Tagshort stories

Sunday reading 3/25/12

Before I get to the story for today, a quick note about online publications. They’re awesome! The ones I link to are free, but it costs money for them to provide free fiction. Different markets cope with this problem in different ways, but there’s always a way to donate money in appreciation for the work they do, the stories they provide.

Here are links to the donation or subscription pages for the publications I’ve linked to so far. Many places have small enough budgets that even a little donation helps.

Strange Horizons (Strange Horizons has a annual fund drive every fall–I’ll be sure to post when it happens)

GigaNotoSaurus (Donation button; beneath the archives.)

Expanded Horizons (Donation button)

For today, more birds. There seems to be a trend here, though it may simply be that my mind turns to birds in the spring. This story, “The Birdcage Heart,” by Peter M. Ball, was published in Daily Science Fiction last year, February 2011 to be exact. I didn’t have a blog then, so I’m going back to it now. Actually, all I want to say is it’s beautiful and full of grace, and I recommend it.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to donate to DSF, but you can buy the monthly digests on Kindle, if you’re so inclined.

A word about waiting

Approximately 98.27% of the non-writing side of publishing is waiting. Just waiting. Interspersed, of course, with oh-crap-another-rejection, or holy-crackerjacks-an-acceptance!

Depending on how many stories you have out, the rate of either of those things can be anything from multiple times a day to once a month (or longer). If you’re me, and you write long short stories, and you haven’t written any new ones in a few months because you’ve been working on a novel and haven’t had much time, then…well, it’s slow.

Five stories out at the moment. The oldest submission just rounded the six month mark, the newest is closing on one month. It’s a little like hanging out by a campfire in the dark. Everyone said they’d be back soon, but it’s starting to feel like maybe they…forgot? Maybe they decided not to come back? Or maybe they’re just out of sight in the dark, taking notes on how you react as part of their paper on paranoia-inducing activities.

More than that, it’s just a touch boring. I’ve no real problem with waiting, as long as I know the story, or the response, wasn’t eaten by the email goblins. Which is why I love the little updates some markets send out. It’s great to hear something has cleared the slushpile, or is waiting on an editorial meeting, even if it comes with an “expect another four months wait” rider. It’s just the sound of a voice in the dark saying “Hey, we’re still coming, keep the campfire burning.”

Sunday reading 3/11/12

First, in a tiny bit of geekery glee, “Phoenix” has an ebook ISBN! Years of library work taught me to love ISBNs, and now my story has one.

(Admitted, that is just a weird thing to be excited about.)

If you’re looking for something to read on this lazy Sunday afternoon, consider “Nightfall in the Scent Garden,” by Claire Humphrey. I’ve read it three times this weekend (because three is the magic number), and still love it. It is, I think, a wonderful example of the beauty of precise imagery, as well as being full of bone-deep yearning.

I’m going to try to point out a story every Sunday, partly because there’s so much good stuff available online, and partly because I’m a reader, and readers like to share. I’m also open to suggestions, so please feel free to shoot me an email if you know a story I might enjoy.

Sea Glass

A little more good news.

“Sea Glass” is a simple story. Two brothers, an ocean, a girl on the beach. Despair that runs like black ink through the water, joy that fills the air like kite streamers in the wind.

It’s also so much more to me. The conflicts of The Lost originate in the events of “Sea Glass”. Without those brothers, and that ocean, and that girl on the beach, there would be no novel series for me. I wrote it after I wrote The Lost, then sat on it for a long time, too chicken to send it out.

Now it has a home. The good people at Abyss and Apex will be including it in their April 2012 issue. I couldn’t be happier!

Patience

Some stories tell themselves. “Ash and Dust” did. The most agonizing part of that whole experience was deciding where it should start. (I still like the original beginning, and I hope I have use for it some day, but it wasn’t right for that particular story.)

“Ash and Dust” probably came easily because I already knew Jaz and Bren. They’d been stuck in my rock tumbler of a brain for long enough, so when it came time to write, they were polished and ready to go. When a story goes that smoothly, it’s easy to assume all sorts of things. It’s easy, for example, to assume that stories that take more work are somehow lesser.

But the stories that get carried around for years before being told are going to be different then ones that haven’t had tincture of time. “Rainpocalypse” (it really does have a better name, I promise) took a handful of starts and one dead end before I understood where I needed it to go. Or rather, it took me that much writing before I understood the character at the heart of the story, and where she would go. Sometimes it works that way.

