- James Zahardis – A Song From the Old Country
- Erin Cole – In the Deep of a Wild Blue
- Jamie Lackey – Old Man’s Cave
- M.E.L.I. – Rebirth
- Tanya X. Short – The Great Mystery
- Danielle N. Gales – The River Fox
- Tim McDaniel – Victims
A little bit of news for the end of June: I’ve sold a short story to Horror d’oeuvres, Dark Fuse‘s online venue for bizarre and experimental flash fiction. “To Dearest Amelia, Always In Our Thoughts” is a piece about explorers voyaging into the Jungian unconscious, and the first new story I wrote this year. It’s due to go up on 25th July for Horror d’oeuvres subscribers, but may also be reprinted in a print/ebook anthology at a later date.
Today I was pleased to discover that a story I’d submitted for Quarter 1 of the Writers of the Future Contest has been awarded an Honourable Mention! This is definitely one of the nicest ways of saying “I’ll pass” that I’ve come across so far. I’m very proud of this story and remain optimistic that it’ll find a great home some day soon, but receiving this little nod is a nice reassurance all the same. In the meantime, my Q2 story is already waiting patiently for David Farland to judge it, and I guess I’ll have to pull my finger out and write something to enter in Q3 soon. Congrats and good luck to the finalists!
It’s been a relatively quiet time recently, I think because I’ve been a bit more consistent with aiming high up the food chain this year where fiction submissions are concerned. The responses have been sporadic and often a long time coming. But silence on the submission front doesn’t mean silence on the “getting actual words down on the page” front. In March I managed to finish up three new short stories and start sending them out into the world, and I’ve spent the bulk of April engaged in a big scary novel–a Young Adult Fantasy that takes place in a secondary world modelled on the Roman Republic.
This is my third attempt at a novel. The first took ten years to outline, write, and rewrite until I was finally ready to call it “done.” The second, by contrast, was a NaNoWriMo project that was written in a month flat. Both taught me valuable lessons. The first: that there is such a thing as too much planning, too much researching, and too much tinkering. Eventually, you have to call time and get on with the next big thing. It would have been nice if I’d been slightly quicker off the mark to figure that out, but still. The second: that I’m useless at making things up as I go! Some writers thrive on that–on laying once sentence in front of the next like railroad in front of a speeding train, discovering the story and the characters as they write. After a dizzying month of 2000+ word days, I had no idea where I’d ended up, but it was a scary, alien place where nothing quite made sense and every road had a “No Entry” sign hanging above it. Why didn’t I think to bring a map along with me?
So here we are with novel #3, and I think I’ve found a happy medium. A good, solid outline with enough space around the edges for situations to grow organically, and for the intricacies of the story to remain shrouded enough that I’m still able to be surprised by the places the characters take me. After spending much of April outlining, the words are now flying onto the page. I’m averaging 3000 words a day, which for me is something approaching the miraculous. Many of those words might even be salvageable, too! I’ll have to give a shout out to Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method here, which has been invaluable for me with this one.
In other news, the humorous speculative fiction anthology Alternate Hilarities from Strange Musings Press, in which my story “The Great Abyss Disjunction” appears, is now available to purchase in both paperback and ebook formats.
I’ve got a story, “The Great Abyss Disjunction,” upcoming in the humorous spec-fic anthology, Alternate Hilarities.
Currently the plan is to release the anthology as an ebook, however Editor Giovanni Valentino is running a Kickstarter campaign with a modest goal of financing a print run. Rewards include having a character in one of the stories named after you. That would include my story too, you lucky people!
Alternate Hilarities should be out in ebook form by the 1st May, and will also feature stories from the following authors:
Isabel Sterling – Day Al-Mohamed – Brenda Anderson – Jason Bougger – Gavin Cameron – A.B. Rinklin – Dan Doerflein – John H. Dromey Christine Edwards – Jaimie M. Engle – Eric James Spannerman – Steve Esling – Laura Thurston – Ronald Friedman – Jay Fuller – Steven Grassie Cathy Greco – James E. Guin – Shari L Klase – Felicia Lee Lance Manion – Daniel McPherson – Jez Patterson – M. Kelly Peach Clay Sheldon – Chuck Rothman – Josh Strnad – Giovanni Valentino – Adam Millard – Aaron Austin
The campaign runs from now until 25th March. Take a peek here for all of the details.
