Candy Comfort

My flash story, ‘Candy Comfort’, is now out at Daily Science Fiction!

I had a lot of fun writing this one. Space pirates are always cool, right? Plus I got to put liquorice into a story for the first time ever. I eat enough of it while I’m writing… I’ve just never had an excuse to write about it. It only gets a brief cameo in this story, but still. Liquorice!

I like to think Dutch double salt liquorice will still be proudly manufactured in space-faring societies of the future. In fact, if there’s a future without salt liquorice, I don’t want to know. Not to mention all the other wondrous varieties.

There’s a dystopia all on its own, right there. A world without this:

Image result for salt liquorice

Photo by Denni Schnapp, Flickr

Noooooo…

Anyway. Now I want liquorice and I don’t have any, so I will stop talking about it and direct you once more to my story of piracy, sweet consumption, social inequality, risky parenting, tragedy, and hope.

I recommend having some sweets on hand while you read.

 

Deep Magic – Out Now!

The August edition of speculative e-magazine, Deep Magic, is now live. It features, among a fabulous table of contents, my story ‘Her Glimmering Facade’. It also has gorgeous cover art. Just look at it!

Deep Magic - August 2016 by [Brown, John D, Thompson, Eldon, Russell, Josi, Power, Stephen S, Tahmaseb, Charity, Powers, Beth, Wood, Eleanor]

This story is sort of a sci-fi mystery. It has twists and turns and tragedy… and I really can’t say much more about it without ruining the plot. Usually I’ll summarise a story’s theme in one of these announcements, but even that would be giving things away. Hopefully that fills you with desperate intrigue and a need to know more… If not, the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon gives you the first few hundred words of the story before the preview cuts out (as well as the entirety of Stephen S. Power’s ‘The Catskill Dragon’), so go and read it for a taster if you’d like.

Deep Magic has recently relaunched after a ten-year hiatus, so it’s great to see another pro speculative fiction market back in action. Go send them some love and a few quid, and pick up what looks to be a terrific read.

All purchasing options are on their site – check it out!

 

 

False Hearts

Laura Lam‘s latest novel, False Hearts, is a departure from her previous YA fantasy series. It’s a fast-paced sci-fi techno-thriller, and awesome hyphenated adjectives are the least of its strengths.

This book is a serious page turner. Once I started reading, I could hardly put it down. It more than met my need for a riveting, all-consuming read. More than that, it has a wealth of elements I adored. It’s science fiction. It’s a mystery thriller. It’s packed with fascinating, well-constructed techno marvels. It’s set in San Francisco. It deals with issues of consciousness. It’s set against the background of a secretive religious cult. It has grey areas aplenty.

And best of all, it features a pair of awesome protagonists with a highly unique perspective on life. Taema and Tila are twins. More than that, they were conjoined twins, separated in their teens, and still dealing with the psychological impact of having grown up with somebody else a literal part of them, having never been alone, having each of them know every single thing about the other. When they’re separated, all of that changes. The story is as much about the impact that has on each of them, and how it feels for Taema to discover that the person from whom it used to be physically impossible to keep secrets now has a massive one that threatens both of their lives.

I loved the interaction between the sisters. I really enjoyed the back-and-forth narrative and the clever use of viewpoint to show the past and the present simultaneously. Taema’s chapters revolve around the present – the terrifying dilemma she finds herself in when her sister is arrested for murder. Tila’s chapters recall the past: the sisters’ upbringing in the cult that refused them treatment for their condition, and the consequences of their determination to seek help when their shared heart begins to fail.

It’s a cleverly constructed novel with superb pacing throughout. The balance between the past and present viewpoints is perfect, allowing necessary insight from the twins’ past at just the right points in the present storyline. Their distinct personalities come through vibrantly, and I was rooting for each of them in turn. The story also portrays an intriguing futuristic society – an almost-utopia on the surface, with lurking dystopic menaces underneath.

For a fast-paced thriller, this novel has a ton of layers. I think that’s what I loved most about it.