Sometimes, though, I catch a story too early. I have one I started in January. It’s set on a similar desolate Earth to “Ash and Dust,” and it’s a continuation of the question of who society leaves behind. Two sisters, a carpenter and a painter, and bicycles, and emptiness, and I thought I had it figured out. And then, when I was halfway through, something else popped into my head. One word, but it completely changed the path of the story.

I could have pushed forward on it, and if I hadn’t been working on Wren, I might have. I think that would have been a mistake. Instead, I’m letting it tumble for a while. At some point the unnecessary pieces will wear away. Then it will be time to tell it.

Lists

It’s hard not to stumble across all the lists out this time of year. I’m not enough of a consumer of current trends to be good with annual lists. I read a lot, but most of it comes from the library, and it’s hardly ever hot off the presses.

But I will give my vote for two stories from 2011, both deserving of lots of love. The first is “Movement,” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s). It’s such a strong story, with a unique POV perfectly captured by the author. For anyone who hasn’t read it, you can read/hear it for free here, or, better yet, you can buy it here, because it’s nice to fund good writing.

The other is “Messengers from the Stars Will Come to Help Us Overcome the Obstacles That Hold Us Back From Achieving Our True Potential,” by Grady Hendrix, available here. This story is the kind I love–full of heart and truth, about people who neither start nor end with everything.

That’s it. That’s my whole list. My completely subjective, and undoubtedly short-sighted list, with apologies to the many many stories I did not read in 2011. I’ll try to do better this year.

Starting 2012

Happy 2012!

I’m spending the day in wonderful ways. Three hours on a new story this morning. Out to do some geocaching this afternoon. Hopefully, there will be time to finish the story when I come back.

I’m also reading Angels in America (Tony Kushner). I’ve never seen it on the stage, just the HBO version. I keep hoping it will be staged again, someday, somewhere I can see it.

It was on my long long to-be-read list. This post made me bump it up the list a bit. It’s an involving text, tremendous and sad and beautiful and angry. It’s also the kind of thing that reads much more quickly than I want to read it. I’ve been going scene by scene, occasionally reading a few scenes at a time, in order to allow it to sink in more fully.

So, that is my start to the new year. It should be snowing here. It should be cold, but it is in the forties, and sunny, and I shouldn’t be inside any longer.

Be well, live more boldly, be blessed.

Enter Title Here

Rainpocalypse is done and out the door. Not with that title, of course, though it was tempting.

I’m terrible with titles. I love titles, interesting ones, the kind that feel like they could front a thousand different stories, but are truly perfect for just one.

My titles though? I cringe to think about them. I’ve got one story out, one I dearly love and truly think is one of the best things I’ve written, whose title is more or less A Story about Dark and Depressing Things for People Who Long to be Dark and Depressed. At least that’s how it feels at the moment.

Titles are such bold things. They demand attention, reek of confidence. Look at me, they say, I’m not only worth my space in the world, I’m also worth your undivided attention. Great ones capture the essence of a story, which requires that the writer be clear about what that essence is, as well as be prepared to announce it to the world. It’s the difference between A Book about Some Unhappy Times and Some Better Times and War and Peace.

I’ll keep trying. I like to imagine that someday it will take me less time to write a 7,000-word short story than it does to write a five-word title.

Goals

This year was the year of short fiction for me. In October 2010 I sent out my first short story. I sold it on January 3, 2011, and I spent the rest of 2011 devoted to writing shorts, all while telling myself I was just taking a month off from my novel.

It’s been a good year. I’ve written enough stories that I currently have a backlog waiting for revision. Two years ago my siblings and parents gave me a little netbook for writing (after absorbing my fear that the Frankenputer sitting on my desk would finally die for good, and all would be lost). I’ve managed to fill it up nicely.

(I should put in a plug for W1S1 here. While I’m something of a ghost member, it’s a wonderful place to find encouragement to write.)

But this coming year needs to be all about novels. I’ve got this series, see, that I promised myself I would finish as part of my writing education. I’m achingly close to being done. I have to get back to that world and complete what needs completing, so I can earn my homemade graduation tassel.

At least that’s what I tell myself today.

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