Story Published: “The Neurastheniac” in CASSILDA’S SONG

Awesome cover for CASSILDA'S SONG designed by Steve Santiago.
Awesome cover for CASSILDA’S SONG designed by Steve Santiago.

Joe Pulver’s long-awaited anthology, CASSILDA’S SONG, is finally in the world! This collection looks at the more feminine-side of Robert Chambers’ THE KING IN YELLOW, and I am honored to share a TOC with some of the awesomest ladies writing today. You can find the full Table of Contents at the end of this post.

Not only am I proud to be in this antho for the TOC, but also because I think my story “The Neurastheniac” may be one of my favorite things I’ve written to date. Joe is a really great editor to work with. Not only is his enthusiasm in the project infectious, but he goes the extra mile to encourage you in your vision, even when you are working within someone else’s sandbox. What has resulted is probably a story that is more Selena biz than anything published so far, with the exception of my piece in Starry Wisdom Library.

“The Neurastheniac” is about Helen Heck, a failed beat/confessional poet/junky, and what she uncovers from a series of trespasses through the abandoned suicide chambers in the 60s. It gets weird.

Reviews for CASSILDA’S SONG have begun popping up, and I am happy to say people have been enjoying my weird Poetess as much as I enjoyed writing her. Here are a few highlights:

For Laird Barron’s “Five for 2015”, he wrote on his blog: “Cassilda’s Song, edited by Joseph Pulver. An anthology dedicated to the King in Yellow. Pulver’s third major tribute anthology in recent days and probably the best. Selena Chambers, Maura McHugh, and S.P. Miskowski set the pace for a sleeper anthology of 2015.”

Des Lewis is live-reading the collection, reviewing each story blow-by-blow and having a lot of fun. Of “The Neurastheniac,” he compares her notebooks to Ferlinghetti and Ligotti, but also the Decadents. “That contemporaneous example of her Ferlinghetti-like poetry (poetry that sometimes in this work approaches, to my eye, fin de siecle decadence) is a section of this delightful patchwork quilt of impressions and examples of the work of Helena Heck (1937-1968) whom KiY’s surnamesake surconscious author Selena jams for us like jazz. ”

Many thanks to Messrs. Barron and Lewis!

Speaking of jazz, there are a lot of musical references in the story, from the suicide songs of the 20s and 30s through the ironic melancholy of the 90s. So, to celebrate the release of the collection, I created a playlist of all the songs that either inspired or are featured in the tale. You can tune in here.

CASSILDA’S SONG is published by Chaosium Inc. and is available for Kindle, and forthcoming for print.

Table of Contents:

Black Stars on Canvas, a Reproduction in Acrylic … Damien Angelica Walters
She Will Be Raised a Queen … E. Catherine Tobler
Yella … Nicole Cushing
Yellow Bird … Lynda E. Rucker
Exposure … Helen Marshall
Just Beyond Her Dreaming … Mercedes M. Yardley
In the Quad of Project 327 … Chesya Burke
Stones, Maybe … Ursula Pflug
Les Fleurs Du Mal … Allyson Bird
While The Black Stars Burn … Lucy A. Snyder
Old Tsah-Hov … Anya Martin
The Neurastheniac … Selena Chambers
Dancing The Mask … Ann K. Schwader
Family  … Maura McHugh
Pro Patria! … Nadia Bulkin
Her Beginning is Her End is Her Beginning … E. Catherine Tobler & Damien Angelica Walters
Grave-Worms … Molly Tanzer
Strange is the Night … S.P. Miskowski


Portrait of the Artist's Cat, or The Obstacle to Progress.
Portrait of the Artist’s Cat, or The Obstacle to Progress.

I hate to just drop a bunch of links and not hang, but I have been in serious FULL_HERMIT MODE, where I’ve mostly been reading for STEAMPUNK PARIS when my cat will allow me, and all the other [INSERT VAGUEBOOKING BLAH-BLAH HERE].

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have ventured out every now and then to take in a wine fest and see some really awesome art shows, all of which belongs in a different forthcoming post, BUT a few writerly things have happened over the past few months that I’d like to share real quick before they become old news:

***STEAMPUNK WORLD won THE STEAMPUNK CHRONICLE READER’S CHOICE AWARD FOR FICTION! Major congrats to editor Sarah Hans, Alliteration Ink, and to all my co- contributors!