If you love a good story with fascinating protagonists, more than one attention-grabbing setup, ample twists and turns, and action in droves, look no further. This is the droid you’re looking for.

Happy Now?

I rarely, if ever, post political or world event thoughts on this blog. This is my place to discuss writing, books, creativity, and general geekiness. But I can’t remember ever having agreed so strongly with a blog post, so today I’m sharing this one.

Katyboo1's Weblog

It is day four in the Big Brexit house.

I had hoped after Friday’s absolute catastrophe of a day that the country might somehow magically rally over the weekend. I mean, when you plunge your country into possible ruin on the promise of a golden future that will allow it to rise like a phoenix from the flames, you have a plan, right?

As it turns out, you don’t. The only person that seems to have any plan at all, and be acting on it rather than just spouting meaningless Churchillian rhetoric is Nicola Sturgeon, and I can’t even vote for her.

I was distraught and angry on Friday. I had hoped to feel better by today. Instead I am running on barely controlled rage and getting more enraged by the moment.

Here are a few things I am furious about:

Firstly, leave voters telling me to calm down. I’m sorry…

View original post 1,627 more words

Story News From The Overcast and Beyond!

I’m delighted to report that my science fiction story, ‘Daddy’s Girl’, which first appeared in Crossed Genres, is now out once more at The Overcast. This is my second reprint story and my second audio sale. Hearing your stories read aloud by professional voice artists is such a great experience, and The Overcast‘s J. S. Arquin has the most wonderful reading voice. He’s truly done this story proud, and I couldn’t be happier with its production.

He also has very kind things to say about the piece, including that it has one of his ‘all-time favourite first sentences’: Daddy lived in the cupboard under the stairs. It’s lovely to know when your stories have made such a great impression on someone.

You can listen to it online, or download it onto your media player of choice. The Overcast produce some terrific story podcasts, so if you enjoy ‘Daddy’s Girl’, please check out some of their other productions.

In other story happenings, I’ve recently made two more pro sales, and hope to share details of them soon.

Watch this space; happy listening!

Endings, Dark Towers, and Confidence

Story endings are difficult. Sometimes they’re difficult to read, either because you’ve enjoyed the story so much you don’t want it to end, or because the ending isn’t what you expected or hoped. But most often, they’re difficult to write. I guess some writers find endings easier than others, but for all the times an ending has come naturally and perfectly, there have been a dozen where it’s been dragged out a word at a time, or rewritten over and over, or just never felt right, no matter how you twisted it.

I think the best endings have confidence. If you believe in your ending, it’ll show, even if readers hate it. And I think when you know it’s an ending that will divide opinion, confidence is everything.

I recently finished Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. (MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU INTEND TO READ IT OR HAVEN’T YET REACHED THE END, GO AWAY, FOR YOUR FATHER’S SAKE.)

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~ You never intend to read it? You don’t care? Okay. *grumble grumble* Your loss.

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~ Just in case you’ve changed your mind. Last chance.

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Right. Let the spoily-spoily fun begin.

Now that was an ending. A magnificent, inevitable, divisive, heartbreaking, hope-filled ending. I adored it even as I hated what it meant. Roland goes through all of that, a quest which has consumed his entire life, killed most of his friends, tormented him physically and mentally, and finally – FINALLY – reaches his destination… only to be sent back to square one, with the whole thing still ahead of him. It’s a vicious, brutal cycle, which he briefly recognises he’s already lived countless times. He has to start over, and even though his memory resets with his surroundings, we as readers know what he’s been through. We know that it abruptly lies ahead of him yet again. It’s devastating.

And yet. It’s also hopeful. It’s hopeful because his last-minute realisation is that he’s messed up, somehow, on the previous times, and this is his new chance to get it right. It’s hopeful because he begins again with something he didn’t have on his last try, something he has already realised he needed. And it’s hopeful because now we know there’s a chance the whole ka-tet may yet make it to the end. Maybe Eddie, Jake, and Oy don’t have to die this time. This is a chance for the happy ending the previous cycle could never have had, even if something glorious had awaited Roland at the top of the Tower.

