Everything from:short stories

The place which is many places

I lived in this house the summer I grew up. This house stands beside railroad tracks, not far from the downtown of a small city which is laid out like a European town, with a plaza at the very centre. When I lived there, this house was shabbier, and the deep hollow of the yard was filled with lilacs. Part of me has never left this city. It makes appearances even now, disguised as cities of my imagination; in my stories, the square is broader, but a diner still serves breakfast on one edge of it, and a fountain still plays, and people busk there, and people come to watch an eclipse. Last weekend I visited this city, and in a solitary half-hour I walked a circuit of my old houses, and took pictures of them as they are today. I believe this house here is the only one of which I have no pictures from before. I wanted it that way, at the time, because I was unhappy there. Now I wonder when this house will have its turn in my imagined city, and who will live there, and whether she will walk home as I did, in the […]

Read More…

They say whiskey’ll kill you, but I don’t think it will

–Bob Dylan, “Nettie Moore” It’s proving to be a very appropriate soundtrack to my story revisions. Gus, for her own special reasons, loved the sixties and has never stopped listening to Dylan. Although I’m sure any of my major characters can be read as me-analogues, I wonder if this love of Dylan makes Gus a bit of an analogue of my dad? Not as he was, but as he might have been, unwed, unbred, wandering in the hills with his camera-lenses slung over his shoulder and his bad haircut like the guy in No Country for Old Men. Gus is a rolling stone, no two ways about that; and she wants peace more than almost anything. While my dad was very much for peace, I don’t think I ever figured out whether he believed it was possible. I suppose that is key. Gus, for her part, knows it’s not possible, and that is her cross. […]

Read More…

Peer feedback reviews

…in the form of Submit! (my writing group). I have been given the duct-tape to fix the broken story. I have also been given a great deal of homemade pizza, chewy brownies and berry pie. I proceeded to burn it all off in nervous tension while I read the conclusion to the broken story: twisting my hair, swinging my foot, drawing little triangles on the table with my fingertip and chewing the skin off my lower lip. This tension comes from the distance between this story and a thing which really happened: a distance apparently not enough to allow me to read it with complete equanimity. Other stories, I’ve been able to read to the group without flinching, because those stories were less new and because I knew they were good. This one was still wet, and not good yet, and it felt quite a bit like something private and nasty: a dental examination, perhaps, or the scrutiny of a hostile lover. This despite the fact that my group consists of the most mature, supportive, talented people for whom I could possibly wish. Hah… my problem is that they’re all rather too good for me, I suspect. Established and intelligent […]

Read More…

Progress Report

Because I was feeling as if I had not made much, until I began listing it all to the in-laws, and discovered that although I haven’t finished much this month, I have been seeding all kinds of things. Short stories accepted for publication:“The Tongue of Bees” On submission:“The Duellist, After Her Prime” First drafts complete:“Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All Female Production of Waiting for Godot“The violence story, which really needs a title First drafts in progress:“A Sovereign Cure for Pneumonia”“The King of Bramble Heights”“Forty-Nine Days in the Intermediate States, with Extracts from the Great Liberation by Hearing”The talking fish story“Seven Postcards from the Garden of Earthly Delights” Of course, I’ve already fallen down on my commitment to write a story a month this year; but if I were to actually, you know, finish some more of the ones I’ve started, I wouldn’t be far off. In terms of word count this is possible. In terms of emotional commitment, I don’t know… word for word, they’re harder than novels, although finishing a short story doesn’t give me that full-brain smackdown that finishing the Dickensian Fantasy did. And now: I have very extravagantly gone and bought the second season of Criminal Minds […]

Read More…

Discipline and submission; and an extract from my pillow-book

ToB is back out on the market. I love people who accept electronic submissions–no messing about with stamps and things (particularly challenging for Canadians submitting to US markets). You would think letter-writing would be an attractive pastime for a writer; and it once was for me, back when I was fifteen and possessed a fountain pen and a great deal of sealing wax. I suppose sealing wax is not technically forbidden on literary submissions, but I cannot imagine it would do me many favours, even in SF/F. Since I am (a) not fifteen any longer and (b) neurotic, letter-writing is right up there with pizza-ordering and expense-filing in my mental list of Wretched Things. Email-writing, on the other hand, I find relatively painless. Tonight’s submission email was a bit more painful than usual, but only because my arms are so fatigued from a killer workout. I have been very pleased with my ability to submit, of late; apparently my discipline has improved, although I don’t know the cause. Work, workouts, mastery? Welcome, anyway. And now, since I am thinking of it: the pillow-book needs an entry or two. Wretched things: They say it will snow again this weekend.There is cat-vomit […]

Read More…

In which I am rejected: once again, kindly

“ToB” has come back to me. As with this story’s first outing, the polite and friendly editor has taken the time to write a personal note. In this case, he praised the style, and criticized the length and the finale. Like the first editor to have seen this story, he invited me to submit other work. I call that a pretty solid sophomore outing for this story. “Fail better,” I say to myself. Except I’m not actually sure there is a better type of rejection than this–one step up the ladder lies acceptance. (If only this wasn’t my best work! It quite outshines the other stories I’ve written since. I guess that’s where the “fail better” will have to come in.) […]

Read More…

It is not for nothing I have lived through this long day

The Godot story is complete, at last. It’s not very long: 3300 words. I said to my husband that it’s probably completely unsaleable, but as usual with these things, I wouldn’t have been happy if I had tried to leave it unfinished. I might still re-draft it; I shall need some readers, but I’m rather afraid it will only be intelligible to readers of Beckett, in which case I will be correct about the lack of commercial potential. It did do that thing in my brain, though. […]

Read More…

Monthly Progress Report

I suppose it is not exactly monthly, but it has been a month since the last one, give or take. In that month I have done a fair bit of work, notwithstanding a Hardware Fail and a great deal of other claims upon my time. novelsNot-a-Werewolf: 19,000 to date.Dickensian Fantasy, Draft 4: 26,000 to date. Yeah, I started on it. I don’t get real credit for all of those words, though, because a lot of them are cannibalized from Draft 3. stories in progressGodot: 2100, and only about 250 of them suck, which is a great improvement.Book of the Dead: 1200, all genius. Though this is a very difficult and dicey story for a number of reasons.Violence: 990, some of which were just transcribed from the handwritten draft, others of which were added yesterday.Talking Fish: no progress. stories completed since VPPie: ready to submit, need to pick a market.Belladonna: on submission. The discerning reader will note that despite all of this verbiage, I did not actually complete any stories in either December or January, although I did manage to touch up the Pie Story to the point of being ready for submission. I owe myself two past-due stories now, plus […]

Read More…