Short Fiction Reads July 2018

It was about time short fiction became regular reading, and that those stories be shared with others. Without furtherado, here are some worthy of mentioning (and, yes, understandably it isn’t a huge selection, but I’m a slow reader):

Worth Her Weight in Gold by Sarah Gailey, Tor Publishing

Winslow Remington Houndstooth, creator of the best and rarest breed of hippo in the United States of America, notorious outlaw, handsomest heartbreaker in the American South—

Although the ideas and characters are part of Gailey’s novellas (River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow), you needn’t rely on reading them beforehand before approaching this short fiction piece—though, like me, you’re likely to read them afterwards, because it is a heartwarmning story of Winslow (a man who is queer and Korean-British) and his hippo, showing how much she means to him in an odd yet endearing way.

Three Dandelion Stars by Jordan Kurella, Beneath Ceaseless Skies

“I wish,” Shai said, “I wish that we could be married.”

What a lovely and emotional tale, full of both happy and sad moments, but, ultimately, depicts the beauty of love and what lengths a woman would take to be with the woman she loves.

The Sweetness of Honey and Rot by A. Merc Rustad, Beneath Ceaseless Skies

It’s the last day of autumn, and Jiteh’s twin brother is dead.

Rustad brings a creepy concept to life with vivid imagery and raw themes of humanity vs nature (but also has a nice touch of the main character having two mothers). Despite coming across Rustad’s works only recently, their storytelling is sure to become one of my favourites, and, I’m sure, it would be the same for anyone who gives their fiction a read. You can find dozens of their works via their bilbiography.

The Gentleman of Chaos by A. Merc Rustad (again), Apex Magazine

The Gentleman of Chaos has been painted, illegally, in a thousand different ways: as a winged shadow descending like a hawk against the moon; as a tall, thin wraith cloaked in starlight; as a man with knives for hands and eyes like an owl. He wears armor, or he is naked. He dances across rooftops or rises from the cobbled streets like mist. He smiles or he is faceless.

As you can see, I’m following up on the opinion that Rustad writes fantastic stories. This one (which many have recommended) is an enthralling tale with savagery, dynamics between siblings, and growth of one’s identity. A brilliant addition to the LGBT+ genre.

So, there you have it, a whole four stories. I’ll most definitely be recommending far more come the next post.

If you’ve any recommendations of yours own, don’t hesitate to say!


Revision Rocks, Revision Sucks

This is going to be a whiny post about the revision side of writing, a result of finishing the fourth draft of my short story about gay witches, which, for the most part, is an enjoyable experience. On the other hand, it is a soul-sucking, energy-draining process that makes me question if there is an end in sight.

My current state of being (or past state, even)

See, continuing with the example of this story, the big changes are done, but not to the best standard. Right now, the story feels like a mess of great bits, okay bits, and skeleton bits that still need more layers of skin on them. And when it feels like it is more of a mess than a story nearing completion, you wonder whether you will actually get it to where you want it to be.

My usual solution would be another rewrite, but it seems those are no longer needed. Line edits is the next step, for pacing, detail, ensuring my voice is consistent throughout, maybe add in a scene or two, but when you’re someone who rushes through (the end of) rewrites and then rushes through copy-edits without any real nitty-gritty, picking-things-apart stage, the idea of those kind of edits makes my impatience crawl out of the darkness and rear its ugly head.

Because most of the sucking part of revision for me comes from impatience. At the start, things go well, but then various things come to mind: fear of failure, fear of never making progress, feeling as though you aren’t working hard enough, feeling as though it must be perfect, which is something I blogged about as well. When those thoughts latch on, getting rid of them becomes the annoying focus.

The clearest solution for this story will be forcing myself through a slow line edit, adjusting it as many times as possible before sending it off to a sensitivity reader, followed by several more edits and adjustments before finally sending it off to magazines.

Although, when anxiety does creep in, sometimes the excitement and passion is strong enough to overwhelm the former, especially when reading over certain passages, such as:

As a girl of ten, she wore sheep-fur and boots stuffed with cheap scraps of cloth, disappearing within the layers. Snow crunched under her, soaking her ankles and calves as she watched her mother, a woman with chestnut hair and blue eyes, wade deeper into Nyx, a lake known for its glow at night. A glow that lit the way now, spotlighting the odd flurries that fell from the clear sky.

Posts such as this one by Rachel Swirsky tend to help as well, knowing that published authors are all in the same boat, tweaking things and creating draft after draft, something that will be worth remembering when I, and other authors, start to stumble down a path of self-doubt.

Venting this post has helped, almost making me feel one-hundred percent about approaching these line edits. Almost. 

What are your feelings on revising? Or what are the more difficult parts of the writing process for you, whether it be planning, writing, or editing?

The Messenger

Ghosts appear everywhere—
abandoned cemeteries with worn-out names,
haunting the house on the corner of the street,
hospitals lingering with their cries.

One woman comes to me in the night
with her cob-webbed body and face made of dust,
like an aged ornament finally taken out
from behind a glass cabinet,
and she sits on the edge of my bed,
her bones creaking and skin cracking,
mouth stretching into a slice of skeleton teeth.

Please, she says, tell her I love her.

Her memories are cold and grey,
invading my mind like the wallowing of her soul,
and I see blank faces and hear static words,
losing grasp on the reality she once lived,
showing me only the hints of presence—
rain-damp fingers, stained smiles, clinging touches.

She leaves with a trail of bare footprints,
dissolving into ashes like the end of a fire,
once burning, once lighting the way,
and I sit in the suffocating darkness,
echoing her words over and over,
as though they are my own.

A random poem that has been sitting in a file for some time.

The Struggle with Perfectionism

I’m certain many writers, if not all, have experienced perfectionism.

I recently tweaked my submissions fifteen times before I was somewhat satisfied, deleting and inserting words and re-structuring sentences, but deciding that it was done came only when exhaustion crept in. You know the feeling: you find yourself looking at the screen for so long that you don’t realise five hours have passed. You’re somehow too tired to move yet agitated enough to pace. You might even pray that the abyss you’re staring into sucks you in like a black hole.

However, sometimes wisdom comes along and tells you you’re not alone. I came across the article “How to Defeat Your Perfectionism in Writing” when scouting for advice. In short, it says you need to move on and accept that, while nothing will be perfect, you did your best. I’ve told myself that for as long as I can remember, but, of course, when someone else says it you start to believe it.

Things I’ve taken upon myself to help enforce that belief include new and existing things.

I now use deadlines after never doing so before, giving me a stronger confidence with stopping editing before it becomes excessive and taxing. I’ll take a break when things get intense, showering or napping, binging Netflix or sticking my head outside for fresh air. I try to recognise growth within my style or method or process, seeing it as evolving instead of changing or failing.

Most of all, I remember why I became a writer.

There’s no doubt perfectionism will always be lurking in the background, but it’s wrong if it thinks it will win every time.