my poems aloud to a friend, but even while I wished for the earth to swallow me up, I got the message loud and clear.

I was extremely fortunate in high school that two of my English teachers were professional writers themselves. When I asked them, “How do I get my stories published?” they asked me, “Are you ready for rejection?” Well, I said, if I’m not, I’d better be. They introduced me to the ins and outs of proper manuscript submission and pointed me toward the library’s huge doorstop copy of the Writer’s Market. I only avoided falling prey to publishing scams because those two amazing humans inoculated me with solid information.

DM: What else are you passionate about?  Tell us about it.

NJL: In November of 2011, I lost my heart to roller derby. I attended Day 1 of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association championships in Broomfield, Colorado — just a few bus stops down the road from me in Boulder — and my heart just leapt out of my chest and landed on the track. I had to learn how to play to get it back. That’s how I ended up training with and playing for the Boulder County Bombers under the name Fleur de Beast.

Roller derby in the United States is on indefinite hiatus while we weather the COVID storm, and you can imagine how jealous I am to hear about games being played in those countries that have done a better job keeping case numbers down than we have. I’ve been meeting up with current and former leaguemates for trail-skating dates, keeping ourselves responsibly distanced and adding facemasks to our required protective gear, but it’s not the same. I miss getting to hit skaters! I miss having those bruises!

DM: Do you have anything you’d like to promote?

NJL: My very short story “The Soup Witch’s Funeral Dinner” was podcast by Cast of Wonders earlier this year. It was just amazing to hear a narrator as skilled as Adam Pracht bring the tale to life. You should click the link right now and go take a listen.

That story was originally part of my Friday Fictionettes project, which is basically me experimenting with Patreon. Theoretically I release a new piece of very short fiction there every first through fourth Friday for subscribers to read or listen to. I say “theoretically” because I’m about four weeks behind schedule right now. Hopefully by the time this Author Spotlight goes live I’ll be caught up or at least closer to it. A quarter of the archives are unlocked posts — the monthly “Fictionette Freebies” — so please don’t hesitate to visit! More people watching means more pressure for me to hit my deadlines.

I’d also like to mention the Atthis Arts anthology Community of Magic Pens, in which you can find my short story, “One Story, Two People.” It’s about fountain pens and a friendship that transcends time. Atthis Arts is an indie publisher, and, like all indie publishers, especially now, they could sure use your support.

Thank you, Nicole! “Reasonable Accommodations” can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the poem as much as we do, please tell your friends!

Author Spotlight: Marie Brennan

Author spotlights are occasional Q&As with contributors. Marie Brennan is the World Fantasy and Hugo Award-nominated author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, the Onyx Court, other series, and over sixty short stories. As half of M.A. Carrick, she also writes the Rook and Rose trilogy.

Marie Brennan, photo by Perry Reichanadter

Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror story.

Marie Brennan: “The Bottle Tree” is a prequel piece for my Wilders urban fantasy series. Julian is one of the main characters of that series, and Neeya appears in the second book, Chains and Memory; in the course of developing that book, my brain offered up a speech where Neeya tells someone about the promise Julian makes at the end of “The Bottle Tree,” and how that affected her life. The speech does what it needs to in the novel, but when I began contemplating a piece of short fiction that would show Julian’s childhood directly — with all the bizarre conditions that surround a wilder’s life — naturally I gravitated toward something that would lead up to that moment. Because I really can’t write about Julian’s childhood (or that of any wilder) and not have it focus on the deep shield: a method of control that is simultaneously very, very necessary, and very, very troubling.

DM: How did you become a writer?

MB: The very short form is that I read Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock when I was about nine or ten and it made me say, “I want to be a writer.” The longer version is that, like many kids, I made up stories to entertain myself; unlike many kids, I just never stopped. I got serious about my writing in college, sold my first novel when I was twenty-four, and have kept at it ever since.

DM: What else are you passionate about?  Tell us about it.

MB: My three big hobbies these days are role-playing games, photography, and shorin-ryu karate. The first of those is storytelling again, but unlike writing, it’s social — and it’s wound up feeding into my fiction more than once, from a variety of angles. (The Mask of Mirrors, the first book of the Rook and Rose trilogy I’m co-writing with Alyc Helms, grew out of a game they run and I play in.) Photography ties in with my travel, which I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of, and it’s taught me to see details that I would have walked right past before, honing my eye in some really useful ways. As for karate, I think it’s good for writers to have hobbies that get them out of the chair and out of their brains for a bit, so we don’t forget we have bodies that need taking care of.

DM: Do you have anything you’d like to promote?

MB: I’ve accidentally tripped into this being a very busy time for me! Last August I had a fix-up novel called Driftwood out from Tachyon, which builds on the eponymous short stories I’ve been writing for years; then January 19th was the street date for The Mask of Mirrors (under the name M.A. Carrick), followed by The Night Parade of 100 Demons, a Legend of the Five Rings novel, under my own name on February 2nd. Plus I run a Patreon called New Worlds, which is all about worldbuilding in science fiction and fantasy, which is about to wrap up its fourth year!

Thank you, Marie! “The Bottle Tree” can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the story as much as we do, please tell your friends!

Author Spotlight: Marie Vibbert

Author spotlights are occasional Q&As with contributors. Marie Vibbert has sold over 60 stories to pro markets including multiple appearances in Analog, F&SF, and Lightspeed.  By day she is a computer programmer in Cleveland, Ohio. Her debut novel comes out March 2021.

Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror story.

Marie Vibbert: “Watch Your Step” was written for a Literary Cleveland online class “Write five stories in six weeks.” Our assignment was to write a flash piece that addressed something particularly painful in our psyche. I’ve often felt like a clumsy monster tripping over the world around me. For me it’s more my big mouth and the things I say than my physical size, but this was my way of turning that feeling into fiction. Big thanks to Lit Cle instructor Matt Weinkam for shaking me out of my lockdown writer’s block!

DM: How did you become a writer?

MV:  I wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid, stapling scrap paper ‘books’ together on the living room floor.  Becoming a published writer was a long and painful process.  I submitted my first works for publication in the 1980s.  They were awful, I’m sure.  I was staying late at the high school computer lab, typing up my novels on AppleWorks 2.0 and printing them out on the dot matrix printer.  My first story sale was more than twenty years later, and my second sale seven years after it.  I guess you can say I became a writer through sheer bloody-minded persistence.  I struggled with poverty and illness and I got a good job and I married and all along I wrote and submitted and sobbed over my rejections.  Things really turned when I attended Clarion in 2013.  If nothing else, I didn’t want such a huge financial investment going to waste, so I HAD to succeed!

DM: What else are you passionate about?  Tell us about it.

MV: The Cleveland Browns had their best season since re-founding in 1999!  (Yes, I feel like everyone needs to know this).  I played women’s professional football for five years for the Cleveland Fusion, it made my lifelong football fandom turn into a full obsession.  My long-suffering husband puts up with it because we get pizza.  Women’s sports, obviously, deserve more attention than they get!  The Fusion’s winning seasons got me through a lot of years of less than awesome Browns records. Check out the WFA if you’re in North America — chances are there’s a team near you!

DM: Do you have anything you’d like to promote?

MV: My debut novel, Galactic Hellcats, about a female biker gang in outer space rescuing a gay prince, is coming out March 9, 2021!  Publisher’s weekly called it “Even more fun than the title suggests … a rip-roaring space heist.”  Forty years since my first “novel” I’m finally realizing my dream.

Thank you, Marie! “Watch Your Step” can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the story as much as we do, please tell your friends!

Author Spotlight: Evergreen Lee

Author spotlights are occasional Q&As with contributors. Evergreen Lee’s short story, “Up a Tree” can be found in Issue 1.

Evergreen Lee

Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror story.

Evergreen Lee: “Up a Tree” was written for a Codex contest that involves writing a flash story in a short length of time based on particular prompts. The prompt I used was a picture of a cat in front of a puddle of water with a cloth draped around it. It made me think of a person who had just changed into a cat and was checking their appearance. The MC going to check on her neighbors was inspired by the loneliness many have experienced during Covid, and also worrying about those who live alone with no one to even make sure that they’re still alive. The original version had several Covid-19-specific references, but these were later removed for pacing reasons. The other main inspiration was my inclination towards stories where characters overlook or overcome the prejudices that they are expected to have and/or have grown up with.

DM: How did you become a writer?

EL: I decided I wanted to be a writer in 1st grade, but abandoned the dream in high school for complicated reasons. I never quit writing, however, and when I attended DragonCon for the first time, in 2011, I quickly gravitated towards their Writer’s Track programming. Through that, I realized that being a professional writer was something I could still pursue. Shortly after, I searched for and found local writing groups, most notably the Celebration Writers (led at that time by Jan Eldritch) and the Shredders critique group led by Elle E. Ire. By participating in those groups, I learned skills for writing, revising, and submitting. We also had Rejected meetings, led by José Iriarte, which helped to motivate me to submit my work and taught me to treat rejections as successes rather than failures.

DM: What else are you passionate about?  Tell us about it.

EL: I love color. In 10th grade I learned to tie-dye in my chemistry class (best teacher ever!), and I’ve never looked back. My goal is to have every item of fabric in my house tie-dyed (with the exception of some clothing that my husband refuses to let me alter). I’m easy to spot at conferences because I wear so much tie-dye. I also love karaoke and gaming (my current favorite video game is Frostpunk and favorite board game is Agricola). I passionately believe everyone should embrace the things they love and not worry about whether or not snobby people will look down on them for not being “cool” or “normal.” “The Definitions of Professional Attire” is a very literal metaphor for discrimination I encountered in a workplace and how I responded to it.

DM: Do you have anything you’d like to promote?

EL: I have a story coming out in early 2021 in The Wild Hunt anthology by Air and Nothingness Press. My story features a mouse and I think it is super cute. My other published stories can be found on my website, along with my very neglected blog. I’m also the Treasurer for Dream Foundry, which is a non-profit aimed at helping speculative writers and artists. Our second virtual convention, Flights of Foundry 2021, will be April 16-18 and we also have a discord active year-round.

Thank you, Evergreen! Once again, “Up a Tree” can be found in the Fall 2020 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the story as much as we do, please tell your friends!

Departure Mirror is Here!

Issue 1 Cover

We released the first issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly today.

The magazine is available for download as a .pdf, .mobi (Kindle) or .epub (other e-readers) document.

We’re a new magazine, and we’re going to be very dependent on word-of-mouth. If you love what you read here, please tell people. Blog about us. Tweet our website. We’d rather spend our money buying great stories for you to read than advertising, but that means we need your help!

Thank you, and enjoy your first issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly.