Category Archives: My Short Stories

Posts about my published short fiction and any works underway.

“The Sorrow Fair,” now available on Kindle

Posted on October 5, 2011 by

I’m pleased to announce that my dark fantasy novelette, “The Sorrow Fair“, is available in the Kindle Store for the princely sum of $0.99. The novelette made its original print appearance in 2008, in the now-defunct Helix Speculative Fiction, and was edited by William Sanders and Lawrence Watt-Evans. Here’s a taste:

Gabe tried to push past the child, to hop over the turnstile. She grabbed his forearm with irresistible strength, turning it palm-up and swiping her candy floss over his wrist. The fibers smoked where they touched him: there was a smell of acid and a blister rose on his forearm. Swelling to the size of his fist, the skin mottled and blackened, scorched first into indecipherable patterns and then into something recognizable: a printed rectangular ticket.

“Admit one,” it read.

Setting the candy aside, the Girl Scout pulled out a straight razor.

“Stop,” Gabe objected, but he couldn’t pull free.

My chosen Exquisite Words quote from this past Monday came from Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, a book that inspired my choice of setting for this story: reading Larson’s book and especially the history surrounding the invention of the Ferris Wheel was what drew me to Chicago, and The World’s Fair, for this.

I don’t remember that much, besides that, about the process of writing “The Sorrow Fair.” It was written right smack in the period when I was going to Alberta for a lot of family funerals, and the story certainly holds a resonance with the sadness that permeated those years.

But it has romantic love and music and all the kinds of weirdness you’ve probably come to expect from me. I was pleased with how it turned out, I still am, and I hope you will be too.

Fine sifting and fall plans

Posted on September 28, 2011 by

I am reading through the Blue Magic page proofs this week (196 days until it’s released!) which means I am going through printed pages that are laid out as the book will be, looking for any small errors. I’ve already gone through the copy-edited manuscript, where all the big errors and inconsistencies have been found and vanquished.

After that, my current plan is to have a hard look at a short story that’s all but done. It’s provisionally titled “Losing Heart among the Tall.” As titles go, I’m not convinced that’s perfect. This polish is half about actually finishing the story, and partly to reacquaint myself with the details of the setting, a place called Stormwrack, which also appears in a number of other things I’ve been working on this year. This includes a story called “Among the Silvering Herd” that I’ve sold to Tor.com. (I’ll let you know when it’s gonna be up, as soon as I know myself!)

This weekend, I’ll be hopping off to VCon to rub elbows with fabulous people like the latest denizen of the Twitterverse, DD Barant, Mary Choo, and Julie McGalliardon. On Saturday evening, at our 9:00 p.m. group reading, I’ll read from my story “Wild Things,” which takes place in the Indigo Springs universe, between the events of the two novels.

Once “Losing Heart among the Tall”‘s events and details are fresh in my mind, I’ll dig into the other stuff set in Stormwrack, for all of October.

Finally, if that goes well and I can wrap up by Halloween, I’m thinking of joining a number of my Nanowrimo buddies-in-crime in November by setting myself a goal of 50,000 words of new short fiction. Since I mostly write novelettes in the 7500-8500 word range, that’d make for six stories. I thought another squid story about Ruthless, perhaps, to go with “The Town on Blighted Sea,” another Stormwrack story for sure, and I have a few other ideas. But I don’t as yet have six ideas, and I thought I might throw the floor open for prompts, requests, challenges, a contest… somesuch thing.

Have any of you done this, either opened the floor to challenges in this way or contributed to a call for prompts? How did it work? Was there a prize? Were you happy with the result?

Looking for miracles in the app store

Posted on July 1, 2011 by

Happy Canada Day, fellow northerners!

I am a firm believer in stepping away from the Internet when trying to write. I think better when I don’t face temptation in the form of a quick check of the Twitter feeds, status pages, Google reader, etcetera blah blah. One part of Cafe Calabria’s allure, for me, is that it hasn’t really got wireless.

Calabria is not an entirely distraction-free environment, but its diversions feel more human and, somehow, worthwhile. I don’t begrudge the occasional moment spent trying to comprehend the italian lyrics of Frank Senior’s eclectic musical choices, for example, or eavesdropping on the other early-morning regulars. As I write this, the fellows I think of as “Chatty Guy,” “Brother of Chatty Guy” and “Their Friend” are chewing over the ethics of hunting. They’re good with it in cases of self-defense, I’ll have you know and mostly all right with the idea of hunting for food. (“There’s something so right about killing something and eating it,” one of them opines.)

The conversation has bogged down, though, over the issue of sport fishing and catch-and-release. It is a typical morning jaw over java, and the longer the conversation goes on, the less sense it makes. Friend Of seems to be saying that you might as well eat fish because you don’t know they wouldn’t attack you if they could.

(Obviously that isn’t what he is actually saying, but it sounds funny as hell. Usually they talk about Celine Dion or Arnold’s Divorce or the Canucks. I find this topic preferable.)

Calabria is across the street from a Starbucks with fairly robust Wi-Fi, which has been tricky as I adapt to writing on my newest toy, an iPad. I can just barely pick up a feed if there are no big trucks parked on the corner. And the pad will sync if I’m online, which is a nice little hedge against data loss. So every now and then I get sucked into checking: is there Wifi after all? From there, it’s a short hop to The Forbidden: checking my Inbox.

In other words, I have not perfected my new regime.

