One of the first magazines to publish my speculative fiction, The Colored Lens, has bought another of my stories! “The Cartographer Gene,” one of my most plot-intensive stories, is slated to appear in the Spring 2017 issue. The Colored Lens publishes a lot of talented authors with whom my publishing, reading, and/or social media paths have crossed, including Julie C. Day, Jamie Lackey, and Rebecca Schwarz and I’m grateful to Dawn, Daniel, Henry, and Charlie for selecting my story.
I wrote and workshopped this story for a class through UCLA extension. Alyx Dellamonica taught the class. It was a fun group.
Unlike so many of my stories, this one did not start from an exercise. I did use some of the exercises assigned during class as an opportunity to flesh out some of the scenes — including the climactic one. But the story started from an idea about a hereditary ability. It grew into an exploration of family dynamics where some members have a “gift” that others don’t, and how empty such a gift can be if it can’t be used to help others.
I recently rewrote certain parts of the story to change the antagonist from a Russian immigrant to a home grown bad guy. Though it was never my intent to suggest that all immigrants are bad guys, given the current political climate I wanted to avoid any possible reading that could support that interpretation.
Indeed, I have noticed that some of my stories have taken on more or different meanings given what’s currently going on in the world at present. Sometimes these meanings strike me as net positives, as with Piper: A Song for Flute and Chorus and Rumpelstiltskins. These stories had thematic elements that current events heightened and made more relevant than they perhaps were when I wrote them.
“Cartographer,” though, as originally instantiated, seemed to me to go the other direction and potentially to play into a narrative I didn’t want my work to support. The enemy isn’t immigration; it’s racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, xenophobia. And people with guns who shouldn’t have them.
In any case, the antagonist is still just his own person and not meant to suggest that all red-staters are violent villains. Through the magic of white male privilege, I’m pretty confident that the risk of a rush to judgment on all white males is small.
Leave a comment | tags: contemporary fantasy, Fantasy, fiction, short fiction, Short Story, speculative, story, suburban fantasy, The Cartographer Gene, The Colored Lens | posted in Uncategorized
The new literary/fantasy journal, Wild Musette, recently accepted my story, “Piper: A Song for Flute and Chorus.”
It’s a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, told from the perspective of a woman who fell in love with the piper. It also has a Spoon River-like choral aspect where various townspeople give their views of the piper and tell of their experiences with him in their own voices.
I always liked the idea of the Pied Piper of Hamelin but never liked the motivation for the story’s tragedy — the piper not being paid for his services in ridding Hamelin of rats. I wanted to like the piper more, to have sympathy for him. But I found him unlikeable because his punishment of Hamelin, taking away the town’s children, seemed disproportionate to the wrong of one official not paying a bill. I found what I consider a deeper motivation for the piper in the re-telling and a greater wrong on the part of the town.
When I wrote this story a few years back, little did I know that the greater wrong I chose would become timely now. I won’t say what so as not to spoil the retelling.
I found Wild Musette through some folks who posted about it in a private writing forum. I read the guidelines. Wild Musette was looking for:
Stories with music in them (check)
Stories about womens’ relationships (check)
I figured I’d give submitting there a shot. I’m glad I did.
Leave a comment | tags: fairy tale, Fantasy, fiction, Pied Piper of Hamelin, Piper: A Song for Flute and Chorus, retelling, Short Story, Wild Musette | posted in Uncategorized
My tiny story, “A Mother Unicorn’s Advice to Her Daughter,” has been selected for the Magical Menageries: Equus anthology!
When I say tiny, I mean tiny. It’s my shortest story ever, around 400 words, and may even end up a bit shorter before publication. It’s also hard to classify; I’d say it has one foot in prose poetry. But I had a lot of fun writing it and I’m glad it found a home. I believe the anthology is scheduled to make an appearance this summer. I’ll post when it’s available.
