Revised short story: “Your Terms”

In late March I completed a new short story and titled it “Hope Came Out.” I submitted it to a magazine and eventually the editor got back to me with good news: She liked it a lot, but she wanted me to revise a particular twenty percent of the story that made the story more meta than she generally likes her published stories to be.

I took her revision advice, submitted a new version of it that reconceived the “meta” section and added about 400 words, and retitled it “Your Terms” because the old title makes a lot less sense in the new version.

Happily, the revision was accepted. I will make a post about it here when it’s available to read.

[Update: You can read it in Timeless Tales Issue 2.]

Completed new short story: “Her Mother’s Child”

I did something I’ve never done before: I started writing a short story, and then I paused writing it to write something else. This new short story is the something else.

I recently came upon a call for submissions put out by an LGBT-flavored magazine. They had a teeny word count limit (I think it was 2,000 words?), but I thought I might have a story for them in my archives. I dug up my old story “Grace” from 1997 and thought I might buff it up, but then I saw that the magazine doesn’t accept reprints and it had been on my website before, so I’d have to completely rewrite it.

And THEN I found out that not only is this magazine fledgling and hasn’t published an issue yet, but they do not pay contributors (not a crime, of course, but I’d prefer paying markets). I decided against submitting to them at the same time as I decided I wanted to rewrite that story anyway.

“Her Mother’s Child” was the result. Complete at about 5,000 words, I’m having some friends read it, and if I get good feedback I’ll try submitting it. It features some mother/daughter themes, a fantasy world, girls who are attracted to other girls, and Goddess culture. It also features a challenging protagonist: a character who can’t speak and has to rely on her hands, her expressions, her occasional written words, and her family’s patience in order to communicate. (It’s not pointed out in the story, but the micro-culture here clearly doesn’t have any alternate communication systems like sign language, so she makes do.)

[Update: This story was accepted for publication!]

Completed New Short Story: “In Love With Love”

I just finished a new short story and I’ve decided to call it “In Love With Love.”

It’s very short (for me), weighing in at about 3,500 words.  It’s about a woman named Catherine who’s seeing a therapist because she doesn’t know how to love her son.

This one has a very weird story behind it.

I have a strange sleeping arrangement on Thursday nights/Friday mornings: I go to bed at midnight, and my friend Victor calls me at 3 AM on Friday so I can work on my webcomic and we can talk.  (Obviously he’s a night owl, like me.)  This past Friday, he woke me up with his phone call as usual, and I had been chatting to him for a couple of hours before I needed to go look at something relevant on the computer.  I switched the screen on and there was a Word document open on the screen.

It was five pages’ worth of a short story that I’d written sometime between going to bed at midnight and getting up at 3.  And until I saw it there, I hadn’t realized I’d actually done that; I’d had a vague recollection that I’d just been writing something when the phone rang, but I’d assumed it was a dream.  With some surprise, I told Victor that I’d written part of a short story sometime between going to bed and getting up.

He laughed and said he wanted to see it immediately, with no editing, because he wanted to see what kind of mind-blowingly ridiculous thing I must have written in my sleep.  So I sent it to him as an attachment without reading it over, unsure of what exactly I was even sending.  Later that morning, after he’d read it and I was already at work, he e-mailed me and acknowledged that not only did the story make sense; it was a good beginning in his opinion.  (And, not so surprisingly, it was completely free of spelling errors, and everything in it made sense.)

I went ahead and finished the story over the last couple days.  I don’t know if it’s really one of my best, but it’s pretty good for something I began while half asleep.  I guess I’ll go try to find a home for it next.

Completed New Short Story: “On the Inside”

Finished a new short story called “On the Inside.”  It is, again, actually not very short (shocker!).  It weighed in at about 15,000 words.  Speculative fiction, coming of age.

It’s about Lihill, a transgender girl assigned male at birth, born to a polytheistic culture that strongly segregates its males and its females.

Lihill feels that she’s a girl from the moment she’s old enough to express it, but it’s undeniable that she has what’s interpreted as a boy’s body. In her sex-segregated culture, she’s treated as a boy and made to get a boy’s education, most notably focused around embracing gods instead of the community’s goddess and adopting an elemental alignment consistent with male identity.

She’d love to attend the girls’ troop and form a bond with the element Water, but as a boy she has to settle for studying Air. Though her best friend and her sister seem sympathetic and treat Lihill kindly—even including her in traditionally feminine activities sometimes—they don’t truly understand her situation, and her parents won’t accept that she isn’t a boy in her head.

After repeatedly failing to do what’s expected of her as a boy, the family finally consults a wise woman who’s the first to recognize that Lihill must be a girl on the inside. But she’s still faced with many misconceptions about her gender in a world that’s never heard of someone like her, and is consistently bothered by the fact that saying who she is has never been enough.