Some odds and ends for January…
Every Day Fiction Acceptance
First up, my flash fiction piece Shadow-play has been snapped up by Every Day Fiction.
This one is a bit of a departure for me as it has much more of a children’s/storybook feel. I had originally written it for PodCastle’s flash fiction contest, but I didn’t think it was really all it could be. With a 500-word limit for the contest, some of the concepts I’d imagined for the story couldn’t really be fleshed out the way I would have liked. It probably didn’t help that I rushed the draft out hours before the deadline, and some of the writing might have been a wee bit clumsy as a result!
Still, I was very fond of the concept of the piece–a world of eternal day in which people’s shadows have their own lives, and what might happen if there were an eclipse–so afterwards I set to rewriting it. After several revisions, I finally arrived at this finished version–somewhat longer than the initial piece, and with (I hope!) the problems that plagued the original contest version banished. All said, I’m very proud of the results.
Shadow-play is due to appear in Every Day Fiction on the 28th February.
Kzine Issue 9
Next, a quick plug for Kzine, a tri-annual Kindle-focussed genre magazine edited by Graeme Hurry. Kzine’s broad range gives each issue an interesting slant: science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, mystery… pretty much anything “genre fiction.” Fun never knowing quite where the next story might take you. Kzine issue 9 is due to include my story Dear Sweet Rosie, a story about a young shape-shifter struggling to understand the vagaries of language. Table of contents (subject to change):
Joshua Schwartzkopf – Connections
Rachel Marquez – The Obligation
Richard Zwicker – Witchcraft 2.0
Danielle N. Gales – Dear Sweet Rosie
Michael Haynes – Escape
Rhonda Parrish – Shattered
Vaughan Stanger – Time to Play
Maureen Bowden – Teller
Jez Patterson – Heads
Paul Hamilton – Seventeen Year Switch
Issue 9 is due out towards the end of May.
Unidentified Funny Objects 3
Plug the second: humorous speculative fiction can be a tough sell in the short fiction world. Dark, literary, experimental… there’s plenty of places to locate all of those things, but something just plain fun and funny is a lot harder to find. That’s where the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series comes in. Be sure to drop by the Kickstarter campaign for the third in the series. Edited by Alex Shvartsman, UFO3 is set to include stories from Mike Resnick, David Farland, and Jody Lynn Nye, amongst many others. Heck, it’s worth backing just for that awesome cover art by Tomasz Maronski.
The Kickstarter campaign is aiming for $8000, and runs until 18th February. Also, check out the first two anthologies at UFO Publishing.
Overall, January has been decent on the writing front, though I have not gotten near as much accomplished as I should! One new piece of flash fiction completed, a whole bunch of half-stories in my WIP folder that may or may not go anywhere, and a new story underway which is turning out to be a bit of a monster to write, but I’m happy with where it’s going so far.
To steal what some other writers are doing on their blogs, I figure I might as well throw some raw stats out there, just to show how I’ve managed this month on the submission front:
Acceptances – 3
Rejections – 2*
Submissions made – 3**
(*I’ll never reach 100 by the end of the year at this rate. **Must write more stories to send out there!)
The July issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly will include my story “The River Fox,” in which I get away with having a talking animal for a character.
This one was written in the middle of an “everything I write must be completely different from anything I’ve ever written before” phase, and was the result of a bit of a frustrated creative flurry. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the result; it’s sort of mythic, sort of a storybook fable, and a bit odd all round, and I’m glad it’s found a nice home.
Some brief thoughts on my favourite short fiction of the year, though I haven’t read anywhere near as much as I’d have liked! Way too many stories and not enough time.
by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
This is my favourite story of the year, one I just had to revisit several times over. On the one hand, it’s a no-brainer for me, as I have something of a weakness for lost and lonely characters finding their own place in the world. But there’s more to this story, and I’m going to feel free to spoil it below:
A sad, alienated woman named Knowe comes across a community of spirits whilst digging up burial mounds near her Orkney-inspired home, spirits who share their history with her through long-forgotten songs. In doing so, they show how the voices of ancient women have all too often been silenced, their roles in history covered as surely as their own remains beneath the earth. Knowe grows while bonding with these long-deceased women, finally finding the worth in her own voice, and her own space in her community.