***The readings at World Horror Convention in Atlanta and at Fermentation Lounge in Tallahassee went well! The first, DEAD IN THE MORNING, was a unique event in that John Glover, Orrin Grey, Jesse Bullington, Molly Tanzer and I–all who have known each other since the Golden Halcyon Livejournal days–were under the same roof at the same time doing our own things together. A great time was had there, and at WHC in general, which I can only summarize as a moveable feast under aligned stars.

The Fermentation reading was a really special event too in that it celebrated the release of Molly Tanzer’s VERMILION, which I’ve mentioned previously, and you seriously need to read if you haven’t yet. This is Molly’s first novel, and it was very awesome to get to celebrate that achievement with her, Jesse Bullington, and all the friends who came out to show support, and to Jamie and Fermentation for having us. Huzzah!

***Speaking of, the interview Molly and I did at Anomalycon with BEYOND THE TROPE is now available. We collaborate on a Lovecraftian/Poe/Steampunk fantasy and talk about HANNIBAL, natch.  Thanks again to Michelle, Emily, and Giles for having us. You can listen/download here.



Please Stand By: Looking and Striving Forward

Still from FALLOUT 3, found at:
Still from FALLOUT 3, found at:

Richard Gavin has this awesome, hermetic image he posts on his Facebook that connotes when he has to withdraw from the world to venture into his wonderful mind. I always thought that was clever and to the point:  “Friends, I must go. It isn’t personal. I just have to go DO THE THINGS. I’ll be back.”

I am no stranger to the great, dramatic signing-off post, and when I do that, I feel like I am breaking up with the Internet and being a grumpus, but it really isn’t that at all. It’s just I am easily fragmented by information, despite how much fun and pleasure I get from it, and to be able to generate the focus and mental space needed to create or be better, I have to hide from its incessant fountains where the social media sirens sing their sweet sweet songs.

So, instead of doing the whole “it’s not you, Internet, it’s me” schtick, I’ll just start throwing the FALLOUT 3 still up that’ll mean simply “Friends, I must go. It isn’t personal. I just have to go DO THE THINGS. I’ll be back.” When it is gone, I’ll be ready to chat and consume all the ROFLs and not make a big deal about how I’m kind of a Luddite.

If you are visiting this page while the sign is up, here’s a low-down of what I am working on for the next several months:

In addition to researching, planning, and writing STEAMPUNK PARIS with Arthur Morgan, I am also working on a few solicited submissions, articles, and self-betterment projects that I’m not comfortable talking about yet. But I can talk about what I am doing with DUNHAMS MANOR PRESS:

–A Non-Fiction column called “The Poe Bug: A Journey to the Center of Poepathy,” exploring the vast and insidious influence of Edgar Allan Poe on weird literature and popular culture since 1849. It will premier in the first issue of XNOYBIS, DMP’s new weird fiction quarterly. Like many titles at DMP, this magazine is limited to 100 copies, and I think only 20 are left and it is still only on pre-order.

–As part of the successful Indigogo campaign, I am putting together a handwritten/Underwood-typed facsimile chapbook of an unpublished poem the “The Temporary Tomb of Virginia Poe” that was a forerunner for what eventually became my short story “Of Parallel and Parcel.” Thank you to those who donated through the Poe Perk!

–Last but not least, I am writing a story exclusively for DMP called “The Facts in the Case of Clarissa Collyer.” It’s somewhere between MY SO-CALLED LIFE and Poe’s M. Valdemar story.

So, that’s about it for right now. I wish you all a productive Spring and Summer, and look forward to seeing you again soon, after all THE THINGS are done.

STEAMPUNK WORLD nominated for a STEAMPUNK CHRONICLE Reader’s Choice Award.

THE STEAMPUNK CHRONICLE’s Annual Reader’s Choice Award (what I call the Steampunk Hugo) is now open for voting. I am pleased to see that Sarah Hans’ awesome STEAMPUNK WORLD anthology, which I’ve discussed quite a bit in this space is nominated for excellence in Fiction. A thousand congrats to Sarah, Alliteration Ink, James Ng who illustrated all of the stories, and to all my fellow contributors in the book.

If you enjoyed STEAMPUNK WORLD, please take a moment to vote for it here:

Call me Selena.