I actually plan to try rewriting this in third person (maybe with a different angle, too) because a couple spots of feedback I got suggested that my attempt to have a less cerebral character has resulted in Lihill seeming a bit “emblematic.”  I’m not sure if I can sell the story to anyone since it’s a bit long, but we’ll see if I ever do anything with it.

Rejection Feedback: “Wind”

I got some kind of interesting rejection feedback from a magazine that decided against publishing my short story “Wind,” and I’d like to share it here:

Cool story! I’m passing on it today mostly because I don’t think [magazine] is quite right for it, rather than the other way around. Our readership probably wouldn’t appreciate it the way a publisher with a wider reader demographic would. I’m always hesitant to give stylistic feedback, but if it’s not too forward of me, this could use a stronger opening section. Your narrative is smooth and your characterization is totally likable, but you need something happening right from the first page rather than five or six pages in, even in a longer story like this. Keep submitting it, though. This tone/content is very right-now, and I’m sure someone with broader content will bite.

I like personalized rejection letters.  Probably not as much as I’d like acceptances, but it’s nice when someone decides my stuff is worth their feedback.

“Stupid Questions”: Story Fallout

Yep, I’m gonna turn this one into a book.

Last week I finished my last short story and overall I think the biggest complaint from my readers who have finished it is that there is a certain flatness to the characters. Obviously because I know the “whole” characters they don’t seem flat to me, but it absolutely indisputable that they are WRITTEN in a flat way. I know exactly why this is, too.

In novels, I am used to having a whole book’s worth of space to do my usual navel-gazing. I was under the impression that people were getting sick of my navel-gazing and characters doing their internal sulking, pondering, and fantasizing. It goes double that you can’t do this too much in a short story. As a result, I just kinda didn’t give any undercurrent to these characters’ mental lives, leaving them represented largely by their actions in the name of having a low word count.

Having “flat” characters is a bit of a surprise, ’cause after all, I’m supposed to be Ms. Kickass Characters. But maybe if I were to take this and let my story spread out and relax, I’ll get more well-rounded characters.

Continue reading

Completed New Short Story: “Stupid Questions”

Finished a new short story called “Stupid Questions.”  It’s actually not very short (surprise!)—more of a novella, I guess.  It weighed in at about 35,000 words.  Adult science fiction/romance.  Way too long to place anywhere, but too short to be a novel.

It’s about Nick, a cameraman and romantic at heart who gets a crush on an enigmatic girl named Summer who has superpowers.

The characters suffer from lack of well-roundedness, so maybe if I make it a novel instead it’ll be better.

I’ll do that one day.

New Short Story: Nicknamed “Summertime”

I couldn’t “hold it” anymore, so to speak, so yesterday when I got home I took a nap, got up, and started typing my new short story.  (I nicknamed it “Summertime” because the protagonist’s love interest is named Summer, but that’s not going to be its title.)

So far, approximately 5,700 words. As expected, it’s going to be a bit long. Probably comparable to “Wind” in length. Actually, it reminds me of “Wind” quite a lot. Maybe like “Wind” meets the Ivy stories.

And I don’t know WHAT it is about male main characters lately, but the last FOUR times I’ve written a short story, my protagonist was a guy.

I envision either two or three more parts, depending on whether the middle two parts are brief enough to squeeze into one. A lot depends on the characters. Not all writers write like this, but for me, I don’t really know quite what directions things will go in when I start writing, especially when all I do is throw two characters together and let them start talking.

Yesterday I had all these swirling ideas about the story that were bludgeoning my brain trying to get out. Most of them were just conversations and reactions between Nick—my protagonist—and his opposite, a girl named Summer. Nick is very easy to write. Summer is harder. I’m not sure about her yet. Her way of talking is so measured. I don’t know all the reasons why yet, but her diction is usually almost forced-sounding. Almost like it’s not really her talking. It makes me curious. Good thing I have Nick there to ask the right questions. (Or the wrong ones, maybe.)

Even though the first scene was the one I had thought about the LEAST, with most of my ideas belonging to scenes further into the story, it seems to have really calmed down now. It’s like the story was a live thing that wanted to make sure it irritated me enough to get itself written, and now that I’ve committed to doing so it’s decided to relax.

I don’t really have time to write this thing so I do want to get it over with as soon as possible.

Never shut up, do you?

I feel like sending a cease and desist order to my brain.

It wants me to write another short story. It’s a great idea. It keeps coming back even when I’m trying to think about other things. I don’t have time to write anything right now.

But I know that feeling too well—the importance of an idea that WILL be used, and what the world looks like when it has dawned on me that I will NOT escape writing it.

Things sort of get fuzzy, with weird soft corners, as the screen full of images and the soundtrack full of dialogue grows thick with piling creative detritus.

I’ll write it all right.

I just don’t know when, or how long I’m going to let it have its temper tantrum until I give in.