Mirror Dance Acceptance

My story “Against the Venom Tide” has been accepted for publication in the summer issue of Mirror Dance. It’s set – although tangentially – in the same universe as my other recent stories “In the Belly of the Angel” and “Dance of the Splintered Hands“.

Looking forward to its appearance as this online quarterly magazine has great aesthetics and the editor, Megan Arkenberg, is also an awesome writer.

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“Storm Kraken” by Ionnas.

The Velna Valsis

My story “The Velna Valsis” is now up at issue #11 of Fantasy Scroll Magazine.

Herr Doktor Ostermann drops the needle. A scratchy hiss fills the decayed splendor of Charlotte’s Viennese apartment. Outside, night is falling and a crowd gathers in the plaza. There are angry shouts — “Murderers! Juden!” — the sound of dogs barking. Charlotte does not know the reason for the commotion, nor does she care; her world has shrunk to the parlor, to Ostermann’s blood-smeared smile as he turns from the gramophone and says, “Shall we dance, meine Liebe?”

“The Velna Valsis” is a dark story. Possibly the darkest I’ve written. All the more dark since it’s obvious the Velna Valsis is still being played and eagerly listened to across the world right now. Its victims and players vary and swap sides, fluid like flame, but the damage left in its wake is unmistakeable.

Someone should really lift the needle.

Inspiration came from a writing prompt featuring a photograph by the talented Robin Cristofari, together with a piece of music by Carlos D’Alessio, his Valse De L’Eden. I paired them up, put D’Alessio’s piano waltz on loop, and a little while later “The Velna Valsis” popped out. The photo is obviously not of late 1930s Vienna, and the music didn’t urge me to indulge in wanton violence, so I’m not quite sure from which strange corner of my mind this story emerged, but that’s often just how it works. At least a couple of readers have mentioned Mikhail Bulgakov. I think one said they were reminded of The Master and Margarita. I’ve not read any Bulgakov so I can’t say whether I agree, but I’ll gladly take it as a compliment.

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PS. In case you’re wondering, “Velna Valsis” is Latvian for “Devil’s Waltz”. Why Latvian? No reason other than I liked the sound of it.

Full Night Over Thranrak

My story “In the Belly of the Angel” is now up at new e-zine Metaphorosis. Albino Angel Apes versus Vegan Super Powers, wheee!

It was Full Night, the climax of the two-week Festival of Threll, and the narrow streets of Thranrak heaved with the devout, the curious, and the avaricious. Freya Adinyan plunged past the torch-lit processions and the bustling market stalls, her heart pounding in time to the drums. Tonight she was determined to leave Thranrak and the world of man behind.

“Angel” began as a 17,000 word novelette, a spin-off idea from a novel in progress. Over time the story was topped and tailed, tightened and revised, until it shrank to less than half its original length. Became much better for it. Became the story you can read today.

(And in case you’re wondering: yes, the type of angel and the world described here are the same as featured in my other recently published story, “Dance of the Splintered Hands“.)
  

Bone Flowers

Aaaaand… a Happy New Year to you! I hope it’s a good one.

My story “The Osteomancer’s Husband” is now up at Diabolical Plots as the January 2016 story.

He warned his wife the villagers would come. With their pitchforks, their fire. Their hateful ignorance.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “We have to leave. They saw beneath my mask.”

The inspiration for this story were a couple of photographs used for a writing group prompt challenge. One image was of flowing water (“…the burbling mountain stream…”), the second was of a hand tossing what looked like tiny bones to the wind (“Like…tiny snowflake vertebrae…”), both by the talented Robin Cristofari. To me the bones looked like seedlings, so I immediately began to wonder what their origin might be.

If you like the story (or even if you don’t), please feel free to comment here or on the Diabolical Plots site. Any feedback is always welcome.

"Les Feuilles mortes 3" by Robin Cristofari

“Les Feuilles mortes 3” by Robin Cristofari.

The Dragonmaster’s Doom

Received in the post today a copy of Dragons, Droids & Doom: Year One, the collected stories from the first year of Fantasy Scroll Magazine, edited by Iulian Ionescu and Frederick Doot. Amongst many other stories by many other authors, it contains my Mevlish story, “The Dragonmaster’s Ghost”, first published in FSM #4. Very happy to see it reprinted in what is a very handsome-looking physical book. 

Dragons, Droids & Doom: Year One is available as a trade paperback or as an e-book from most of the usual places as well as from its own dedicated website. 

  
 

On Persistence

In which I both vacillate and state the obvious, but here goes…

Should you ever give up on a story?

Yes, absolutely. Some stories are stillborn and can’t be revived. Sometimes, usually (but not exclusively) early on in your writing career, you just can’t recognise that. You see the story you wish, not the story that is. Maybe you’re not aware of the clichés that plague it. The clunky prose. The unoriginal premise or predictable ending. The beginning scene(s) that benefit the writer not the reader. Unless you come to recognise and acknowledge these potential flaws you’ll end up in an endless cycle of rejection and growing frustration and bitterness. Why oh why can’t anyone recognise the sheer magnificent genius of your work? You can’t move on. You can’t write new stories. You’re creative font becomes clogged. You become paralyzed with uncertainty. What if you’re too niche? What if you’re no good? More pertinently, what if the story is no good? The answer to that last most definitely could be, yes: the story is no good and it needs revision (but beware Heinlein’s 3rd rule), or indeed it is too broken to be saved. So learn the lessons. Move on. Apply them.

But, really. Should you ever give up on a story?

No, absolutely not. Have you scrutinized it in the light of any personal rejection notes? Do the editors have a point? Is it fixable? Do they say they like the story, or the writing is good but it’s just not a “fit”? After each rejection, have you revised the story to match your current writing skill level (which should always be evolving, improving)? Do you still love the story and have faith in it? Are there markets you are happy for the story to appear in but haven’t tried yet? Are there any markets you’re too scared to submit to because you think you’re not good enough? Then submit. And keep submitting.

Because there are stories I’ve looked askance at after only a few rejections and thrown so deep into the apocryphal trunk they’ll never see the light of day again, and there are stories that have received over 30 rejections, have spent a total of 1689 days out on submission at different markets, and they’ve still been published and paid for and received complimentary reviews.

So should you ever give up on a story?

The answer, my friend, is maybe, maybe not. The trick is to write and keep on writing, to keep learning and challenging yourself, so that you have many stories to choose from.


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Hands Out

My story “Dance of the Splintered Hands” is now up at the Autumn 2015 issue of Kaleidotrope. What are you doing here? Go read it now!

Closer to the dome, I began to make out the hands in more detail. They varied hugely in size and shape: from crab-like creatures the size of dinner-plates, up to huge multi-legged earth-moving monstrosities that chewed up the ground with their jagged mandibles. Many of the hands were smoothly metallic, some were covered in swirling geometric patterns, and others were organic-looking and roughly textured — no two were exactly alike.

Although “Hands” is one of my earliest stories, it’s still a favourite of mine, set in my novel-verse milieu of the Heptatheon, with its god moons, angels, faces and hands. I’m really glad it found a home.

H.R. MacMillan Space Centre crab sculpture, Vancouver, Canada. Photo (C) Neil Every.