I had a story come out on April 1 at Freeze Frame Fiction, which you can read here! It’s flash, just 500 words, so I’m pleased it was accepted because flash is the hardest thing for me to write (except maybe poetry, because Jesus Christ, poetry). I feel a level of frustration trying to keep things short that nearly approaches panic. You can’t explain things! You can’t go into things! I feel like I’m constrained to keep everything on the surface, forced to dip a teaspoon into a lake, and that’s my own limitation; I’ve read flash that’s as deep as anything long-form out there. I just don’t have the knack for it. So yeah, any flash piece I get into the world is deeply thrilling to me.
This was actually a piece I expanded and recycled from a contest – it was around Halloween, so I thought it was a scary theme (it wasn’t – the only rule was it had to have some speculative element). The feedback on the piece was thoughtful, but also faintly appalled: Oh my God, you killed a kid! You killed a little blind kid! You let him run away from home and he fell into a well and died! Also, monsters! Also, he almost got killed twice earlier! In a five-hundred word piece!
And I was like, well, I grew up on Edward Gorey; didn’t you? And John Kenn Mortensen, his artistic or spiritual successor. Kids aren’t…holy, sacred things in my writing. No one is. Or I guess the short version of that is: No one is spared. No one in my books is not going to die for any reason, not because they’re noble, or smart, or brave, or wise, or lucky, or in love, or central to the plot. (In fact, if you’re that last, you better watch your back and take your vitamins.) The noble can be brought low. The brave might do something rash. Basically, I’m all for killing people in fiction the way they die in real life – impulsivity, stupidity, bad luck, proximal causes, poorly-designed traffic circles, food poisoning, and/or an enemy with better depth perception or a longer sword.
And weirdly enough, I didn’t even see the kid’s death as the end of his life; I saw it as the start of so many new adventures, enough for a novel, perhaps like Gaiman’s ‘The Graveyard Book,’ something where he’s developed this amazing new power but no one believes him or sees it as a benefit, they medicalise it, ostracise him, confine him, and finally he does something rash (as kids do), takes a bad step, and ends up in the world of monsters only he can see. New friends, new possibilities, a new home. But I guess that didn’t come across too clearly in the original story, so I’m grateful for the feedback that let me change it enough to get accepted!
More news! The illustrious and very frightening Nightmare Magazine bought The Adventurer’s Wife as a reprint! If you haven’t already read it, your chance is coming up on April 12th, as well as, I think, an interview (‘Author Spotlight’) that the wonderful and perspicacious Sandra Odell did. I’ve pretty much not ever been asked about specific stories (instead, I just write thousands of words here with no prompting whatsoever) so yeah, there’s some babbling, I made a mess of it, I probably said everything wrong. As a writer you’d think we’re so good at saying what we mean to say, but oftentimes I’m spiraling in from some unfathomable distance, like Ahab sailing the same patch of water again and again, trying to stick my harpoon in something meaningful and true, something that approaches close to what I’m thinking.
But yeah anyway, I’m so pleased to have this story back out in the world – sometimes when a piece is in an anthology, it feels kind of trapped, because you know a hundred times fewer people are able to read it than if it were offered for free online. I should also mention that this is the story that a) launched my short fiction career (my very first acceptance!) and b) possibly helped get me my lovely agent, as he referenced it in his first reply asking for a partial of my novel!
Last thing is not really news but kind of public accountability to calm down my excessively twitchy mind (honestly, the way it switches between MUST WORK ON 36 PROJECTS and MUST WORK ON ONE PROJECT TO THE EXCLUSION OF SLEEP AND FOOD you’d think I have ADD, but I’ve never tried to get diagnosed): my WRITING GOALS FOR THE REST OF 2017 in order of priority.
- Finish The Sequel Of The First Book (tentative title)
- Work on The High Fantasy book (standalone)
- Work on The Far-Future Sci-Fi book (standalone)
- Work on The Third Book In The Trilogy (tentative title)
2 and 3 are in case 1 doesn’t work out (which would cause 4 to not work out), and the way 1 doesn’t work out is if the novel that’s on sub right now doesn’t sell. There are many reasons I’m worried about it not selling, of course – writerly doubt being the big one, but also the state of the neo-Lovecraftiana and adjacent market, my fears about its originality (do we really need another story about two kids saving the world?), its uneasy place in YA or adult fantasy (is a book with two teenage protagonists not dealing with teenage issues a YA or not?), I don’t know, a whole bunch of things. But there’s nothing for it but to wait it out and keep trying to sell short stories in the meantime! (I’m so glad I got into short stories, they are a great distraction while on sub.)