This ending understandably divides opinion. I can sympathise with people feeling cheated by it to some degree, although I didn’t feel remotely this way myself. But I’ve also heard people call it a lazy ending, an easy way out, and I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment.

The ending to The Dark Tower might just be the bravest ending I’ve ever read.

Remember that thing about confidence? Just imagine having the confidence to write that ending. The confidence to say to your readers, ‘Yeah, I know, this sucks. But it’s right. It’s how it had to end. I’m sorry, but there it is.’ You think it was heart-rending for us readers? I guarantee you it was a damned sight more heart-rending for Stephen King, who had been writing that story for over three decades and who knew Roland and his obsession far better than any of us. It was the only way the story could end. The clues were there throughout. Even as I hated it, I knew it made sense. And the fact that it ends on a shining note of hope means the disappointment and shock is immediately lessened.

For me as a writer, this is an incredible lesson in trusting your endings, even if they’re not what you expected them to be. It’s a perfect example of realising what’s going to happen and then letting it happen, even if it hurts, and even if your readers might hate it. I have yet to write anything remotely as encompassing as the Dark Tower series, but I can still employ this lesson in my shorter works. The key to a kick-arse short story is so often its ending, and such endings can be elusive.

But however they arrive, I intend to imbue mine with confidence from now on.

 

[Also, I highly recommend this brilliant analysis of the Dark Tower’s ending, if you want a more in-depth look.]

Don’t Go It Alone

Writing, for the most part, is a solitary process. We sit at desks or in comfy chairs typing or scrawling words that no one but us will see for days, weeks, months… or ever. Once we’ve revised and polished, our words go out into the world to await editorial judgement, and then they come back to us and we send them out again until one day, hopefully, somebody buys them. It can all be very insular and isolating.

Most of us have supportive loved ones, but unless they’re writers too, even the most encouraging spouse or friend is an outsider to the process. They cheer us on, but with little understanding of the immense effort we’ve put into our work, or the true rollercoaster of the submissions process. There’s no reason for a non-writer to understand the ins and outs of various markets. It’s highly unlikely they’ll be constructive critics. Even when we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by people who believe in us, we can still be alone in our understanding of what it’s really like to be an emerging writer.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. One thing writing has taught me above all else is that as writers, we’re all in the same boat. Connecting with other writers, who do know how hard it is to nail a character transformation, or refine complex worldbuilding, or lay on that perfect ending, is invaluable. It’s invaluable in ways I never would have imagined before I made those connections and found writers I could gel with and exchange critiques with and celebrate/commiserate with. Nobody understands the sting of a close-but-no-cigar rejection better than another writer. Nobody understands the high of finally cracking a tough market as well as another writer. Nobody understands the incomparable satisfaction of finding your story’s arc and soaring with it the way another writer does. And being able to share those things makes the journey so much easier.

That’s not to mention the immense benefit of having a trusted critique partner (or three) who not only knows your style, but can immediately see the strengths and weaknesses you can’t see for yourself. Invaluable doesn’t even begin to convey the benefit of that. Nothing has improved my writing and my stories better than giving and receiving critiques.

So I’m here to say that if you don’t have another writer to lean on and offer support to in return, find one. Find a few. Seek a local or online writers’ workshop. Join writing forums. Reach out… make some friends. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the writer I am now, with the successes I’ve had to date, without my trusted writing buddies. And watching them flourish and find their own success is truly wonderful. The rewards flow in all directions. When you know how much your successes mean to you, you know how much they mean to others in the same boat. It’s like a triple bonus when three of you have great news at once. And when you don’t… when rejections are weighing heavily and stories aren’t cooperating and you’re in the inevitable dip of the rollercoaster, there is no better sympathiser than someone who’s been there themselves, and no better rallying cry than the cheerleading of writer pals who’ve got your back.

You’re the only person who can tell your stories, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.