I did write 187 words on Thursday–revising again, and adding as little as possible–which brings me to 35% of my Write-A-Thon goal of 20K words. And not having the 5 pound laptop on my back wherever I go is a very nice lifestyle change. Having got the weight of the laptop off my shoulders, the next goal is to give my hands a break as much as possible, so I’m working to make more effort to dictate things like e-mails and blog posts. I like the iPad version of Dragon, especially the part whereby I don’t need a tangly-corded external microphone to use it.

Of course, though I am trying to make the gadget serve my writing and health needs, I really spent the three months saving for the thing because I wanted a damn TOY. I spend a lot of time in the App Store, looking for the two dollar piece of software that will change my life forever. Have you found it? I am a fan of Simplenote and Dropbox, but I was already using them on the iPod. And though I love Flipboard, and am having fun with Sketchclub, I have yet to find anything, you know, miraculous.

Cafe Calabria

Thoughts falling like raindrops, in no especial order…

Posted on May 7, 2011 by

It’s pouring, which does not bode well for a Mother’s Day outing with Barb. We may be jostling for elbow room at a brunch place tomorrow if the rain doesn’t let up.

In the meantime, I have finished Josh Lanyon’s The Dark Farewell, which–when I take over the universe and am boss of you all–shall be retitled: “Ha Ha Ha, Bored Now! The End, Suckers!” until such time as Lanyon can be made to sit down and finish the thing properly. Or at all. Just as things were starting to get messy he solved the crime, wiped out the Romantic Obstacle, and finis! I am moving on to Wayne Arthurson, and Fall from Grace, in what might be described as a Profound Reader Snit.

(Which state I do expect Wayne to remedy. I already love how he writes about the Alberta landscape.)

Words, words, words: 1748 words since last time on the current novel.

I am working on a bunch of related shorts, though, and have just had a grand realization about the next entry in that batch. So once I fix up the chapters I drafted this week, I may defect from the novel to the shorties, which I’m calling The Gales, for 8500 words or so. Meanwhile, here’s a snippet from that book; I Tweeted it earlier this week:

At his feet, the gutted remains of the monster were soaking into Sophie’s second-best jeans.

And a sea star. Well, two:
Sea Star

Story Intro: “The Cage”

Posted on March 15, 2011 by

I have been trying to finish up a few non-fiction projects before diving into the next one(s) and the story intros are one of the things have been waiting. I set out to write a little something about those stories of mine that are available online in some format, and now I’ve pretty much finished all of them except for my baby werewolf story, “The Cage.” Saving it for last seemed reasonable, since it’s the piece that appeared most recently. It has only been a year since I wrote it, so it’s far less of a blast from the past than something like “A Key to the Illuminated Heretic.”

But I realized last week that when “The Cage,” made the LOCUS recommended reading list, it also went on what they call the drop-down list for the LOCUS reader’s poll. This probably should have been a no-brainer, since I did once write a fair number of reviews for LOCUS and contribute to that list, but I didn’t make the connection until I bought my tickets for the LOCUS shindig in Seattle in June. There are so many lovely things by people I adore on the drop-down list: M.K. Hobson‘s The Native Star is on there, and so is Chill, by Elizabeth Bear and stories like Cat Rambo’s “Clockwork Fairies.”

But this is a wide-open to all readers kind of poll, and you don’t have to restrict yourself to the drop down list. You can write in books and stories, like–for example–Jessica Wynne Reisman‘s “The Vostrasovitch Clockwork Animal and Traveling Forest Show at the End of the World,” or … hey, tell me about all the great fiction you published last year, folks! You’ll be reminding me about stuff I loved, or at the very least stuff I meant to read and temporarily lost in the pile.

Anyway. “The Cage” began with an anthology invite: my agent knew someone who was doing a book of urban fantasy stories with a specific theme–she’d told ’em I was just the thing, and I got the guidelines not long after that. I started researching March 2, 2010 and had a polished draft in hand by April 5th. But not fast enough: the antho filled. Between one thing and another and with a rewrite in between, it ended up zipping off to Tor.com on June 8th, where it got to be the final story in their urban fantasy spotlight.

As my intros for “What Song the Sirens Sang” and “Faces of Gemini” probably show, I love story assignments that come with a bit of a restriction in them. They push me out of the box, moving me into areas I wouldn’t necessarily have gone on my own. Some of my strongest shorts are the ones I wrote for Mojo: Conjure Stories, Alternate Generals III (v. 3), and The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm.

In this case, I merged the less familiar element–home renovation–with my own backyard. I made extensive use of my neighborhood and certain communities within Vancouver in writing “The Cage.” The Britannia Community Center branch of Vancouver Public Library, where the story begins, is just a few blocks from my home in little Italy. It is where I pick up my VPL holds and where I got my blue belt in aikido.

The physical terrain is quite faithfully rendered, in other words.

The community is stickier: people always are. But the story draws on the best of my experiences as an activist in the local feminist and queer communities. Catching us on a fictional best day maybe presents a bit of a rose colored view, but it’s not as though that version of the community doesn’t exist. It does–just not all the time. I believe that humans, in singles and in groups, oscillate in and out of states of perfection. That the statement “Nobody’s perfect” should be amended to “Nobody’s always perfect.”

In “The Cage,” Jude’s alternate family discovers or creates one of those perfect moments–one of those days when everyone’s pitching in and pulling together, when nobody’s too burned out or sick or pissed off or scraping after funds or endlessly chewing after consensus on an irrelevant frippery, at a meeting that’s gone on far too long. It’s Team Good Guys FTW, and Chase, Paige and Jude are the ones who benefit.

All that, and it even has romance!