Archives

Annual Round-Up and Awards Eligibility

So… it’s still January, right?

Just.

I’m not sure where this month has gone. I’ve been meaning to write this post all year. Better late than never.

2016 was an amazing year for my productivity. I wrote ten short stories (more than ever in a single year!), made some good headway into my previously-languishing novel, and sent out 120 submissions. That’s about three times as many as the previous year. As a result of all that writing and submitting, I have more current subs out than I’ve ever had at once, which makes me feel like I’m doing this writing thing properly.

I also had four publications: two originals and two reprints, which is nice and symmetrical. My stories ‘Her Glimmering Facade’ and ‘Candy Comfort’ appeared in Deep Magic and Daily Science Fiction respectively. ‘Daddy’s Girl’ was reissued in glorious audio form at The Overcast, while ‘Rule of Five’ had its third publication in the all-female horror anthology Killing It Softly.

‘Candy Comfort’ and ‘Her Glimmering Facade’ are both awards eligible this year. If you’re reading for awards, I’d love you to consider them. ‘Candy Comfort’ is available to read for free via the link above, and as ‘Facade’ is behind a paywall, I’d be happy to send a copy to anyone who’s planning to vote. Just let me know in the comments.

2017 is off to a good start, as I’ve already written four flash stories and sent out thirteen subs. Let’s start as we mean to go on!

 

 

Why We Write

It’s been a scary year. The events of the past three weeks have felt like some kind of demon cherry on top of a glut of instability and fear-mongering. No one can know for sure what happens next, but the signs point to very unsettling possibilities.

I’ve seen all kinds of reactions from the writing community, ranging from dearths of creativity to fierce rallying cries. All those reactions are valid. Personally, I’ve been somewhere in the middle.

But it’s all got me thinking about the power of what we do. Writing is art, it’s communication, it’s portrayal of the world. It can be used for wondrous ends and horrendous ones. You’ve only got to look at the average British tabloid to see ample evidence of the latter. In many ways, those examples make it all the more encumbent on the rest of us writers to balance the scale in the other direction.

We write to process our thoughts and our ideas. We write to work through past hurts and present difficulties. We write to explore possibilities, to warn of dangers and to sow our hopes. Speculative fiction does this in ways other genres can’t, because it isn’t restricted to the world as we know it. Its scope extends to the futuristic, the fantastic, the alternative… with all of those things we can explore ‘what ifs’ and share visions of things that haven’t yet happened or delve into human nature from entirely new perspectives. The blog post I wrote on the importance of science fiction amply describes my thoughts on why it matters.

Our writing can draw attention to world issues by portraying them, veiled or openly, through the viewpoints of our characters. In doing this, we’re taking ideas beyond the factual, beyond informative articles and projections, and actually turning them into real-life situations. We only truly relate to these things by empathising with others going through them, and fiction provides that empathy in a way no other medium can. When I show what my persecuted refugee character is feeling, I enable my readers to connect with her and others like her. When I show how my rebel protagonist stands up against her totalitarian government, I enable readers to experience her anger and determination to put things right. When I show my alien character struggling to overturn her species’ discrimination against humans, I hope readers will see parallels in the way we continue to treat those we deem ‘inferior’.

Fiction is a reflection of its era, and the one we’re in now is rife with pitfalls and possibilities that we need to investigate. We need to explore the dangers through story before it’s too late for empathy. We need to show the bright alternatives before we’ve steered our path too far away from them. We need to work through our own fears, putting them into words both as catharsis and signpost.

This is why stories matter. This is why our society needs them more than ever.

This is why we write.

Killing It Softly

Wow, I seem to be all about the promo at the moment. I’m certainly not complaining that I’ve been able to announce a new publication for three consecutive months. That is fricking awesome. *grin* But I always intended this blog to contain other stuff too… writerly ramblings, pedantry, geekiness.

I’ll get back to that stuff. Promise.

But in the meantime, Killing It Softly, the all-female horror anthology featuring my story, ‘Rule of Five’, is now out!

 

Killing It Softly: A Digital Horror Fiction Anthology of Short Stories (The Best by Women in Horror Book 1) by [Fiction, Digital, Cunningham,Elaine, Holder,Nancy, Sydney,M.J., Rose,Rie Sheridan, Boudreau,Chantal, Blackthorn,Rose, McBride,Tracie, Gill,Carole, Rath, Tina , Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert]

 

 

This is my fifteenth fiction publication. Fifteen. *checks again to be sure* Yep. Amazing. It’s my second anthology sale. And it’s the third time ‘Rule of Five’ has been published. That little story has certainly done me proud. As I’ve mentioned before, it was the first story I ever sold. I love the fact that it’s still with me now, making sales and getting promoted, like a faithful friend along for the ride.

This is a story about OCD, a term that is bandied about far too often with complete disregard for its real implications. Having particular standards isn’t OCD. Liking things a certain way isn’t OCD. That ‘D’ stands for ‘disorder’, and those things are not disorders. If this story in any way manages to shed some light on what it feels like to have obsessive compulsive disorder, I’m happy.

It’s also scary. It is a horror story, after all.

And in the lead-up to Halloween, the Kindle version of the anthology is available for only 99 cents! After that, it goes up to $5.99, so I highly recommend grabbing a terrific bargain while you can. There are 32 stories here, written by some amazingly talented women. All for 99 cents, people. What are you waiting for?

It’s time to get spooky. Snuggle up on the couch, keep the lights on, and get reading.

Happy Samhain, everyone.

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!

 

 

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.)

~

~

~

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

~

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

~

~

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.]