I have been out of technological commission for about the past six weeks or so and have a huge backlog of announcements–some minute, some momentous–to catch up on. So, please keep an eye out for a lot of updates on my writerly things, and I apologize in advance for the onslaught.

So…starting with this:

In projects moving forward, readers will begin to see that my byline no longer reads as S. J. Chambers. I am dropping my initials and will be using my full name from here on out.

The use of my initials came about as an homage to “the lady writer” who often hid her gender behind initials, if not a flat-out male pseudonym. My using it was based upon the concept that it was useless at this point, but I was wrong. You wouldn’t believe how many misdirected e-mails and “Dear Sir” addresses I have received over the years. There is, of course, a lot still to be desired in how women writers are treated in publishing, but I feel like this is actually a wonderful time to be a female writer, and I am proud to be part of the Sisterhood.

There is that, and as far as pen names go, it is pretty lame. Why did I even go with that, the above joke aside? If I was going to go full-on nomme-de-plume, why didn’t I pick something cool like, I dunno, Sylvia Plastered? And having had a lot of time on my hands to think about silly existential exigencies like this, I realized it had a lot to do with fear and commitment. It’s been more than ten years now that I resolved to pursue this writing thing, and in testing it out, I’ve been holding back. My initials gave me enough buffer to runaway and give-up if I wanted too–but I haven’t and honestly am beginning to feel like I am just getting started. So, in shedding my intials, I am shedding all my insecurities and fears of whether I can do this or not. I am doing it. It may not be in the way I envisioned ten years ago, but its also way better than I expected. And I am looking forward.

So, please, call me Selena.

2015 Blast-Off!: Stories Sold and Sold-Out

Joan Vollmer, Beat Queen, outlaw, and literary legend.

Happy New Year, everyone!

So, it’s what, 14 days into the New Year, and I’m already pretty stoked about it. Maybe it has something to do with Gävle making it all the way to Christmas, but I am not going to question the positive forces too much just now.

I have had two great pieces of news.

First, I sold my story, “The Neurastheniac,” to Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.’s upcoming anthology CASSILDA’S SONG, an all-women King In Yellow exploration. It’s about a failed beat/confessional poet/junky Helen Heck, and what she uncovers from a series of trespasses through the abandoned suicide chambers. It gets weird.

I really love Helen Heck, who I somewhat imagine as Joan Vollmer meets Sylvia Plath, and I would like to do more with her down the line.

Second, all copies of my limited edition micro-chapbook “Of Parallel and Parcel,” out from Dunhams Manor Press/Dynatox Ministiries, has SOLD OUT. That’s it, folks. There’s no more. There were 50 copies, and frankly I am stunned they went so fast. Thank you to everyone who cheered me on and supported me and Jordan Krall’s press by buying the story. And while “Of Parallel and Parcel” is gone, there are still a lot of great titles in limited editions like “Weird Tales of A Bangalorean,” so if you waited too late, make no mistake now and grab some great and transgressive work.

I also want to give a big giant thank you to author Scott Nicolay, a Dunhams Manor Press alum, who saw the weird in me, has understood it, and encouraged it by introducing Jordan and I to each other.  Scott has a great collection out, Ana Kai Tangata, that is full of a unique glow and strangeness that makes it a must read.

Other things you may have missed because I am terrible at the Internet

No pictures today. Just linky links. Because I am terrible at the Internet.

Just can’t get enough of The New Gothic and “Dive In Me”?

Well, you are in luck. Stone Skin Press has a really fun blog with a series running called “Stone Skin on the Rocks.” Featuring guest posts from contributors of various anthologies, I did a post about drinking malt liquor in the 90s, like you did. This little musing was tangentially related to the story I co-wrote with Jesse Bullington, “Dive In Me,” that appeared in Beth K. Lewis’ THE NEW GOTHIC. I taste-tasted 32s pool side and took weird Instagrams at 8 am in my backyard. Fun times. You can see the results here.  