It’s a beautiful and warming tale, evocatively told, and filled with startling imagery of earth and bone:
Out by the mounds, the ground thaws slowly. Frost-got grass and heather crunch under Knowe’s boots. There’ll be no digging for at least another month, probably closer to two. Knowe walks alone, wrapped in winter wools and hides, but the day is mild enough that she goes un-hooded, letting the wind grasp at her long hair.
Her mound-hair: peat-dark and thick, blowing over her face that’s pale as dried-out bones after the long, dark winter.
I can’t recommend this one enough. Next up, and in the same vein…
by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Clarkesworld Magazine)
I love seeing non-standard character types in Science Fiction, so how cool is it to see a genderqueer character navigating a spaceship around a bunch of asteroid colonies?
I feared many things, but this was what stuck in me like a blockage in an air supply pipe, like a star anise’s point in a throat: what if people didn’t understand me. I imagined people like Thyme being so rare that they laughed. I imagined the people whose languages used gendered pronouns insisting that I choose male or female. I imagined every one of these one million people needing to be told that I was un-gendered, a different gender—if I didn’t even know what to call myself, how could I expect to be taken seriously?—the way I had needed to tell everyone I knew in the asteroids when I was younger. I imagined giving up.
I told myself to stop being foolish. How could one million people have only two fixed genders?
Found has some thematic similarities with Singing…: aside from those the title makes clear, there’s also the matter of hidden/suppressed knowledge and identity—the main character has spent so much time already having to explain who and what they are, and is now confronted with the imminent arrival of long-lost ancestors, and repatriation to their homeworld. The fear and uncertainty of such a thing—of constantly having to justify their existence, of never feeling represented within their own people’s traditions, of possibly never finding a place to belong—is conveyed with pained, palpable uncertainty and longing throughout.
by Ken Liu (Daily Science Fiction)
I won’t waste words in a weak attempt to convey what is so great and fun about this brief, brisk story. It’s only about 700 words, so no excuse not to read it right now. Go read it, now!
by Brian Trent (Daily Science Fiction)
An adorable story about an alien pet left to fend for itself in the house when all the humans vanish. Picturing an ugly little tentacled monster making a hash of preparing breakfast is just one of the highlights:
In the empty apartment, he clutched the silver bowl with one tentacle to hold it steady. With another, he attempted the far trickier business of whipping the batter as he’d seen his owners do many, many times. The bowl was bigger than he was. The counter was sticky with flour, egg, and ink.
It’s hard not to get drawn in and find yourself rooting for poor little Sparg.
The Color of Sand
by KJ Kabza (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August)
This is one of those stories where my smile just kept on growing the further I got into it. A ridiculously imaginative fantasy piece with sea voyages, magic rocks, talking cats, giant children, and with a plot so twisty-turny and an ending so sweet it’s all but irresistible. I’d wish I could read stories like this more often, but then this one one be rendered less special for it.
You First Meet the Devil at a Church Fete
by Shannon Fay (Interzone, #246)
Here’s the thing: I hate stories told in second person. Hate them. It’s a gut reaction. Usually I can’t get more than a paragraph in before becoming irritated beyond belief, no matter how well-written, no matter how intriguing the premise. And yet…
This one works. Hell, more than that, I couldn’t imagine it being told any other way. You First Meet the Devil… charts the life of a certain fifth member of a certain band as he is offered a Faustian bargain, and then follows the repercussions of the choice he makes. A great, imaginatively told story, and winner of 2013’s James White award, with good reason.
Some others that stuck with me for one reason or another:
The Barber and the Count by Michael Haynes (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
Boat in Shadows, Crossing by Tori Truslow (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
City of Chrysanthemum by Ken Liu (Daily Science Fiction)
Dysphonia in D Minor by Damien Walters Grintalis (Strange Horizons)
The Flight Stone by KJ Kabza (Daily Science Fiction)
The Siren by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Strange Horizons)
Tell Them of the Sky by A.T. Greenblatt (Daily Science Fiction)
Theories of Pain by Rose Lemberg (Daily Science Fiction)
The Urashima Effect by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld Magazine)