Leave a comment | tags: A Mother Unicorn's Advice to Her Daughter, anthology, Equus, Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Magical Menageries, Rhonda Parrish, Short Story | posted in Uncategorized
I returned the contract to Podcastle this morning for “All of the Cuddles With None of the Pain,” a story about the power of love and the limits of online customer service.
I had submitted the story for the annual Artemis Rising event, a celebration of authors who identify as women or non-binary. Though not selected for the event, I was delighted to learn that Podcastle wanted to publish (and podcast) the story as part of their regular schedule.
As usual for me these days, this story started as an exercise to begin a piece of fiction with an instructional tone and move into a more conversational one. I chose to start with a fictional e-commerce FAQ that twists into a sort of conversation as the instructional piece. For the conversational piece, I used a series of message board posts in the same online forum over time.
The subject matter is my take on, and homage to, the traditional “toys become real” fantasy trope in a contemporary setting. I was flipping through TV channels one night and saw a news feature about reborn dolls and their collectors. Intrigued, I watched a few Youtube videos and read a few news stories about reborns. When I went to write the exercise, a fictional reborn sales company, and an equally fictional reborn “parent” and her reborn daughter showed up on the page — and the story took off from there.
I’ll post again when I have more information about when the story will be available.
Leave a comment | tags: All of the Cuddles with None of the Pain, Fantasy, fiction, pod cast, Podcastle, Short Story | posted in Uncategorized
The new dark fiction/horror magazine Unnerving Magazine has accepted a flash piece from me for its inaugural issue.
The story’s called “Rumpelstiltskins.” It’s stylistically experimental, with a choral narrator, no named characters, almost no dialogue, and was inspired by watching my son play in a park with two of his friends. From there, I went on a flight of fancy about the impulse to evil in all of us. (My son, by the way, has one of the kindest hearts you’d ever want to meet, and his friends are equally sweet boys.)
I was going for a Shirley Jackson-“The Lottery”-feel, and also borrowed from that story the trope of crowd behavior devolving into something more sinister than the superficial current of everyday life. From “Lord of the Flies” came the trope of children left to their own devices succumbing to evil impulses, broadened to onlookers watching those children giving in to their own.
That’s the kind of horror that scares me the most. These days it’s hard to turn on the news without seeing how easy it is for otherwise average people to cross that line.
Leave a comment | tags: dark fiction, Fantasy, fiction, Flash Fiction, horror, Lord of the Flies, Rumpelstiltskins, Shirley Jackson, Short Story, The Lottery, Unnerving Magazine | posted in Uncategorized
This is a first.
The story I entered in the second quarter 2016 Writers of the Future Contest received a Silver Honorable Mention, which means it fell somewhere between Honorable Mention and Semi-Finalist. I’ve had both of those before, but never the in-between.
I’m a bit surprised that this story did that well. My first quarter story was more fun to write. But I didn’t think either of them were really WOTF fare.
This one is a rather quiet story — a very personal story, with stakes that are important for the protagonist but not for the universe. Which is the sort of story I find interesting to read, but rather more literary than WOTF-winning stories usually are. Still, I’m glad it got noticed.
One of these days, I’m hoping to hit the sweet spot and get a finalist nod.
On another note, I expect to have some good news to announce shortly. Stay tuned.
Leave a comment | tags: contemporary fantasy, Fantasy, fiction, Honorable Mention, Short Story, Silver Honorable Mention, WOTF, Writers of the Future | posted in Uncategorized
In the “always a bridesmaid” category, I’ve received another Honorable Mention from Writers of the Future.
One of my previous Honorable Mentions sold to Andromeda Spaceways, but another Honorable Mention and my Semi-Finalist story have yet to sell. Interestingly, one of my straight rejections sold to Urban Fantasy Magazine.
In recent quarters, I’ve entered sporadically when I’ve had a story I thought stood a chance. My work doesn’t tend to resemble the sorts of stories that end up in the anthology in form, style, or subject matter so it’s always a risk to send to Writers of the Future. But I keep entering because I’d love to go to the workshop — as a working mom with a demanding, full-time day job, I’m unlikely ever to be able to go to one of the six-week workshops, but a week I could swing.
Lately, in particular, I’ve been experimenting with story form (stories in the form of FAQs and message boards, or in forms closer to prose poems than anything else) and with atypical narrators (choral narrators, ensemble narrators, narrators without main characters), both of which are death knells for the contest. So I haven’t been submitting to the contest much.
I had a blast writing the story that got the Honorable Mention, and I still enjoy reading it. I hope it finds a good home.
Leave a comment | tags: Fantasy, fiction, Honorable Mention, Short Story, WOTF, Writers of the Future | posted in Uncategorized
It’s been a while since I posted. Here’s a short update.
Last June I entered an unplanned job search for a new day job. Looking for a new job became my job, as I am the sole breadwinner for my two school-aged boys. I was fortunate to find something that feels like a great fit, and accepted a new position right before Christmas. I started work at the end of January.
During this period I did very little in the way of writing. For the most part, I was too stressed to enter the relaxed dream-space I need to be in to be able to create. When I hit my limit on the job search around Thanksgiving, I resubmitted stories that had come back to me and put the finishing touches on a few new ones. But then, I entered a phase of trying to get things done that would never get done while working, including a huge early spring clean of the entire house. Shortly after that, I started the new job. I’ve been there almost two months, and am starting to get my bearings. So I’m starting to think about writing again.
In the interim, I missed a number of deadlines. One was for the Campbell anthology — since I had my first pro sale last year, I’m in my first year of eligibility. I’d been looking forward to contributing to the anthology, but I just plain missed the call because of the new job preparation and acclimation.
The upheaval couldn’t have come at a worse time. I had started to sell to pro venues. I had taken some vacation days in May to write and cranked out five stories. Even though I knew I really needed work to support the family, part of me fantasized that if I was still out of work next summer I’d have a rare chance to apply to one of the Clarions or Odyssey and actually be able to go if I was fortunate enough to get accepted. Being a working stiff with dependents rather puts a crimp in such plans under ordinary circumstances.
But hey, what can you do except get back in the saddle whenever the horse comes round again. I am grateful that it was a relatively short hiatus as such things go, and hope that I’ll soon have my routine in sufficient order that I can build on my nascent success. I started last weekend — getting my stuff out there, especially for some calls that end at the end of the month, finishing a new piece, and starting to think through my next project.
I hope to have good news to post in the coming months.
Leave a comment | tags: campbell award, eligibility, Fantasy, fiction, publishing, science fiction, short stories, speculative fiction, writing | posted in Uncategorized
My flash piece, “Matryoshka,” is now available in Parsec Ink’s anthology, Triangulation: Lost Voices. You can find it at amazon.com in print or for the Kindle.
It’s probably my favorite of my flash pieces — an original fairy tale of sorts. I hope you enjoy it.
Leave a comment | tags: anthology, fable, fairy tale, Fantasy, fiction, Flash Fiction, Matryoshka, Parsec Ink, Short Story, Triangulation: Lost Voices | posted in Uncategorized
My surreal (and some have said funny) ditty, “Barden Bernick, Living the Dream,” has sold to Every Day Fiction. It’s a weird day-in-the-life story of a guy who lives his waking life in an anxiety-riddled dreamworld and sleeps in rational reality.
And there’s Yiddish! I had Yiddish-speaking grandparents and my dad’s first language was Yiddish. I love the sound of Yiddish words, and I’d been wanting to use more than one or two in a story for a while. Also, since it’s hard to develop characters fully in flash, I’m always looking for ways to reveal character without using many words. The particular milieu in which I imagined Barden existing was an American liberal Jewish one similar to my own background, and it seemed to me that a smattering of Yiddish would help to reveal that about Barden without explaining it outright.
I have a soft spot for this quirky little piece and I’m glad it found a home. Thanks to the Every Day Fiction staff for taking a risk on this oddity.
Leave a comment | tags: Barden Bernick Living the Dream, Every Day Fiction, Fantasy, Flash Fiction, surreal, Yiddish | posted in Uncategorized