More on The New Gothic front, a few more reviews have come down the pipe. First, J. T. Glover, who was one of the three lucky winners of my Nirvana Giveaway last April, was kind enough to give the anthology a thorough evaluation

“Gothic” is one of those terms that has mutated to cover a range, from a polite pseudonym for “horror” to a descriptor for Otranto and kin. The New Gothic showcases these variegations nicely, and I’d say the stories here fall into three camps. First are those in the Shirley Jackson/Daphne Du Maurier mode–translating the brooding emotion of the original Gothics into our time. While I enjoyed the book wholesale, I think the strongest stories in the book tend to fall into this range. Second come the stories that seem to me to spring more clearly from Gothic tropes (ghosts, the Devil, brooding moors), setting them either in the present or very clearly in a particular time. Third come the stories that are set in no particular time, or, from another angle, are timeless. The Gothic was in dialogue with itself early on, and the stories you’ll read here are a good representation of all that is vigorous and flourishing that could reasonably be called “Gothic.”

It sounds like he pretty much dug the whole scene, and he had nice things to say about not only “Dive In Me,” but stories by Ed Martin, Laura Ellen Joyce, Fi Michelle,  Dmetri Kakmi and Sean Logan.

Innsmouth Free Press also ran a review by K L Pereira. She granted a lot of copy to “Dive in Me,” but I am particularly proud of this:  

“The landscape here is just as sinister and, I’d argue, as symbolic, as the Gothic castle or church. The tone is deeply authentic, modern, easy and near languid, and tinged with a nostalgia for the underground culture of the mid-1990s that never becomes saccharine.

“Instead of feeling pushed out of a space we might not know, we are invited in by adolescent vulnerability (in the guise, of course, of toughness), and speech that gives texture and characterizes without gimmick. In this way, the story has a great deal in common with the work of Flannery O’Connor, whose masterful use of dialect gave what she aptly termed realism, not grotesquerie, to her characters.”

Many thanks to JT, K L, and Innsmouth Free Press for taking a look and enjoying it.

Other stuff

Vintage Scenes #4 went up when Mungbeing, Issue #57: Organic went live earlier this month. The theme was organic and I wrote about a septuagenarian trying to navigate the vast world of wine labels in pursuit of “that organic wine he’d heard so much about.” This may be my last Vintage Scene for the rest of the year mainly because I got a new day job, and the end of the year has a lot of hefty deadlines. We’ll see, but I sure have enjoyed writing what I have so far. 

I wrote a capsule review for The Big Click on Alan M. Clark’s stark The Door That Faced West (Lazy Fascist Press) that recounts the horrors of the Harpe brothers as witnessed by one of their wives.  

I will be a guest Anomalycon in Denver, CO next March, and am so excited that I will pause here to do more deets later.

Last, but not least, The Steampunk Bible has been nominated for an Ignostus award. Congrats to everyone who was nominated, and thanks to those who liked the book and for nominating it.  

New North Country Girl and The Writing Process

I just wanted to pop in right quick to thank New North Country Girl’s Lesli for participating in the Writing Process Blog Tour that I tagged her in. She wrote some really lovely thoughts here, and they are very much worth the gander for writers. I especially liked this:

“One thing that’s true about the writing process is that it depends entirely on reading. Lately I must admit that I’ve been absorbing all sorts of paper-based reading material from Lacan lectures to a wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest identification manual to a novels about an old man in Guernesey.”

Guernesy octogenarians and Lacan! Man, I love the juxtapositions we all have in our reading and interests. Anyhow, be sure to check out Lesli’s other posts which are about British Columbia living from a North Florida girl’s eyes. Really insightful, thoughtful, and inspiring observations that I just can’t get enough of. Plus, homegirl understands the beauty of reading in the bathtub. Maybe someone should start a Joan Vollmer bathtub book club…Lesli and I can be co-chairs. Now, there’s a thought.

io9 reviews THE NEW GOTHIC

io9 reviews THE NEW GOTHIC

io9 ran a great review of Stone Skin Press’ THE NEW GOTHIC, edited by Beth Lewis, and features a grunge-nightmare by Jesse Bullington and me called “Dive In Me.”  The reviewer Ed Grabianowski said this about our tale:

“Things get off to a terrifying start with Jesse Bullington and S.J. Chambers’ “Dive in Me.” It pushes so many horror buttons, from the crushing insecurity of youth to the simple fear of drowning, and it builds to a stunning climax, the kind where you’re sort of breathlessly turning each page as your eyes gradually get wider and wider. This one will stick in my head for a long time.

It’s no insult to say that no other story in the book quite reaches the heights of “Dive in Me,” because it’s that good.”